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 13, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 14 to 39, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 40 to 48, inclusive, answered orally.

Irish Language.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

49 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in relation to the development of a national strategy for the Irish language; if he has satisfied himself regarding the slow progress made in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22863/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

64 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he intends that the promised clear statement by the Government on the role and importance of the Irish language will be published before Dáil Éireann rises for the summer 2006 recess; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22742/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 64 together.

As I have already indicated in response to similar Questions in this House, the need for the development of a clear statement on the part of the Government in relation to the Irish language and its importance as a whole has emerged as a key issue in the deliberations of Fóram na Gaeilge thus far and considerable work is in hand in order to further advance this important issue. I hope to be in a position to elaborate further on this matter in the near future.

Meaningful and significant advances have continued to be made to further strengthen the position of Irish since the publication of the Gaeltacht Commission's Report in 2002 and the commencement of the implementation of the Official Languages Act. Substantial advances have also been secured regarding the status of Irish in the European Union. A number of new initiatives have been introduced in Gaeltacht areas, including the development of public awareness measures aimed at the Gaeltacht community in particular, as well as the continuing roll out of the language planning initiative. These practical initiatives, as well as further measures being taken in co-operation with Údarás na Gaeltachta, will help to further consolidate the position of Irish as a community language in the Gaeltacht. The Deputies will also appreciate that significant resources continue to be made available to support the work of Foras na Gaeilge in promoting Irish on an all-island basis.

Aonad Náisiúnta Oideachais Gaeilge.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

50 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an raibh agallamh aige leis an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta ó 16/5/2006 faoi Aonad Náisiúnta Oideachais Gaeilge a bhunú i mBaile Bhúirne; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [22760/06]

Mar a chuir mé in iúl don Teach seo cheana, bhí cruinnithe agus plé agam leis an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta ar ócáidí éagsúla maidir leis an gceist atá luaite ag an Teachta. Chomh maith leis sin, bhí an cheist mar ábhar plé ag cruinnithe éagsúla idir oifigigh mo Roinne-se agus oifigigh na Roinne Oideachais agus Eolaíochta. Go deimhin, d'fhreastail oifigigh de chuid mo Roinne-se ar shraith cruinnithe sa Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta Dé Luain seo caite, tráth ar pléadh an cheist leis an gComhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta, Údarás na Gaeltachta agus Foras na Gaeilge.

Ar ndóigh, cé go bhfuil mo Roinnse gníomhach sa phróiseas plé atá ar siúl, tuigfidh an Teachta gur ceist í seo a bhaineann go príomha leis an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta.

National Drugs Strategy.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

51 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received the latest annual report from the national drugs strategy team; if not, when he expects to receive same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22746/06]

I understand that the National Drugs Strategy Team are currently working on the preparation of their Annual Report for 2005 and that it will be completed later in the year.

Fóram na Gaeilge.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

52 D'fhiafraigh Ms O’Sullivan den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an mó cruinniú a bhí ag Fóram na Gaeilge go dtí seo, cathain a bheidh an chéad chruinniú eile ann; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [22762/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

67 D'fhiafraigh Mr. M. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an gceapann sé go bhfuil plean gníomhaíochta náisiúnta don Ghaeilge ag teastáil; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [22761/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

85 D'fhiafraigh Dr. Upton den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuair sé na tuairimí a iarradh ó chomhaltaí Fhóram na Gaeilge i 2005 i gcomhthéacs an róil chomhchomhairle a tugadh don ghrúpa maidir le plean straitéiseach 20 bliain don Ghaeilge agus tosaíochtaí gaolmhara gearrthéarma agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [22764/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52, 67 and 85 together.

I gcomhréir leis an róil chomhairleoireachta a tugadh d'Fhóram na Gaeilge ag am a bhunaithe, iarradh agus fuarthas tuairimí ó chomhaltaí an Fhóraim maidir le hinmholtacht phlean straitéiseach 20 bliain a fhorbairt don Ghaeilge mar aon le tosaíochtaí gaolmhara gearr-théarmacha. Mar a mhínigh mé don Teach mar fhreagra ar Cheisteanna eile faoin ábhar seo cheana, tá ceist maidir le ráiteas soiléir ón Rialtas i ndáil le ról agus tábhacht na Gaeilge tar éis teacht chun cinn mar ábhar tosaíochta faoi leith sa chomhthéacs seo agus is ar an ábhar sin dá réir go raibh an fócas is mó go nuige seo. Tá súil agam a bheith in ann tuilleadh a rá faoi seo go luath agus an cúigiú chruinniú den Fhóram a ghairm an uair sin.

Proposed Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

53 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the prospect of the Charities Regulation Bill 2006 being before Dáil Éireann before the end of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22750/06]

On the 9th of March of this year I announced Government approval of the General Scheme for the Charities Regulation Bill 2006 and its publication on my Department's website, www.pobail.ie. The Government also agreed that the General Scheme should be sent to the Office of the Attorney General for priority drafting.

As I informed the House on 21st March, I hope that priority drafting should facilitate publication of the Charities Regulation Bill before the end of 2006, though it must be noted that the General Scheme is a large and complex document, comprising 148 Heads and 4 Schedules.

Question No. 54 answered with QuestionNo. 45.

Departmental Programmes.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

55 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason the funding for CLÁR has not been proportionately increased in view of the decision to double the population which is eligible under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22860/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the expenditure to date in 2006 on a county basis under the CLÁR programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23117/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which he intends to increase expenditure under the various headings in the CLÁR programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23124/06]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

181 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount he has available through CLÁR for community groups; the way in which such groups can draw down funds in areas such as Cavan and Monaghan where funds from LEADER groups that are normally used as lead funds have already dried up; if this means that the recent extensions to CLÁR areas will be of little benefit to community groups without additional funds for LEADER; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23146/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55, 171, 178 and 181 together.

As Deputy Crawford states, the population included in the extended CLÁR Programme has almost doubled. However, I would like to assure him that there has, in fact, been a corresponding pro-rata increase in funding for the Programme.

The provision for the original Programme in the 2006 Abridged Book of Estimates was nearly €14m. This equates to an average provision of over €1m per month in the full year. I announced the extended areas in April 2006 and the additional funding of €9m that I secured allows for a similar level of investment in the extended areas for the remaining 8 months of the year.

The breakdown of the €22.95m available for the Programme in 2006 under the various headings and expenditure to date (approx. €3.35m) under the Programme on a county basis are detailed in Tables A and B respectively. I am confident that a comprehensive work programme will be completed in all the areas included in the Programme from the funding available this year.

No specific allocations are made to community groups from each year's Estimates provision for the Programme. Measures under the Programme with a particular community emphasis are — Sports Capital Top-up Grants; Gaeltacht Sport and Community Top-up Grants; Village and Countryside Enhancement Scheme; Bi-lingual Signage Scheme and Community Initiatives of a Capital Nature. These measures are, in the main, demand-led and projects are approved for CLÁR funding on the recommendation of the relevant Departments, State agencies or LEADER groups. With the exception of the Sports Capital Grants for 2006, communities in the extended CLÁR areas can benefit immediately under these measures.

In relation to LEADER funding being allocated to projects eligible for CLÁR funding, this is primarily a matter for each LEADER Company. I have already made additional funding available to LEADER companies, over the allocation in the NDP. Consideration will be given to allocating further funding available to LEADER companies as the year progresses.

Table A — Breakdown by Heading

CLÁR Programme

2006 Estimates Provision

(€000s)

Road and Water Schemes

15,382

Sport, Community & Enhancement Schemes

2,825

Health and Education

2,643

Energy & Telecommunications

915

Other

1,185

Total

22,950

Table B — Expenditure by County

County

Expenditure To Date 2006 (09/06/2006)

(€000s)

Cavan

64

Clare

174

Cork

348

Donegal

41

Galway

54

Kerry

137

Leitrim

976

Limerick

0

Longford

51

Louth

0

Mayo

1,292

Meath

0

Monaghan

3.4

Roscommon

88

Sligo

74

Tipperary North

19

Tipperary South

0

Waterford

0

Westmeath

3.3

Total

3,324.7

Departmental Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

56 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of additional funding allocated under the emergency needs fund since 8 February 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22752/06]

The Emerging Needs Fund was established in 2005 to facilitate a flexible and timely response to evolving needs in regard to drug misuse in Local Drugs Task Force areas. To date a total of 54 projects have been approved for funding of over €3.1m. Thirty nine of these, with a total value of €2,268,302, have been approved since 8 February.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

57 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the annual expenditure to date from the Dormant Accounts Fund; the expected future expenditure by his Department on an annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22793/06]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Questions Numbers 105, 342 and 343 of 16th May 2006 in relation to spending to date from the Dormant Accounts Fund. Disbursements from the Fund in 2004 amounted to €14 million. In 2005 disbursements from the Fund were €14.4 million and €7 million has been paid during 2006 to date. It is anticipated that during the remainder of 2006 further significant amounts will be disbursed from the Fund.

It is difficult to say what the expected future expenditure from the Fund will be on an annual basis. The Deputy will be aware that actual expenditure on funding programmes, such as dormant accounts, does not mirror grant approvals. The drawdown of funding by successful organisations is subject to individual groups satisfying specific contract conditions. In this regard payments are normally made on a phased as groups satisfy contract conditions and provide ongoing verification in relation to project progress.

Departmental Schemes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

58 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has satisfied himself that the differing schemes and funds administered by his Department are effectively targeting his Department’s goal of fostering better regional balance and alleviating disadvantage in view of the publication in 2005 of the Combat Poverty Agency Report on Mapping Poverty in Ireland. [22844/06]

I believe that my Department is achieving the goal, among others, of fostering better regional balance and alleviating disadvantage.

National Drugs Strategy.

Jack Wall

Question:

59 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if interface is taking place between the local drugs task forces and the regional drugs task forces and third level institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22753/06]

The main contact between Local Drugs Task Forces, and projects developed under their aegis, with third level institutions is through engagement by projects with those institutions to facilitate the development of an appropriate range of education and training courses. Among these are addiction studies courses that are accredited by the National University of Ireland. Many Task Forces also provide education bursaries, either directly or through their projects, for individuals to access training and further education. Local Drugs Task Forces, again through projects, have also facilitated the commissioning of research that has been undertaken in conjunction with third level institutions.

The Regional Drugs Task Forces undertook a broad open consultation process when developing their strategies. Furthermore, the Western Regional Drugs Task Force has outlined a pilot project to provide partial funding for counselling supports in regional third level institutions as part of their Action Plan.

The actions outlined in the National Drugs Strategy pertaining to the education system generally have been progressed with the significant input of the Department of Education and Science. Officials of the Minister for Education and Science participate on the Regional and Local Drug Task Forces, the National Drugs Strategy Team and the Inter-Departmental Group on Drugs, illustrating the degree of co-operation and co-ordination between our Departments under the National Drugs Strategy.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

60 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform regarding the recently published Drugs and Crime in Ireland Report; his views on its findings that most drug users do not commit crimes other than those of possession; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22744/06]

I have not had discussions with the Michael McDowell, T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform specifically on the "Drugs and Crime in Ireland" report published in late May by the Health Research Board. However, it should be noted that this report was discussed at some length at the meetings of the Consequences Sub-committee of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, on which officials of our respective Departments sit. Moreover, I am confident that any issues arising from the report will be tackled with the on-going co-operation of both our Departments through the structures of the National Drugs Strategy.

The report states that it cannot be said conclusively through the data currently available whether most drug users do not commit crimes other than those of possession. After considering the matter at some length, the report concludes that the link between drugs and crime is an issue that needs further examination.

The report highlights that, while drug possession offences account for most drug offences recorded, the exact link between drug misuse and crime figures as a whole is not readily identifiable. While An Garda Síochána compile statistics for drug offences such as possession or intention to supply, they are not in a position to register crimes committed by offenders while on drugs, or for the purpose of facilitating the purchase of drugs.

Irish research was considered in the report through the application of four principal explanatory models — the psycho-pharmacological, the economic-compulsive, the systemic and the common-cause models. The first three models make a direct link between drug use and offending behaviour, while the fourth suggests that the relationship between drugs and crime is less clear. These models throw up contradictory results meaning that careful consideration is needed before making a definitive affirmation on the subject.

Taking all this into account, I do not think that we are in a position yet to conclusively measure the role drugs play in the overall crime figures. As indicated in the report, further research on the matter would be required before we can make such conclusions.

Regional Development.

Denis Naughten

Question:

61 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the opinions expressed recently by the Western Development Commission that the gap between east and west continues to grow; the measures his Department intends to take to address this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22862/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the recent submission made by the Western Development Commission (WDC) to the Department of Finance with regard to the National Development Plan (NDP) for the period 2007-2013.

Notwithstanding the WDC's comments, data from the Central Statistics Office and other sources suggests that the income gap between the BMW and the Southern and Eastern (S&E) regions is, in fact, closing. For example, the gap of 11.02% in 2002 has narrowed from 12% in 2001 and 13.4% in 2000. Furthermore, differentials in the cost of living and housing between the regions would suggest that the gap in living standards between the regions is considerably narrower than the data for disposable incomes suggests.

Convergence between the two regions has also occurred in respect to employment. Between the end of 2000 and the end of 2005, the number employed increased by 20% in the BMW region compared to 13% in the S&E region. In addition, the labour force grew by 19% in the BMW region compared to 14% for the S&E region and the participation rate grew by 6% compared to 3% in the S&E region.

The BMW region has also benefited significantly in terms of infrastructural investment. Up to December 2005, €1.5 billion had been invested in National Roads in the region. Major projects have included the Kinnegad by-pass, the Carrickmacross by-pass, the Ballina/Bohola, the Sligo Inner Relief road, the N5 Strokestown/Longford, the Boyle/Carrick-on-Shannon, and the Ballyshannon/Bundoran. Major road projects under construction or due to begin construction in the Region in 2006 include Kinnegad/Athlone, Monaghan By-Pass, Castleblayney By-Pass, Dromod/Roosky, the Edgeworthstown By-Pass and the Charlestown By-Pass.

In addition more than 26,000 kilometres of non-national roads have been improved, restored or maintained with a total investment of €1.1 billion up to December 2005 in the Region.

Transport 21 announced by the Government late last year is also important in this regard. The Plan, worth €34bn over the period, will build upon the investment made in the current NDP and for the BMW region includes significant investment in developing the Atlantic Corridor road network running from Letterkenny through Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford and the re-opening on a phased basis of the Western Rail Corridor, the development of Galway commuter rail services, QBC development for Galway and the extension of the Rural Transport Initiative over the life of the investment plan.

In terms of my own Department, we will continue to promote and maintain living and working populations in rural areas by helping to foster sustainable and culturally vibrant communities there. In that context, my Department's rural development initiatives include:

•the continued implementation of the Clár and LEADER Programmes and the Rural Social Scheme;

•advancing the work of Comhairle Na Tuaithe;

•working in close co-operation with the Department of Agriculture and Food and the EU Commission in the negotiations on the adoption of the draft EU Regulation on Rural Development for the period 2007-2013;

•supporting projects under the Rural Development Fund;

•continuation of cross-border co-operation in rural development;

•participation as appropriate in inter-departmental committees on issues appropriate to rural development, such as the National Spatial Strategy; and

•continued support for the Western Development Commission in the discharge of its functions.

•Development of Waterways Ireland

•Investment in Gaeltacht and islands

I am confident that through the work that is on-going in my own Department and across other areas that the gap between the two regions will continue to close in the coming years.

Health Strategy.

John Gormley

Question:

62 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had collaboration with the Department of Health and Children to address the need for a specific rural health strategy as was recently advocated by the Irish Rural Link. [22789/06]

As outlined in the White Paper on Rural Development, the Government is committed to continuing to meet the challenges of providing healthcare services in rural communities. While the Deputy will appreciate that this is primarily a matter for my colleague, Mary Harney T.D., Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, I will, of course, continue to support any actions she has in relation to developing rural health services.

Comhairle na Tuaithe.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

63 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he expects to receive the draft strategy from Comhairle na Tuaithe before Dáil Éireann rises for the summer 2006 recess; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22739/06]

Comhairle na Tuaithe is continuing to meet to progress their work on drafting a Countryside Recreation Strategy. The purpose of the countryside recreation strategy will be to define the scope and vision for countryside recreation as agreed by Comhairle na Tuaithe. It will set out the broad principles under which Comhairle na Tuaithe recommends that sustainable countryside recreation can be managed into the future.

I appreciate that they have devoted time from their busy schedules to carry out this important work in a spirit of co-operation and through working groups and I look forward to receiving the draft strategy from Comhairle na Tuaithe in the near future. I will, of course, carefully consider any proposals, which they may make to me.

Question No. 64 answered with QuestionNo. 49.

Departmental Funding.

Joe Costello

Question:

65 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Costello den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil staidéar déanta aige ar an tslí inar scaipeadh na deontais tithíochta idir na Gaeltachtaí i 2005; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [22759/06]

Íocann mo Roinn deontais faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltacht) le hiarratasóirí cáilithe Gaeltachta nach bhfuil teach maith acu sa Ghaeltacht chun tithe nua a thógáil nó chun obair fheabhsúcháin a dhéanamh ar thithe atá acu cheana féin. Tá sonraí i dTábla I leis seo maidir le hiarratais faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltacht) 1929-2001 i gcás na gcontaetha Gaeltachta eagsúla i 2005.

Tuigfidh an Teachta go bhfuil líon na n-iarratas ó na contaetha éagsúla ag brath ar an éileamh agus níl aon athrú suntasach le tabhairt faoi deara ar iarratais 2005. Nuair a cheadaíonn mo Roinn deontas, ní íoctar an deontas sin, ar ndóigh, nó go mbíonn an obair déanta.

Mar áis don Teachta, leagtar amach i dTábla II thíos na deontais éagsúla atá ar fáil d'iarratasóirí cáilithe ó mo Roinn faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltacht).

TÁBLA I: Iarratais faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltacht) 1929-2001 i gcás na gcontaetha Gaeltachta eagsúla i 2005

Gaeltacht

Líon iarratas ar dheontas

Líon na ndeontas a íocadh

Méid iomlán a íocadh

Dún na nGall

250

186

912,216

Maigh Eo

89

90

406,712

Gaillimh

344

312

2,199,677

Ciarraí

94

89

351,226

Corcaigh

36

28

168,571

Port Láirge

12

8

40,106

An Mhí

13

10

20,470

Iomlán

838

723

4,098,978

TÁBLA II: Deontais atá ar fáil d'iarratasóirí cáilithe ón Roinn faoi Achtanna na dTithe (Gaeltacht)

Saghas Deontais

Mórthír

Oileáin

Teach Nua

5,100

15,300

Feabhsúcháin Riachtanacha

5,100

15,300

Uisce (soláthar / feabhsú)

2,420

3,630

Séarachas

1,040

1,560

Seomra folctha

1,560

2,340

Feabhsúcháin Riachtanacha ar Shaoráidí Sláintíochta

640

960

Méaduithe Speisialta do Chuairteoirí

1,280 (an seomra)

1,920 (an seomra)

Díon tuí a athnuachan

7,000

10,500

National Drugs Strategy.

Dan Boyle

Question:

66 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of recent research findings showing that spending on alcohol here is the highest per capita in Europe, the national drugs strategy will be altered to reflect this dangerous reliance on this drug. [22782/06]

Seán Ryan

Question:

71 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether or not alcohol use and abuse should be considered as part of the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22757/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 71 together.

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. This Strategy contains 108 individual actions, under the four original pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research, with rehabilitation added as a fifth pillar. The various actions fall to be implemented by a range of Departments and Agencies.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Alcohol Policy is the responsibility of the Tánaiste, Mary Harney T.D., Minister for Health and Children, who is pursuing a number of initiatives in this area. The National Drugs Strategy calls for increased links between both policies in terms of cross-representation on the relevant committees and working groups to ensure complementarity between the different measures being taken. This is being done on an on-going basis. Also, the intertwining of the use alcohol and drugs is acknowledged in the context of polydrug use generally.

