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 17, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 18 to 91, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 92 to 100, inclusive, answered orally.

Educational Disadvantage.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

101 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will assist to pay increases in gas and electricity costs which is causing hardship to schools in disadvantaged areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34110/06]

My Department's scheme of capitation grants provide funding towards the general operating costs of schools which would include heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, painting, teaching aids and other miscellaneous charges. The capitation grant has been increased substantially in recent years.

The standard rate of capitation grant for primary schools has increased from €57.14 (£45) in 1997 to €145.58 in 2006. This represents an increase of almost 155% in the capitation grant over that period.

This grant is in addition to the Ancillary Services Grant which provides additional funding for primary schools towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services. The standard rate of grant per pupil under this scheme has also been substantially increased — from €102 per pupil in 2002 to the current rate of €139 per pupil.

There has also been significant improvements in the level of funding for second level schools in recent years. Since January 2005, the standard per capita grant has been increased by a cumulative €24 per pupil and now stands at €298 per pupil. Voluntary secondary schools have also benefited from a series of equalisation payments.

Payments to all second level schools under the school services support fund initiative have also increased in recent years. Introduced with effect from the 2000/01 school year, the school services support grant has been increased since January 2005 by a cumulative €28 per pupil bringing the annual grant from €131 per pupil to €159 per pupil. These grants are in addition to the funding of up to €40,000 per school that is also provided by my Department to secondary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services. A secondary school with 500 pupils, for example, now receives annual grants of up to €270,000 towards general expenses and support services. This represents an increase of 83% since 2000.

These significant increases in the funding of both primary and post primary schools are a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools. Increases in general day-to-day funding are, in my view, a preferable approach to putting in place grants for specific cost items such as that referred to by the Deputy.

Of course, as well as providing for significant increases in the grants paid to all schools, I am very conscious of the need for extra funding for schools serving disadvantaged areas. As the Deputy will be aware, we continue to provide extra grants to schools benefiting from schemes aimed at tackling disadvantage.

Under the new action plan for tackling disadvantage — the DEIS programme — which is currently being rolled out, additional funding is being provided to the most disadvantaged schools.

The total amount that will be paid to schools participating in DEIS and those getting funding under other initiatives to tackle disadvantage will be over €17 million this year. Taken together with the increase in capitation payments in recent years, I believe that this has improved the financial position of our disadvantaged schools.

However, I will, as always bear in mind the cost pressures on our schools in assessing the rate of capitation that should be paid in 2007. This Government has shown a strong commitment to improving school funding in recent years and I will continue to prioritise this area.

School Accommodation.

David Stanton

Question:

102 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 477 of 3 October 2006, when the current assessment began and when it will be completed; the person who is carrying out the assessment; if similar assessments are underway for other primary schools in the east Cork area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34237/06]

The initial application from the school sought to have its accommodation needs met by way of a devolved grant under the Additional Classroom Accommodation scheme 2006. While acknowledging that the school had an immediate deficit of mainstream accommodation which was addressed by way of approval to rent a mainstream classroom, my officials' preliminary appraisal of the school's longterm accommodation need indicated that a more thorough assessment of the projected long term staffing, on which the school's overall accommodation needs will be based, was required with a view to providing the necessary building project under the traditional building programme.

Projects developed under the traditional building programme are generally assessed having regard to, inter alia:

current and projected enrolments,

demographic trends in the area,

recent and planned residential developments which are likely to impact on the school and where necessary liaison with the local planning authorities, and

consultation with the School authority.

In this regard, my Department will be meeting with Cork County Council in the coming weeks to discuss potential and anticipated developments in the general area in which the school is located. Following on from the findings of this meeting my Department will give further consideration, in consultation with the school authorities, to the likely accommodation needs of the school.

The Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to state when the assessment needs of this school or the schools in the area which have applications with my Department will be completed. The Deputy can be assured that the matter will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible.

Educational Disadvantage.

Michael Noonan

Question:

103 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools to receive funding under the DEIS scheme; when such funding will come on stream; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34209/06]

DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the new action plan for educational inclusion provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated School Support Programme (SSP). The DEIS plan states that as well as provision being made under the SSP for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage, financial support will also continue to be provided for other primary schools where the level of disadvantage is more dispersed.

DEIS is designed to ensure that the schools serving the most disadvantaged communities benefit from the maximum level of support available. Schools which have not qualified for the new School Support Programme and which are receiving additional resources, both human and financial, under pre-existing schemes and programmes for addressing concentrated disadvantage, will retain these supports for 2006/2007. After that, schools will continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils.

As a result of the identification and review processes, 873 schools have been invited to participate in the new Programme. These comprise 670 primary schools (338 urban/town schools and 332 rural schools) and 203 second-level schools.

Grants due to the 670 Primary schools which are participating in the School Support Programme will be lodged to their schools' bank accounts on 17 November 2006. This is in addition to payments totalling €1 million which issued to those schools in June 2006. Grants due to the 203 Post Primary schools which are participating in the School Support Programme will be lodged to their schools' bank accounts in the coming month.

In addition, approximately another 2,000 schools will receive rates of grant assistance to assist them with their respective levels of dispersed disadvantage, including those that are benefitting from previous schemes.

In addition to supplementary financial assistance which is provided to Schools in SSP, schools will benefit from additional measures under DEIS which range from pre-school interventions, supports for tackling children's literacy problems, reduced pupil teacher ratios, allocation of administrative principals on lower enrolment, measures to tackle early school leaving and measures to strengthen ties between the school, the family and the community.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard Allen

Question:

104 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up to date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes of 35 to 39 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34184/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

114 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up to date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes of 25 to 29 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34180/06]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

121 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up to date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes of 40 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34186/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104, 114 and 121 together.

Information in relation to class sizes is provided in the annual census of primary schools. The reference date for the provision by schools of this information is the 30th September of the school year in question and the date for return by the schools is 31 October. Consequently, the details for the current school year (2006/2007) are not yet available.

The most recent figures available in my Department are for the 2005/2006 school year in which there were 9,863 children in primary classes of 35 to 39, 162,174 children in primary classes of 25 to 29 and 206 children in primary classes of 40 or more.

In terms of measuring progress, I am sure the Deputies will be interested to know that in the school year in which this Government came into office there were 52,190 children in classes of 35 and over — five times the number that there are now. 1,901 of these children were in classes of 40 and over — compared to just over 200 last year.

As the Deputies will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. At the beginning of the current school year there are no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and 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. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

As the Deputies will know all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 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 28 children in the school. Next year (2007/2008 school year) this is being reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year compared to 170 in 2005/06.

This Government has shown a clear determination to improve the staffing in our schools and we will continue to prioritise this issue going forward.

Language Programme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

105 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science the training provided in teaching English as a foreign language for primary teachers and teachers specifically assigned to teach children whose first language is not English; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34101/06]

My Department is committed to ensuring that all children get the necessary support that they need to do well at school. In order to ensure that children whose first language is not English can fully participate at school, my Department is providing extensive training in teaching English as a foreign language for primary teachers specifically assigned to teach children whose first language is not English.

Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT), a campus company of Trinity College Dublin, is funded by my Department to provide training and resource materials to assist schools in meeting the needs of pupils for whom English is a second language. A wide range of teaching resources has been developed by IILT which are available on their website at www.iilt.ie or directly from IILT.

In 2005, more language support teachers than ever before attended the IILT bi-annual round of in-service seminars. In the spring term of 2005, an overall total of 408 primary teachers attended seminars and in the autumn term a further 548 primary teachers attended, bringing the total number for the year to 956. This is a significant increase on the number attending for 2004 which was 680.

In March 2006, IILT held in-service seminars in Dublin, Longford, Cork and Limerick. These seminars were attended by teachers from 77 primary schools from around the country. All teachers present were new teachers, who had not previously attended IILT seminars and IILT intends to continue to target newly-appointed teachers for the remainder of this year.

A range of courses focusing on the areas of diversity/interculturalism were also approved for inclusion in my Department's summer course programme. A total of 155 primary teachers attended these courses.

Education Centres are playing an integral role in the task of identifying and designing programmes and courses to meet the distinct needs of teachers in this area. Funding has been provided to Centres under the local course initiatives to design, develop and deliver courses locally. The needs addressed include diversity and interculturalism.

A collaborative project between the Education Centre Network and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, supported by the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform and the Teacher Education Section of my Department, has been established to provide in-service training for teachers in the implementation of the Intercultural Guidelines for Primary Schools. This project has been well received by teachers who are ensuring that their teaching of the eleven subjects which comprise the primary curriculum reflects the increasingly intercultural nature of the student cohort.

My Department is currently reviewing provision in this whole area with a view to determining the appropriate educational response to the needs of newcomer children, with particular reference to their language needs.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has identified the schools at which the most serious and pressing needs in respect of remedial resource or speech and language therapy or other special needs teaching requirements exist; her proposals to meet these requirements as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34143/06]

The National Council for Special Education, through the 75 local special educational needs organisers, known as SENOs, is responsible for processing applications from schools for special needs supports. These supports include resource teaching hours and SNA support for pupils with low-incidence special needs and assistive technology or equipment for pupils in either high-or low-incidence special educational needs categories. In this way pressing needs in the area of special needs supports in schools are identified early and acted upon quickly.

In addition a general allocation scheme has been in operation since September 2005 under which mainstream primary schools have been provided with resource teaching hours, based on enrolment figures, to cater for children with high incidence special educational needs such as dyslexia and those with learning support needs.

There has been enormous progress made over the past number of years in relation to increasing the number of teachers in our schools who are specifically dedicated to providing education for children with special educational needs. At primary level, there are now over 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. At second level, 1,843 whole time equivalent additional teachers are in place to support pupils with special educational needs as well as 534 wholetime equivalent learning support teachers.

I am confident that the advent of the National Council for Special Education, the introduction of the General Allocation Model and the significant number of teaching posts allocated in recent years have ensured children with learning support and resource educational needs are receiving the necessary educational supports.

The responsibility for the provision of speech and language therapy services rests with the Health Service Executive. However, I can advise the Deputy that my Department has sanctioned 59 special classes for children with specific speech and language disorder. Each class can cater for up to 7 children and children have access to a speech and language therapist.

School Curriculum.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

107 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when standardised testing will be introduced at primary level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34208/06]

Michael Noonan

Question:

157 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the ages at which standardised testing at primary level will take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34210/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

210 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the introduction of standardised testing at primary level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34212/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107, 157 and 210 together.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, in its advice submitted to me in April 2005, recommends that the practice of standardised testing which is currently well established in primary schools should be built upon and that all pupils should be tested in literacy and numeracy at the end of first or beginning of second class and at the end of fourth or beginning of fifth class.

I fully agree with the NCCA's advice since I believe that standardised testing, carried out on a systematic basis, has great potential to enhance the quality of teaching and learning for our pupils at classroom level, and to provide valuable information for parents about their children's learning.

However, to reap the full benefits of standardised testing, it is essential that a range of supports are put in place for teachers and parents in advance of introducing a requirement on schools to conduct tests.

In that context, the NCCA is preparing guidelines which will assist schools in developing and implementing a policy on assessment practice in classrooms and on reporting to parents. These will be available during the 2006/07 school year.

The NCCA is also developing guidelines in specific subjects which will provide teachers with information on what to assess in individual subjects of the Primary School Curriculum and how to use assessment information to plan for children's future learning in that subject.

A national report card for recording and reporting data on pupils' attainment to parents is also being developed by the NCCA. This will be piloted in a number of schools in the current school year and will be available to all schools in the following year.

Significant funding to support the initiative has been provided for in the current Estimates. Plans for inservice training to support assessment for learning are also being finalised at present. My intention is that we will proceed carefully but as quickly as possible to ensure that the recommendations proposed by the NCCA are implemented in a way that has positive benefits for children, parents, teachers and the system as a whole.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

108 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that offer physics to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34181/06]

My Department publishes data on the number of schools offering each subject in it's annual Statistical Report. Although the report for the 2005/06 school year is still in preparation, I can provide the following provisional information to the Deputy.