There are no plans at present to merge the alcohol and drugs policies. This could involve a broadly common approach to tackling issues around legal and illegal substances where different policy responses may be required. However, this issue was raised previously during the consultation process of the Mid-Term Review of the National Drugs Strategy and there is scope for reviewing the situation as it evolves.

Question No. 67 answered with QuestionNo. 52.

Irish Language.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

68 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad atá déanta aige agus cad é a phlean do Ghaeltacht ghlas na Mí. [22784/06]

Glactar leis gur faoi na limistéir Ghaeltachta atá an Teachta ag cur tuairisce sa Cheist seo agus, sa chomhthéacs sin, dírítear a aird ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheist Uimh. 368 ar 23 Bealtaine 2006 maidir leis an staidéar teangeolaíoch atá ar siúl i láthair na huaire. Tá an staidéar seo, a thosaigh i mí Aibreáin 2004 agus a bheidh críochnaithe níos deireanaí i mbliana, dírithe ar úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht mar bhunús chun:

•forbairt theangeolaíoch na Gaeltachta mar cheantar labhartha Gaeilge a threisiú; agus

•athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar na limistéir oifigiúla Gaeltachta.

Mar a mhínigh mé cheana, beidh na roghanna éagsúla tíreolaíochta agus déimeagrafaíocha, a mheastar a bheith oiriúnach mar bhunús chun na limistéir oifigiúla Ghaeltachta a shainiú, á scrúdú mar chuid den staidéar lena n-áirítear Gaeltacht na Mí. Ní dhéanfar aon chinneadh maidir le hathruithe ar na limistéir Ghaeltachta go dtí go mbeidh torthaí agus moltaí an staidéir meáite go cúramach ag mo Roinn agus pé moltaí ábhartha is gá a bheith curtha faoi bhráid an Rialtais in am tráth.

Ach an oiread le gach ceantar Gaeltachta eile, tagann mo Roinnse agus Údarás na Gaeltachta i gcabhair de réir mar a oireann ar Ghaeltacht na Mí faoi réir na scéimeanna, na mbeartas agus na modhanna éagsúla ar féidir leis an Roinn agus leis an Údarás faoi seach a dhéanamh.

Más amhlaidh gur eolas difriúil atá á lorg ag an Teachta sa Cheist seo, beidh mé sásta é sin a chur ar fáil feadh mo chumais ach sonraí níos beaichte a bheith curtha ar fáil aige.

Tá infheistíocht shuntasach déanta ag mo Roinn faoin iliomad scéimeanna atá ann. Tá iarratas á mheas faoi láthair ar dheontas d'amharclann do Ráth Chairn.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

69 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é an caidreamh a bhíonn aige le hAirí i rialtais eile a bhíonn freagrach as teanga dhúchasach agus cad iad na comparáidí agus na ceachtanna atá foghlamtha aige ón taithí sin. [22783/06]

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá an tír seo páirteach i gComhairle na Breataine-na hÉireann (CBÉ). Ag cruinniú mullaigh den Chomhairle sa bhliain 2002, aontaíodh gur ar Rialtas Thíonól na Breataine Bige a bheadh an príomhchúram maidir le hobair a chur chun cinn i réimse na dteangacha mionlaigh agus neamh-fhorleathana.

Tá oidhreacht shaibhir teanga ag gach ball den CBÉ agus tá fonn mór orthu na buntáistí is fearr is féidir a bhaint as an éagsúlacht teanga sin trí chomhoibriú agus foghlaim ó thaithí a chéile, mar aon leis na cleachtais agus na foinsí eolais is fearr a roinnt i réimsí ábhartha éagsúla.

I láthair na huaire, tá baill an CBÉ ag díriú ar cheithre réimse ar leith:

•Measúnú ar thorthaí taighde maidir le seachadadh teangacha ó ghlúin go glúin;

•Na struchtúir a thacaíonn le foghlaim teanga mionlaigh i measc daoine fásta;

•Na tosaíochtaí do na teangacha éagsúla i ndáil le forbairt ICT a aithint; agus

•Polasaí pleanála agus tosca teangeolaíochta.

Tá fo-choiste de shaineolaithe ar chúrsaí ríomhaireachta bunaithe ag an ngrúpa le scrúdú a dhéanamh ar na féidearthachtaí maidir le dea-chleachtais i gcórais ríomhaireachta agus mionteangacha a mhalartú.

Is féidir liom a rá go bhfuil ról lárnach agus páirt ghníomhach á ghlacadh ag oifigigh mo Roinne san obair thábhachtach agus riachtanach seo. Mar léiriú air seo, reáchtálfar Cruinniú Aireachta i nGaillimh i bhFómhar na bliana seo ag a dtabharfar aird ar na hábhair seo le béim ar leith ar sheachadadh teanga i measc teaghlach agus oideachas do dhaoine fásta.

Is fiú dom a rá chomh maith, le linn dom bheith ag ullmhú na reachtaíochta do Bhille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla go raibh an-phlé agus comhoibriú ar fáil ón mBreatain Bhig agus ó Cheanada ach go háirithe i ndáil leis an reachtaíocht teanga a bhí i bhfeidhm sna tíortha sin. Táim cinnte go leanfaidh an comhoibriú seo sa todhchaí agus gur féidir linn ar fad foghlaim óna chéile.

Ní miste dom a rá chomh maith go raibh comhráití agam, le linn na cuairte a thugas ar an Nua-Shéalainn níos túisce i mbliana, le Coimisiún Teanga na Maori. Bhain na comhráití sin go príomha leis na bealaí is éifeachtaí chun an ghlúin óg a ghríosadh le páirt lárnach ghníomhach a ghlacadh i gcaomhnú agus i bhforbairt a dteanga dúchais agus, ar ndóigh, ar na córais dhlí atá i bhfeidhm sa Nua-Shéalainn agus sa tír seo i dtaca le cúrsaí teanga.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

70 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he expects the panel accredited to provide Irish language translation services for both the public and private sectors to be in place before Dáil Éireann rises for the summer 2006 recess; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22741/06]

As I indicated in response to Question No. 118 on 16 Bealtaine 2006, I have requested Foras na Gaeilge to develop an accreditation system for Irish language translators.

The first step in this process was an examination, which was held on 8 April 2006. A panel of accredited translators will be established as a result of this examination and I understand that this panel will be available shortly. Further examinations will be held at regular intervals on an ongoing basis.

Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

National Drugs Strategy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

72 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals to increase the amount of funding from his Department by way of support to community based groups involved in combating the drugs problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22794/06]

The current year's allocation to my Department for expenditure on Drugs Initiatives and the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund is €43m which represents a substantial 37% increase on the 2005 initial allocation and an increase of 61% on the 2004 figure. These figures emphasise that tackling the drug problem is a key Government priority and that it will remain so.

Local Drugs Task Forces (LDTFs) are well established and are now implementing the second round of Action Plans at an annual cost in excess of €16m. Since 1997, nearly €125m has been allocated to support this work across the 14 LDTF areas. Over 400 community-based projects have been established, employing more than 300 staff, and delivering services such as advice and support for drug misusers and their families, community drug teams offering treatment, outreach and crisis intervention services and drug training programmes for community groups.

Twelve of the 14 Local Drugs Task Forces are located in Dublin, with the others in Bray and Cork. Ten Regional Drugs Task Forces (RDTFs) have been established in the areas not covered by Local Drugs Task Forces. Thus a Drugs Task Force now services all parts of the country with consequential support for community based groups. The Action Plans drawn up by the RDTFs have been approved and funding has been allocated to facilitate their implementation.

Additionally, under the Emerging Needs Fund, which was devised to provide a flexible and timely response to evolving needs in regard to drug misuse in Local Drugs Task Force areas, I recently announced the approval of €2.27m for 39 projects, bringing the total approved to date from this Fund to just over €3.1m.

The Young People's Facilities and Services Fund was established in 1998 to assist the development of youth facilities (including sport and recreational facilities) and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem exists, or has the potential to develop. I was pleased to announce further allocations of €1.5m for eight projects this week under the Fund. This announcement of projects in Waterford, Dún Laoghaire area, Blanchardstown and Tallaght brings the total commitment from the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund to over €103m since its establishment.

Overall I am satisfied that the implementation of the LDTF and RDTF Action Plans, along with the range of additional funding initiatives available, represents a comprehensive range of support to community based groups involved in combating the problems of drugs misuse.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

73 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the comprehensive drugs prevalence survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22751/06]

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit (Northern Ireland) commissioned the first Drug Prevalence Survey in 2002/2003, the purpose of which was to establish the population prevalence of drug use on the island of Ireland. This study surveyed over 8,000 people aged 15-64 in Ireland and Northern Ireland between October 2002 and April 2003 and examined the prevalence of a number of drugs.

That work provided us for the first time with robust statistical information on the prevalence of drug use in the general population. It covered any lifetime use of drugs by respondents, as well as more recent use in the previous year and month. Tenders for the carrying out of the second Drug Prevalence Survey have been received this week and it is hoped that a contract will be placed in the coming weeks.

It is intended that the Drug Prevalence Study fieldwork will be carried out from late 2006 to mid 2007. Preliminary analysis will be done in the months following, with a first report of national prevalence figures and trends expected in late 2007.

Rural Development.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

74 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has examined the findings of the PREPARE partnerships for rural Europe report on rural movements in Europe in order for Ireland to gain knowledge from European partners on ways to improve the quality of life in rural areas. [22792/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

79 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on and if he will be collaborating with Irish Rural Link’s rural think tank project which is being established in response to a lack of coherent policy and action in key rural development areas. [22787/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 79 together.

I do not accept that there is a lack of coherent policy and action in key rural development areas. The era of change now facing rural Ireland was one of the main reasons which prompted the establishment of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in mid 2002. One of the key goals of my Department is to promote and maintain living and working populations in rural areas by helping to foster sustainable and culturally vibrant communities there. Implicit in this statement is the recognition, now widely accepted, that farming alone cannot sustain the rural economy.

In continuing to develop a clear vision and strategy, I will be happy to hear the views of Irish Rural Link, amongst others, and any new proposals they might have. I believe that all players with an interest in rural Ireland must work together to achieve a modern rural Ireland and one which reaps the economic and social rewards going forward.

Equally, I will be happy to examine the findings of the PREPARE report on rural movements in Europe in order to gain knowledge and insight from a European perspective. I understand that Irish Rural Link is a member of this network.

National Drugs Strategy.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

75 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals for a comprehensive independent review of the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22738/06]

The Mid-Term Review of the National Drugs Strategy was published in June 2005. This report was the culmination of a comprehensive review, which included extensive consultation with Government Departments and agencies, the community & voluntary sectors and the public in general.

The review was overseen by a Steering Group, chaired by my Department, and made up of representatives of the relevant participants in the National Drugs Strategy, including representatives from the community and voluntary sectors. The Steering Group found that the current aims and objectives of the Drugs Strategy are fundamentally sound. It was confirmed that there are encouraging signs of progress since 2001, when the Strategy was first launched, suggesting that our approach to tackling the drug problem is proving to be effective. At the same time, however, the review highlights the need to re-focus some priorities and to accelerate the roll-out and implementation of various key actions in the remaining period of the Strategy up to 2008.

The actions outlined in the National Drugs Strategy are being progressed with the significant input of other Government Departments and agencies — e.g. the Health Services Executive, Dept Health & Children, Dept Education & Science, Dept Justice, Equality & Law Reform, An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prisons Service, the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners and FÁS — as well as the community and voluntary sectors. All these parties are playing important roles in the implementation of the overall Strategy. The structures put in place under the Strategy facilitate the sorting out of any issues that arise in relation to ongoing implementation, the identification of any emerging changes in the nature of the drugs problems facing us and the formulation of responses to such changes.

The National Drugs Strategy runs to the end of 2008. It is envisaged that a further comprehensive review will take place at that stage prior to the formulation of the next phase of Ireland's drugs strategy.

Societal Inequalities.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

76 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals in regard to reducing societal inequalities in childhood circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22756/06]

Primary responsibility in relation to reducing societal inequalities in childhood circumstances rests with my colleagues the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Health and Children. I would refer the Deputy to them.

Rural Development.

Joan Burton

Question:

77 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he intends that the national strategy for rural development as required by the EU Framework on Rural Development and presently being prepared by his Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food will be completed and ready for submission to the European Commission before the Dáil Éireann summer 2006 recess; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22740/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

91 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will elaborate on the alternative sustainable energy policy priorities proposed under the new national strategy for rural development which is currently being prepared. [22788/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 91 together.

Ireland's Rural Development National Strategy Plan 2007-2013 is currently with the European Commission. My Department officials have met with the Commission and are awaiting agreement on it. The Strategy covers both the agricultural and forestry sectors, as well as the wider rural economy.

Under the third objective or axis of the Strategy dealing with the off-farm rural economy which is primarily under the remit of my Department, the development and adaptation of alternative sustainable energy sources, appropriate to the specific needs of local rural communities, is an important priority.

Following on from the imminent adoption of the overall National Strategy, a detailed National Rural Development Programme will be formulated and implemented from 2007. All stakeholders will be consulted on the potential content of the programme, including environmentally friendly initiatives and alternative sustainable energy options for local communities.

Voluntary Sector.

John Gormley

Question:

78 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will expand upon the policy proposals expressed by the Secretary General of his Department at the recent conference of the Wheel. [22790/06]

I understand that the address by the Secretary General of my Department at the recent Wheel Conference focused on shared challenges faced with the community and voluntary sector, some reflections relating to issues relevant to the sector that have arisen in the past, and factors which may influence volunteering. I am advised that no policy proposals were advanced by the Secretary General at the conference.

Question No. 79 answered with QuestionNo. 74.

Departmental Programmes.

Dan Boyle

Question:

80 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will address the general weakness in strategic planning and project implementation found by the recent independent evaluation of the RAPID programme; and the way in which he plans to tackle such difficulties better in the future. [22781/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

84 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will elaborate on the difficulties which have been encountered in securing funding for certain types of projects, particularly in relation to education, training and employment, despite these areas of activity representing a key means by which lasting solutions can be found to issues of social exclusion in RAPID communities, as was noted in the independent evaluation of the RAPID programme. [22785/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 84 together.

My Department, with the support of Pobal, has overall responsibility for the co-ordination of the RAPID programme. It is a matter for each Department to respond to recommendations in respect to their area of responsibility. The Deputy will be aware that Pobal commissioned an evaluation of the RAPID programme with the support of my Department. The Programme aims to ensure that priority attention is given to tackling the spatial concentration of poverty and social exclusion within the 45 designated RAPID areas.

The final report of the evaluators was launched on 1 June last. The report indicates that the experience of the RAPID Programme has been very positive in many areas and the evaluators have concluded that the Programme has made substantial progress in identifying the needs of disadvantaged communities and in implementing important local projects in response to those needs.

The evaluation highlights a weakness in strategic planning and project implementation in some RAPID areas. This has resulted in an ad hoc and reactive approach to developing projects and, in the view of the evaluators, makes it difficult to establish a holistic view of the needs of these areas. The evaluators make a number of recommendations to address this weakness and other issues. The report also highlights some gaps in terms of additional local investment needs for education, training and employment which it states are due, in part, to a lack of leverage funding for education related projects and a lack of planning at national level with regard to employer education programmes and the facilitation at local level of initiatives aimed at promoting employment and training within the community. The evaluators recommend enhanced monitoring structures, the adoption of annual work programmes, and improved corporate and business planning in agencies to prioritise RAPID areas for investment.

I will be considering all evaluation findings and recommendations set out in the Report. Because some of the recommendations relate to areas outside the remit of my Department, I will be working with other Departments and agencies over the coming months in determining appropriate responses.

Irish Language.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

81 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in regard to the translation of court documents into the Irish language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22758/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have no Ministerial responsibility for the Courts Service. However, I would direct the Deputy's attention to the Irish language scheme which has been agreed between my Department and the Courts Service under section 11 of the Official Languages Act 2003 and which is available atwww.coimisineir.ie.

Foras na Gaeilge.

Liz McManus

Question:

82 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received proposals that he has asked the board of Foras na Gaeilge to bring forward in relation to the phases of locating a staff complement of 30 Foras na Gaeilge staff posts to Gaoth Dobhair as well as the precise sections and functions to be located there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22743/06]

I would draw the attention of the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 86 and 118 of 16 May 2006. As I indicated in that reply, the Board of Foras na Gaeilge has been asked to bring forward firm proposals in relation to the phases of locating a staff complement of 30 in Gaoth Dobhair, as well as the precise sections and functions to be located there.

I have been informed by Foras na Gaeilge that the issue was discussed at their Board meeting on 8 May 2006 and that it will be discussed further at their next Board meeting which is scheduled for 26 June 2006. I will look forward to these proposals being made available shortly after the meeting.

Departmental Funding.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

83 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the funds which have been allocated to initiatives in support of volunteering to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22749/06]

Funding in excess of €1.7m. has been allocated to initiatives in support of volunteering by my Department for 2006. These allocations are, in the main, part of multi-annual commitments made to a range of volunteering related activities which I announced as part of a package of volunteering initiatives in March 2005.

The allocations for 2006 are as follows:

•Volunteer Centres Ireland, which is a national network of volunteer centres — €50,000

•Eight volunteer bureaux, members of Volunteer Centres Ireland — €543,648

•Focus Ireland, to support their Community Service Volunteer Programme — €81,394

•The Young Social Innovators Programme — €250,000

•The Community Learning Programme of the Dublin Institute of Technology — €110,000

•Boardmatch — an initiative to strengthen the boards of management of voluntary and community organisations — €100,000

•to Carlow County Development Board to promote volunteering — €76,600 from the Cohesion Fund

•for volunteering projects by Local Area Partnership Schemes under the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP) — €500,000.

Question No. 84 answered with QuestionNo. 80.
Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 52.

Irish Language.

Seán Ryan

Question:

86 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will provide details of the programme to provide Irish language teaching assistants in third level institutions in the United States under his Department and the Fulbright Commission; the level of interest in the scheme; if same is being provided on a permanent or once-off basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22748/06]

In May of this year I approved a grant of €30,000 to assist the Fulbright Programme with the costs of appointing Irish-Language Teaching Assistants in third-level institutions in the United States.

Funding for this scheme has been approved on a pilot-basis for a period of two academic years, beginning with 2006-2007. I am heartened that there has been considerable interest in the scheme to date with four teaching assistants selected to take up places in US universities in the academic year 2006-2007.

National Drugs Strategy.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

87 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the contacts, discussions and meetings he has had with other Departments in 2006 in relation to his Department’s role in co-ordinating the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22845/06]

I can assure the Deputy that officials of my Department and myself are in ongoing contact with those involved in the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy.

A comprehensive framework for a co-ordinated Government response to the issue of drug misuse is in place. The National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 addresses the problem of drug misuse across a number of pillars — supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research — and implementation of the strategy across a range of Government Departments and agencies, together with the community and voluntary sectors, is co-ordinated by my Department.

The actions outlined in the National Drugs Strategy are being progressed with the significant input of other Government Departments and agencies — e.g. the Health Services Executive, Dept Health & Children, Dept Education & Science, Dept Justice, Equality & Law Reform, An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prisons Service, the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners and FÁS — as well as the community and voluntary sectors. All these parties are playing important roles in the implementation of the overall Strategy. The structures put in place under the Strategy facilitate the sorting out of any issues that arise in relation to ongoing implementation, the identification of any emerging changes in the nature of the drugs problems facing us and the formulation of responses to such changes.

Moreover, officials of the relevant Departments and agencies are members of the Regional and Local Drug Task Forces as well as the National Drugs Strategy Team. All of these groups meet on a regular basis. The Inter-Departmental Group on Drugs, which I chair, and which includes senior representatives from the Departments and Agencies involved, meets quarterly to discuss progress under the Strategy and to address any issues that arise.

I am satisfied with the present level of ongoing interaction and I am confident that the co-operation on the direction and implementation of the Strategy will continue.

Departmental Schemes.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

88 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the low take-up of the rural social scheme in the southern and eastern regions; and the action he intends to take to promote the scheme further amongst farmers in the regions. [22786/06]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

180 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of personnel involved in the rural employment scheme; if there are sufficient funds to allow an increase in numbers; and if he has satisfied himself that there are sufficient funds available to provide for an active work programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23145/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 180 together.

As the Deputies are aware, the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) was established to provide income support for low income farmers and fisher persons who are in receipt of long-term social welfare payments, as well as providing essential services to their communities.

There are currently 2,299 participants on the RSS, of whom 658 are from the Southern and Eastern (S&E) region. In addition, there are 33 supervisors employed in the S&E region and 79 in the BMW region. While the numbers on the Scheme in the BMW region are higher, this tends to reflect the higher numbers of people on farm assist in that region compared to the S&E region.

I am pleased that the number of participants in the S&E region and, indeed the BMW region, has increased considerably in the last month or so. I believe that this is due, to some extent at least, to the recent changes that I have made to the Scheme.

As part of the changes, the categories of people eligible to participate in the Scheme have been extended and now include:

•children/siblings of qualifying herd owners;

•recipients of One-Parent and Widow(ers) payments with a herd number; and

•adult dependents of non-contributory old age pensioners, who themselves are under 66, and have a herd number.

The recent changes also include the removal of the tapering of the adult dependent payments in respect of qualified adults and replacing this with a full qualified payment where earnings are below the upper threshold of €250 p.w.

In addition, participants on the Scheme are no longer prohibited from undertaking any other form of paid work. A wide variety of valuable work is being undertaken under the RSS, including:

•Projects relating to maintenance and enhancement of waymarked ways, agreed walks, bog roads etc;

•Energy conservation work for the elderly and the less well off;

•Village and countryside enhancement projects;

•Environmental maintenance works — maintenance and caretaking of community and sporting facilities;

•Projects relating to not for profit cultural and heritage centres; and

•Social care and care of the elderly, community after-school support groups and community pre-schooling support groups.

Funding of €43.322m has been provided in my Department's Estimates for the Programme in the current year, which represents an increase of 70% over 2005 expenditure. Going forward, I can assure the Deputies that I will continue to closely monitor the number of participants on the Scheme and its on-going funding requirements.

Youth Services.

Seamus Healy

Question:

89 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will immediately grant young peoples facilities and services fund status to Clonmel, as requested by the RAPID organisation, where a significant drug problem has developed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22114/06]

As I advised the Deputy in answer to Question 111 recently, the Young Peoples Facilities & Services Fund was established in 1998 to assist in the development of facilities (including sport and recreational facilities) and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem existed or had the potential to develop.

To date, the focus of the Fund has been in the 14 Local Drugs Task Force areas (12 in Dublin and the others in Bray and Cork City) which were established in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse, particularly misuse of heroin, as well as on four other urban centres, Limerick, Waterford, Galway and Carlow. In the intervening years approximately €103 million has been allocated to support over 450 facility and services projects in these locations.

The possibility of expanding the number of urban areas that are eligible for funding from Young Peoples Facilities & Services Fund may fall to be considered in the coming period. Any decision in that regard would be based on evidence of a significant existing drug problem in a particular centre, or the potential for a drug problem to develop there. I cannot say at this point whether Clonmel would qualify for inclusion under the Young Peoples Facilities & Services in such circumstances.

Irish Language.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

90 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of Irish language schemes he has approved since 16 May 2006 under the Official Languages Act 2003; the number of additional schemes commenced under the Act since that date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22737/06]

Since 16 May 2006, three additional Irish language schemes have been approved by me under the Official Languages Act 2003 and published.

A total of 27 schemes prepared by public bodies, including that of my own Department, have now been confirmed by me and published. I wish to advise the Deputy that all of the 27 schemes are available on the website of An Coimisinéir Teanga,www.coimisineir.ie.

As I indicated in my reply of 16 May 2006, my Department is in discussion with in excess of 70 additional public bodies in relation to completion or commencement of the process of drafting a scheme. I expect to be in a position to approve a further number of draft schemes in the near future.

Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Rural Poverty.

David Stanton

Question:

92 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the measures he is taking to address rural poverty; the funding he has made available; the breakdown for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22925/06]

I have in place a range of programmes which address rural poverty, disadvantage and development. These are detailed in the Strategy Statement for my Department, which is available on our website atwww.pobail.ie.

These programmes are grouped for budgetary purposes under various headings in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2006 which is available in the Oireachtas Library or on the Department of Finance website atwww.finance.gov.ie.

Departmental Surveys.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

93 Mr. Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the number of full-time farmers in Wexford in each of the years from 1995 to 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23032/06]

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. The Farm Structure Survey provides regional estimates and the following table shows figures for the South East region in June 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2003 (the latest year currently available).

Number of farms in the South East region — June 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2003

Year

Farm work is sole occupation of farm owner

Farm work is not sole occupation of farm owner

Total

1995

13,700

5,600

19,200

1997

13,400

5,200

18,600

2000*

10,500

6,400

16,900

2003

10,000

5,900

15,900

*June 2000 Census of Agriculture figure.

The South East region comprises counties Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary S.R., Wexford, Waterford County and Waterford County Borough. Figures at county level are available from the 2000 Census of Agriculture. There were 4,600 farms in county Wexford in June 2000; on 2,900 of these, farm work was the owner's sole occupation.

Departmental Agencies.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

94 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if he will list all the Ombudsman services here; their respective terms of reference; the contact details; and current post holders in each case. [22889/06]

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children was established under the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002. The functions under the Act include the promotion of the rights and welfare of children and the investigation and examination of complaints, in relation to children, against public bodies, schools and voluntary hospitals. The current Ombudsman is Ms. Emily Logan. The contact details for her office are LoCall: 1890 654 654, Tel: 01 865 6800, Email:oco@oco.ie or in writing to The Office of the Ombudsman for Children, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

95 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Government had discussions with Professor Drumm, chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive, in relation to the location of the new children’s hospital; if she will list each time she met with him and discussed the location of the children’s hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23147/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

96 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Government had discussions with a person (details supplied) in relation to the location of the new children’s hospital; if she will list each time she met with this person and discussed the location of the children’s hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23148/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 96 together.

Members of the Government would have had meetings with Professor Drumm and other representatives of the Health Service Executive on a regular basis in the normal course of business. However, neither the Taoiseach nor I nor any other members of the Government had meetings or discussions with Professor Drumm or the other person concerned during the course of the work of the Task Group that was established to advise on the optimum location for the new national paediatric hospital, in relation to the work or decision of the Group.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

97 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received the report of the working group on the Irish home help service; the date she expects to receive this report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22878/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the high level working group which has been established by the Health Service Executive with representatives from IMPACT and SIPTU with a view to establishing a standardised high quality home help service which will benefit both clientele and staff. The work of this group concerns operational matters and the group was not set up with a remit to report to me directly. However the Deputy may be assured that my Department will be kept fully informed of developments in this matter by the Health Service Executive.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

98 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the financial allocation by county for aids and appliances for the visually impaired and the blind over the past five years; the aids and appliances funded over that period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22891/06]

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

Medical Cards.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

99 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card which has been refused and where the case is considered special will be investigated for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [22899/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

John McGuinness

Question:

100 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to a previous parliamentary question regarding a person (details supplied), if she will confirm the number of complaints made against them; the action taken relative to each; if they are still practising; if the patient was interviewed; the action taken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22910/06]

I have been advised by the Health Service Executive that a reply was issued to the Deputy on the 23rd May in relation to the previous parliamentary question and that the issue of complaints were investigated by an appointed investigating committee.

In relation to the new issues raised 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.

Consultancy Contracts.

John McGuinness

Question:

101 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of retired staff from the old health system being employed by the Health Service Executive south east as consultants or on a contract basis; the amount paid to these consultants over the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22911/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

John McGuinness

Question:

102 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of promotions granted by the Health Service Executive south east in the administration at senior executive level; if senior positions within the HSE are open to outside competition; the number of successful applicants in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22912/06]

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

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

103 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the process within the Health Service Executive south east to accommodate psychiatric patients to make a will; if independent legal advice is made available to patients or their representatives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22913/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

John McGuinness

Question:

104 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an occupational therapist’s report has been furnished to Kilkenny County Council regarding a disabled persons grant application for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the matter will be expedited. [22914/06]

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

Care of the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Question:

105 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an audit has been undertaken to determine the value of each patient’s account held in each of the old health board areas; if the account balance has been agreed with each patient or their representative; if a protocol has been agreed as to the way in which these accounts should be managed by the Health Service Executive in order to protect the rights of the patient and the integrity of the HSE staff involved; if an agreement or charter stating the way in which these funds should be used has been put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22915/06]

The Health Service Executive administers a patient private property account system to manage the private money of patients in long stay care. The HSE has established a multi-disciplinary working group to ensure that the administration of these accounts: 1) Meets all legal and regulatory requirements 2) Operates in the best interests of patients in as responsive a way as practical 3) Takes appropriate account of, in so far as is practical, the input of patients relatives and friends 4) Is consistent with best practice in terms of financial controls, transparent accountability and corporate governance arrangements 5) Is efficient and represents value for money in the use of staff and HSE resources.

My Department accepts the need for clarity in the administration of these accounts and the Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill 2006, which will be enacted shortly, includes provisions to regulate patient private property accounts. As the HSE administers patient private property accounts, enquiries relating to these accounts are referred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive. My Department has asked the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Liam Aylward

Question:

106 Mr. Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive have plans to provide a new health centre at Johnstown in County Kilkenny in view of the condition of the present centre and its dangerous location. [22921/06]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

107 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will assist persons (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [22944/06]

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.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

108 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate if it would be possible for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be transferred to St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin 4 or if they are suitable from a medical and financial point of view to a private nursing home in the Dublin area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22946/06]

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.

Foster Care.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

109 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm receipt of an application for a foster grant from persons (details supplied) in County Offaly; when this application will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22947/06]

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

Care of the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

110 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made in the Health Service Executive mid west area in extending the HSE pilot project of establishing teams of personnel to help elderly people to remain at home after becoming ill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22948/06]

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.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

111 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the initiatives undertaken to expend the Health Service Executive Home Help service nationally and in the HSE mid west area; when these initiatives are expected to take effect; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22949/06]

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.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

112 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when people here can expect a multi-annual funding for a cancer strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22958/06]

Last Monday I formally launched a new Strategy for Cancer Control which has been developed by the National Cancer Forum. The Strategy makes recommendations in relation to organisation, governance, quality assurance and accreditation across the continuum of cancer care from prevention and health promotion through to treatment services, palliative care and research.

The Government is fully committed to significant additional investment in cancer control based on the reform programme now being implemented by the HSE. Additional investment will be addressed from within the annual financial allocation approved by Government commencing in 2007. To this end, I have asked the HSE to prepare a robust needs assessment for cancer control for the next five years to reflect priorities in cancer control, equitable distribution and priority setting that maximises efficiency and reduces dependancy on hospital in-patient care.

The HSE has announced the establishment of a National Cancer Control Programme to implement the new Strategy, details of which will be outlined by the Executive over the coming weeks. The Programme will provide the necessary leadership, governance and integration to create an essential framework for cancer control. It will be led by a National Programme Director and will host a single national budget for all cancer control activities.

Since the implementation of the National Cancer Strategy commenced in 1997, approximately €920 million has been invested in the development of cancer services. The Vote for the Health Service Executive in 2006 includes a sum of €9 million to continue to meet the additional service pressures in cancer care, improve the quality of care, facilitate better access to radiation oncology services and to continue the preparation for the national cervical screening programme.

Mental Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

113 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position of the proposed closure of a house (details supplied) in County Kildare as a residence for the mental health services for Kildare and the west midlands by the Health Service Executive; if her attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by the families of the residents of the centre as to their future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22960/06]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

114 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of applications for the home help package in Kildare and west Wicklow as operated by the Health Service Executive; the cost of the system for the past year; the waiting time for payment for each applicant; the average payment to each applicant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22961/06]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

115 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of residential bed spaces available in the Kildare and west Wicklow area of the Health Service Executive for psychiatric patients; the areas of such residences; the number of bed spaces per residence or unit; the number of staff employed per residence or unit; the status of the number of staff in each residence or unit; her plans to increase the number of bed spaces in residences or units; the overall cost of the mental health services in this area for the daily running of these units; the cost of overtime in each of the units for the past year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22962/06]

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

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Jack Wall

Question:

116 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of the operation of the K-Doc system to the Exchequer for each of the years since its commencement in the Kildare and west Wicklow area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22963/06]

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.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

117 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of the new community hospital for Tuam, County Galway; the way in which the project will be funded, Exchequer, public private partnership and so on; when planning permission for the project will be sought; the timetable for its commencement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22970/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of new developments. 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.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

118 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the outcome from the sub-committee established four years ago to deliver and to arrange transport for cancer patients; when she expects to have this arrangement available to cancer patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22971/06]

The Health Service Executive has in place several options for the transportation of patients who require radiotherapy and other oncology services including the use of designated oncology transport vehicles and transport by air. These services and their development relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Executive under the Health Act 2004. I understand that the Executive will be reviewing the transport needs of all patients, including cancer patients and the associated resource requirements. Accordingly my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to provide relevant details to the Deputy.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

119 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when funding will be available to establish the long awaited nursing home in Ballinrobe, County Mayo; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22972/06]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

120 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 221 of 16 November 2005, the reply to which was to be issued shortly according to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 141 of 6 April 2006. [23011/06]

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that a reply has issued to Parliamentary Question No. 221 of 16 November 2005.

Finian McGrath

Question:

121 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) to get a place in a nursing home as they are on a waiting list. [23052/06]

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

Medical Cards.

Tony Gregory

Question:

122 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is policy to award medical cards to all tracheotomy patients which involves a life support system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23055/06]

At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. Under the Health Act, 2004 determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Persons aged seventy years and over are automatically entitled to a medical card, irrespective of means. The HSE has discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.

I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

123 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a scheme (details supplied) is means tested; and if so, when the means testing was introduced to this scheme. [23067/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

124 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 175 of 9 May 2006. [23068/06]

I have made enquiries from the Health Service Executive and understand that the Deputy's original question was not received by the Executive due to an incorrect referral address being used at the time.

The Executive has assured me that it will give this matter priority attention and will issue a reply to the Deputy shortly.

Medical Cards.

Michael Lowry

Question:

125 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary with a long term disability was refused a doctor only medical card; if she will review the person’s case and award a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23069/06]

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

Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

126 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary receives early sanction under the special housing aid scheme; the reason for a four year waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23070/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if extra funding will be offered or arranged to enhance ambulance services at the weekends in Maynooth, in view of the fact that the service was out in the course of the four calls a person made over one and a half hours in the early hours of 4 June 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23131/06]

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.

Liam Twomey

Question:

128 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the promised lymphoedema service has been established at the Donegal Hospice in Letterkenny; and is she has satisfied herself that the treatment of lymphoedema is accessible nationwide to all cancer patients, especially breast cancer patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23132/06]

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 respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Liam Twomey

Question:

129 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when funding will be available for community based services (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23133/06]

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medial card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23134/06]

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.

Ombudsman Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

131 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he will list all the Ombudsman services here; their respective terms of reference; the contact details; and current post holders in each case. [22889/06]

The following table sets out details in relation to the Ombudsman services which come under the aegis of my Department.

Name of the Ombudsman Service

Terms of Reference

Contact Details

Current Post Holder

Financial Services Ombudsman

To ensure that unresolved complaints from customers of financial service providers that fall under the remit of the Financial Services Ombudsman are investigated, mediated and adjudicated fairly.

Regus House Harcourt Centre Harcourt Road Dublin 2 Tel: 01 6620899 Lo Call 1890 88 20 90 Email address enquiries @financialombudsman.ieWebsite address www.financialombudsman.ie

Mr. Joe Meade

Office of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman can examine complaints from members of the public who believe they have been treated unfairly by certain public bodies. These bodies include all Government Departments, local authorities, the Health Service Executive and An Post. (The actions of all agencies that provide a service on behalf of the Health Service Executive will also come within the remit of the Ombudsman in the very near future). The Ombudsman can also examine complaints that public bodies have failed to provide access to public buildings, or services, for people with disabilities, as required under the Disabilities Act 2005.

Office of the Ombudsman 18 Lower Leeson Street Dublin 2 Tel: 01 6395600 Email address enquiries ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.ie Website: www.ombudsman.ie

Ms Emily O’Reilly

Tax Code.

Seán Haughey

Question:

132 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance the tax relief available for dental treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22887/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for tax relief on certain health expenses incurred by a taxpayer in respect of the provision of health care for him or herself and/or his or her qualifying dependants. However, the relief is only available to the extent that tax has been paid. For example, if a person makes a claim for relief for net health expenses of €800 but has only paid €400 in tax in the year to which the claim relates, then the extent of the tax relief in respect of the claim can be no more than €400.

Expenditure incurred on routine dental treatment (meaning the extraction, scaling and filling of teeth and the provision and repairing of artificial teeth or dentures) does not qualify for tax relief.

However, the cost of the following non-routine dental treatments qualify for tax relief:

•crowns;

•veneers;

•tip replacing;

•gold posts;

•gold inlays;

•endodontics — (root canal treatment);

•periodontal treatment;

•orthodontic treatment;

•surgical extraction of impacted wisdom teeth;

•bridgework;

•dental implant treatment.

Relief may be claimed in respect of treatment obtained outside the State provided the practitioner is entitled under the laws of the country in which the care is provided to practise medicine or dentistry there.

Relief cannot be claimed for any expenditure, which has been or will be reimbursed by a medical insurer. In addition, tax relief is not due in respect of the first €125 of any medical expenses incurred in any tax year. In the case of an individual claiming relief in respect of two or more persons, the first €250 is not allowable.

To claim tax relief in respect of dental work, an individual should submit to his or her tax office—

(a) a completed health expenses claim form (known as Form Med 1) — this is to be completed by the individual making the tax claim; plus

(b) a completed Form Med 2 (this is to be completed by the dentist who carried out the dental work).

Further information regarding tax relief under the heading of health expenses is available on the Revenue website atwww.revenue.ie.

Flood Relief.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

133 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the implementation of the flood relief measures in Fermoy, County Cork. [22898/06]

The exhibition stage of the proposed flood relief scheme for Fermoy has now been completed. Since the close of the formal exhibition in December 2005 all observations received have been considered and have now been replied to. There are no major changes to the proposals arising from the exhibition. Approval from the Department of Finance to commence the detailed design of the Fermoy North scheme will be sought shortly. Subject to the necessary formal approvals to proceed being received, it is anticipated that construction would commence in the Spring of 2007.

Tax Code.

John Cregan

Question:

134 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the present categories and thresholds for inheritance tax; when they were last adjusted; if they are adjusted annually for inflation increases; if the general inflation figure or that for property is used; if a person without children can nominate someone else for example a niece to receive the first category relief in a case where the niece was their carer for years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22929/06]

For the purpose of Gift and Inheritance Tax, the relationship between the person who provided the gift or inheritance (the disponer) and the person who received the gift or inheritance (the beneficiary), determines the maximum tax-free threshold — known as the "Group threshold". Apart from the total exemption of transfers between spouses, there are three Group thresholds based on the relationship of the beneficiary to the disponer and these Group thresholds are indexed annually by reference to the Consumer Price Index as published by the Central Statistics Office.