In the 2005/06 school year there were 554 post-primary schools offering Physics as a subject in their Leaving Certificate Programme. Of these, 113 were Boys schools, 129 were Girls schools and 312 were Co-educational schools.

Significant progress has been made in a range of science areas including curricular reform, the provision of equipment grants to schools and the refurbishment of school laboratories.

Pre-School Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

109 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of pre-school places currently funded by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34211/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

137 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children currently receiving a pre-school education which is funded by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34213/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 137 together.

Early Years Education in Ireland covers the period from birth to six years. Almost all five year olds and half of four year olds attend junior infant and senior infant classes in primary schools. Outside of junior classes in primary schools, my Department's main role in the area of early years education encompasses targeted pre-school provision for children from disadvantaged areas, for traveller children and for those with special needs. The Early Start pre-school project provides some 1,680 places in 40 primary schools in designated areas of urban disadvantage in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Drogheda and Dundalk. My Department also funds 46 pre-schools for Traveller children, catering for some 500 pupils.

In the special needs sector, there are currently 16 pre-school classes for children with autism located throughout the country. In addition to this, 12 stand-alone autism facilities that provide an applied behavioural analysis (ABA) model of response to children with autism cater for a number of children of pre-school age. My Department sanctions home tuition grants for children with autism who are of pre-school age and for whom a home educational programme is considered appropriate – grants for some 200 such children are currently in payment. In a small number of cases, my Department allocates funding to service providers to assist them in providing an educational component to pre-school age children in Child Educational Development Centres (CEDCs).

Targeted early childhood education provision is a key element of the School Support Programme (SSP) under the new action plan for educational inclusion DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), which provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage. The objective in relation to early childhood education is to concentrate actions initially on those children aged from three up to school enrolment, who will subsequently attend the 190 urban/town primary schools serving the most disadvantaged communities. My Department will work in partnership with other Departments and agencies to complement and add value to existing childcare programmes in disadvantaged communities, with a view to ensuring that the overall care and education needs of the children concerned are met in an integrated manner. A strong emphasis will be placed on adding value to the work of other providers by embedding quality early learning within childcare provision. The Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education will provide advice on the future development and direction of pre-school measures for children in disadvantaged communities.

Departmental Expenditure.

Billy Timmins

Question:

110 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the method of evaluating expenditure on initiatives which are in place in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34214/06]

My Department approaches the evaluation of its programmes and initiatives in a number of different ways.

One of these is the formal Government programme of Value for Money Reviews, formerly called Expenditure Reviews, in which my Department participates. The objectives of these reviews, which were introduced in 1997, are to analyse Exchequer spending in a systematic manner and to provide a basis on which more informed policy and expenditure decisions can be made.

Value for Money Reviews are one of a range of modernisation initiatives aimed at moving public sector management away from the traditional focus on inputs to concentrate more on the achievement of results. They are organised on the basis of three year planning periods. The current programme of reviews is scheduled to be completed in the 2006-2008 period.

A critical component of my Department's approach to evaluation is the work of the Evaluation Support and Research Unit of the Inspectorate, which focuses on educational outcomes. The Unit co-ordinates periodic evaluations of the quality of educational provision in primary and post-primary schools and centres for education. The approach to conducting these evaluations usually involves collection of data about student achievement levels and observation in classrooms by inspectors to determine the quality of learning and teaching. Interviews and meetings are also held with key stakeholders in the relevant schools and centres for education.

Over and above this, my Department, through its line management divisions, examines particular issues, programmes and elements of programmes to inform changed approaches. This forms part of the general obligation on public sector managers to ensure that State funds are utilised in an efficient and effective manner.

School Evaluations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

111 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of whole school evaluations completed so far in 2006; the number made public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34203/06]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

564 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of whole school evaluations completed to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34443/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 564 together.

The publication of the first school inspection reports on my Department's website took place on 22 and 29 June 2006. A further tranche of school inspection reports will be published in the next few days.

The process of publication of a WSE report involves a number of discrete stages between the end of the in-school evaluation activity of WSE and the final publication of the report on the Department's website. Following the carrying out of the in-school evaluation activity a meeting takes place between the WSE evaluation team and the board of management, senior management within the school and the school staff. The main findings and recommendations arising from the evaluation are presented and discussed and the school is encouraged to address the issues identified. The WSE report then goes through a process of verification with the school for factual accuracy. The school is then offered an opportunity to make a written response to the report. The WSE report is then finalised, issued to the school, and published on the Department's website along with the school response, if any. In general, WSE reports are ready for publication within 70 working days following the completion of the in-school inspection activity. A whole-school evaluation is considered completed when the report has been finalised and issued to a particular school.

At primary level 122 whole-school evaluations (WSE) were carried out in the first half of 2006. 41 of these evaluations had commenced prior to 6 February 2006 and, in accordance with the "Publication of Inspection Reports — Guidelines", these reports were issued to schools but were not eligible for publication. 39 of these reports have been issued to schools. 81 primary whole-school evaluations were planned to commence on or after 6 February 2006. 36 WSE reports were issued to primary schools and were published at the end of June. Approximately 20 of the remaining 45 WSE reports from the first half of 2006 will be published and issued to schools in the next few days. At this stage 75 of the 122 whole school evaluations planned for the first half of 2006 can be considered fully completed having been officially issued to the schools.

At post-primary level 29 whole-school evaluations were carried out in the first half of 2006. 9 of these reports related to evaluations commenced prior to 6 February 2006 and were, therefore, not eligible for publication but have been issued to the post-primary schools concerned. 5 of the remaining 20 whole-school evaluation reports were published at the end of June. Reports on approximately 10 of the remaining 15 post-primary WSEs conducted in the first half of 2006 will be published on my Department's website in the next few days. The remaining WSEs conducted in primary and post-primary schools during that period will shortly complete all stages of the factual verification and school response processes and will then be published.

Overall 89 of 151 whole-school evaluations planned at primary and post-primary levels for the first half of 2006 have been completed and a further thirty evaluations will be completed in a few days. Looking at the full year for 2006 it is anticipated that WSE inspections will have been conducted in 228 primary schools and 57 post-primary schools. Some of the WSE inspections commenced early in the current school term in primary and post-primary schools will have completed all stages of the publication process before the end of this school term and will be issued and published by the end of December 2006. The remainder of the 2006 WSE evaluations will be published early in 2007.

Up-to-date information on the WSE inspections that have been carried out in primary and post-primary schools and the list of published reports are available on the website of my Department (www.education.ie) at any time. The availability of the reports will now mean that the school community can play a more informed role in the ongoing process of school review and development.

School Accommodation.

David Stanton

Question:

112 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the way her Department anticipates future enrolment for primary schools; the actions her Department is currently taking with regard to same in the east Cork area; if she is confident that these primary schools are currently providing sufficient accommodation for pupils and will be able to cater for future demand; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34236/06]

I would like to assure the Deputy that my Department has a number of proactive strategies to ensure that the accommodation requirements for schools in developing areas, such as East Cork are addressed in a manner that will meet the long term education needs of the population.

The process of assessing the need for new or additional accommodation facilities at primary or post primary level in any given area entails consideration of all relevant factors, including enrolment and demographic trends, housing developments and existing school capacity to meet current or future demand. As part of the process, my Department is included among the prescribed authorities to whom local authorities are statutorily obliged to send draft development plans or variations to development plans. As a matter of course meetings are arranged with local authorities to establish the location, scale and pace of housing developments and their implication for both current and future school provision.

In this regard, officials in School Planning Section of my Department will be meeting with Cork County Council in the coming weeks to discuss potential and anticipated developments in the general area with a view to making informed decisions in relation to the long term accommodation needs of the schools in the area and in particular for those schools that have made applications for major capital investment in their buildings.

School Transport.

Joe Callanan

Question:

113 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in the processing of a school transport grant for a person (details supplied) in County Galway who is attending school for speech and language classes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33723/06]

The family of the pupil referred to in the details supplied by the Deputy submitted documentation to my Department in the belief that they were entitled to a grant. A claim for a grant is generally not considered by my Department until an assessment has been made of the pupil's eligibility for school transport. This assessment can only be made on receipt of the relevant background information from Bus Éireann.

A report has now been received from Bus Éireann on the matter and my Department has written to the family concerned, suggesting that they contact their local Bus Éireann office with a view to having arrangements made for the provision of a transport service.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 104.

Higher Education Colleges.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

115 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of men who applied to each of the primary teacher education colleges in 2006; the number of men who applied in 2005; the number of women who applied to each of the colleges in 2006 and in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34137/06]

The student application figures for places on the B. Ed. programmes in the Colleges of Education are not readily available. However, I have asked my officials to secure the number of applications to the Colleges of Education from the CAO and I would be glad to provide this material to the Deputy once available.

My Department has information on the numbers of students currently pursuing B. Ed. programmes at First Year in the Colleges. These students represent applications for the programmes who achieved the required entry standards and have registered in the Colleges. This information covers the student enrolment figures for the years 2005/06 and 2006/07.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the figures show an overall increase of 11.5% in the number of males enrolled in the Colleges of Education in the current academic year. The figures are:

2005-2006

Name of College of Education

Male

Female

Church of Ireland

2

29

Froebel College

8

55

Marino Institute of Education

16

90

St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra

40

353

Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

58

382

Total:

124

909

2006-2007

Name of College of Education

Male

Female

Church of Ireland

2

31

Froebel College

8

73

Marino Institute of Education

12

102

St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra

50

410

Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

67

345

Total

139

961

The Deputy will be aware that since the 1970s there has been a significant and continuous decline in the number of males entering the teaching profession, particularly at primary level. In the 1970s, approximately 30% of teachers were male and this had declined to approximately 18% in 2005. A similar decline in numbers has been experienced in most OECD countries.

My Department established The Primary Education Committee in October of 2003 to examine a range of issues in relation to males entering primary teaching, and to make recommendations on short-term and long-term strategies to increase the numbers in this regard. This work resulted in the publication of the Committee's final report, entitled: Males into Primary Teaching, which I launched in November of 2005.

One of the key recommendations in the Report calls for a co-ordinated promotion campaign, which would encourage boys as well as girls to enter primary teaching, should be undertaken.

The Deputy will also be aware that I launched the Men As Teachers and Educators (MATEs) Promotion Campaign aimed to attract more males into the teaching profession. Following a competitive tendering process, an advertising agency (QMP) was engaged in January, 2006 to assist my Department in designing and managing the Men As Teachers and Educators campaign.

The campaign aims to highlight the wide variety of skills that a primary teacher uses, and to promote the rewards of being a teacher such as the value to society, work/life balance, career satisfaction, diversity of skills, professional development, conditions of employment and job security.

The target audience for the campaign includes:

Young males 14+, with particular focus on those considering CAO course choices,

Parents of school-going boys and girls

Guidance Counsellors

Teachers

Mature students.

The campaign commenced in January of this year and, to date, it has included advertisements in the national newspapers, two phases of advertisements on national and local radio stations, a poster campaign in schools, and the placement of banner ads on specifically identified websites.

The next phase of the campaign will be put in place in the coming weeks. The Teaching Council will be involved in this coming phase, in line with the recommendations of the Primary Education Committee's Report.

While it is very encouraging to note that the enrolment figures indicate an increase in the number of males entering the Colleges of Education this year, it is too early to draw conclusions as to the effect of the campaign at this stage and it is expected that any effect would take a number of years to emerge. Indeed, the campaign is targeted, inter alia, at students who have yet to make subject choices for the Senior Cycle and any effect here would not yet be visible in the numbers applying for teacher training colleges.

I would like to assure the Deputy that the campaign to attract more males into teaching will continue and the number of males entering the profession will continue to be closely monitored by my Department.

Schools Building Projects.

Tom Hayes

Question:

116 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of building projects awaiting progression which are assessed by her Department as being of band three status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34228/06]

Damien English

Question:

119 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of band one building projects which will be given clearance to proceed further before the end of 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34224/06]

Michael Ring

Question:

122 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of band four building projects which will be given clearance to proceed further before the end of 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34218/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

138 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of building projects awaiting progression which are assessed by her Department as being of band one status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34232/06]

John Perry

Question:

141 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of building projects awaiting progression which are assessed by her Department as being of band four status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34226/06]

John Deasy

Question:

162 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of building projects awaiting progression which are assessed by her Department as being of band two status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34230/06]

Liam Twomey

Question:

191 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of band two building projects which will be given clearance to proceed further before the end of 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34222/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

214 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of band three building projects which will be given clearance to proceed further before the end of 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34220/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116, 119, 122, 138, 141, 162, 191 and 214 together.

As I indicated when publishing the various strands of the Department's Capital Programme for 2006, I intend to move through the School Building and Modernisation Programme in a planned way over the next five years. This is possible with the availability of a €3.9bn multi-annual capital funding envelope (primary, post-primary and third level) over that period to underpin a continuous programme of modernising school buildings. The number of building projects under consideration can change on a day to day basis as new applications are received and existing applications are progressed in my Department.

The Deputies will appreciate that this investment must continue to be targeted using the published prioritisation criteria. Details of projects to move forward under the programme will be published as and when they are ready to be advanced in the context of capital expenditure requirements.

Computerisation Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

117 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the finding in Education at a Glance 2006 that Ireland ranks 20th out of 30 countries in terms of ratio of students to computers in schools; if she will resource schools to compete in the information age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34116/06]

It is important to be note that the indicator on access to and use of ICT in the Education at a Glance report is based on the data from its PISA survey of 15 year-old students in Spring 2003. Progress has of course been made in our school's ICT programme since then.

While Education at a Glance reports that there was one computer for every 9 post-primary students in Ireland in 2003, a census of school ICT facilities carried out in May and June of last year by the National Centre for Technology in Education found that by then there was one computer for every 7 post-primary students.

As the Deputy will be aware, major investment has also been provided for developing school networks and bringing broadband to our schools in recent years.

I am aware of the benefits that good use of ICT can bring to our children's education and will bear this in mind in considering what areas should be the future priorities for the ICT in Schools Programme.

Education Schemes.

Joe Costello

Question:

118 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will allocate funding to schools to set up school book rental schemes to supplement the inadequate book grants currently available and to provide for a comprehensive school book rental scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34104/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

206 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has had discussions in relation to introducing a national school book rental scheme. [34149/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 206 together.

My Department continues to urge the management authorities of both primary and second level schools to put in place book rental schemes to the greatest extent possible.

At primary level schools that opt for book rental schemes are allocated enhanced grants to encourage them to participate in such schemes.

In respect of the 2006/2007 school year primary schools not operating book rental schemes have been paid €14.70 per eligible pupil in the infant classes and €22.00 for each eligible pupil in the 1st to 6th classes. This compares to primary schools operating book rental schemes which have been paid €28.40 in respect of each eligible pupil in the infant classes and €38.10 for each eligible pupil in the 1st to 6th classes. Primary schools designated as disadvantaged and operating book rental schemes have been paid €32.00 in respect of each eligible pupil in the infant classes and €44.30 for each eligible pupil in the 1st to 6th classes.

A total of €5,350,000 — an increase of €1,350,000 on the allocation for the 2005/06 school year — was allocated in respect of the school books scheme in the 2006/2007 school year. Of this amount €4,775,253 was paid to primary schools operating loan/rental schemes. The allocation for 2006/2007 included an amount of €0.5m which was made available under the School Books Grant Scheme to primary schools in the School Support Programme (SSP) under DEIS.

Schools participating in the SSP that indicated that they would operate a book/loan rental scheme in 2006/2007 received grant aid at a higher rate per eligible pupil than applied in the case of schools generally. The extra funding is aimed at supporting the establishment, development and ongoing operation of book loan/rental schemes.

At second level, in addition to the provision of grants towards the cost of providing school textbooks for needy pupils, my Department also provides seed capital funding to certain schools in order to assist in the establishment of book loan/rental schemes. These would be schools designated as disadvantaged or which participate in schemes aimed at combating educational disadvantage.

Expenditure on the School Books Grant Scheme in second level schools in 2005 was €7.018m. Of this amount some €0.3m was provided in seed capital for book loan/rental schemes. The 2006 allocation is €7,518,000, an increase of €500,000 over 2005.

The additional €500,000 in 2006 is for second level schools participating in the SSP under DEIS, who have indicated that they will operate a book loan/rental scheme in 2006/07.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 116.
Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 98.
Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 104.
Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 116.

Special Educational Needs.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

123 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on providing tax relief in conjunction with the Department of Finance for parents of autistic children who have to pay for appropriate education in the private sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34139/06]

My Department is of the view that children with autism, in common with all children should have access to appropriate provision delivered by suitably qualified teachers within the school system where children can mix with their wider peer group and have maximum opportunities for integration. The preferred approach to the provision of appropriate education for children with autism, is through the primary and post primary school network, whether through placement in mainstream classes, in special classes or in special schools, a view that is supported by the findings of the Task Force Report on Autism. My Department's ongoing commitment is to ensuring that all children, including those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders receive an education appropriate to their needs and in this regard my Department has established:

171 Special Classes for children with autism, attached to special and mainstream schools;

5 special Classes for children with Asperger's Syndrome;

16 pre-school classes to facilitate the demand for early intervention provision for children on the autistic spectrum; and

12 Stand Alone facilities providing an Applied Behavioural Analysis; (ABA) specific methodology on a pilot basis. These units currently provide in the region of 217 places. Approval has also been given for the establishment of a further two such facilities.

While the question of providing tax relief for fees relating to private education is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Finance I consider that it is preferable that resources be allocated to fund direct provision.

Computerisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

124 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount allocated towards information and communications technology in schools by her Department for 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34193/06]

My Department spent €15.17m under the ICT in Schools Programme in 2005, €5.59m in capital expenditure from subhead F05 and €9.58m in current expenditure from subhead B18.

As the Deputy is aware, the major focus for my Department under the ICT in Schools Programme has been the roll-out of broadband connectivity to all recognised schools. This project is being undertaken in partnership with industry, in the context of the joint Government/IBEC — TIF (Telecommunications and Internet Federation) Fund, to provide local connectivity to schools. The broadband connectivity is being provided via a Schools National Broadband Network supported by HEAnet, in order to provide managed Internet access, email, security controls and content filtering. A broadband support service is being managed by the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) to assist schools with advice and information relating to the roll-out and ongoing use of their broadband connectivity within the schools network. Almost €3m of the capital expenditure and €2m of the current expenditure in 2005 was related to the broadband project.

The remaining €2.6m capital was provided in grants to schools under the networking grants scheme and allied grants to schools, either directly by my Department or via the NCTE.

The remaining current expenditure met the costs of the NCTE and the regionally based ICT advisory service which provide a range of supports to schools towards the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. These supports include a comprehensive teacher professional development programme, the provision of on-line teaching resources via the Scoilnet Portal, the support and dissemination of innovative practice and the provision of technical advice.

School Evaluations.

Shane McEntee

Question:

125 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of individual subject evaluations completed so far in 2006; the number made public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34205/06]

A subject evaluation is considered to have been completed when the report has been issued to a particular school. However there are a number of intermediate stages in this process. The draft report is sent to the school for verification in terms of factual accuracy and then the school is offered the opportunity to respond to the final report before issue.

271 subject evaluations were carried out in the first half of 2006. 14 subject inspections had commenced prior to 6 February 2006 and, in accordance with the the "Publication of Inspection Reports — Guidelines", these reports were issued to the schools but were not eligible for publication. 93 subject inspection reports were published by the end of June.

Therefore, 107 subject inspections have been completed. Of the remaining 164 subject inspection reports more than 120 will be published in the next few days. A further 117 subject inspections have been carried out as part of whole-school evaluations conducted in the first half of 2006. Already 57 of these subject inspection reports have been issued as part of whole-school evaluations already issued to schools and, in the near future, all will have been issued.

Early School Leavers.

Seán Crowe

Question:

126 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in relation to addressing the number of pupils failing to make the transition from primary to secondary level education. [34146/06]

There is no up to date research on the number of children who do not transfer from primary to post-primary education on an annual basis.

Measures designed to improve school completion include the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board in 2002 with a remit to monitor school attendance and tackle the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving, which includes the transfer of pupils from primary to post primary.

Working with parents to promote school attendance is an important part of the work of the Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL) and in addition to this, a key component of the School Completion Programme (SCP) is developing strong links between primary and post-primary schools in disadvantaged areas.

The School Support Programme under DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the new action plan for educational inclusion will bring together, and build upon, a number of existing interventions in schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage. The new action plan is being introduced on a phased basis, starting during the current school year. It will involve an additional annual investment of €40m on full implementation.

As a result of the initial identification process and review process, 873 schools have been invited to participate in the new Programme. These comprise 670 primary schools (338 urban/town schools and 332 rural schools) and 203 second-level schools.

The key principle of early intervention, to identify and help children at risk of leaving school early is a major component of DEIS, with a continuing emphasis being placed on the development of effective transfer programmes for pupils making the transition to second-level, by building on the existing work of the HSCL scheme and the School Completion Programme in this area.

Initiatives such as Familiarisation Days and week-long transfer programmes for new entrants to second level have been shown to have very positive results in helping children to make a smooth transition to their new school. I am anxious that a strengthening of such programmes be prioritised under the new Action Plan.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

127 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures in place to increase the participation rate of people with disabilities in higher and further education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34125/06]

The participation rate of people with a disability in higher education has improved significantly over the last decade. In 2004 the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) recorded that there were over 2,700 students with a disability in higher education (about 2.4% of full-time undergraduates). This represents a major improvement from ten years earlier in 1994 when AHEAD found there to be just 400 students (about 0.5% of full-time undergraduates) with a disability in the sector.

The main measures which have underpinned this success are firstly the allocation to higher education institutions by my Department and the HEA of dedicated funding for the development of access and disability support services and secondly the resources for students allocated through the Fund for Students with a Disability. The purpose of this latter fund is to ensure that students with a disability have the necessary supports which enable them to fully access and participate in their chosen course of study, such as assistive technology and software, learning support initiatives, library services, transport, personal assistants, note-takers and sign-language interpreters.

The level of resources and the uptake by students has grown significantly in recent years. In 2000-01 €1.2m was allocated to just 512 students. In 2005-06 this had grown to over €8.1m being allocated to 2,032 students with a disability in further and higher education.

Special Educational Needs.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

128 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will reform the criteria for students with dyslexia to ensure that students with profound dyslexia who make the transition from primary into secondary school will receive vital resource training help and assistance which they may require in order to successfully complete second level education. [34152/06]

My Department has given a very high priority to the provision of resources to address the learning difficulties of children with low levels of achievement in reading such as those referred to by the Deputy. As the Deputy is aware, my Department implemented a general allocation system in all primary schools with effect from the start of the 2005/2006 school year. The general allocation scheme is designed to ensure that each school has learning support/resource teaching support available to meet the needs of children with high incidence special needs including dyslexia.

There are now over 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to fewer than 1,500 in 1998.

Where a pupil's condition is of a more serious nature, provision can be made in one of the 4 special schools, or 23 special classes attached to ordinary primary schools, dedicated to the needs of children with dyslexia. All special schools and special classes for such children operate at a reduced pupil teacher ratio of 9:1 and pupils attending such facilities attract a special increased rate of capitation grant.