The indexed Group thresholds for 2006 are as follows:

Group A: €478,155. This applies to gifts/inheritances received by a child, a step-child and a foster child from a parent. Group A also applies in certain circumstances to gifts/inheritances received by a parent from a child and by a grandchild from a grandparent.

Group B: €47,815. This applies to gifts/inheritances received by brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and parents.

Group C: €23,908. This applies to gifts/inheritances received by a beneficiary who does not come under Group A or B.

Any prior gifts or inheritances received by a beneficiary since 5 December 1991 from within the same Group threshold are taken into account when calculating whether gift/inheritance tax is payable on the current gift/inheritance. A niece or nephew who receives a gift or inheritance is entitled to the Group A threshold of €478,155 provided certain conditions are fulfilled. These conditions are that the niece or nephew has worked substantially on a full-time basis for the disponer in the 5 years ending on the date of the gift/inheritance in carrying on the business of the disponer and the gift/inheritance consists of property, which was used in connection with the business.

However, under Section 151 of the Finance Act 2000, an exemption from gift/inheritance tax is available for certain dwelling houses. The purpose of this exemption is to benefit individuals who had been living in a house for a period prior to taking the benefit, either by way of gift or inheritance. The main conditions attaching to the exemption are that the beneficiary of the dwelling house must have resided in the house for a minimum of 3 years prior to the gift or inheritance and must not have had an interest in any other dwelling house. In addition, the beneficiary must continue to occupy that dwelling house as his or her only or main residence for a period of 6 years commencing on the date of the gift/inheritance. This exemption ensures that what may be the family home for many people will not be the subject of gift or inheritance tax when it is transferred.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

135 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the circumstances in which co-ordinated pensions apply in relation to the pension schemes of State sponsored bodies; the rules governing portability of pensions between State sponsored bodies and public service bodies such as the armed services and State sponsored bodies; and if he plans to relax any of these rules. [22942/06]

While pension scheme terms for State bodies are a matter for the State bodies, subject to the approval of the Minister and the consent of the Minister for Finance, the general policy is that co-ordination applies in the case of public servants who are fully covered for Pay-Related Social Insurance (PRSI). As a result of a Government decision that all public servants appointed on or after 6 April 1995 should be in full PRSI class, co-ordinated pensions apply to those public servants.

Portability of pensions between State sponsored bodies and public service bodies, including the armed forces, is provided for under arrangements known as the Public Sector Transfer Network. Persons who move from one member organisation to another may transfer their pensionable service to their new employment for superannuation purposes, subject to certain conditions. Membership of the Transfer Network is voluntary and organisations opting to join are designated by the Minister for Finance under Section 4(1) of the Superannuation and Pensions Act 1963.

The provisions of the scheme are quite lengthy and the following is a brief summary:

The scheme provides that a person employed in a member organisation who had earlier service in another member organisation may transfer that earlier service to their current employment for superannuation purposes. At the request of the individual, the current employer arranges the transfer of the service with the previous employer. There are certain conditions which must be met before the transfer is allowed. Among these are:

•the service in question must have been pensionable service at the time it was given or, if not pensionable at that time, could subsequently be made pensionable;

•any refund of contributions or other superannuation lump sum payment given in respect of the service must be repaid with compound interest;

•all of the service in the earlier organisation must be transferred;

•a transfer is not allowed where it would involve dual credit for the period in question;

•transfer is precluded if a pension has already been paid in respect of the service. (Note: this point is particularly relevant in the case of personnel who retire from the Defence Forces and who subsequently take up employment with a Network organisation.)

I am satisfied that the Public Service Transfer Network operates to the benefit of employees of those public sector bodies which are members of the Network. I have no plans to amend the rules under which the Network operates.

Proposed Legislation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

136 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to amend the Betting Act 1931 or Section 85 of the Finance Act 1998 to alter the permitted opening hours of registered betting premises; the amendments he proposes to make; if he has had discussions with industry groups on the matter; if so, the groups with which he has discussed the matter. [22955/06]

I have received a number of representations, including from Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), with respect to the fact that betting offices are not permitted to open on Easter Sunday. HRI have indicated their support for easing this restriction given that an important schedule of horse racing is now held over the Easter holiday period, including on Easter Sunday. HRI have also made representations that, as it is the intention that all-weather floodlit horse racing would commence at Dundalk during 2007, they would, in the financial interest of horse racing, favour betting offices being allowed to open during the hours when such fixtures are being held. Any decisions on these issues will be made in the context of next year's Budget and Finance Bill.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

137 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if tax relief under the student accommodation scheme has been granted to a development (details supplied) in Dublin 9; if so, the third level college which approved this development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23142/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are precluded for reasons of confidentiality from disclosing any details of the affairs of an individual taxpayer and for this reason it is not possible to provide the specific information requested. However, I am also informed that the general position for tax purposes is that tax relief is not granted to particular student accommodation developments per se. Instead, it is the purchasers of the individual units and apartments let to students who may claim tax relief. Relief is, however, conditional on a particular development meeting various conditions set out in guidelines published by the Department of Education and Science. These conditions include requirements in relation to design, layout and minimum facilities. They also require that a development must be certified by an approved third level institution and be situated within 8 kilometres of that certifying institution. Information relating to which institution that has or has not certified a particular development is not available to the Department of Education and Science.

Claims for tax relief under the student accommodation scheme are made in the annual return of income submitted by taxpayers under the self-assessment system. All returns are subject to check and audit to ensure that, inter alia, any tax relief is correctly claimed.

Jack Wall

Question:

138 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of the statement for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in relation to their revenue payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23144/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the notice referred to by the Deputy is a request for payment of a debt due to Revenue by the person concerned.

Statements of account setting out the details of a customer's account with Revenue are made available to a customer on request to Revenue. Revenue have made arrangements to have a statement of account issued to the person concerned in relation to the particular matter covered by the request for payment. The person concerned can take up any issue for clarification in relation to that statement directly with Revenue through the contact details provided on the statement.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

139 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the financial assistance which is available to a sawmill owner who would be in a position to supply woodchip or associated materials for the heating of dwelling houses under the new thermal treatment systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22968/06]

My Department provides grant aid through theGreener Homes scheme to individual domestic householders to support the installation of woodchip and wood pellet boilers and stoves. I have also recently announced a grant aid package for commercial renewable heat technologies which will allow companies and small businesses to obtain grants for the installation of wood chip and wood pellet boilers in large buildings and commercial premises.

My Department does not provide financial assistance to suppliers of wood chips or wood pellets.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

140 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the percentage of Wexford townlands connected to Broadband and which have broadband available to them. [23033/06]

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

My Department's website www.broad-band.gov.ie gives full details of broadband availability in all areas, including ADSL, cable, fibre, satellite and fixed wireless. The website also lists prices of the various service levels on offer and contact details for each service provider.

Coastal Erosion.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

141 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the funding given to Wexford for coastal erosion in each of the years from 2000 to 2006; and the applications which are outstanding for coastal erosion in County Wexford. [23034/06]

Details of funding provided by the Department to Wexford under the Coastal Protection Programmes from 2000-2006 are set out in the following table. In addition to the projects approved for funding in 2006 Wexford County Council submitted proposals for the Warren Middle, Burrow and Kilmore. Unfortunately there was no funding available for these projects in 2006.

Coast Protection Projects 2000-2006

Wexford

Location

Project

DCMNR Cost

Total Cost

2000

Rosslare Strand

North End of Spit

56,756.48

75,675.31

Cullenstown

Revetment works and training walls

109,229.22

145,638.96

Rosslare

Maintenance

19,656 .33

19,656.33

2001

Courtown

Revetment works

86,899.68

115,866.24

Cullenstown

Revetment works and training walls

685,612.85

914,150.47

Rosslare Strand

Study of North End of Spit

69,332.75

51,999.57

Rosslare Strand

Maintenance

22,771.86

22,771.86

Rosslare Strand

Revetment Works

71,422.77

95,230.36

Rosslare Strand

New Scheme

188.78

251.71

2002

Rosslare Strand

Study of North End of Spit

114,435.00

152,580.00

Courtown

Detailed design of offshore breakwater

133,810.34

178,413.79

Rosslare Strand

Revetment works

77,846.49

103,795.32

Rosslare Strand

Maintenance

13,292.00

13,292.00

Cahore

Rock groynes & beach nourishment

42,966.58

57,288.77

Ballyconnigar

Rock revetment

21,750.00

29,000.00

2003

Rosslare Strand

Capital works including rock armour revetment

14,290.46

19,053.95

Rosslare Strand

Study

8,616.23

11,488.31

Rosslare Strand

Maintenance

7,957.54

7,957.54

Rosslare Strand

New Scheme

155.38

207.18

Cahore

Rock groynes, beach nourishment

43,286.42

57,715.22

Rosslare Strand

Revetment works

27,821.01

37,094.68

Ballyconnigar

Rock revetment

22,239.00

29,652.00

2004

Courtown

Design of breakwaters, etc.

368,204.08

490,938.77

Curracloe

Dune protection

31,030.92

41,374.56

2005

Rosslare

Soft engineering works to beach

10,118.96

13,491.95

Cahore

Continuation of revetment works

16,616.87

22,155.82

Kilpatrick

Soft engineering works to beach

15,271.43

20,361.90

Rosslare Strand

Maintenance

14,832.08

14,832.08

2006 Approvals

Courtown

Project planning and design stage for major protection scheme

75,000.00

100,000.00

Rosslare Strand

Rock revetment

375,000.00

500,000.00

Ballinamona

Restore access to beach

37,500.00

50,000.00

Carne

Rock revetment

75,000.00

100,000.00

Rosslare Strand

Study of coastal dynamics and protection requirements

150,000.00

200,000.00

Rosslare

Maintenance

45,000.00

45,000.00

Harbours and Piers.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

142 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department will give a once off grant to Duncannon Pier for development and safety and to make it look attractive to visitors as it is a major tourist attraction. [23035/06]

Duncannon Pier is owned by Wexford County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. In 2003 Wexford County Council submitted a proposal to the Department for an extension of the existing pier, dredging and reclamation works and the provision of ancillary services at an estimated cost of €2.5 million. There has been no funding available for this project to date. The question of providing funding for Duncannon Pier in the post-2006 period will be considered in the context of the amount of Exchequer funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

I should point out that the funding available to the Department under the Port Infrastructure Improvement Programme of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 is directed at projects that improve infrastructure and facilities (including ice plants, landing and storage facilities) at key strategic fishery harbours and the construction and improvement of berthage and related facilities at smaller harbours and landing places, with a key role in maintaining jobs in fishing, aquaculture and ancillary activities.

Post Office Network.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

143 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of post offices or sub post offices in Wexford which have been closed down or downgraded in each of the years from 1997 to 2005 and to date in 2006. [23036/06]

The following table sets out the total number of post offices closed down or converted to agencies in Wexford in each of the years from 1997 to 2006 (to date).

Year

Closures

Conversions to Agencies

Agencies which later closed

1997

1

1998

1

1999

2000

1

2001

2002

3

2003

6

8

2

2004

1

2005

1

1

2006 (to date)

1

Total (1997 to 2006 (to date)):

11

12

3

Marine Safety.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

144 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action which has been taken, following the failure of a developer to comply with the directions of his Department to restore an area to its original condition, arising from attention having been drawn to the concerns of an association (details supplied) concerning the construction of a slipway and jetty at Walton Cove, Oysterhaven, County Cork which impeded access for the public along the foreshore and resulted in underwater mooring lines posing a hazard to navigation; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that four substantial pontoons have been laid outside the foreshore area causing further obstruction of access to the general public and hazards to navigation; and if he will take action to deal with these matters. [23113/06]

The Department is aware of the situation regarding this development and that the works carried out are not in compliance with the leases granted in September 2003. The Department has instructed the developer in question, under section 12 of the Foreshore Acts 1932 — 2005, to remove all works from the foreshore and to restore the area to its former condition. To date this instruction has not been complied with and the Department is in consultation with its legal services with a view to enforcing the terms of the Foreshore Acts and protecting the foreshore.

Human Rights Issues.

Joan Burton

Question:

145 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the detention of a person (details supplied). [22945/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply of 30 May 2006 to Questions on this matter. I remain concerned about this case, which has been raised with the Israeli authorities by our Embassy in Tel Aviv. The Embassy is continuing to monitor the situation closely, in co-operation with the Embassies of other EU Member States.

The person concerned was arrested on 23 May 2005, and on 16 June 2005 the Israeli authorities ordered his administrative detention for six months. This order was renewed for a further six months in November, but reduced to four months on review in December 2005. On 20 March 2006, the detention was renewed until 20 July. An appeal against the renewal was turned down on 10 May.

The Government, and our EU partners, are very concerned about the practice of administrative detention in Israel and the Occupied Territories. We are working to ensure that these concerns are addressed in the EU's continuing political dialogue with Israel. Most recently, our concerns about administrative detention were raised at the meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council which took place in Luxembourg yesterday. In direct contacts with Israel, and in cooperation with its EU partners, the Government continues to raise its concerns about the human rights implications of Israeli security policies and the need to ensure full compliance with international law.

Sports Funding.

Finian McGrath

Question:

146 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of public money granted to the Eircom League; and the reasons funding to this league is not a priority as there is a deficit in the support and development of professional football here. [22940/06]

Funding for the development and promotion of sport is provided through the Irish Sports Council, the statutory agency established in 1999. In the period since then, €161 million has been provided by my Department to the Irish Sports Council, including approximately €9 million provided directly in grants to the FAI much of which has been to support programmes aimed at increasing participation in football by young people in particular. While the development of professional football is a matter for the Eircom league and the FAI itself, my Department has been active in providing grants under the sports capital programme to Eircom league clubs to assist with improvements to league grounds. In the period 1998 to 2002, over €11.4 million has been allocated in funding to seventeen Eircom league clubs of which about €10 million of this amount has been paid out to date. Following the advent of club licensing in 2004, which aims to improve standards across all aspects of the Eircom league, I announced further funding in 2005 of €5.275 million in respect of sixteen Eircom league clubs.

Overall my Department has allocated over €84 million to soccer clubs under the sports capital programme since 1998 which underlines my commitment to the development of facilities for soccer in Ireland at all levels.

Decentralisation Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

147 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the proposed decentralisation of its staff. [23053/06]

The National Standards Authority of Ireland, with a total 132 staff, is to be relocated to Arklow. The latest available CAF figures show the total number of first preference priority applications received from within the agency is 11. When those from across the civil and public service are added the total is 130. However, a significant grade mismatch is evident within these numbers. NSAI are working closely with OPW in identifying and securing suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area and the NSAI anticipate a target date of April 2009 as the completion date of its decentralisation plan.

Registered Employment Agreements.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

148 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the situation where a construction and engineering company (details supplied) have been accused of repeated breaches of the registered employment agreement on a site in Balbriggan under contract from Fingal County Council; his views on same; and if the accusations are correct, the action he intends to take to address the situation. [22879/06]

The wages and employment conditions of workers employed in the Construction Industry are governed and safeguarded by the Registered Employment Agreement (Construction Industry Wages and Conditions of Employment) Variation Order, which is enforced by the Labour Inspectorate of the Department. Labour Inspectors are empowered to seek compliance with payment of the statutory minimum rates of pay specified in the Agreement.

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

I am not aware of the allegations of non compliance by the specific company referred to by the Deputy. If the Deputy is aware of any breaches of the Registered Employment Agreement, please furnish all relevant details to the Labour Inspectorate of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment who will investigate any allegations in this regard.

Companies Registration Office.

John Perry

Question:

149 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will release a copy of the lease agreement for persons (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22888/06]

The Companies Registration Office (CRO) does not retain a register, or copies, of lease agreements entered into by businesses under a business name or company name.

However, the CRO does retain a register of business names in accordance with the Registration of Business Names Act 1963. The purpose of the registration of the business name is to make public the legal identity or identities of those individual(s), partnerships or corporate bodies who is/are carrying on business at the location in question under a particular business name.

The business names register contains the particulars stipulated in section 4 of the Registration of Business Names Act 1963, being the business name, the general nature of the business, the principal place of the business, details in relation to partners where the name is being registered by a firm, details in relation to the individual owner, such as name, nationality, residential address, and other business occupation (if any), where the name is being registered by an individual, details in relation to a body corporate where the registration is being effected by a body corporate, and date of adoption of the business name.

There are a number of business names registered with similar details to those provided by the Deputy. If the Deputy requires any of the above registered information on these business names, it can be obtained free of charge on the CRO search facility at www.cro.ie/search or by payment of a small fee at the CRO public office.

EU Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

150 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his plans to extend the grant aid system of the Border Midland Western region to cover other areas adjacent to such regions in view of the fact that such areas are finding it difficult to attract industry against the competition of the BMW region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22959/06]

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 that 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.

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. The BMW Region qualifies automatically as a result of its level of economic development. The South East sub-region also qualifies automatically for designation on the basis of unemployment criteria specified in the Guidelines.

The remaining areas that may qualify for designation for 2007-2013, within the permitted 50% 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. The Southern & Eastern Regional Assembly was consulted by my Department in relation to this designation. 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. Details of the Regional Aid Map for 2007-2013 will be published following approval by the Commission.

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 will continue to be available in all areas.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

151 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of health and safety inspectors in the south east in the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006; the number of inspections carried out in the same years; and the number of prosecutions in the same years. [23048/06]

The boundaries of the Health and Safety Authority's South East Region for operational purposes has varied over the period years 2000 to date. In the period 2000 to 2004 it comprised 4 counties, i.e. Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny and South Tipperary, during which there were 3 Inspectors assigned to the region.

In Spring 2005 the region was expanded to include counties: Carlow, Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and the areas of South Kildare and South Wicklow. From April to July 2005 there were 7.5 Inspectors assigned to the region (i.e. 7 full time and 1 on half time). From 1 August 2005 to 30 April 2006 there were 6.5 Inspectors in the region. Since 1 May 2006 there are 5.5 Inspectors involved in inspection work, with 3 new Inspectors currently in training.

I might also mention that, as the need arises, and as part of the Authority's targeted work programmes, inspections are conducted in a region both by inspectors based in that region and by inspectors from other regions.

The following are the inspection figures for Counties Waterford, Kilkenny, Tipperary (North and South) and Wexford in the period 2000 to date. It is not possible in the short-time available to remove the North Tipperary figures from the totals.

Year

No. of Inspections

2000

1,376

2001

1,314

2002

994

2003

961

2004

1,081

2005

1,076

2006 to date

488

Also set out is the national data on prosecutions in the period in question. The cases referred to in each year are completed cases.

Year

Cases Completed Summary (District Court)

Cases Completed Indictment (Circuit Court)

2000

64

2

2001

85

7

2002

86

5

2003

61

15

2004

25

16

2005

22

18

2006 to date

7

8

Ombudsman Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

152 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will list all the Ombudsman services here; their respective terms of reference; the contact details; and current post holders in each case. [22889/06]

The Pensions Ombudsman, Mr Paul Kenny, was appointed on the 28th April 2003 and his office commenced operations in September of that year.

Under the Pensions Act the Pensions Ombudsman has the power to investigate and determine; complaints made by or on behalf of beneficiaries of occupational pension schemes or Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) who allege that they have suffered financial loss as a result of maladministration by those charged with managing these arrangements; any dispute of fact or law brought to his attention that arises from the actions of those administering occupational pension schemes or PRSAs.

The Pensions Ombudsman is able to give such directions as he considers necessary or expedient to resolve a dispute. His directions can include a financial settlement to cover the actual financial losses incurred by the person making the complaint. The decisions of the Ombudsman are binding subject to a right of appeal to the High Court. The contact details for the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman are as follows: Office of the Pensions Ombudsman, 36 Upper Mount Street, Dublin 2. Tel 00 353 1 6471650 Fax 00 353 1 6769577. email: info@pensionsombudsman.ie

Social Welfare Benefits.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

153 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his proposals in the case of a spouse in receipt of carer’s allowance who is also the adult dependant of the other spouse who is in receipt of old age contributory pension to allow for both carer’s allowance and old age pension adult dependant payment to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22884/06]

The carer's allowance is a social assistance payment which provides income support to people who are providing certain elderly or incapacitated persons with full time care and attention and whose incomes fall below a certain limit.