Second level pupils with dyslexia are normally integrated into ordinary classes. In such situations, they may receive additional tutorial support from the remedial/learning support teacher, guidance counsellor and subject teachers.

There are currently a total of 534 wholetime equivalent remedial/learning support teachers and 684 wholetime equivalent guidance teachers in place at second level.

My Department also allocates additional teacher support and special needs assistant support to second level schools and Vocational Education Committees to cater for pupils with special educational needs, including, where appropriate, pupils with dyslexia. To qualify for additional teaching support, under this category, children must be assessed by a psychologist as being of average intelligence or higher and having a degree of learning disability specific to basic skills in reading, writing or mathematics, which places them at or below the 2nd percentile on suitable, standardised, norm referenced tests.

In accordance with the terms of circular letter M10/94, pupils with dyslexia may also meet, depending on an educational assessment, the criteria for exemption from the learning of the Irish Language on the grounds of having a learning disability. Depending on the degree of the condition, they may also be eligible for special arrangements in the Certificate Examinations.

My Department provides funding to the Dyslexia Association to facilitate the operation of dyslexia workshops. This funding helps the organisation operate an information service for members and the public. In addition, part of the funding assists in meeting the costs associated with the attendance of some children from disadvantaged backgrounds at workshops and programmes organised by the association.

My Department also provides funding to schools for the purchase of specialised equipment such as computers to assist children with special educational needs, including children with dyslexia, with their education once relevant professionals recommend the equipment. Schools can apply to the local special educational needs organiser (SENO) directly for this support.

In September 2003, my Department established the Special Education Support Service (SESS) to manage, co-ordinate and develop a range of supports in response to identified training needs. As part of its response to the growing demand from teachers for support and training, the SESS is currently developing teams of trainers to deliver training in four specific areas: Autism, Challenging Behaviour, Dyslexia, and Inclusion. This training will be delivered locally through the Education Centre network and/or through whole-staff in-school support. The SESS provides fees subsidies for the online training course, "Dyslexia: Identification and Early Interventions". Fees subsidies are also provided for teachers to enable them to avail of the Dyslexia Association of Ireland courses.

Training is available through the 21 Teacher Education Centres nationally for teachers using ICT and assistive technologies to support pupils with special educational needs, including those with dyslexia.

The Deputy may be aware that my Department has developed an information resource pack on dyslexia in CD-Rom, DVD and video format, in association with the Department of Education in Northern Ireland. This product has been made available to all primary and post-primary schools. The DVD and video provides support for parents of pupils with dyslexia while the CD-Rom assists teachers who are teaching children with dyslexia in the mainstream classroom.

Stay Safe Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

129 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools now offering the stay safe programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34195/06]

The ‘Stay Safe' Programme, which is also known as the Child Abuse Prevention Programme (CAPP), is a school-based approach to the prevention of child abuse operating at primary-level. The Programme aims to reduce vulnerability to child abuse through the provision of in-service training for teachers, parent education and personal safety education for children at primary school level. My Department is committed to the successful implementation of ‘Stay Safe' in our primary schools.

A survey on the number of schools offering the Stay Safe programme is currently being completed. When I have the results, I will send them on to the Deputy.

Psychological Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

130 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools now covered by the National Educational Psychological Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34189/06]

Simon Coveney

Question:

131 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of secondary schools now covered by the National Educational Psychological Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34187/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 131 together.

The Deputy will be aware that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological services either directly from the National Educational Psychological Service of my Department or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists which is approved and paid for by NEPS.

Additionally NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications for Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations and responds to queries in relation to individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies. NEPS also provides a service to children with visual impairment irrespective of the schools which they attend.

As there has been some movement of staff over the summer months and new staff have recently been employed the final school allocation is not fully completed. The coverage for 2006/2007 will be available in early November (2006). The figures requested in respect of Primary and Post-Primary schools will be sent to the Deputy at that time.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

132 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will implement the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child which, following a presentation by an Irish delegation led by the Minister with responsibility for Children, concluded that class sizes must be reduced at all levels and also raised concerns regarding the cost of education and materials in primary schools, including water and waste charges at commercial rates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34245/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. At the beginning of the current school year there are no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and 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.

As the Deputy knows all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 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 28 children in the school. Next year (2007/2008 school year) this is being reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year, as is the case in many schools. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06.

This Government has shown a clear determination to improve the staffing in our schools and we will continue to prioritise this issue going forward.

In relation to the cost of education materials, water and waste charges in primary schools, capitation grants are the main source of funding provided by my Department to schools to meet their day to day running costs. They are intended to contribute towards the general operating costs of schools including teaching aids and other miscellaneous charges. Charges payable to the various Local Authorities do not come within the remit of my Department. It would be a matter for those Authorities to decide whether schools are liable to pay such charges. The capitation scheme is flexible in nature and affords Boards of Management discretion as to how the funding is used in meeting school's day-to-day running costs.

Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from £45 (€57.14) per pupil to €145.58 with effect from 1st January, 2006, an increase of almost 155% in the period.

The capitation grant is in addition to the Ancillary Services Grant which provides additional funding for primary schools towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services. The standard rate of grant per pupil under the scheme was increased from €102 per pupil in 2002 to the current rate to €139 per pupil.

These significant increases in the funding of primary schools are a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools.

Computerisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

133 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the arrangements in place to allow schools with information and communication technology equipment to access technical support for this equipment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34194/06]

In its 2005 Census on ICT Infrastructure in Schools, the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) asked a number of questions about technical support and maintenance. In their responses, 68% of primary schools, 55% of post-primary schools and 44% of special schools reported that they used the services of an IT contractor, where a fixed contract was not in place, while 8% of primary schools, 24% of post-primary schools and 17% of special schools used the services of an IT contractor under a fixed service contract. ICT co-ordinating teachers played an important role in providing technical support, providing services in 41% of primary schools, 66% of post-primary schools and 54% of special schools. Other schools used other staff members and parents provided support services in 9% of primary schools. Clearly, there are a range of school responses in place to address their technical support requirements.

The NCTE and the regionally based ICT advisory service provides advice to schools on pedagogical and technical issues and in this context the NCTE currently offers two specific training courses for teachers in the area of technical support and maintenance. My Department has requested the NCTE to review the technical support arrangements in place in schools, as reported in its recent Census and to advise me in this regard.

Capitation Grants.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

134 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the levels of capitation awarded to schools by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34207/06]

Primary schools' running costs are met by my Department's scheme of capitation grants. These grants are intended to contribute towards the general operating costs of schools which would include heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, painting, teaching aids and other miscellaneous charges.

The primary school capitation grant has been increased substantially in recent years. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from €57.14 per pupil to €145.58 with effect from 1st January, 2006. This represents an increase of almost 155% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997. Furthermore enhanced rates of capitation funding are paid in respect of children with special educational needs who attend special schools or special classes attached to mainstream schools. The current rates range from €400.00 to €619.50 per pupil.

The standard rate of capitation grant is paid to all primary schools except Gaelscoileanna located outside of Gaeltacht areas which receive an additional €25.39 per pupil over and above the standard rate grant.

The capitation grant is in addition to the Ancillary Services Grant which provides additional funding for primary schools towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services. The standard rate of grant per pupil under the scheme was increased from €102 per pupil in 2002 to the current rate to €139 per pupil.

There has also been significant improvements in the level of funding for voluntary secondary schools in recent years. Since January 2005, the standard per capita grant has been increased by a cumulative €24 per pupil and now stands at €298 per pupil.

Secondary schools have also benefited under the school services support fund initiative. Introduced with effect from the 2000/01 school year, the school services support grant has been increased since January 2005 by a cumulative €28 per pupil bringing the annual grant from €131 per pupil to €159 per pupil. These grants are in addition to the funding of up to €40,000 per school that is also provided by my Department to secondary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services. A secondary school with 500 pupils, for example, now receives annual grants of up to €270,000 towards general expenses and support services. This represents an increase of 83% since 2000.

These significant increases in the funding of primary and secondary schools are a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools.

Educational Projects.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

135 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a primary pupil database will be in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34204/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

154 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason no primary pupil database is currently in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34206/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

188 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science when her Department will publish a primary school data base; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34103/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135, 154 and 188 together.

I am committed to the development of a Primary Pupil database as it will give us valuable data on the pupils in our primary schools as well as enabling us to better track children's progress from primary to post-primary level. The database project is linked to the development of an on-line claims system for schools for the processing of salary claims. The online claims system project will be completed soon and then the primary pupil database will be progressed.

Special Educational Needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

136 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extra resources she will allocate in 2006 to implement the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34098/06]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) recently submitted its Implementation Report which sets out its views and recommendations on a plan for the implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004.

Both the Disability Act 2005 and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 refer to the need to co-ordinate and plan special needs resources in both the Health and Education sectors. The level of resources needed will be considered in the context of the Implementation Report and the Sectoral Plan in relation to Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 109.
Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 116.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

139 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up to date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes of 30 to 34 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34182/06]

Information in relation to classes is provided in the annual census of primary schools. The reference date for the provision by schools of this information is the 30th September of the school year in question and the date for return by the schools is 31 October. Consequently, the details for the current school year (2006/2007) are not yet available.

The most recent figures available in my Department are for the 2005/2006 school year in which there were 101,608 children in primary classes of 30 to 34 children.

In terms of measuring progress, I am sure the Deputy will be interested to know that in the school year in which this Government came into office there were 52,190 children in classes of 35 and over — five times the number that there are now. 1,901 of these children were in classes of 40 and over — compared to just over 200 last year.

I am sure the Deputy will also be pleased to know that there are now no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and 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. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

As the Deputy knows all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 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 28 children in the school. Next year (2007/2008 school year) this is being reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06.

This Government has shown a clear determination to improve the staffing in our schools and we will continue to prioritise this issue going forward.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Seán Ryan

Question:

140 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the provision her Department is making to meet the expected costs associated with the work of the Residential Institutions Redress Board as predicted by the Comptroller and Auditor General; her response to his view that the cost will far exceed the Government’s original predictions and that the burden on the taxpayer will be greatly in excess of the 50% recommended by the Department of Finance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34135/06]

Joe Costello

Question:

578 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of people whose cases have been dealt with by the Residential Institutions Redress Board; the number that remain to be dealt with; the amount of compensation paid out to date to the victims; the estimated total outstanding; the amount of payments made to solicitors to date; her plans to extend the remit of the redress board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33965/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140 and 578 together.

The Residential Institutions Redress Board was established under statute in 2002 to provide financial redress to victims of child abuse in residential institutions in order to assist them in their recovery and enhance the quality of the remainder of their lives.

The Board received 14,541 applications by the 15th of December, 2005, the closing date for receipt of applications. The original term of office of the Board was for a period of three years up to December 2005. I have extended that period to December 2007 and will be advised by the Board whether it will be necessary to provide a further extension at that time.

As at end September 2006, the Board had made 6,639 awards totalling €461 million and had 7,902 applications remaining to be dealt with. Total costs incurred by the Board at this date, including €62 million legal costs, was €544 million. The average award to date is approximately €70,000 and awards have varied between zero and €300,000.

In view of the higher than anticipated number of applications to the Redress Board, the Department included a revised contingency provision of up to €1.3 billion for the total liability potentially arising from the scheme in the notes to the 2005 Appropriation Accounts. This was based on total applications of 14,541, an average award of €76,000 at end 2005 and legal and administration costs of approximately 20% of awards. Recent trends in awards made by the Board would suggest that the average award is decreasing though some 7,900 applications remain. While earlier Department estimates of the total cost of the scheme were lower than the current estimate, the redress scheme is without precedent and nobody could have predicted with certainty how many applications there would be.

In making any assessment of cost, one must consider that if the scheme had not been introduced the State in all likelihood would have been engaged in civil court actions which would have been protracted and traumatic for the victims and would have resulted in the State incurring extensive legal and settlement costs. The Government in establishing the scheme considered it was the just and humane thing to do as the State was responsible for children that were placed in institutions by the courts and other public bodies.

I should add that the decision to establish the redress scheme was made regardless of whether the religious congregations who managed the institutions would contribute to the cost of the scheme. Nevertheless, it was considered desirable that the congregations should make a meaningful contribution towards the redress of past child abuse and accordingly the Government entered into negotiations with the congregations which culminated in agreement being reached in June 2002 on an aggregate contribution by the congregations of €128 million. At the beginning of the negotiations, the Department of Finance had recommended that the negotiating team should strive for a 50% contribution towards the redress scheme. However, it was subsequently recognised that this was not achievable and the Department of Finance was satisfied with the contribution of €128 million achieved.

Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 116.

Apprenticeship Places.

Liz McManus

Question:

142 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of apprenticeship places available here; her views on whether they are adequate to the needs of the building industry and the number of young people who wish to pursue an apprenticeship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34114/06]

FÁS registered apprentices attend Institutes of Technology for the 4th and 6th phases of their apprenticeship training and my Department provides funding to the Institutes to provide training places for these phases. The total number of apprentice training places increased from approximately 4,100 in 1997/1998 to around 11,100 in the 2005/2006 academic year.

Apprentice numbers and new registrations have experienced a rapid growth in the past number of years. Apprentice numbers across all 26 trades have increased from approximately 14,000 in 1997 to some 29,000 in October 2006. The largest increases have been in the construction-related trades which now account for approximately 75% of registrations.

Notwithstanding this increase in training capacity, the level of registrations in the construction trades remains high. In order to alleviate backlogs of apprentices awaiting phase 4 and 6 training in these trades, my Department has provided funding to Institutes in recent years to run additional apprentice courses during the summer months. Summer courses represent an efficient use of resources by maximising the use of existing facilities.

While funding was again available this year for summer courses, it was not possible to reach agreement with the TUI on the provision of these courses. My Department is currently engaged in consultations with the TUI with a view to providing further summer courses in 2007 in order to help alleviate backlogs in the construction trades. Apart from summer courses, my Department has also sanctioned some phased expansion that will yield additional capacity.

My Department continues to liaise with FÁS, the Institutes of Technology and other interested parties in order to ensure that national training needs are met.

Computerisation Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

143 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount allocated towards information and communications technology in schools by her Department for 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34191/06]

The 2006 Estimates for my Department include a provision of €21.418m for the ICT in Schools Programme, €10m capital in subhead F05 and €11.418m current in subhead B18.

As the Deputy is aware, the major focus for my Department under the ICT in Schools Programme has been the roll-out of broadband connectivity to all recognised schools. This project is being undertaken in partnership with industry, in the context of the joint Government/IBEC — TIF (Telecommunications and Internet Federation) Fund, to provide local connectivity to schools. The broadband connectivity is being provided via a Schools National Broadband Network supported by HEAnet, in order to provide managed Internet access, email, security controls and content filtering. A broadband support service is being managed by the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) to assist schools with advice and information relating to the roll-out and ongoing use of their broadband connectivity within the schools network. Over €2.5m of the capital allocation and €2m of the current allocation this year is related to the broadband project.

The remaining capital allocation focuses on grants to schools under the networking grants scheme and allied grants to schools, either directly by my Department or via the NCTE.

The remaining current allocation covers the costs of the NCTE and the regionally based ICT advisory service which provide a range of supports to schools towards the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. These supports include a comprehensive teacher professional development programme, the provision of on-line teaching resources via the Scoilnet Portal, the support and dissemination of innovative practice and the provision of technical advice. The current allocation also provides funding for the engagement of two ICT curricular experts in the NCCA, who focus on ICT curricular development, to ensure a specific priority is afforded to ICT in all curricular formulation.

Schools Refurbishment.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

144 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will make larger sums of money available to schools under the summer works programme to address the cost of much of the work undertaken under the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34140/06]

In the 3 years since the Summer Works Scheme was introduced, over 2,000 projects have been carried out in schools nationwide at a cost in excess of €186m. The Scheme has allowed for significant improvements in the integrity of our school buildings such as electrical and mechanical upgrades, refurbishment of specialist rooms, roof replacement and repairs, window replacement, toilet upgrades, structural improvements and access works. The amount of grant aid payable in individual cases is based on tender outcomes.

Damien English

Question:

145 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools that have had remedial works executed due to higher than acceptable levels of radon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34223/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

161 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools in the State which have not been tested for radon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34233/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

163 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if all schools in the State have now been tested for radon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34231/06]

John Perry

Question:

200 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of secondary schools who have had remedial works executed due to higher than acceptable levels of radon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34225/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145, 161, 163 and 200 together.

The detail requested by the Deputy on the radon remediation programme is dealt with by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. The programme, which commenced in 1998, involves surveying radon levels in schools and carrying out, where appropriate, mitigation works. The programme is 100% funded by my Department and has cost approx €6m to date.

All schools have been advised of the programme and where excess radon levels are located, funding is provided for the mitigation works. Follow-up monitoring also takes place to ensure that the remediation action has been successful. The remaining handful of schools who have not agreed to participate in the radon surveys are regularly advised of the need to do so. Radon barriers are included in the design of all new school building projects.

School Curriculum.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

146 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the projected cost of allocating laboratory assistants to secondary schools to support the teaching of science; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34196/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

152 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the estimated cost of providing laboratory assistants for science subjects in post-primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34111/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 152 together.

Student practical work has been a major feature of science syllabi at both junior and senior cycle levels for many years and science teachers have long experience of carrying out programmes of practical work with their students. Up until recently, this practical work has been assessed through the medium of written papers in the Certificate examinations only.

The revised Junior Certificate Science syllabus introduced in 2003 differs from the previous syllabus in a number of ways that are intended to make the subject more relevant to students' needs in the twenty-first century and to provide the students with a richer educational experience. One of the major changes is that the students' practical work is now directly assessed as part of the Junior Certificate examination.

In addition to the revised Junior Certificate syllabus, revised syllabi have already been fully implemented for Leaving Certificate Biology, Physics and Chemistry.

The introduction of curricular change in the sciences has been supported in a range of ways. There have been comprehensive in-career development programmes for teachers and a major focus of these programmes has been to support teachers in providing an appropriate experience of practical work for their students. Additional funding for equipment and resources has also been provided. For example, some €16 million was made available to schools in 2004 for the purchase of equipment and the refurbishment of school laboratories to support the introduction of the revised Junior Certificate Science syllabus.

I have no plans at present to make provision for laboratory technicians. In the Report of the Task Force on the Physical Sciences it was estimated that the cost of providing technicians at second level was €18.8m per annum at 2002 prices. Provision of technicians in this area would undoubtedly lead to demands for similar assistance across other areas of the curriculum where there is a strong practical component. It is my understanding that the availability of laboratory technicians has not been a universal feature of support for science teaching in second level schools and that in some countries that do provide this type of resource it is confined to certain types of schools. However, I will keep the matter under review.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

147 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of money allocated for spending in 2006 under the school building programme; the amount spent by the end of September 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34141/06]

Funding amounting to €506 million is available for the primary and post primary schools' building programme for 2006. Not only was spending by the end of September ahead of target at €302m, but I am confident that the remaining balance of the funding will be spent by year end.

State Examinations.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

148 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students who sat the leaving certificate in mathematics in 2006 at foundation, ordinary and higher level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34131/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

196 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students who sat chemistry, physics, biology, home economics and applied mathematics in the leaving certificate in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34132/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 196 together.

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, including organising the holding of examinations and issuing the results of examinations.

In view of this, I have forwarded the Deputies' query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to them.

Home-School Liaison Scheme.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

149 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of funding directed towards the home school community liaison service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34202/06]

The Home/School/Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL) is a major mainstream preventative strategy targeted at pupils at risk of not reaching their potential in the educational system because of background characteristics which tend to affect adversely pupil attainment and school retention. The scheme is concerned with establishing partnership and collaboration between parents and teachers in the interests of children's learning. It focuses directly on the salient adults in children's educational lives and seeks indirect benefits for the children themselves.

Currently, 370 local co-ordinators are assigned to 309 primary and 204 post primary schools in disadvantaged areas to work with school staff, parents and relevant community agencies in advancing the educational interests of children. Each co-ordinator acts as a link between home and school, encouraging parents to become more involved in their children's education. The co-ordinator organises locally based activities aimed at encouraging greater contact between parents and teachers and liaises with local voluntary and statutory groups in the area. A Co-ordinator usually services more that one school in an area.

The total cost of the HSCL scheme in 2005 was in the region of €21.9 million.

Under DEIS, the new Action Plan for Educational Inclusion, HSCL services will be extended to the 203 post primary and 338 urban/town primary schools, serving communities with the highest concentration of disadvantage, that do not currently have the service. The whole rationale behind the new DEIS programme is to ensure that the most disadvantaged schools benefit from all of the available supports.

Psychological Service.

Willie Penrose

Question:

150 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of educational psychologists currently working for the National Educational Psychological Service in each region here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34129/06]

The information sought by the Deputy is provided in the table below.

Region

No. of Psychologists

Director

1

Eastern Region (ECA)

10

Eastern Region (Northern Area)

13

Eastern Region (South Western Area)

17

Midlands

6

Mid-Western Region

8

North-Eastern Region

11

North-Western Region

7

South-Eastern Region

14

Southern Region

18

Western Region

13

Not Assigned by Region

5

Total

123

School Completion Programme.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

151 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of breakfast clubs currently supported by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34198/06]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

170 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of homework clubs currently supported by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34200/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 170 together.

The majority of the 412 schools currently in the School Completion Programme, operate some level of breakfast or other meal provision, in accordance with the Nutritional Guidelines issued by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. In addition to being able to use funding from the School Completion Programme, the provision of school meals is primarily funded by the School Meals Programme, administered by my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, and involving both an urban scheme operated by local authorities and a local projects scheme.

The School Meals Programme aims to supplement the nutritional intake of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to allow them to fulfil their potential within the educational system and also to reduce the risk of early school leaving. In 2006, it is estimated that 69,903 children benefited in 1,008 schools under the local projects scheme and the urban scheme provided support for more than 386 primary schools, with 55,000 pupils. In 2006, the Department of Social and Family Affairs has provided estimated funding of €10.4 million for the programme — an increase of approximately 25% on the 2005 provision of €8.2 million.

My Department has been working in close co-operation with the Department of Social and Family Affairs to ensure that the resources available for school meals are used to best effect and to further expand school meals provision in schools serving disadvantaged communities.

Educational research has shown that good nutrition improves the concentration levels of students and that students from low-income families are less likely to have access to an adequate diet. The provision of healthy school meals is therefore a priority for the Government in tackling educational disadvantage.

In relation to homework clubs, many of the schools receiving extra funding from my Department under the School Completion Programme use some of this funding to provide homework clubs. The new DEIS plan also provides for further expansion in this area.

Each of the 873 schools participating in the new School Support Programme will have access to a range of academic supports such as one to one, small group tuition, literacy/numeracy and curricular supports, individual learning plans, revision and study skills courses and non-academic supports such as sports/recreational/extra-curricular activities, clubs and meal provision, after school supports including homework support and holiday time supports.

Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 146.

Special Educational Needs.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

153 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether more leniency is needed in severe special needs cases in national schools; if her Department will review same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34239/06]

Children who have been assessed as having special educational needs (SEN) have access to a range of special support services. The services range from special schools dedicated to particular disability groups, through special classes or units attached to ordinary schools, to placement on an integrated basis in ordinary schools, with special back-up supports.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organiser (SENO), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special needs supports such as resource teaching hours and special needs assistant (SNA) support for children with low-incidence SEN, based on applications in respect of individual pupils.