The primary objective of the social welfare system is to provide income support and, as a general rule, only one weekly social welfare payment is payable to an individual. Persons qualifying for two social welfare payments always receive the higher payment to which they are entitled.

In Budget 2006, I provided for a significant increase in the rate of carer's allowance. From January this year, the rate of carer's allowance increased to EUR200 per week for carers aged 66 years and over. This rate of payment would be higher in many instances than the rate of old age pension or qualified adult allowance payable to a person.

In addition, from June 2005, the annual respite care grant was extended to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care regardless of their income. Those persons in receipt of other social welfare payments, excluding unemployment assistance and benefit, are entitled to this payment subject to meeting the full time care condition. This arrangement was introduced to acknowledge the needs of carers especially in relation to respite. Provision was made in Budget 2006 to increase the amount of the respite care grant from EUR1,000 to EUR1,200 from this month.

I am always prepared to consider changes to existing arrangements where these are for the benefit of recipients and financially sustainable within the resources available to me. Those recommendations involving additional expenditure can only be considered in a budgetary context.

Departmental Schemes.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

154 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason children under 16 years of age with special needs are not deemed to qualify for free travel while their parent, guardian or carer does qualify; the factual situation applying; his proposals to address this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22890/06]

The Free Travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years, or over, to all carers in receipt of Carer's Allowance and to carers of people in receipt of Constant Attendance or Prescribed Relative's Allowance.

The scheme is also available to certain people with disabilities and people who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments. People who are in receipt of a social security invalidity or disability payment from a country covered by EU Regulations, or from a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement, and who have been in receipt of this payment for at least 12 months, are also eligible for free travel.

Children who are registered as blind or visually impaired with either the National Council for the Blind of Ireland or the National League of the Blind of Ireland are also entitled to free travel.

The current arrangements for the Free Schemes, including the Free Travel scheme, are kept under review. Any changes in the present arrangements would have to be considered in a budgetary context.

National Car Test.

John McGuinness

Question:

155 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on a scheme to allow old age pensioners to have their cars tested at no cost or half cost through the national car test system; if funding and legislation will be considered in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22918/06]

The issue of fees charged for the National Car Test and any special arrangements in relation to them would be a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport. There are, to my knowledge, no plans at present for arrangements on the lines proposed.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seán Crowe

Question:

156 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason there is a delay in the processing of the rent allowance application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24. [22923/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare Division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims. The Executive has advised that a rent supplement application was received from the person concerned on 6th October 2005 but it has been unable to determine his entitlement to a payment, as it did not receive sufficient documentation from the person concerned. The Executive has further advised that an appeal in relation to the rent supplement application was received from the person concerned on 29th May 2006 but that no decision has been made on the case to date. When a decision has been made on the appeal the person concerned will be notified directly.

Seán Crowe

Question:

157 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people who are awaiting a decision on claims they have made for disability allowance. [22928/06]

The number of Disability Allowance claims awaiting decision was 4,443 on 2nd June 2006. In addition 198 decisions made on disability allowance claims were in the course of being notified to the applicants concerned on that date. To put those data in perspective, just over 20,000 claims were received in 2005, while almost 7,700 claims were received in the first five months of 2006.

Entitlement to Disability Allowance is contingent on the applicant satisfying both medical and means conditions. There is an unavoidable time lag involved in making the necessary investigations and enquiries to ensure timely and accurate decisions. Once entitlement is decided the claim is put into payment and any arrears issue shortly afterwards.

John Cregan

Question:

158 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the child dependant allowances which apply to various social welfare schemes for example widows, invalidity, disability benefit, unemployment benefit and so on; when these were last adjusted; the reason they stopped increasing; if a study has taken place in relation to the effects of this policy on poverty, as child benefit or children’s allowance, which has been the chosen vehicle in recent years, is paid to rich and poor; if he will reconsider his present policy and start child dependent increase in the next budget; the social welfare rates when they were last increased; the current rates; the percentage increase since then; the percentage increase in inflation since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22933/06]

Child dependant allowances are paid in addition to weekly social welfare payments in respect of over 256,700 children at full rate and almost 84,500 at half rate. The rate of child dependant allowance was last increased in 1994. The current rates of payment are EUR16.80, EUR19.30 and EUR21.60. The following appendix shows the rates of child dependant allowance for each scheme.

The policy direction followed by successive Governments has been to concentrate resources for child income support on the child benefit scheme rather than child dependant allowances, as the loss of child dependant allowances by social welfare recipients on taking up employment can act as a disincentive to availing of work opportunities.

Over the period since 1994, the monthly rates of child benefit have increased by EUR124.61 at the lower rate and EUR155.80 at the higher rate, increases of 390.7% and 433.5% respectively, while inflation increased by 42%. Over the same period the personal rate of the lowest weekly social welfare payment has increased from EUR78.79 to EUR165.80, an increase of110.4%. From April 2006, child benefit rates are EUR150 per month for each of the first two children and EUR185 per month for the third and each subsequent child. At the end of May 2006 child benefit was in payment to over 556,000 families in respect of approximately 1,076,000 children.

In addition, my Department provides cash support by way of weekly payments to families at work on low pay, through the family income supplement scheme. A number of improvements have been made to the scheme over the years, including assessment of entitlement on the basis of net rather than gross income and progressive increases in the income thresholds, making it easier for lower income households and larger families to qualify for payment. As a result, there are currently 18,647 families receiving a weekly FIS payment, reaching approximately 35,000 children.

Over the last decade, some 250,000 people (including 100,000 children) have been lifted out of poverty. Child poverty is clearly a complex area requiring coordinated action across a range of government services and income support payments and the Government is committed to taking further appropriate measures to address this issue.

Appendix Rates of Payment of Child Dependant Increase for each Scheme

Rate of Payment

Schemes

EUR21.60

Widow/er’s Contributory Pension

Deserted Wife’s Benefit

Death Benefit Pension

EUR19.30

Old Age (Contributory) Pension

Retirement Pension

Invalidity Pension

One-Parent Family Payment

EUR16.80

Disability Benefit

Interim Disability Benefit

Injury Benefit

Health and Safety Benefit

Carer’s Benefit

Unemployability Supplement

Unemployment Benefit

Old Age (Non-Contributory) Pension

Blind Pension

Carer’s Allowance

Unemployment Assistance

Pre-Retirement Allowance

Disability Allowance

Back to Work Allowance

Back to Education Allowance

Farm Assist

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Jerry Cowley

Question:

159 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will review the plight of the 275 workers at a plant (details supplied) in County Mayo where due to current market trends are working either one, two or maybe three days a week; his views on whether during this time these employees should be allowed to sign on; if there is an alternative payment available to these workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22957/06]

To qualify for unemployment payments a person must have lost employment and must satisfy the conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking work. Subject to certain conditions it is possible for a person to qualify for payment for part of a week while being employed for the rest of the week. Special arrangements exist in relation to systematic short-time working where this occurs in a particular employment and the company concerned are at present availing of these arrangements. I am not aware of any particular difficulty in this regard in relation to the workers concerned. If the Deputy is aware of any such difficulties, I will have the matter further examined.

Question No. 160 withdrawn.

National Car Test.

John McGuinness

Question:

161 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Transport his views on a scheme to allow old age pensioners to have their cars tested at no cost or half cost through the national car test system; if funding and legislation will be considered in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22919/06]

There are no plans to amend current NCT fee arrangements.

National Drugs Strategy.

Seán Crowe

Question:

162 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the actions of the national drugs strategy which have not been delivered; and the aspects which need improvement. [23017/06]

As the Deputy is aware, the Report of the Steering Group on the Mid-term Review of the National Drugs Strategy was published in June 2005. The review sought to assess the impact and direction of the Strategy at this mid-point stage and, in this regard, the Group concentrated on identifying any necessary adjustments to the existing Strategy and on highlighting priorities for the second phase up to 2008.

In overall terms, ten of the Strategy's existing actions were replaced, a further seven of the existing actions are being amended and there are eight new actions which aim to address issues such as family support and rehabilitation. In terms of progress, the review found that: 49 of the original 100 actions outlined in the Strategy are completed or of an on-going nature; progress was on-going on a further 45; and there were 6 actions on which considerable progress has to be made. Of these six, actions 61 (relating to respite facilities and halfway houses) and 72 (drugs training for professionals) are of a long-term nature and work is continuing on their advancement. The other four actions in this category are action 11 dealing with Community Policing Fora; action 23 on the prison strategy in relation to drugs: action 63 relating to a pilot community pharmacy needle and syringe exchange programme and action 77 on meetings with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Prompted by action 11, Community Policing Fora have been piloted in a number of areas and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has now forwarded a copy of the Community Policing For a Guidelines to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights and informed the Committee that he intends to issue the guidelines on 16 June, thereby enabling further committees to be established.

In relation to action 23, a new Irish Prisons Service Drugs Policy and Strategy, "Keeping Drugs out of Prisons" was launched in May and its implementation is beginning. Regarding action 63, the health services are prioritising the expansion of needle exchange and other harm reduction services over the remaining timeframe of the Strategy. An additional €3 million was provided for this in 2006. In relation to action 77, I am happy to attend before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to discuss the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy whenever this is suitable to the Committee.

Finally, the Strategy will continue to be monitored through the Inter-Departmental Group on Drugs (IDG), which I chair, and through the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion. The IDG meets quarterly to assess progress by Departments and Agencies in achieving the targets set for them and any obstacle to the implementation of the Strategy are brought to light and discussed at these meetings. Furthermore, reports on the implementation of the Strategy are presented to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion on the periodic basis.

Community Development.

Jack Wall

Question:

163 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the mechanism available to a community group (details supplied) in County Kildare to apply for funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22977/06]

My Department funds a Programme of Grants for Locally-Based Community and Voluntary Organisations, which supports the activities of local voluntary and community groups, addressing disadvantage in their community. The Programme makes funds available for small scale refurbishment of premises, for the purchase of essential equipment, including I.T. equipment, and for education, training and research grants. The maximum grant for refurbishment is €40,000; for equipment is €10,000; and for training, education and research is €10,000.

The 2006 Programme will be advertised in the coming weeks in the national and provincial newspapers. I have arranged for a copy of the application form and guidelines to be sent to the group referred to by the Deputy when they are available, should the group wish to make an application under this year's Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

164 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad iad na céibheanna beaga i nDún na nGall a bhfuil iarratas déanta ar dheontais feabhsúcháin ina leith agus an bhfuil na deontais ceadaithe nó á gceadú gan mhoill agus; an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina dtaobh. [23013/06]

Bíonn comhráití idir mo Roinnse agus Comhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall gach bliain maidir le céibheanna beaga sa Ghaeltacht a thagann faoi chritéir na scéime agus a bhfuil oibreacha feabhsúcháin de dhíth orthu. Tá an plé sin críochnaithe anois don bhliain reatha agus tá clár na gcéibheanna beaga i nGaeltacht Dhún na nGall á meas ag mo Roinn faoi láthair. Tig leis an Teachta glacadh leis go mbeidh deontais á gceadú agus na sonraí ábhartha á bhfógairt chomh luath agus is féidir.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

165 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén uair a chuirfear aerstráice ar fáil ar Oileán Thoraí; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [23014/06]

Faoi mar is eol don Teachta, le cúpla bliain anuas tá obair réamh-phleanála idir lámha ag Údarás na Gaeltachta chun aerstráice a thógáil ar Oileán Thoraí. Ag eascairt ón obair seo, fuarthas cead pleanála don fhorbairt ó Chomhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall i 2004. Tá an cuardach chun úinéirí an talaimh a aimsiú críochnaithe anois ag an Údarás agus tá oifigigh de chuid mo Roinne-se i dteagmháil le Comhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall faoi láthair maidir leis na hOrduithe Ceannacháin Éigeantaigh a bheidh riachtanach chun an talamh don fhorbairt a cheannach.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

166 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é an socrú atá déanta idir a Roinn agus an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta maidir le cómhaoiniú a dhéanamh ar thógáil halla spóirt ag Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [23015/06]

Tá plé ar siúl idir mo Roinnse agus an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta faoi láthair maidir leis na féidearthachtaí a bhaineann le cómhaoiniú a chur ar fáil don tionscadal atá luaite ag an Teachta faoi Scéimeanna Feabhsúcháin mo Roinne-se. Tuigtear dom go gcaithfidh togra den chineál seo dul trí roinnt céimeanna sa Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta agus go bhfuil an Roinn sin ag plé faoi láthair le gnéithe pleanála agus dearaidh de. Chomh luath agus a bheidh na sonraí riachtanacha uile ar fáil, déanfar cinneadh maidir le ceist an chómhaoinithe.

Security of the Elderly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

167 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the closing date for security emergency pendants for the elderly; and the organisations an application can be made through. [23037/06]

My Department's Scheme of Community Support for Older People for 2006 was recently advertised in the national and local newspapers and includes a number of changes, one of which means that applications will be accepted throughout the year. This will allow Community and Voluntary Organisations to apply for funding at any time during 2006 to address the needs of their older members as they arise.

The Scheme is open to people aged 65 and over who have a genuine need for assistance under this Scheme. It is administered by community and voluntary organisations throughout the country on an annual basis with support provided by my Department. Any local voluntary or community-based organisation, especially those working with or providing support for older people, can apply to the Department for funding under the scheme. A list of Groups approved under the Scheme in recent years is available on my Department's website:www.pobail.ie.

Departmental Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the criteria for qualification for the various schemes run by his Department; if this criteria has been met in all cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23114/06]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department funds a wide range of programmes, including measures in support of communities, both urban and rural, disadvantaged youth and the Irish language. Full details on such programmes are available on the Department's website (www.pobail.ie) and the qualification criteria are published in my Department’s FOI Section 16 Manual which is also available on my Department’s website. Applications would fall for consideration within the framework of criteria for such programmes.

I would be happy to provide the Deputy on request with additional information in relation to any specific programme which he feels may be of particular relevance.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will consider an application for grant assistance towards repair and restoration at a hall (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23115/06]

My Department operates a Programme of Grants for Locally-Based Voluntary and Community Organisations who are addressing disadvantage in their community. This Programme makes funds available for small scale refurbishment of premises. It also provides funds for the purchase of essential equipment, including I.T. equipment, and for education, training and research.

The maximum grant for Refurbishment in 2005 was €40,000; for Equipment was €10,000; and for Training, Education and Research was also €10,000. The 2006 Programme will be advertised in the National and Provincial press in the coming weeks. A copy of the guidelines and the application form will be available on our website immediately thereafter.

Departmental Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will offer financial assistance to voluntary groups attempting to deal with anti-social behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23116/06]

It is difficult to give a categoric response to this question in view of the broad range of supports to communities provided by my Department and the unspecific nature of the question. One example of my Department's support for communities attempting to counter the effects of anti-social behaviour is the RAPID Leverage Funds scheme. Specifically, these funds support projects aimed at housing estate enhancement, traffic calming measures, and community CCTV. If the Deputy has a specific matter in mind, I am happy to provide assistance.

Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Departmental Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the expenditure to date in 2006 on a county basis under the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23118/06]

My Department with the support of Pobal, has overall responsibility for the co-ordination of the RAPID programme. It is a matter for each Department to report on progress and spends on RAPID projects that fall to them to implement.

My Department implements the RAPID Leverage Funds, initiated in 2004. To date in 2006 my Department has directly processed grant claims to the sum of €1,472,854.31. The following is the breakdown on a county basis.

Carlow

21,000.00

Clare

22,500.00

Cork

298,030.24

Dublin

120,072.60

Galway

317,957.00

Kerry

93,273.00

Kildare

37,226.00

Limerick

161,434.00

Longford

4,034.93

Louth

89,701.00

Sligo

95,953.00

Tipperary

79,658.94

Waterford

101,400.00

Wexford

30,613.60

The Deputy will be aware that most claims under the RAPID Leverage Funds are claimed and processed in the last quarter of the year.

National Drugs Strategy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of new drug treatment programmes he intends to assist in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23119/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which he proposes to offer grant assistance to various community based groups in the greater Dublin area providing or wishing to provide assistance towards drug treatment programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23120/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which he will offer grant assistance to groups involved in combating the drugs problem including the setting up of treatment programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23121/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 to 175, inclusive, together.

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. The setting up of treatment programmes is a matter for the Health Services Executive and the Tánaiste Mary Harney, T.D, Minister for Health and Children. The current year's allocation to my Department for expenditure on Drugs Initiatives and the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund is €43m which represents a substantial 37% increase on the 2005 initial allocation and an increase of 61% on the 2004 figure. These figures emphasise that tackling the drug problem is a key Government priority and that it will remain so.

Local Drugs Task Forces (LDTFs) are well established and are now implementing the second round of Action Plans at an annual cost in excess of €16m. Since 1997, nearly €125m has been allocated to support this work across the 14 LDTF areas. Over 400 community-based projects have been established, employing more than 300 staff. These projects deliver services such as community drug treatment programmes as well as advice and support for drug misusers and their families, outreach and crisis intervention services and drug training programmes for community groups.

Twelve of the 14 Local Drugs Task Forces are located in Dublin, with the others in Bray and Cork. Ten Regional Drugs Task Forces (RDTFs) have been established in the areas not covered by Local Drugs Task Forces. Thus a Drugs Task Force now services all parts of the country with consequential support for community based groups.

Additionally, under the Emerging Needs Fund, which was devised to provide a flexible and timely response to evolving needs in regard to drug misuse in Local Drugs Task Force areas, I recently announced the approval of €2.27m for 39 projects, including a number of initiatives to support treatment/rehabilitation programmes in Local Drugs Task Force communities. I also was pleased to announce further allocations of €1.5m for eight projects this week under the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund. This announcement of projects in Waterford, Dún Laoghaire area, Blanchardstown and Tallaght brings the total commitment from the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund to over €103m since its establishment.

Overall I am satisfied that the funding now available facilitates the provision of a comprehensive range of drug treatment interventions including supports for such work by community based groups.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department has received an application for funding of telecommunications infrastructure at the Black Valley, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23122/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if community groups in the Black Valley, County Kerry seeking to provide local community based telephonic infrastructure can qualify for grant assistance through any of the schemes operated by his Department, having particular regard to the socio-economic nature requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23123/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 177 together.

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to PQ No. 287, of 8 February 2006, in which I advised the Deputy that my Department does not provide funding for telecommunications services. This position remains unchanged.

Question No. 178 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Departmental Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which he intends to increase expenditure in 2006 under the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23125/06]

My Department, with the support of Pobal, has overall responsibility for the co-ordination of the RAPID programme. It is a matter for each Department to report on progress and spends on RAPID projects that fall to them to implement.

My Department implements the RAPID Leverage Funds, which I initiated in 2004. The funding available for the RAPID Leverage Funds has increased dramatically from €4.5 million in 2004 to €7.8 million in 2006. So far in 2006 I have announced the continuation of two schemes under the leverage fund, Traffic Measures 2006/2007 and the Local Authority Housing Estate Enhancement Scheme 2007/2008. I expect to launch further schemes during this year.

Also this year, €11.5 million from the Dormant Accounts fund has been ring-fenced for priority projects put forward by RAPID AITs (Area Implementation Team). Each RAPID AIT has submitted a list of their priority projects for consideration. These proposals will be brought to Government in the near future for decision according to the procedures set out in the Act.