In allocating additional teaching and SNA supports for individual pupils, the SENOs examine what teaching and other resources are available to these pupils within the school. The SENO also operates within the parameters of my Department's criteria for the allocation of such resources. The criteria are set out in my Department's circulars having regard to the recommendations of the Report of the Special Education Review Committee, 1993, also known as the SERC Report.

Primary schools are also supported by means of a general allocation, which provides additional teaching support to enable schools to cater for pupils with high incidence special educational needs, such as dyslexia, and those with low attainments. The system was constructed so that allocations would be based on certain pupil numbers, taking into account the differing needs of the most disadvantaged schools and the evidence that boys have greater difficulties than girls do in this regard.

The NCSE will review decisions previously taken in relation to individual cases on foot of a request from the school or parents/guardians, when accompanied by relevant additional information that may not have been available at the time of the original decision. The NCSE has outlined this process in its Circular 01/05, which has issued to all primary schools.

Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

Higher Education Colleges.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

155 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to consider the provision of a post-graduate entry veterinary degree course in a higher education college here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34108/06]

There are currently no proposals to introduce a Graduate entry programme in Veterinary Medicine. However, the Veterinary Medicine programme in University College Dublin has, since 2001, had a process to admit a small number of graduates. This is a separate entry route, but not a separate programme: the curriculum followed by the graduate entrants is the same as that pursued by school-leavers. Application is made through the CAO. All applicants sit an examination, the GAMSAT examination (Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admission Test) which tests reasoning ability and critical thinking. Selection for the programme is based on the applicants' performance in the examination, previous third level success and prior evidence of veterinary experience. A minimum of five entry places (from a total of 90 places) has been allocated to graduate entrants every year for the last six years.

Special Educational Needs.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

156 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of places in ABA schools for children on the autistic spectrum that are financed by her Department; if there is financial assistance to mainstream schools in providing the ABA method; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34138/06]

My Department provides funding to 12 Stand Alone facilities providing an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) specific methodology on a pilot basis. These units currently provide in the region of 217 places for children with autism. Approval has also been given for the establishment of a further two such facilities.

My Department considers that children with autism, in common with all children should have access to appropriate provision delivered by suitably qualified teachers within the school system where children can mix with their wider peer group and have maximum opportunities for integration. The preferred approach to the provision of appropriate education for children with autism, is through the primary and post primary school network, whether through placement in mainstream classes, in special classes or in special schools, a view that is supported by the findings of the Task Force Report on Autism. My Department's ongoing commitment is to ensuring that all children, including those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders receive an education appropriate to their needs and in this regard my Department has established: 171 Special Classes for children with autism, attached to special and mainstream schools; 5 special Classes for children with Asperger's Syndrome; 16 pre-school classes to facilitate the demand for early intervention provision for children on the autistic spectrum.

My Department supports a multi-skills approach in regard to the education of children with autism where a range of teaching methods are available e.g. Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis), Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

Additional training supports for staff engaged in the education provision for children with special needs including autism can be accessed through the Special Education Support Service (SESS). The service will, as appropriate, consolidate, co-ordinate, develop and deliver a range of professional development initiatives and support structures to the relevant staff.

Question No. 157 answered with QuestionNo. 107.

Education Welfare Service.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

158 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will review and increase the resources allocated to the National Education Welfare Board in order that it can satisfactorily carry out its statutory responsibilities as set out in the Education Welfare Act 2000. [34147/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

181 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will resource the Education Welfare Board adequately to fulfil its statutory responsibilities as referred to in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on Educational Disadvantage Initiatives; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34115/06]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

192 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of education welfare officers currently employed by the NEWB; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34197/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158, 181 and 192 together.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) was established under The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework which promotes regular school attendance and tackles the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the Board are to ensure that every child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

The budget allocated to the NEWB for 2006 is €8.15m, with the allocation to the Board having increased by more than 25% since 2004 to support it in delivering on its key objectives.

The Board is developing, on a continuing basis, a nationwide service that is accessible to schools, parents/guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people. For this purpose, Educational Welfare Officers (EWOs) have been deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and discharge the Board's functions locally. The authorised staffing complement of the Board is 94 comprising 16 HQ and support staff, 5 regional managers, 12 Senior EWOs and 61 EWOs. Five regional teams are in place with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. In deploying its service staff, the NEWB has prioritised the provision of services to the most disadvantaged areas and the most at-risk groups. This deployment includes areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme where an intensive full level of service is provided. Since September 2005 every county in Ireland is served by an educational welfare service.

In addition to the NEWB personnel there are some 490 staff, within the education sector, deployed in education disadvantage programmes whose work involves an element of school attendance and significant scope exists for integrated working between these personnel and Educational Welfare Officers. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for all agencies and services to work together in collaboration and to ensure that optimum use is made of the resources deployed.

This government is determined to do all that is possible to ensure that every child gets all the opportunities and support they need to enable them to achieve their potential and participate fully in education.

I will be keeping the issue of the NEWB's staffing and financial resources under review in light of the rollout of services, the scope for integrated working and any proposals that the Board may put to me in relation to clearly identified priority needs.

Adult Education.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

159 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science when the recommendations of the McIver Report on Further Education will be implemented; if a timetable for implementation has been agreed; the progress expected to be made in the 2006 to 2007 academic year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34126/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

178 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the recommendations of the McIver Report which will have been progressed this year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34215/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 178 together.

Government commitment to the PLC sector, by reference to the resources applied in teachers' pay, non-pay running costs, student support and certification costs, is very significant.

We have increased the number of PLC places by 60% since 1996/97. Indeed, the number of PLC places approved for 2005/2006 is up by more than 1,600 on the 2004/05 level. The number of approved places in the sector now stands at 30,188.

We also extended the provision of maintenance grants to PLC students with effect from September 1998. There were nearly 8,000 PLC grant holders in 2005 and they received some €23 million in direct support. Tuition fees for PLC courses are also waived.

PLC students are included in the calculation of non-pay budgets issued to schools in respect of running costs. A supplementary non-pay grant towards running costs specifically for PLC schools is also payable. This amounted to €5.5 million in 2005.

Other developments funded by my Department of direct benefit to the PLC sector include the provision of national certification under the Further Education and Training Awards Council and the development of progression links with higher education in the Institutes of Technology.

The McIver Report contains 21 over-arching recommendations, incorporating 91 sub- recommendations. It has been estimated, in consultation with management and staff interests, that the recommendations for staffing would involve at a minimum the creation of at least 800 new posts at a cost of over €48 million.

The recently published "Towards 2016: Ten Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement 2006-2015" has noted that, having regard to developments in the PLC sector, including the McIver report, concrete prioritised proposals in relation to PLC provision, and focused in particular on the larger PLC providers will be prepared and will be the subject of further negotiations between management and unions.

The level of resources for the PLC sector will be determined in the light of resources generally and the implications for other areas of education. The scope for rationalisation of provision, will also be examined having due regard to ensuring appropriate provision, on a geographic basis and the necessary critical mass for delivery of a quality education service.

I want to invest in educational opportunity for learners in Further Education by providing the necessary system supports that will allow the sector as a whole to fulfil its important potential.

School Curriculum.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

160 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students taking science to junior certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34201/06]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

165 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools offering applied mathematics to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34199/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

172 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools which offer the full complement of science subjects to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34179/06]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

207 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that offer biology to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34185/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

217 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that offer chemistry to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34183/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160, 165, 172, 207 and 217 together.

With regard to the number of schools which offer the full complement of science subjects to leaving certificate level, the Deputies will be aware that the curriculum offered to students attending a post-primary school is a matter for the authorities of the schools concerned subject to meeting the Department's regulations concerning provision of the core curriculum.

My Department publishes data on the number of schools offering each subject in its annual Statistical Report. Although the report for the 2005/06 school year is still in preparation, I can provide the following provisional information to the Deputies.

A total of 348 schools offered Science to Junior Certificate level and 12 schools offering Science with Local Studies to Junior Certificate level.

There were 193 schools offering Applied Mathematics to Leaving Certificate level. There were 691 schools offering Biology to Leaving Certificate level. There were 550 schools offering Chemistry to Leaving Certificate level. There were 554 schools offering Physics and 69 schools offering Physics and Chemistry to Leaving Certificate level.

Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 145.
Question No. 162 answered with QuestionNo. 116.
Question No. 163 answered with QuestionNo. 145.

Third Level Education.

Joan Burton

Question:

164 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will appoint a visitor under the Universities Act 1997 to investigate allegations in relation to financial and operational matters in University College, Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34102/06]

The provisions for appointment of a visitor to a university are set out in Sections 19 and 20 of the Universities Act, 1997. It provides that "where the Minister is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for contending that the functions of a university are being performed in a manner which prima facie constitutes a breach of the laws, statutes or ordinances applicable to the university, the Minister may, after first advising the governing authority of his or her opinion and considering any explanation given in response, and with the concurrence of the Government, request the Visitor to the university to inquire into any matter giving rise to the Minister's opinion".

I have asked the Higher Education Authority for a report on the issues that have been raised and I understand that the Chief Executive of the HEA is meeting the Chair and representatives of the Governing Body of UCC to discuss how they may be addressed. Once the Higher Education Authority has furnished me with a report, I will consider the matter further.

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

School Evaluations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

166 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the timescale for the evaluation of all primary and post primary schools under the whole school evaluation scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34216/06]

Last June saw a major advance in terms of the transparency of our education system, as school inspection reports became available to the general public for the first time. The publication of whole-school evaluation reports will ensure that parents and other stakeholders have access to balanced and fair information on the wide range of activities in which schools are involved. WSE reports identify when schools and teachers are working to optimum effect and where improvements are needed. They provide a fair analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of schools in a way that can provide a real indication of school quality. They not only provide valuable information for parents but they also help to foster improvement in schools and spread best practice.

In June 2006 a total of 154 inspection reports arising from inspections in primary and post-primary schools were published on the Department's website. These include 36 WSE reports on primary schools, 5 post-primary WSE reports and 113 Subject Inspection reports. More than 160 inspection reports will be published in the next few days encompassing WSE reports at primary and post-primary levels as well as subject inspection reports on post-primary schools. Looking at the full calendar year it is anticipated that 228 primary WSEs and 57 post-primary WSEs will have been conducted by the end of 2006. The inspection rate may vary from year to year and clearly it will take some time to reach all schools. However, I would like to stress that whole-school evaluations are just one aspect of the work of the inspectorate of my Department.

At post-primary level, for example, in addition to WSE, 449 stand-alone Subject Inspections will be undertaken in post-primary schools this year. These inspections provide very valuable and focused information on teaching, learning and curriculum provision in an individual subject in a post-primary school. Taking WSE inspections and Subject Inspections together, it is expected that almost 500 of the 735 post-primary schools in the state will have an external evaluation by the Inspectorate this year and all schools should experience a subject evaluation approximately every three years.

At primary level, in addition to WSE, the Inspectorate will this year evaluate and report on the work of approximately 2,300 newly-qualified and other primary teachers who are on probation. Because I have been able to increase the numbers of teachers at primary level at an unprecedented rate, the number of newly qualified teachers in primary schools has risen rapidly. As a consequence, the evaluation of newly qualified teachers now represents a very significant element of the overall inspection programme at primary level. The presence of inspectors in a very large number of primary schools in the context of probationary evaluation work has had an additional benefit for the schools through the advice and support given to school management.

My Department is progressing a range of quality-focused initiatives that must be considered alongside our external evaluation processes. These include, for example, the promotion of school development planning in all of our primary and post-primary schools with the assistance of the School Development Planning support services, direct support for curriculum implementation through the Second Level Support Service and the Primary Curriculum Support Programme, and support for school principals and deputy principals through the Leadership Development for Schools initiative.

A balanced strategy that provides support for internal development within schools along with effective external inspection will, I believe, deliver continuous improvement in schools.