Question No. 180 answered with QuestionNo. 88.
Question No. 181 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

182 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will re-examine the 2005 single farm payment issued to a person (details supplied) in County Cork as the slaughter premium was not included in their payment in respect of 33 animals. [22893/06]

The person named declared 30.34 hectares on his 2005 Single Payment Scheme application. In processing the application, it was found that the person named was not entitled to declare 11.47 of these hectares. As this overclaim was greater than 20% of his total application, a 100% penalty was applied in accordance with EU Regulations. Accordingly no payment is due to the person named in respect of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

183 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow who is waiting for the 2005 single farm payment; if same will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22896/06]

An application under the 2005 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 11 May 2005. However, as the entitlements in question were established in the name of the husband of the person named, a transfer is required to be completed in order to allow payment to issue.

An official of my Department, having tried unsuccessfully to contact the person named on numerous occasions, has forwarded the appropriate transfer form to her. Immediately on receipt of the completed form, the transfer will be processed and payment will issue shortly thereafter.

Departmental Correspondence.

John Perry

Question:

184 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will make a statement on the correspondence (details supplied). [22907/06]

The views expressed in the correspondence referred to represent one of a range of perspectives put forward by stakeholders to my Department concerning regulation of the veterinary medicines market in Ireland. Some stakeholders would prefer a more restrictive approach to that outlined in the document while others have urged a more liberal regime.

I do not accept that the Animal Remedies Regulations which I signed into law last November in order to transpose EU Directive 2004/28 are anti-competitive. These regulations provide for a number of innovations, including a requirement for mandatory written veterinary prescriptions and identifying alternative treatments on prescriptions, designed, inter alia, to foster competition in the marketplace, thus giving farmers greater choice as to where they source their supplies of prescription medicines. I have also extended the range of retail outlets to include Licensed Merchants which can, from 1 January 2007, supply a limited range of ‘prescription only' veterinary medicines on the basis of a veterinary prescription. I do not intend to modify this latter measure as proposed in the document referred to by the Deputy, as I believe that it would reduce competition, without any concomitant improvement in the protection of public or animal health and welfare.

I do, however, accept that it would be detrimental to competition in the market to confine the writing of prescriptions to veterinary practitioners in a situation where the vast majority of medicines became prescription only. I have clearly indicated on a number of occasions that, if that is the outcome of the process currently under way at EU level on the exemption criteria, I will permit persons other than veterinarians, such as pharmacists and other suitably qualified persons to prescribe some of the medicines which become prescription only from 1 January next. I should point out that my preferred option continues to be to avoid the medicines concerned coming under any form of prescription control in the first instance. In this regard, my Department is still awaiting formal proposals from the European Commission on the exemption criteria. In the interim, my Department is continuing to engage with the Commission to secure a speedy and favourable outcome to this process.

Grant Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

185 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an appeal for farm entitlements will be expedited for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22908/06]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the Single Payments Scheme National Reserve under category C.

Category C caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, sold the milk quota into the Milk Quota Restructuring Scheme and converted their enterprise to a farming sector for which a direct payment under Livestock Premia/or Arable Aid Schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000 to 2002.

A formal letter setting out my Department's decision has issued to the person named and he has been notified that if he is dissatisfied with my Department's decision in relation to the National Reserve he now has the opportunity to appeal this decision to the Independent Payment Appeals Committee. An appeals application form is available from any of my Department's offices or on the Department website at www.agriculture.gov.ie.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

186 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the extensification grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22967/06]

The person named lodged four applications under the 2004 EU Special Beef Premium Scheme dated 27 January 2004, 12 October 2004, 15 December 2004 and 29 December 2004 in respect of fourteen animals, two animals, twenty-two animals and two animals respectively.

Following computer validation it was found that one of the animals applied for on 12 October 2004 had been sold before expiry of the regulatory two-month retention period, thus giving rise to a 2.12% reduction penalty. Three under age animals applied for on the application dated 15 December 2004 were deleted as innocent errors.

Payments amounting to €4,540.34 in total issued to the person named in respect of his four applications under the 2004 EU Special Beef Premium Scheme, representing full payment on a total of thirty-six eligible animals i.e forty animals applied upon, less three under age and one rejected. These payments reflected the 2.12% penalty and the quota cut reductions due following the breach of the 2004 National Ceiling for Special Beef Premium.

Payable orders for €2,098.56 and €149.79 issued on 26 May 2005 and 10 October 2005 respectively representing his full entitlement to 2004 Extensification Premium on the thirty-six eligible animals. These payments also reflected the 2.12% penalty and the quota cut reductions due following the breach of the 2004 National Ceiling for Special Beef Premium.

Sugar Beet Industry.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

187 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a final decision will be made on the best compensation package for the sugar beet industry; and her views on whether the growers deserve the largest share of the compensation. [23030/06]

The compensation package forms part of the agreement on reform of the EU sugar regime reached by the Council of Agricultural Ministers last November and subsequently adopted by Council Regulations on 20 February 2006. There are three elements to the compensation package.

The first element is the compensation to beet growers of up to 64% of the reduction in the minimum price for beet. This compensation, which will be incorporated in the existing Single Payment Scheme and will be payable from this year, is worth approximately €123m to Irish beet growers over the next seven years.

The second element is the 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 would be worth up to €145m. This aid is subject to the submission by the processor of an aid application including a detailed restructuring plan for the industry following consultations with the beet growers. Where restructuring takes place in the first year of the new sugar regime, as in Ireland's case, the application must be submitted by 31 July 2006.

The third element of the package is the diversification aid, worth almost €44m in Ireland's case, which would be drawn down in the framework of a national restructuring programme.

With regard to the second element of the package, the Council Regulation provides that at least 10% of the restructuring aid shall be reserved for sugar beet growers and machinery contractors. That percentage may be increased by Member States after consultation of interested parties provided that an economically sound balance between the elements of the restructuring plan is ensured. In that context, my Department issued an open call for submissions last month with a closing date of 2 June. These submissions are subject to scrutiny by Indecon International Economic Consultants, who have been appointed by the Government to provide me with independent expert advice on matters relating to the implementation of the restructuring fund. A final decision on the percentage will be made in due course having regard to this advice and the recently-adopted Commission Regulation laying down detailed rules for the implementation of the restructuring aid. It is my intention that the restructuring aid will be implemented in a fair and equitable manner and strictly in accordance with the relevant EU regulations.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

188 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she will take to protect the entitlements of farmers in the ERS 2 where they are unable to lease out entitlements or where entitlements are activated but not drawn down for whatever reason. [23031/06]

My Department was aware, from an early stage in the negotiations leading to the introduction of the Single Payment Scheme, of the possible implications for retired farmers who had leased their holdings. In so far as it proved possible in the context of the EU Regulations governing the Single Payment Scheme, and following lengthy discussions with the European Commission, provision was made under the rules of the Single Payment Scheme to address some of the concerns of retired farmers.

It was open to participants in the current Early Retirement Scheme, who would have farmed during part or all of the reference period, to activate entitlements in 2005 and lease them to their existing transferee. If the transferee did not want the entitlements, the transferor (retired farmer) who has already activated the entitlements has until 2007 either to lease the entitlements or transfer them, with land, to another farmer.

Michael Lowry

Question:

189 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 990 of 25 January 2006, if her attention has been drawn to correspondence (details supplied); if, in view of same, payments will issue to the person concerned and they will receive payment of all moneys due; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23060/06]

As I stated in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 990 of 25 January, 2006, a REPS 2 plan from the persons involved, received on 31 December 2001, was rejected as being ineligible and returned to them on 28 May 2002. In that letter they were given a further two months to submit an acceptable REPS 2 plan, but did not do so. In the circumstances, my Department had no option but to terminate their REPS 2 plan and seek a refund of the monies already paid. The persons involved were given the right to appeal this decision to the Agriculture Appeals Office, but did not exercise that right.

In light of the correspondence referred to, however, I have asked my officials to review the case and to revert to the persons involved as soon as possible.

Michael Lowry

Question:

190 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for changes to a long-standing payment arrangement with a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if the original agreement will be honoured; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23061/06]

The person named has received considerable correspondence since December 2005 from my Department in relation to the special discounted buy out scheme introduced by me on 1st January 2006. This discounted scheme provides Land Purchase annuitants with the opportunity to buy out their annuities at a reduced price. The person named received circa 36.78 acres of agricultural land from the Land Commission but has consistently failed to make payments in respect of his land purchase annuity repayments and as a result he has accumulated substantial arrears. The person named made no repayments from May 1993 to January 1999, when he was advised in a letter dated 14 January 1999 that his subsidies would be set-off without further notice with a view to reducing the current level of his arrears if he did not make payments. Some IR£7,700 was set off from subsidies to be paid by the Department to the person named up to the end of 2001. Further set off was made for the period January 2002 to October 2005 and a figure of €8871.57 was recovered by way of set off. The person named was advised in January 2006 as to the capital repayment required to participate in the discounted buy out scheme. If the person named wishes to avail of this reduction he must pay in full the amount, capital and arrears, notified to him as the amount required to buy out his annuity under the terms of the Scheme. His current arrears stand at some €48,289.64. The capital discount available to the person named amounts to some €22,576.88. The full redemption payment due by the person named amounts to €116,020.18. The scheme is voluntary and will end on the 30th June 2006. My Department has no knowledge of the earlier agreement referred to in the details supplied.

John Deasy

Question:

191 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of farmers entitled to participate in the land annuity capital discounted buy-out scheme; the number who have already applied to participate; the effort she intends making to ensure that the remainder are encouraged to apply before the scheme closes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23062/06]

The Land Annuity Capital Discounted Buy-out Scheme is open to all land purchase/reclamation annuitants. When the Scheme commenced on 1st January 2006 there were some 2150 annuitants. To date some 614 have elected to participate. On 9 June 2006 my Department issued a final reminder to each annuitant, the last in a series of 5 communications designed to inform, encourage and facilitate participation in the Scheme. My Department has also arranged for the publication of a number of information notices in the farming press, the next of which is due to appear this week.

Denis Naughten

Question:

192 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the value of single farm payment entitlements available to a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; the drawdown under the 2005 scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23111/06]

The person named has 8.52 Single Payment entitlements with a value of €2,207.53. In order to be eligible for payment of entitlements under the Single Payment Scheme, the applicant must declare at least the same number of eligible hectares as his/her number of entitlements. The person named did not declare any land on his 2005 Single Payment Scheme application. Payment cannot, therefore, be made in respect of his entitlements.

Departmental Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

193 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the make up of the three interview boards recently established to fill vacancies for the position of district superintendent; the grade, sections and Departments where the interviewers are employed; the role and function of a district superintendent; the number of positions to be filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23112/06]

The make up of the Interview Boards, of which there were four, was as follows: Dublin Board 1. A private HR Consultant who acted as Chairperson and two Assistant Principal Officers in my Department, one in the Beef Export Refunds Division and one in the Staff Training and Development Unit.

Johnstown Castle Board. A private HR Consultant who acted as Chairperson, an Assistant Principal Officer in my Department's Forest Service and an Agricultural Inspector in my Department's Feedingstuffs, Fertilizers, Grainmarketing, Pigs and Poultry work area.

Portlaoise Board. A private HR Consultant who acted as Chairperson, an Assistant Principal Officer in my Department's Agricultural Appeals Office and an Agricultural Inspector in my Department's Integrated Controls work area.

Dublin Board 2. Two private HR Consultants, one of whom acted as Chairperson and an Agricultural Inspector in my Department's Livestock, Beef and Sheep Meat work area.

The role and function of the post of District Superintendent is one of Line Management in the respective work area. There are currently 14 positions to be filled.

Ombudsman Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

194 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will list all the Ombudsman services here; their respective terms of reference; the contact details; and current post holders in each case. [22889/06]

In relation to services within my remit, I should explain that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, is empowered to directly and independently investigate complaints against members of the Garda Síochána. It is also empowered to investigate any matter, even where no complaint has been made, where it appears that a Garda may have committed an offence or behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings. In addition, the Ombudsman Commission can investigate any practice, policy or procedure of the Garda Síochána with a view to reducing the incidence of related complaints.

The temporary offices of the Ombudsman Commission are at 31 — 35 Bow Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7. The Ombudsman Commission consists of three members, namely, Mr. Justice Kevin Haugh (Chairperson), Ms Carmel Foley, and Mr. Conor Brady.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

John Gormley

Question:

195 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the proposed anti-graffiti pilot project in the Dublin South East constituency; the measures proposed; the areas in which the project will be undertaken; the date on which the project is to commence; the length of the project; the project’s estimated cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23065/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, primary responsibility for cleaning up graffiti rests with Local Authorities under the Litter Pollution Act, 1997. However, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has initiated a pilot project aimed specifically at combating graffiti in Dublin City, Galway City and Bray, County Wicklow. This project will be separate from, and in addition to, the graffiti abatement programmes carried out on an ongoing basis by the local authorities.

The areas which will be tackled in the initial pilot phase of the project are those most affected by graffiti. These areas are currently being identified by my Department in conjunction with the RAPID area co-ordinators, the local authorities concerned and the Garda Síochána. The pilot project will involve an initial major clean up of the worst affected sites followed by a rapid response cleaning maintenance programme aimed at maintaining sites free of graffiti. Cleaning contractors have already been invited to tender for the project and it is anticipated that the clean-up work will commence in the latter half of July 2006. The allocation for the programme in 2006 is €3 million. The pilot project will be overseen by a steering group comprising representatives from the three Departments and an independent evaluation of the programme has been commissioned in order to determine the programme's effectiveness. Should the programme prove successful in eliminating or significantly reducing the incidence of graffiti, consideration will be given to extending it to other areas.

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if extra funding will be offered or arranged to enhance Garda assistance at the weekends in Maynooth, in view of the fact that the service was out in the course of the four calls a person made over one and a half hours in the early hours of 4 June 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23131/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,641 on Thursday 8 June with 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 am advised that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Carlow/Kildare Division as at today's date is 358. This compares with an equivalent figure of 281 as at 31 December 1997, and represents a very significant increase of 77 (or 27.4%) in the personnel strength of the Division since that date. I am further advised that an additional Garda is to be allocated to Maynooth Garda Station next month. The personnel strength of Maynooth Garda Station is currently 16 (all ranks), an increase of 7 (or 43.8%) on the equivalent strength of the Station as at 31 December 1997.

The Deputy will be aware that Maynooth is not a 24-hour Garda station. I am advised that when it is not open, P.A.C.B. (Public Access Call Box) and call diversion systems are in operation to the District Headquarters at Naas.

As regards the specific incident referred to by the Deputy, I have asked the Garda Commissioner for his observations on the matter and I will be in contact directly with the Deputy when these are available. 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. 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.

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 second group of newly attested gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in on 8 June, and further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested gardaí will follow every 90 days thereafter 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 Maynooth will be given the fullest consideration.

Work Permits.

Tony Gregory

Question:

197 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures by which a person who is currently on a student visa here and who wishes to apply for a work permit to remain here may so apply. [22882/06]

Citizens of Japan who wish to take up employment in this State are required to hold a valid work permit. Such work permits are issued by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Information regarding the issue of work permits may be found on that Department's website www.entemp.ie.

Citizenship Applications.

John Curran

Question:

198 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding an application for naturalisation made by persons (details supplied) in County Dublin. [22883/06]

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. One of these conditions is that the applicant has had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of the application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, has had a total residence in the State amounting to four years. Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's question were received in the Citizenship section of my Department in April 2004. These applications were examined by my officials in February 2006. Both applicants stated in their application forms that they first arrived in the State in December 1999. Since it was not possible for the couple to have met the above mentioned five year residency requirement when they applied in April 2004, their applications were deemed ineligible. However, my officials also established that the couple had the necessary residence in February 2006, when the applications were examined. In line with my Department's general policy for such cases, the couple were afforded the opportunity to make fresh applications which would be processed on their existing cases files, thereby exempting them from having to wait the full processing time again. New applications were received from the couple on 18 May 2006 and these are due to be dealt with in the near future. I will inform the Deputy and the applicants when the cases are finalised.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

199 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a map will be issued to persons (details supplied) in County Mayo. [22916/06]

I understand that the Land Registry has forwarded the information requested directly to the Deputy. I refer the Deputy to my letter of 26 May, 2006 to members of the Oireachtas regarding a new service for Deputies and Senators concerning the current status of Land Registry/Registry of Deeds applications. As outlined in my letter, the service was introduced, inter alia, to provide a speedier and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions.

Visa Applications.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

200 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action a person (details supplied), who has been refused a tourist visa to enter this country can take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22950/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on 10 February 2006. The decision of the Visa Officer to refuse this application was taken on 23 February 2006. An appeal against the initial refusal decision was received on 25 April 2006. Following a re-examination of the case, the decision to refuse was upheld on 28 April 2006. As each applicant is entitled to one appeal only, no further review in this matter can be granted; however it is open to the applicant to make a fresh application.

Garda Deployment.

Jack Wall

Question:

201 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community alert schemes in Kildare rural areas and urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22964/06]

The Community Alert programme is a community based crime prevention initiative in rural communities which was set up by Muintir na Tíre in association with the Garda Síochána in 1985. It is a national movement with its network comprising approximately 1,285 local Community Alert groups of which there are 53 schemes in Kildare dedicated to improving the quality of life of people in rural communities who are vulnerable, in particular the elderly, by crime prevention, neighbourliness and self reliance, general community safety and well-being, accident prevention, promotion of personal safety and having an anti-poverty focus awareness of social inclusion.

The Neighbourhood Watch scheme was established in 1985 as a crime prevention measure. In common with other community based schemes, it enlists the voluntary help of the community in co-operation with the Garda Síochána and is most suitable for urban areas. There are some 2,600 Neighbourhood Watch schemes in operation nation-wide with 151 schemes in Kildare urban areas. The scheme is currently administered by the Garda Síochána Community Relations Section. I am strongly of the view that community organisations have, through their support and co-operation with the Garda Síochána, an important role to play in crime prevention and the promotion of community safety and I very much support the work in this area being carried out by Muintir na Tíre through Community Alert and the Garda Síochána through Neighbourhood Watch.

Proposed Legislation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

202 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the submissions received during the public consultation process on the proposal for an Immigration and Residence Bill will be published on his Department’s website; and the reason for the delay to date. [22973/06]

I wish to advise the Deputy that I have no plans at present to publish the submissions received to my discussion document — "Immigration and Residence in Ireland — Outline Policy Proposals for an Immigration and Residence Bill".

Garda Strength.

John Deasy

Question:

203 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí per 1,000 of population in Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Waterford for the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. [23071/06]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,641 on Thursday 8 June with 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 am further advised that the numbers of Gardaí per 1,000 of population in the Divisions covering the cities and counties of Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Waterford for the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 were as set out in the following table:

Division

2002

2003

2004

2005

Cork City

2.9

3.0

3.0

3.0

Cork North

2.0

2.0

1.9

2.0

Cork West

2.0

2.0

2.1

2.1

D.M.R. North

2.2

2.3

2.4

2.4

D.M.R. North Central

8.1

8.7

8.9

8.9

D.M.R. South

2.2

2.2

2.3

2.3

D.M.R. South Central

6.3

6.6

6.9

6.9

D.M.R. West

2.5

2.5

2.6

2.7

D.M.R. East

2.4

2.3

2.5

2.5

Limerick

2.6

2.6

2.7

2.7

Galway West

2.1

2.1

2.2

2.3

Roscommon/Galway East

2.7

2.6

2.6

2.6

Waterford/Kilkenny

2.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

The population figures from which these ratios are derived are based on 2002 Census of Population, which are the latest figures available from the Central Statistics Office. 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. 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.

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 this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and the second such group did so on 8 June. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested gardaí will follow every 90 days thereafter 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 areas referred to by the Deputy will be given the fullest consideration.