Up-to-date information on the inspections that have been carried out in primary and post-primary schools and the list of published reports are available on the website of my Department (www.education.ie) at any time.

Third Level Education.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

167 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to make a decision with regard to the provision of post-graduate entry medical degree courses; the proposals for such courses received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34107/06]

On the 1 February 2006 the Minister for Health and Children and I published the report of the Fottrell Working Group on Undergraduate Medical Education and Training. Among the recommendations of the Fottrell Group was that a graduate stream of entry to medicine be introduced and that all graduates of honours Bachelor degree programmes should be eligible to apply.

It is anticipated that the Higher Education Authority will shortly issue a competitive call for proposals to provide the new graduate entry programme, with a view to additional places being provided on this programme from 2007.

It has been decided that graduate entry will be open to graduates of all disciplines. The provision of a graduate entry stream is an important development in reducing pressures on aspiring medical students who until now have effectively had one chance of entry, based on their Leaving Certificate performance. This will allow students to make a decision to enter medicine at a more mature age and should result in a more diverse range of entrants into the profession.

Educational Programmes.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

168 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has evaluated the Incredible Years programme piloted here by the Clondalkin Partnership; if extension of the programme is being considered in view of its positive results; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34133/06]

I understand that ‘Incredible Years' is one a of number of preventive programmes emanating from the United States of America focusing on early intervention with children and their parents in the context of managing behaviour. I am informed that the focus of the programme is on improving outcomes for children, aged 4 to 9, who demonstrate emotional/ behavioural difficulties in a school context, which can not be addressed through normal good classroom management practice and involves collaboration between various agencies.

A level of co-operation exists between psychologists from my Department's National Educational Psychological Service in regions where the programmes are led by the HSE and the Voluntary Sector, including Area Partnerships. In-service sessions for teachers and other supports have been provided by psychologists in NEPS.

While I welcome this and other well developed evidence based programme that offer assistance to children, to teachers and to parents, no formal evaluation of the effects of the overall programme has yet taken place in Ireland. My Department would welcome the outcomes of the formal evaluation of this particular programme which I understand will be initiated shortly.

Youthreach Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

169 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of places available in Youthreach here; if there are waiting lists for entry to such programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34113/06]

The Youthreach Programme is an Inter-Departmental initiative which provides two years integrated education, training and work experience to young people aged 15-20 years who are at least six months in the labour market and who have left school early without any qualifications or vocational training. The programme funded by my Department is delivered in out of school centres and is managed by Vocational Education Committees (VECs). There are a total of ninety Youthreach Centres managed by the VEC sector throughout the country. Overall, there are about 6,500 places available nationally at present, 3,200 of which are in the VEC sector and the remainder in Community Training Centres under the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Basic skills training, practical work training and general education are features of the programme, and the application of new technology is integrated into all aspects of programme content. The programme provides a strong emphasis on personal development, on the core skills of literacy/numeracy, communications and IT, along with a choice of vocational options such as Catering, Hairdressing, Computers, Woodwork, Photography, Video, Sports, Art and Craft and a work experience programme.

Expenditure on the programme in 2005 was nearly €47 million. In addition, my Department provides funding to VEC's annually to assist towards the childcare expenses of participants in Youthreach. The information on waiting lists for Youthreach centres is not maintained centrally in my Department as applications are dealt with at local level in the centres.

Question No. 170 answered with QuestionNo. 151.

Youth Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

171 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education and Science the additional moneys that were made available in 2006 to promote and sustain young people’s participation in youth work; the basis of her consideration for a special allocation in 2007 for this sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33065/06]

The 2006 financial provision for my Department's Youth Affairs Section is €45.037m. This represents a 9.8% increase over the 2005 allocation. In addition, I am also proposing to make a further €2m from the Dormant Accounts Fund available to local youth clubs and groups on a one-off basis for small scale equipment grants over the coming months.

My focus of financial allocations in 2006 is on the consolidation of current provision, a priority identified by the National Youth Council of Ireland and the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) in submissions to my Department. This includes a 5% increase (over the 2005 baseline) in funding in 2006 for the three main funding schemes i.e. Youth Service Grant Scheme, Special Projects for Youth and Youth Information Centres. Some €8.176m has been provided to the youth work sector by my Department under the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund which seeks to address the needs of young people who are at risk of substance misuse. This represents an increase of €1.091m over 2005 and includes funding for a further 24 projects which have been mainstreamed to my Department in 2006. In addition, a further eight Special Projects for Youth (SPY) were expanded from one-worker to two-worker projects and two new SPY projects were sanctioned in 2006.

In addition, funding of over €926,000 has been allocated to the VEC sector in 2006 to allow VECs to carry out their functions under the Youth Work Act, 2001. Also, a Development Fund for Youth Work Organisations of €300,000 has been set up again this year to assist those organisations in meeting requirements arising from the Act.

Increased financial resources have been allocated this year to other youth work initiatives and programmes including Léargas — the Exchange Bureau, Gaisce — the President's Award and Child Protection programme for the youth work sector.

With regard to 2007, my Department intends to continue the focus on the consolidation of existing provision and on the further roll out of the various elements of the Youth Work Act, 2001 and of the National Youth Work Development Plan as resources permit. This will include ongoing work on the establishment of a Youth Work Development Unit in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and the further development of the Child Protection Training Programme for the youth work sector.

Question No. 172 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Billy Timmins

Question:

173 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up to date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes of 1 to 19 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34234/06]

Information in relation to classes is provided in the annual census of primary schools. The reference date for the provision by schools of this information is the 30th September of the school year in question and the date for return by the schools is 31 October. Consequently, the details for the current school year (2006/2007) are not yet available. The most recent figures available in my Department are for the 2005/2006 school year in which there were 62,596 children in primary classes of 1 to 19 children.

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary in recent years. At the beginning of the current school year there are no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level.

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.

As the Deputy knows all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 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 28 children in the school. Next year (2007/2008 school year) this is being reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06.

This Government has shown a clear determination to improve the staffing in our schools and we will continue to prioritise this issue going forward.

School Curriculum.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

174 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to introduce driver education for school students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34106/06]

I have no plans to introduce driver education, in the form of driving lessons, in schools, and this is not the norm within the EU. As the Deputy may be aware, a report produced for the NCCA by an expert group which included representatives of the National Safety Council, the Garda Síochána, the Irish Insurance Federation, and the Society of the Irish Motor Industry indicated that the research available internationally was inconclusive on the benefits of teaching young people to drive at school. Particular issues highlighted include the gap arising between the time practical skills are learned initially and put into regular practice, and the risks arising from more young people taking up driving at an earlier age.

Nonetheless, I do believe that schools have a role to play both in teaching students about road safety issues and in helping them to develop the attitudes necessary to promote safe behaviour on the roads. The Social Personal and Health Education programme, which is mandatory in primary schools and at junior cycle level, provides a framework under which the generic values and skills which underpin responsible decision-making, and respect for the rights and safety of others can be developed and promoted among students. SPHE has a specific personal safety strand within the programme, and this provides a mechanism through which road safety issues for all can be best dealt with in an age appropriate way.

Specific materials for teaching young people about road safety have also been given to schools. At the start of the 2001/02 school year the National Safety Council, with assistance from my Department, distributed copies of Staying Alive — a road safety resource for Transition Year and the Senior Cycle — to all second level schools. This pack contained a wide range of learning opportunities and activities on topics such as personal responsibility and decision-making, environmental issues and risks and rules for road users. A CD-ROM with additional material downloaded from the Internet was included in the pack along with copies of the Rules of the Road. In the preparation of the Staying Alive resources material, views were sought from a range of organisations with interests in the promotion of road safety. Prior to its issue to second level schools, the material was piloted in 20 schools and the response from teachers in those schools was very positive. This is also supplemented by Garda visits to primary and second level schools during which the themes of crime, road safety, personal safety and substance abuse are explored as part of the SPHE programme. There were some 1900 school visits in 2005.

So, not only is there a curricular framework in place already in which the importance of road safety can be taught to our young people, but this is supplemented by specific teaching materials and by a comprehensive programme of Garda visits to schools.

Finally, my Department will continue to work with the Road Safety Authority to strengthen the role of schools in promoting road safety even further. The RSA has already commenced work on a number of key areas including the development of a Road Safety programme for use in Transition Year. This work is being undertaken in co-operation with my Department and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

Legislative Programme.

Enda Kenny

Question:

175 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science when changes to Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34219/06]

Michael Ring

Question:

185 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the changes she will now bring forward to Section 29 of the Education Act 1998; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34217/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 185 together.

The Deputies will be aware that the Task Force on Student Behaviour in Second Level Schools recommended that section 29 of the Education Act, 1998, be reviewed and amending legislation brought forward. I am pleased to inform the Deputies that the Office of the Parliamentary Council is drafting a new Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which will give effect to the Task Force recommendations. This legislation will set out the criteria to be taken into account in the section 29 appeal process. These will include the rights of the individual student to an inclusive education. They will also include the right of the general body of students and the whole school community to the maintenance of a school and classroom environment which is conducive to learning.

I hope to be in a position to publish the Bill in the near future.

School Staffing.

Mary Upton

Question:

176 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if there has been a change in policy on the eligibility of teachers with restricted recognition, defined in circular 08/99 of her Department, to apply for resource teaching posts in mainstream schools; if so, the basis for such a change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34142/06]

There has been no change in the policy with regard to the qualification requirements for appointment to Learning Support (formerly Remedial) posts in primary schools. Boards of Management are obliged to recruit and employ fully recognised and probated teachers for any vacancies arising for Learning Support/Resource Teaching (LS/RT) posts. Any posts that comprise an element of general allocation hours andlow incidence hours are regarded as LR/STposts.

Teachers who hold provisional or restricted recognition may be appointed to fill Resource Teacher (low incidence) posts in ordinary primary schools and posts in special schools and classes.

John Deasy

Question:

177 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science if a decision has been made with regard to the employment of behaviour support teams; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34229/06]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

180 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force on Student Behaviour, particularly in relation to the provision of additional second level teachers. [34250/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 180 together.

Earlier this year I announced an implementation strategy following publication of "School Matters", the Report of the Task Force on Student Behaviour in Second Level Schools, and that strategy is now well advanced.

At the core of the recommendations of the Task Force was the putting in place of a National Behaviour Support Service. This has now happened with the appointment of a National Co-ordinator and four Assistant National Co-ordinators. In addition, nine Regional Development Officers and twenty part-time Associates have been recruited to ensure the success of this significant initiative. A key feature of the composition of the National Behaviour Support Service is the assignment to it of a senior psychologist and three psychologists. These have been seconded from the National Educational Psychological Service and their presence will ensure that the team operates in a multi-disciplinary way.

In the short time since the recruitment process concluded and its personnel took up duty, the new National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) has been in a set-up and preparation phase. Its work has concentrated on the establishment of a National Intervention Framework for dealing with inappropriate student behaviour. It is intended that direct engagement with schools will begin after the October mid-term break. Initially this will take the form of inviting schools in an area to meet with the NBSS and to hear about their work and proposed approach. Subsequently intensive work will begin with a smaller number of schools most in need of this intervention.

It is my intention that this new service will work intensively with those schools initially selected for inclusion in this development. I have already announced that part of this work will see us trialling the concept of a behaviour support classroom in up to 30 schools next year. I want to emphasise however that these classrooms cannot be, in themselves, a solution to the issue of poor student behaviour. They must be one part of a holistic response which should see a school, actively supported by the Behaviour Support Team, defining for itself a pathway to improvement.