Citizenship Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

204 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 173 of 8 June 2006, the status of the applications by persons (details supplied). [23072/06]

The persons referred to in the Deputy's question, the adult spouse of a naturalised Irish citizen and his adult son, submitted applications for certificates of naturalisation to the Citizenship section of my Department on 14 November 2005 and 6 February 2006 respectively. Parliamentary Question No 173 of 8 June 2006 referred only to two minor children of the same family. Officials in Citizenship Section are currently processing applications for naturalisation received in the first half of 2004 and it is likely that the applications of the persons in question will be dealt with in late 2007 or early 2008. I will inform the Deputy and the persons concerned when I have reached a decision on the applications.

Work Permits.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

205 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the proposal by the Migrant Rights Centre for a bridging visa in order that migrant workers do not become undocumented if their employers fail to comply with work permit requirements; his plans to introduce such a visa or similar protection for these workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23073/06]

The Deputy will, of course, be aware that the question of the enforcement of employment permits legislation is a matter for my colleague, Minister Micheál Martin and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. With regard to residence permits, all non-EEA nationals wishing to remain in the State beyond the period of time granted by an Immigration Officer at the point of entry must report to the local registration office in the area where they are residing in order to register and obtain the appropriate permission to remain. A notice to this effect is handed to each non-EEA national arriving in the State for any purpose other than a short visit.

I would point out that all non-EEA nationals are legally obliged under the Immigration Act 2004 to ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date at all times. Indeed, it is their responsibility to make themselves aware of relevant Irish Immigration legislation prior to their entry to the State. This is in line with all other major European countries and with international practice.

Garda Investigations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

206 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of any investigations into the death of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23135/06]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 196 of 4 May 2006. The position remains unchanged.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

207 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who have been arrested, charged or are awaiting trial under either Section 1 or Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23136/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

209 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who have been arrested under either Section 1 or Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935, for each of 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; the number of those who were subsequently convicted under the Act; the number who were subsequently acquitted ; the reason for same; the number against whom a prosecution was not ultimately pursued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23138/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 209 together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and is currently being researched. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

208 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who have been charged under either section 1 or section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935 who will not now be tried under that Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23137/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

210 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who, having been arrested or charged under either section 1 or section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935, will now have charges against them amended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23139/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 208 and 210 together.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) directs what charges if, any, are to be preferred against a person. As the Deputy will appreciate the DPP is statutorily independent in this function and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

On Thursday, 8 June, I informed the House in the course of the reply to a Parliamentary Question that a Criminal Justice Liaison Group was founded at the end of 2004 and chaired by the Secretary General of my Department. I indicated that the Attorney General's Office had been invited to meetings of the Group. I have since been informed that the only law officer invited to attend meetings of the Group is the Director of Public Prosecutions. My answer was therefore unintentionally misleading in respect of the formal composition of this Group.

For the record, I have been informed by the Secretary General of my Department that the Criminal Justice Liaison Group has representatives from An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Irish Prison Service, the Courts Service, the Probation and Welfare Service, the Forensic Science Laboratory and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

My Department has a very close working relationship with the Attorney General's Office. I am satisfied that many opportunities exist for discussion between relevant officials in both organisations on issues of mutual concern.

Question No. 209 was answered with QuestionNo. 207.
Question No. 210 was answered with QuestionNo. 208.

Asylum Applications.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

211 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) on humanitarian grounds in view of the medical treatment they are currently undergoing and in view of the threat to their safety in the event of their return to Nigeria. [23143/06]

The person concerned arrived in this State on 23 March 2005 and claimed asylum on the same date. His application was considered at first instance by the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, both of whom concluded that the person concerned did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee. The person concerned was notified, by letter dated 22 November 2005, of my decision to refuse to give him a declaration as a refugee. He was also advised of the options open to him at that point in time vis a vis his position in the State i.e. to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to deportation or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations setting out reasons as to why he should be permitted to remain in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

The case of the person concerned was fully considered, pursuant to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. Consideration was also given to the representations submitted on behalf of the person concerned. Following this detailed examination of the application of the person concerned for permission to remain in the State, I signed a Deportation Order in respect of him on 20 March 2006.

On 8 May 2006, further representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned. The issue of the medical treatment being undergone by the person concerned was raised in these most recent representations. These further representations were considered under Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) and under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) following which a decision was taken that the Deportation Order issued in respect of the person concerned should be affirmed. The enforcement of the Deportation Order issued in respect of the person concerned is now an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).

I am satisfied that the asylum application and the application for permission to remain in the State submitted by the person concerned have been fairly and comprehensively examined. As a result, it is not my intention to further review this case.

Coroners Service.

John Cregan

Question:

212 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if changes have been made in relation to the seven year timeframe governing a missing person, where an inquest cannot be held, and the ability for their families to avail of their entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23149/06]

I can inform the Deputy that the position under section 23 of the Coroners Act, 1962 is that, where a coroner has reason to believe that a death has occurred in or near his district in such circumstances that an inquest is appropriate but the body is either destroyed or irrecoverable, the Minister may direct that an inquest be held in relation to that death. In the absence of further details, I am not in a position to comment on the application of this provision to the case in question.

Insofar as the jurisdiction of the Courts to declare a missing person dead is concerned, this is an issue on which the persons in question should seek legal advice and it would not be appropriate for me to provide an interpretation of the law in this regard.

School Transport.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

213 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science when the school transport service will be made available to students who were denied access to the bus since 24 April 2006 at a school (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22877/06]

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.

Schools Building Projects.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

214 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if a public private partnership arrangement will be approved by her Department for the development of a primary school (details supplied) in County Cork. [22897/06]

The Office of Public Works, that acts on behalf of my Department in the acquisition of school sites, was requested to source a suitable site on behalf of the school in question.

In the meantime, the school authorities were offered, by a local developer, a new school to be designed and built on land owned by the developer at no cost to the school or the Department. My Department understands that the school authorities have accepted this offer and that the developer's project will be overseen by the school. The Department has no objection to the school authorities proceeding with this approach provided they are satisfied that the school will meet their needs. The attention of the school authorities has been drawn to the Technical Guidance documents for school building projects that are available on the Department's website.

Higher Education Grants.

John McGuinness

Question:

215 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding which is available to individual students from the fund announced relative to fourth level education; if it is proposed to grant aid to students at this level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22909/06]

The OECD Review of Higher Education in Ireland made a compelling case for the reform of the higher education system and this has been strongly endorsed by Government and key partners across the sector. It is acknowledged that institutions need to embrace reform in order to allow them to rise to the challenges prompted by the changing economic and social environment while retaining and building upon existing excellence in their historical mission to advance and disseminate knowledge. The sector is acknowledged as an engine for economic growth and is also expected to be an instrument for a fair and equitable dispersion of the benefits of that growth to promote social cohesion and inclusion.

I announced the Strategic Innovation Fund last April as one element in a programme of investment and reform in higher education that will enable the sector to deliver on national priorities.

The SIF key objectives are —

—to enhance the delivery of core activities of education and research, through effective and creative institutional and inter-institutional collaboration and including where necessary, appropriate internal restructuring and rationalisation efforts

—to support enabling measures to prepare for the expansion and development of post-graduate education (including expansion and development of graduate schools), including both intra- and inter-institutional collaboration

—to support innovation and quality improvement in teaching and learning, including enhanced teaching methods, programme re-structuring, modularisation and e-learning

—to support access, retention and progression at both individual institutional and through inter institutional and sectoral level collaboration.

I recognise that the development of a strong, modernised and reformed third level will underpin the creation of a fourth level which has been identified as the cornerstone of Ireland's future economic development. The Strategic Innovation Fund will enable institutions to enhance their delivery of education which will benefit all those in the sector, especially students, and enable them to reach their full potential in our changing society. It is expected that a call for proposals by the Higher Education Authority from the third level institutions will issue shortly.

I should point out that the three Third Level Student Support Schemes, administered by the Local Authorities and the Vocational Education Committees on behalf of my Department, offer financial assistance to eligible post-graduate students attending approved courses. Students entering approved courses for the first time are, generally speaking, eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment.

An approved post-graduate course for the purpose of the Higher Education Grants Scheme and the VEC Scholarship Scheme is a full time postgraduate course of not less than one years duration pursued in an approved institution in Ireland.

In December 2000 clause 7.7 of the Higher Education Grant Scheme 2000 was amended to provide financial assistance to eligible candidates who already hold a postgraduate qualification and who wish to enter a further postgraduate course at a higher level, which represents progression from the level at which the first qualification was attained.

Section 473A, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, provides tax relief, at the standard rate of tax, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including certain approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in E.U. Member States and postgraduate courses in non EU countries.

Tax Relief on tuition fees is claimed directly from the Tax Office using an I.T. 31 Form. Details of approved colleges and courses are also available on Revenue's Internet site at www.revenue.ie.

Physical Education Facilities.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

216 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will re-evaluate her position in relation to the funding needed to construct a sports hall at a school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [22954/06]

The provision of PE Halls at post-primary level is considered an integral part of the design stage for any major refurbishment programme of existing school buildings. All applications received in the Department are banded in accordance with the prioritisation criteria put in place following consultation with the Education partners. The PE Hall project at the school referred to by the Deputy has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria, and the project is being considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006-2010.

Schools Refurbishment.

Michael Ring

Question:

217 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when the extension and refurbishment of a school (details supplied) in County Mayo will proceed to architectural planning stage. [22969/06]

The school referred to by the Deputy made an application to the Department for extension and refurbishment. The application was assessed and assigned a band rating in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria. The school was allocated funding under the Small Schools Scheme 2006 to undertake the extension and refurbishment of the existing school building.

The school authorities have recently advised the Department that they are not accepting this funding on the basis that the level of accommodation required and the extent of refurbishment to be carried out at the school could not be addressed from within this allocation.

The school authorities have now requested the Department to consider the provision of a new school building on the existing school site. Officials in my Department will examine the school's proposal and will be in contact with the school authorities in this regard. A full assessment of the school's current and long-term need will be carried out and a decision will then be made on how best to address the school's accommodation needs.

The proposed building project at the school will then be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006-2010.

Telecommunications Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

218 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to ensure a proper broadband connection for a national school (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22976/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department is currently engaged in the provision of broadband connectivity to all first and second level schools. The local broadband connectivity is being provided by a number of companies following a public tendering process and the schools' connectivity is then routed through the Schools Broadband Network. From enquiries made by my Department, I can inform the Deputy that a broadband service was installed and enabled to the school in question on 28th April. A complaint was raised by the school on 22nd May to the National Broadband Service Desk operated by the National Centre for Technology in Education in relation to the quality of the service. The Service Desk has in turn, escalated the issue to the Service Provider concerned to examine the matter and a response is awaited in this regard. I will arrange for the Deputy to be advised of the outcome once available.

Schools Refurbishment.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

219 Mr. Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will sanction funding applied for by a school (details supplied) in County Carlow for the installation of a sewerage supply system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23012/06]

An official from the School Building Section of my Department has been in contact with the school authorities. The school will be submitting an application for emergency funding for sewerage works. When this application is received and considered the school authorities will be informed of the outcome without delay.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

220 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the names of the primary schools in County Wexford that have been refurbished in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. [23039/06]

The detailed information sought by the Deputy is being assembled and will be forwarded to him as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

221 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in relation to the new secondary school in Kilmuckridge, County Wexford. [23040/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department recently issued a tender approval letter for the proposed project at the school in question.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

222 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made on an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Wexford. [23041/06]

The School Planning Section of my Department has received an application for major capital funding from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application will be assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme from 2006 onwards.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

223 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made for an extension for a primary school (details supplied) in County Wexford. [23042/06]

The School Planning Section of my Department has received an application for major capital funding from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application will be assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme from 2006 onwards

Paul Kehoe

Question:

224 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made on the extension to a school (details supplied) in County Wexford. [23043/06]

The School Planning Section of my Department has received an application for major capital funding from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application will be assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects. Progress on the proposed works will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme from 2006 onwards.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

225 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made on the new secondary school in Gorey, County Wexford. [23044/06]

The Deputy will be aware that the proposed new post primary school for Gorey will be delivered by way of a Public Private Partnership. The school will cater for up to 1,000 pupils. This level of accommodation is based on assessment of the demographics emanating from current and future housing developments.

My Department is in discussion with the local authority with regard to the identification of a suitable site for the School referred to by the Deputy. I will be announcing further PPP project bundles during the year and the school referred to by the Deputy will be considered in this context and in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria.

My Department will be engaging with the relevant education partners as regards the process and arrangements that will be required to ensure a smooth transition from a one school centre to a two school centre. Part of this process will involve defining the enrolment policies that will underpin effective provision once Gorey becomes a two school centre, the enrolment policy that should operate at the existing post primary school during the transition period and the management model.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

226 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the pupil numbers all classes in the national schools in County Wexford in the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006. [23045/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is included in the following table:

Total enrolments in National Schools (including Special Schools) in recent years in County Wexford

School-year

Total

2000/2001

14,367

2001/2002

14,624

2002/2003

14,966

2003/2004

15,308

2004/2005

15,474

2005/2006

15,807

Education Review.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

227 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science when the review of primary education in Enniscorthy, County Wexford will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23046/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, Officials in the School Planning Section of my Department are currently carrying out a review of primary and post primary school provision in the area to which he refers. This review is expected to be completed later this year.

Stay Safe Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

228 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools in County Wexford which run the stay safe programme. [23047/06]

The issue of child protection and ensuring that all children in every primary school are aware of child protection issues are high priority areas for my Department.

The ‘Stay Safe' programme is a personal safety programme for children. It is designed to give children the knowledge and necessary skills to help them deal with potentially abusive or threatening situations. However, it is also recognised that the programme must cover those individuals closely involved with children on a daily basis: parents/guardians and teachers. To this end, professional in-service courses for teachers and parent awareness seminars have been put in place at individual school level. This is in addition to the teaching of a personal safety skills programme to pupils.

The training of teachers, parents and Boards of Management in the ‘Stay Safe' programme and the development of guidelines and procedures for a school policy on child protection is provided by a network of thirty-one regionally-based teachers who are available to the programme on a part-time basis. This support supplements the assistance provided by the Department of Health and Children which maintains an administrative office for the ‘Stay Safe' Programme.

An initial one-day in-service training seminar on the ‘Stay Safe' Programme has been provided for all primary schools. Since the Programme was introduced, 99.7% of primary schools have participated in this training.

In relation to schools in County Wexford, and indeed all other counties, my Department is currently conducting a questionnaire survey in all primary schools to find out the number of schools implementing the ‘Stay Safe' Programme. When all the questionnaires are returned and the data analysed, my Department will then be in a position to state more accurately the position in relation to the implementation of the programme in schools.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

229 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in primary schools in County Carlow that have more than 30 students, more than 35 students and the breakdown of the figures. [23054/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in primary school staffing in recent years. Next September there will no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. Not only is the average class size in our primary schools down to 24, but there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc. Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school.

Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Over the next two school years even more teachers will be put in place both for the above priority areas of disadvantage and special education and also under a reduction in the mainstream staffing schedule.

All schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that, with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the school. Next year this is being reduced to 28 children per classroom teacher and in 2007/2008 it will be reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

So, as I have pointed out the general rule in the current school year is that at least one classroom teacher is provided for every 29 pupils. Furthermore, the actual average class size nationally is 24.

The data requested by the Deputy in relation to class sizes in Carlow for the 2005/06 school year is as follows.

0-9 Pupils

1 class

10-19 Pupils

29 classes.

20-24 Pupils

61 classes

25-29 Pupils

84 classes

30-34 Pupils

42 classes

35-39 Pupils

4 classes

The Deputy will be aware that the number of children in large classes has been reduced dramatically by this Government. Furthermore, what really puts the decrease in large classes in context is the fact that in 1996/97 five times more children were in classes of 35+.

It is important to appreciate that there are a number of different reasons why a particular school may have a large class in a given year. Reasons why there are large classes include a significant fluctuation in enrolments from one year to the next and/or a decision by the school principal not to have multi-grade classes.

Regardless of the reason why there is a large class in a particular school one year, it should be noted that in the majority of cases this is not the situation in the following year. In the main, the same schools do not have large classes year after year and so the same children are not in large classes year after year.

Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is often because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes. Indeed, I often find that when I look into why a particular school has a class of 35 in a particular grade, the answer is because there is another class in the same school with a much lower than average number of pupils in it.

I appreciate that splitting classes may not always be an option for a particular school, because for example there might be a large group in junior infants and a small group in sixth class and so on. But where it is possible, I believe that principals should consider the benefits of having smaller multi-grade classes as against having large differences in class sizes at different levels in the school.

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.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Question:

230 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if the maximum support will be given to the family with a proper back-up service. [23057/06]

As the Deputy is aware the pupil in question is in receipt of five hours resource teaching support together with the services of a full time special needs assistant.

The issue referred to in the correspondence attached relates to the retention of a particular special needs assistant in a school. I wish to advise the Deputy that the practice of issuing child-specific contracts ceased in September 2005. All newly appointed special needs assistant posts are related to the special needs of one or more pupils in respect of whom posts are sanctioned, and may be utilised by the school having regard to those pupils and the duties of the post.

A special need assistant's ranking for seniority commences from the date that he/she commences duty as a special needs assistant in the school. The conditions regarding the retention of a specific special needs assistant are set out in my Department's Circular 0059/2006. A copy of the Circular is available on my Department's websitewww.education.ie.

I wish to clarify that the recruitment and deployment of special needs assistants within a school are matters for the individual principal/Board of Management. The Board is the special needs assistant's employer and the terms of employment are subject to the conditions of the contract of employment.

School Staffing.

Joe Walsh

Question:

231 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will retain an administrative principal for a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [23058/06]

Circular 23/06, outlining the terms with regard to the appointment of Administrative Principals for the school year 2006/07, was issued by my Department recently.

In order to qualify for the allocation of an Administrative Post, a primary school is required to have a minimum staff of Principal and 7 mainstream class teachers or, where there are less that 7 mainstream teachers in the school, to have a minimum staff of Principal and 9 teachers in total.

In the current school year, the school referred to by the Deputy had a staff of Principal and 9 teachers in total and therefore qualified for the allocation of an Administrative Principal post. The teacher allocation for the school for the 2006/07 school year is Principal and 8 teachers in total, including 5 mainstream class teachers. As the school does not satisfy either of the conditions necessary, it does not qualify for the allocation of an Administrative Principal post for 2006/07.

The Board of Management may allow the teaching Principal to be released for a number of days during the school year to undertake administrative, leadership and management functions as specified in Primary Circular 14/01 and 25/02.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

John Deasy

Question:

232 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary school pupils attending schools in each county council and city council area; the number of pupils in each of those areas who are in classes of 30 or greater; the number of pupils in each of those areas who are in classes of 25 to 29; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23064/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is provided in the table included with this answer.

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in primary school staffing in recent years. Next September there will no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. Not only is the average class size in our primary schools down to 24, but there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school. Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Over the next two school years even more teachers will be put in place both for the above priority areas of disadvantage and special education and also under a reduction in the mainstream staffing schedule.

All schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that, with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the school. Next year this is being reduced to 28 children per classroom teacher and in 2007/2008 it will be reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

So, as I have pointed out the general rule in the current school year is that at least one classroom teacher is provided for every 29 pupils. Furthermore, the actual average class size nationally is 24.

The Deputy will be aware that the number of children in large classes has been reduced dramatically by this Government. Furthermore, what really puts the decrease in large classes in context is the fact that in 1996/97 five times more children were in classes of 35+ and ten times more children were in classes of 40+.

It is important to appreciate that there are a number of different reasons why a particular school may have a large class in a given year. Reasons why there are large classes include a significant fluctuation in enrolments from one year to the next and/or a decision by the school principal not to have multi-grade classes.

Regardless of the reason why there is a large class in a particular school one year, it should be noted that in the majority of cases this is not the situation in the following year. In the main, the same schools do not have large classes year after year and so the same children are not in large classes year after year.

Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is often because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes. Indeed, I often find that when I look into why a particular school has a class of 35 in a particular grade, the answer is because there is another class in the same school with a much lower than average number of pupils in it.

I appreciate that splitting classes may not always be an option for a particular school, because for example there might be a large group in junior infants and a small group in sixth class and so on. But where it is possible, I believe that principals should consider the benefits of having smaller multi-grade classes as against having large differences in class sizes at different levels in the school.

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.

Number of Pupils by Class Size Range in 2005/2006 School Year

County

25-29

30 & Over

Carlow

2,270

1,446

Cavan

2,334

1,837

Clare

3,504

3,157

Cork City

4,193

3,040

Cork County

13,401

11,428

Donegal

5,914

3,485

Dublin Belgard

10,541

6,740

Dublin City

13,346

8,493

Dublin Fingal

10,775

9,343

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

6,188

5,882

Galway City

2,066

1,401

Galway County

5,073

3,084

Kerry

4,969

2,968

Kildare

10,437

6,882

Kilkenny

3,332

2,559

Laois

3,169

1,538

Leitrim

953

306

Limerick City

1,973

1,498

Limerick County

5,184

2,970

Longford

1,292

542

Louth

5,260

4,013

Mayo

4,204

1,840

Meath

7,827

5,977

Monaghan

2,126

1,353

Offaly

3,516

1,684

Roscommon

1,685

909

Sligo

1,911

1,118

Tipperary N.R.

2,515

1,060

Tipperary S.R.

2,882

1,642

Waterford City

2,668

1,093

Waterford County

2,771

1,357

Westmeath

3,352

2,426

Wexford

5,922

4,000

Wicklow

4,621

4,687

David Stanton

Question:

233 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science further to adjournment debate matter of 28 March 2006, if the new identification process has been put in place for primary schools where the level of disadvantage is most dispersed; if so, the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23126/06]

David Stanton

Question:

235 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has made a decision with reference to an adjournment matter raised by this Deputy on 28 March 2006 regarding the need to recognise a school (details supplied) in County Cork under the DEIS initiative; if she has made further decisions in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23128/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 235 together.

The school to which the Deputy refers is not among the primary schools selected for participation in the School Support Programme under the new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) and is not participating in any of the pre-existing schemes for addressing educational disadvantage.

The school submitted a review application under the review mechanism which has been put in place to address the concerns of schools that did not qualify for inclusion in the School Support Programme but regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the Programme. This mechanism will operate under the direction of an independent person, charged with ensuring that all relevant identification processes and procedures were properly followed in the case of schools applying for a review.

It is intended that the review process will be completed by the end of the current school year. In addition to the provision being made under the new School Support Programme for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage, under DEIS, financial support will also continue to be provided for other primary schools where the level of disadvantage is more dispersed. This support will be based on the results of the identification process completed under DEIS and schools will receive support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils. The arrangements which will apply in this regard will be notified to schools early in the autumn.

David Stanton

Question:

234 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of review applications she has received under the review process put in place for primary and second level schools that did not qualify for participation in the schools’ support programme and that regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant inclusion in the programme; when she will make public a decision as a result of the review process; the independent person who was to be appointed to direct the operation of the review process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23127/06]

Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, DEIS, the action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated School Support Programme (SSP). The School Support Programme will bring together, and build upon, a number of existing interventions in schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage.

The process of identifying primary and second-level schools for participation in the SSP was managed by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) on behalf of my Department and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through the Department's regional offices and the Inspectorate. As a result of the identification process, 840 schools were invited to participate in the SSP. These comprised 640 primary schools (320 urban/town schools and 320 rural schools) and 200 second-level schools. I am delighted to say that 833 of the schools invited to join the new programme accepted the invitation.

A review process has been put in place for primary and second-level schools that did not qualify for participation in the SSP and that regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the Programme. The closing date for receipt of review applications was Friday, 31st March, 2006. Over 360 review applications from schools have been received.

The review process is under way and is directed by Dr. Seamus McGuinness, who is being supported in processing review applications by a nominated staff member from the Educational Research Centre (ERC) and a nominated staff member from my Department's Social Inclusion Unit. The review process applies only to those primary schools that participated in the ERC survey in May 2005 and only to those eligible second-level schools for which data were available from the relevant databases. Review requests must be evidence-based and based on the variables and reference dates used in the identification process for the SSP. It is anticipated that the review process will be completed before the end of the current school year.

Question No. 235 answered with QuestionNo. 233.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

236 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when a primary school (details supplied) in County Offaly which applied for a permanent upgrade of facilitates in 1997 will receive the go-ahead on its application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23129/06]

The application for major capital funding from the school concerned has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large-scale projects. Progress on the proposed works will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme from 2006 onwards.

School Accommodation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

237 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a school accommodation crisis at two schools (details supplied) in County Laois; if her Department have plans to provide funding for additional classroom space at each of these schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23130/06]

The question of the provision of additional accommodation at the schools referred to by the Deputy is under examination in my Department at present. The progress of building projects arising from this examination will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006 to 2010.

Ombudsman Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

238 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Defence if he will list all the Ombudsman services here; their respective terms of reference; the contact details; and current post holders in each case. [22889/06]

The office of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces was established as an independent statutory office under the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004. The appointment of a person to the office is made by the President, acting upon the recommendation of the Government.

The specific parts of the Act relevant to the establishment of the Office of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces were brought into operation with effect from 31 August 2005 by the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004 (Commencement Order) 2005. All other provisions of the Act were brought into operation with effect from 1 December 2005 by the same Commencement Order.

On 19 September 2005, Ms Paulyn Marrinan-Quinn SC was appointed by the President, upon the recommendation of the Government, as the first Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, in accordance with Section 2 of the Act. The function of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces is to act as the ultimate point of appeal for, and administrative investigation into, complaints made by members (and former members) of the Defence Forces against another member (or former member) of the Defence Forces, or against a civil servant of the Department of Defence.

Subject to the terms of the legislation, and her own independent personal judgement and discretion, the Ombudsman may undertake an independent investigation into a complaint made to her and will issue a written report and recommendations arising from such an investigation to the relevant parties, including the Minister. The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces may investigate a complaint in respect of an action or decision which may have adversely affected the complainant personally. The action or decision complained of must have occurred no earlier than the 1st December 2005, the date for the commencement of the functions of the office. The Ombudsman functions independently in the performance of her statutory duties and has a wide discretion in the discharge of those duties, subject to the terms of the Act. She will, however, have due regard to the operational requirements of the Defence Forces.

Where the complainant is serving in the Defence Forces, the complaint must have been within the internal military ‘redress of wrongs' system for at least 28 days before the Ombudsman may initiate an investigation. The Ombudsman, on receipt of the complaint from the complainant, must form an opinion that the complaint is not likely to be resolved within that internal redress forum and that the other necessary criteria as set out in the Act are satisfied. Complainants who are former members of the Defence Forces apply directly to the Ombudsman in the first instance.

The Ombudsman will typically investigate and ascertain if the action/decision complained of was:

(i) taken without proper authority and/or on irrelevant grounds;

(ii) negligent or careless;

(iii) based on erroneous or incomplete information;

(iv) improperly discriminatory;

(v) unreasonable (notwithstanding consideration of the context of the military environment);

(vi) based on undesirable administrative practice; and-or

(vii) contrary to fair or sound administration.

There are specific exclusions within the legislation in respect of certain specific areas and matters which are outside the remit of the Ombudsman e.g. terms and conditions of employment in the Defence Forces within the scope of the existing statutory schemes of Conciliation and Arbitration. A complaint must be made to the Ombudsman not later than 12 months from the date of the action/decision complained or from the date on which the complainant became aware of the action/decision complained of, which ever is the later.

An important component of the work will consist of the making of formal written reports and recommendations to the Minister on foot of investigations undertaken in various individual cases and in following up the official administrative response to these reports and recommendations. Complaints in relation to any actions/decisions which occurred before 1st December 2005 are being dealt with under the previous ‘redress of wrongs' arrangements under Section 114 of the Defence Act 1954, as agreed with the representative associations in 1996, providing for the examination of complaints by the civilian Complaints Inquiry Officer. This separate stream will continue in parallel on a transitional basis until all remaining complaints about pre 1st December 2005 matters are cleared from the system.

The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces is temporarily located at The Distillery Building, 145/151 Church Street, Dublin 7 (tel 817 5690).

Defence Forces Reserve.

Bernard Allen

Question:

239 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing failure to make payments since 1 October 2005 to Reserve Defence Force officers in respect of the use of their private cars on official duties; the number of individual claims which are unpaid per brigade; the reason for the eight month delay; and the sum of money due to date. [22903/06]

With effect from the 1st October 2005, in the context of the reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force under the RDF Review Implementation Plan, revised arrangements for the payment of motor travel allowances to Reserve officers for the use of their own motor cars in the course of official duties were introduced. It was subsequently discovered that a substantial number of the claims received after that date were not in accordance with the relevant regulations and these were returned to the units concerned for amendment or clarification, as appropriate. This has temporarily resulted in a higher than usual level of unpaid claims on hand. Claims found to be in order are being paid on an ongoing basis and to date in 2006 my Department has paid €22,285 in respect of motor travel allowance to Reserve officers. (This sum includes some payments due under the pre-Oct 2005 arrangements).

The following table gives a breakdown of the claims on hand in my Department:

Brigade/Service

Claimants

Claims*

Value

Eastern

18

43

8,110

Southern

44

62

22,362

Western

31

76

23,602

Naval Service Reserve

2

5

1,545

(*Includes 12 claims held awaiting certain documentation).

Work on the outstanding claims is continuing with a view to making payment as quickly as possible.

Proposed Legislation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

240 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding Building Societies Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22943/06]

The Building Societies (Amendment) Bill 2006 was published on 13 June 2006.

Waste Management.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

241 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of plastic bags liable for the 15 cent plastic bag levy which were bought in each of the years 2003, 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; his views on whether a trend is emerging whereby the numbers of these bags in circulation is rising; if the Government is considering increasing the 15 cent levy to encourage further curbing the use of these bags by the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22880/06]

The 15 cent levy on plastic bags, as provided for in the Waste Management (Environmental Levy) (Plastic Bag) Regulations 2001, has led to a dramatic reduction in use of plastic bags with a consequent positive environmental benefit. Plastic shopping bags accounted for 5% of litter arising prior to the introduction of the levy, but for just 0.22% of litter arisings in 2004. An estimated 1.2 billion plastic bags were given away free by retailers each year prior to the introduction of the levy in March 2002.

The following table shows the number of bags for which levy receipts were remitted by the Revenue Commissioners in the subsequentyears.

2003

2004

2005

2006 to Date (does not include two tranches in the first quarter — not yet available)

85,889,387

101,854,044

116,563,674

23,339,195

While the trend is upwards, the figures must be interpreted with caution. Firstly, they are not a precise measure of the number of bags supplied — each year's figure will also include levies recovered in respect of earlier periods on account of retailers filing late returns and the recoupment of levies due following Revenue audit findings. Secondly, the increase in income is also likely to be due in part to increased enforcement by local authorities and audit activity by the Revenue Commissioners. Enforcement efforts have been stepped up and a special network of local authority officers has been established to monitor and co-ordinate the enforcement drive.

I have previously indicated that I am anxious to ensure that the levy's positive effect on our environment is maintained. To that end, I am currently reviewing all aspects of its operation, including the level at which the levy is set.

Nuclear Plants.

Billy Timmins

Question:

242 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when Ireland first requested the British Government to close the Sellafield plant; the legal actions which have been taken to assist in seeking its closure; the cost of same to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22881/06]

Ireland has had a long-standing concern about nuclear activities at Sellafield since they began in the late 1940's. These concerns were significantly increased following the Windscale fire in 1957 and an incident at Sellafield in 1983 which caused widespread radioactive contamination of the adjacent beaches. In December 1986 Dáil Éireann unanimously agreed a motion calling on the British Government to arrange for the immediate closure of Sellafield, and successive Governments have repeatedly conveyed this view to the UK Government. The objective was restated in the Agreed Programme for Government of 2002.

The Government instituted two international legal actions against the UK Government in relation to Sellafield. One case was taken under the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic and the other was taken under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The costs in respect of legal, economic and scientific advices and representation incurred to date in respect of these legal actions is approximately €2.637m.

Oral hearings in relation to the OSPAR proceedings took place in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in October 2002. The objective of the OSPAR action was to bring about the disclosure of certain information which had been excluded from two economic reports commissioned by the UK on the MOX Plant.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration Tribunal issued its award on 2 July 2003. Although Ireland failed to gain access to the confidential information withheld from the UK public consultation papers, the Tribunal did establish an important international legal precedent. It determined that Ireland has a right under the OSPAR Convention to access to information on the marine environment, that the U.K. has an obligation to make such information available and that Ireland has a right of redress under the Convention to vindicate its rights to such information.

The hearing of the substantive case under UNCLOS took place in The Hague, in the Permanent Court of Arbitration from the 10 to 21 June 2003. The issues in this case include the threat to the marine environment from the continued operation and expansion of Sellafield including security issues, the threat to the Irish Sea from shipments of nuclear materials and the inadequacy of the 1993 Environmental Impact Statement for the MOX Plant. However, at the beginning of the hearing the Tribunal were concerned with arguments raised by the United Kingdom that the issues in dispute before the Tribunal were matters of European Community competence and should fall for decision by the European Court of Justice.

The Tribunal took the view it would be inappropriate to go on to consider the merits of Ireland's case while uncertainty remained as to the division of competences in respect of UNCLOS between the European Community and its Member States. In the circumstances, the Tribunal postponed hearings on the substantive case to facilitate a resolution of the issues relating to jurisdiction between the European Community and UNCLOS. However, the Tribunal did hear an application by Ireland for Provisional Measures pending the hearing of the substantive case.

The Tribunal issued an Order on 24 June after hearing an application by Ireland for Provisional Measures. This Order called upon both Parties to develop suitable secure arrangements at inter-Governmental level to improve co-operation and consultation. In relation to the issue of competency between UNCLOS and the European Community, the European Commission initiated proceedings against Ireland in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 31 October 2003. The Court issued its Judgment on 30 May last, which inter alia declared that Ireland, by instituting proceedings against the UK under UNCLOS, failed to fulfil its obligations under Community law. The judgment also establishes that certain provisions of UNCLOS form part of the Community legal order and that the ECJ has jurisdiction to determine disputes on their interpretation and application.

The Judgment represents a significant development and clarification of Community law. It means that the resolution of disputes between Member States in relation to a wide range of international agreements, particularly in the environmental field, comes within the jurisdiction of the ECJ. The Judgment presents Member States, such as Ireland, with new mechanisms for holding other Member States to account in relation to their transboundary obligations towards the environment. These and other issues consequent on the Judgement are being examined in detail by Ireland's international legal team, led by the Attorney General. Ireland's strategy in pursuit of the objectives of this case will be considered and determined by Government, based on this examination and analysis.

Local Authority Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

243 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the statistics regarding the employment of people with disabilities by local authority; the number in each local authority in permanent employment; the number in temporary placement; if he has reason for concern regarding the local authorities’ compliance with the quota set; if there are plans to revisit same upwardly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22892/06]

The local authority sector has exceeded the Government's target of 3% for the employment of people with disabilities in the public sector each year since 2001. Local authorities are required to make every effort to maintain or exceed this level of employment of persons with a disability.

The employment target will be reviewed by the Monitoring Committee to be established later this year under Part 5 of the Disability Act 2005 to report, annually from 2006, on the employment position in respect of public bodies accountable to my Department.

As at 31 December 2005, the number of people with disabilities employed by local authorities was 1,214.3, representing 3.56% of the workforce. This represents a slight increase of 0.01% over the 2004 figure (3.55%). Details, as provided by the local authorities, regarding the employment of people with disabilities are set out in the following table.

The information relating to the employment of people with disabilities on a temporary basis is not held by my Department.

3% Target for the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Public Sector as at 31 December 2005

Local Authority (County/Town Council)

Total Workforce

Total number of PWD

% Workforce PWD

Carlow

335

9

2.69

Cavan

486

3

0.62

Clare

1003.5

39

3.88

Cork

2542

76

2.99

Donegal

1181

16

1.35

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

1304

43

3.29

Fingal

1543

60

3.88

Galway

1032.22

34

3.29

Kerry

1222.7

63

5.10

Kildare

1026

27

2.62

Kilkenny

626

20.5

3.27

Laois

401.6

15.5

3.86

Leitrim

331

10

3.02

Limerick

778.5

26

3.33

Longford

342.5

10

2.93

Louth

733

27

3.93

Mayo

1206.5

61.3

5.08

Meath

750

24

3.20

Monaghan

442.18

14

3.16

North Tipperary

515

26

5.04

Offaly

491

13

2.64

Roscommon

585

22

3.76

Sligo

558.69

18

3.22

South Dublin

1370

51

3.72

South Tipperary

711.5

22

3.09

Waterford

566.5

16

2.83

Westmeath

664

8.5

1.28

Wexford

861.02

24

2.78

Wicklow

917.9

28

3.05

County Total

24,527.31

806.8

3.17

City Council

Cork City Council.

1527

72

4.72

Dublin City Council.

6585.75

282

4.28

Galway City Council

469.5

9

1.91

Limerick City Council.

567.6

20

3.52

Waterford City

444

24.5

5.51

City Total

9593.85

407.5

4.13

Overall Total

34,121.16

1214.3

3.56

Local Authority Funding.

Liam Aylward

Question:

244 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will approve the applications by Kilkenny County Council for grant aid in respect of two fire engines and road traffic accident equipment. [22920/06]

Applications submitted by Kilkenny County Council for capital funding for two additional fire appliances and for additional road traffic accident equipment are under consideration in my Department in the context of the 2006 fire services capital programme, which I expect to announce shortly.

Registration of Title.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

245 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when bog lands (details supplied) in County Offaly will be registered and documentation returned to the solicitor to enable the Land Registry Office dealing to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22941/06]

I understand that the Chief State Solicitor's Office, on behalf of my Department, is in contact with the landowner's solicitor with a view to resolving the issues in this case as soon as possible.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

246 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number and names of applications in his Department for sewerage schemes in County Wexford; and the position with each application and the progress made. [23049/06]

I am arranging to forward to the Deputy details of the water and sewerage schemes identified by Wexford County Council in response to my Department's request to local authorities in 2003 to produce updated assessments of the needs for capital works in their areas and to prioritise their proposals on the basis of the assessments. This assessment is the Council's most up to date and complete statement to my Department of its water and sewerage infrastructure proposals. It was taken into account in the framing of subsequent phases of my Department's Water Services Investment Programme, including the most recently published Programme for 2005 to 2007 (which is available in the Oireachtas Library and sets out details of all currently approved schemes).

Local authorities have recently been asked by my Department to produce new assessments of needs and to submit the results to the Department by 31 July 2006. This will afford Wexford County Council an opportunity to identify any additional infrastructural needs in its area as an input to future phases of the Water Services Investment Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

247 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made on a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Wexford; when work will begin on same; the position of same; when the work will be completed; the reason for the delay in the work. [23051/06]

The Enniscorthy Main Drainage Scheme Stage 3 is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007 as a scheme to start construction in 2007, at an estimated cost of €13.5 million. My Department has asked Wexford County Council to review certain aspects of its Preliminary Report and Water Services Pricing Policy Report for the scheme and a reply is awaited from the Council. Once these reports are approved, the Council will be in a position to prepare Contract Documents for the scheme with the view to proceeding to tender stage.

Local Authority Housing.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

248 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when his Department will make a decision on the application from Drogheda Borough Council for infill housing at an estate (details supplied) in County Louth. [23066/06]

Drogheda Borough Council recently submitted proposals to my Department for approval for the construction of seven houses at the location in question. My Department has raised a number of design and layout issues regarding the proposal with the Council, and a response is awaited.