In relation to the Task Force recommendations in respect of class size, I wish to draw the attention of the Deputies to the significant improvements that have been made in the pupil teacher ratio at post primary level in recent years. The ratio has fallen from 16:1 in the 1996/97 school year to 13.21:1 in the 2005/06 school year. The reduction in the ratio was achieved through the creation of 2,017 additional posts and the retention of over 2,100 posts which would otherwise have been lost due to the fall in enrolments. I should add that I have consistently ruled out the creation of additional teaching posts across the second level system as a response to the issue of poor student behaviour. On the contrary I see this issue as requiring focused intervention along the lines now being pursued.

Question No. 178 answered with QuestionNo. 159.

School Curriculum.

Liam Twomey

Question:

179 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of leaving certificate students taking Irish, French, German, Italian and Spanish who attempted the higher level paper in the most recent examination for which statistics are available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34221/06]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, including organising the holding of examinations and issuing the results of examinations. The results of examinations are publicised widely in the media and are also available on the Commission's website at www.examinations.ie. Please see following table.

Leaving Certificate 2006

Higher Level

Ordinary

Foundation

Subject Total

% of total candidates

Irish

12,948

26,437

4,5,43

43,928

86.2%

%

29.5%

60.2%

10.3%

French

13,421

14,388

0

27,809

54.6%

%

48.3%

51.7%

0.0%

German

4,774

2,957

0

7,731

15.2%

%

61.8%

38.2%

0.0%

Italian

150

92

0

242

0.5%

%

62.0%

38.0%

0.0%

Spanish

1,375

996

0

2,371

4.7%

%

58.0%

42.0%

0.0%

Maths

9,018

35,112

5,104

49,234

96.6%

%

18.3%

71.3%

10.4%

Chemistry

5,712

1,359

0

7,071

13.9%

%

80.8%

19.2%

0.0%

Physics

5,200

2,135

0

7,335

14.4%

%

70.9%

29.1%

0.0%

Biology

17,048

7,837

0

24,885

48.8%

%

68.5%

31.5%

0.0%

Physics+Chemistry

458

124

0

582

1.1%

%

78.7%

21.3%

0.0%

Home Economics

8,200

4099

0

12,299

24.1%

%

66.7%

33.3%

0.0%

Figures exclude Leaving Certificate Applied programme.

Total candidates excluding LCA 50955.

A range of measures are in place to encourage the take up of the physical Sciences at senior cycle building on the success of the investigative approach which is a feature of the revised Junior Certificate science syllabus. These will be further strengthened in the context of the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation 2007 to 2013. In regard to languages, the Post Primary Language Initiative operates to diversify the languages in post primary schools and to move away from the dominance of French as the most commonly taken language. The Initiative promotes Italian, Spanish, Russian and Japanese. Arabic is also available.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is currently undertaking a reconfiguration of subjects in senior cycle to embed key skills, and to provide for a second assessment component. The advice on Phase 1 of this process is due in Spring 2007, and will focus on Mathematics, Science and Languages. A review of languages generally is also under way.

Question No. 180 answered with QuestionNo. 177.
Question No. 181 answered with QuestionNo. 158.

School Management.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

182 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has made a decision on an application by County Clare Vocational Educational Committee to become the patron of two primary schools in the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34136/06]

My Department is in receipt of an application from the VEC for registration as school patron in respect of two primary schools. This application and the related issue of the principle of a VEC being a patron of a primary school is under consideration in my Department and a decision will be notified to the VEC in due course.

School Curriculum.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

183 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of time set aside for physical education as part of the secondary school curriculum; if she has satisfied herself that secondary school children are receiving this allocation of physical education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34192/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

201 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of time set aside for physical education as part of the primary school curriculum; if she has satisfied herself that primary school children are receiving this allocation of physical education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34190/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 201 together.

It is my belief that a well planned Physical Education programme has a vitally important role to play in a broad and balanced curriculum for our primary and second level students. At primary level, Physical Education is one of seven curriculum areas within the revised Primary School Curriculum which was introduced in 1999. A minimum of one hour of physical education per week is recommended for all primary school pupils.

In accordance with the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, all second level schools should provide Physical Education as part of the curriculum. The programme that each school plans and delivers should be based on my Department's approved syllabuses and the teaching hours should be registered on the school timetable. The syllabuses have been developed on the basis of a time allocation of two hours per week.

Physical education is an integral part of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. All LCA students must take two modules — Leisure Studies and Health Related Fitness — and there are four additional modules from which they can make further choices.

The Physical Education curricula at both primary and second level have been developed on the understanding that facilities available to schools vary. Consequently, they offer a level of flexibility that allows each individual school to design a programme that can be delivered using the resources and supports available to it.

Apart from the formal curricula, schools can take a range of measures to encourage physical activity among students during the school day and many provide extensive, broad-based programmes of co-curricular physical activities that are highly rewarding for both pupils and teachers alike. In particular, schools play a major role in nurturing and promoting the involvement of students in sporting activities in the wider community. Sports organisations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, Basketball Ireland, the Football Association of Ireland provide extensive opportunities for such participation.

Educational Disadvantage.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

184 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is satisfied regarding the fact that expenditure on educational disadvantage initiatives is more focused on third level than on pre-primary, primary or post-primary education. [34151/06]

A key focus of the Government's education policy is to prioritise investment in favour of those most at risk and to optimise access, participation and outcomes at every level of the system for disadvantaged groups. The wide variety of measures in place for tackling educational disadvantage and social exclusion reflect these concerns. These measures range from pre-school interventions, supports for tackling children's literacy problems, reduced pupil teacher ratios, increased capitation grants, measures to tackle early school leaving and strengthen ties between the school, the family and the community. In addition, there are interventions in support of youth, access to third-level and in providing "second chance education" for young people and adults.

The total provision for educational inclusion programmes in 2006 is more than €640m across all levels of education, as compared with almost €600m in 2005. This includes additional funding for the implementation of measures under the DEIS action plan at pre-school, primary and second-level, additional funding for further education programmes and an increase in provision for third-level student support schemes.

DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the new action plan for educational inclusion that I launched last year, will focus on addressing the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities, from pre-school through second-level education (3 to 18 years).

The new action plan represents a shift in emphasis away from individual initiatives, each addressing a particular aspect of the problem, with the new plan adopting a multifaceted and more integrated approach. This is the first time that an integrated educational inclusion strategy has been developed for 3-18 year olds in this country.

The key principle of early intervention underpins both the early childhood education measure and many of the literacy and numeracy measures being adopted under the new action plan. The plan will place a renewed emphasis on the involvement of parents and families in children's education in schools.

The action plan will be implemented on a phased basis over five years and will involve an additional annual investment of some €40m on full implementation. It will also involve the creation of about 300 additional posts across the education system generally.

Question No. 185 answered with QuestionNo. 175.

Schools Building Projects.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

186 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools in band one by county with regard to the school building and refurbishment scheme; the number of these she expects will have extensions or new schools approved to commence in the coming year; the number of schools in band two by county; the number of these expected to have extensions or new schools approved and commenced within the coming year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34055/06]

As I indicated when publishing the various strands of the Departments Capital Programme for 2006, I intend to move through the School Building and Modernisation Programme in a planned way over the next five years. This is possible with the availability of a €3.9bn multi-annual capital funding envelope (primary, post-primary and third level) over that period to underpin a continuous programme of modernising school buildings. The number of building projects under consideration can change on a day to day basis as new applications are received and existing applications are progressed in my Department.

The Deputy will appreciate that this investment must continue to be targeted using the published prioritisation criteria. Details of projects to move forward under the programme will be published as and when they are ready to be advanced in the context of capital expenditure requirements.

Special Educational Needs.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

187 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will review the practice where schools are allocated psychological assessments in student numbers rather than on need; her views on whether this system is not working; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34238/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are available on my Department's website. Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. Details of this process and the conditions that apply to the scheme are available on my Department's Website. The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance.

In common with other psychological services NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention, in consultation with their assigned NEPS psychologist. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts, will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment. This system is based on need and allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually.

The introduction of the new General Allocation model last year has also meant that children with high incidence special needs can get support without the requirement of a psychological assessment as all primary schools now have an allocation of hours to meet the needs of such pupils.

Question No. 188 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

Third Level Qualifications.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

189 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will appoint a new board to FETAC; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that courses cannot be approved in the absence of a board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34109/06]

I hope to be in a position to appoint a new Council shortly. I have been advised by FETAC that the absence of a new Council is not delaying the validation of new programmes. The previous Council of FETAC had agreed quality assurance and programme validation policies and procedures, and the published criteria are being implemented on an ongoing basis by the staff of the Council.

Providers may submit programmes for validation on an ongoing basis, provided they have previously agreed their quality assurance procedures with FETAC. The process for programme validation takes approximately twelve weeks and involves the evaluation of submissions received by experts in the relevant field. Centres are advised by FETAC that their programmes must be approved prior to delivery. FETAC received in excess of 100 submissions over the summer and it is expected that decisions will be made on these and conveyed to the centres by the end of October.

Garda Vetting Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

190 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science when all primary and secondary teachers, and other school staff, will be vetted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34227/06]

Ensuring the protection, health and welfare of children is a key concern for the Government, for parents, for agencies that work with children and for society generally and I can assure the Deputy that the Government is determined to do all that we can to keep our children and vulnerable adults safe.

In the education sector, prior to this year, vetting was available in respect of prospective employees of children in detention schools as well as special needs assistants (SNAs) and bus escorts to children with special needs.

In order to enable the Garda Síochána's vetting services to be extended to all persons, including primary and secondary teachers, working with children and vulnerable adults, additional resources were allocated to the Garda Central Vetting Unit. As a first step in the expansion of services provided by the Garda Central Vetting Unit in respect of the education sector, it was decided that new staff employed in schools in the 2006/07 school year would be vetted.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that all new teachers have been vetted and the process of vetting non-teaching staff is under way.

It is proposed that in due course vetting will be extended to all existing staff. In this regard discussions will be held with the relevant interests.

Question No. 191 answered with QuestionNo. 116.
Question No. 192 answered with QuestionNo. 158.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

193 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to implement the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government on class size; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34099/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary in recent years. At the beginning of the current school year there are no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and 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.

As the Deputy knows all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 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 28 children in the school. Next year (2007/2008 school year) this is being reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06.

This Government has shown a clear determination to improve the staffing in our schools and we will continue to prioritise this issue going forward.

Youth Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

194 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of funding for the youth affairs section of her Department over the past five years; the priority projects for youth schemes during that period; the benefits that have accrued from same; the other matters under consideration by the youth affairs section of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33722/06]

The level of funding for the Youth Affairs Section of my Department and for the youth work sector has increased significantly over the past five years. Funding allocations to the sector from 2002-2006 are as follows:

2002: €26.066m

2003: €27.499m

2004: €35.545m

2005: €41.004m

2006: €45,037m.

In addition, I am proposing to make a further €2m from the Dormant Accounts Fund available to local youth clubs and groups on a one-off basis for small scale equipment grants over the coming months.

This increased funding has enabled my Department to provide support for a number of youth work programmes and initiatives including long established schemes such as the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Youth Service Grant Scheme, a network of Youth Information Centres, the Young Peoples' Facilities and Services Fund and the Local Youth Club Grant Scheme. It has also facilitated the phased implementation of two major policy initiatives i.e. the Youth Work Act, 2001 and the National Youth Work Development Plan 2003-2007, which are closely inter-linked and provide a framework for the development of the sector.

More particularly, over the 2002-2006 period, progress has been made in a number of important areas including:

Development of the Special Projects for Youth Scheme: This is a key action point under the National Youth Work Development Plan 2002-2007.

An Assessor of Youth Work was appointed in August 2006 for an initial period of two years to support the development of good practice in the youth work sector.

Child Protection: A National Child Protection Unit, based in the National Youth Council of Ireland, has led and co-ordinated training initiatives. In addition, Garda Vetting of new youth work employees and volunteers has been introduced from September 2006.

Establishment of a Development Fund for the youth work sector: A Development Fund to assist organisations in preparing themselves organisationally for the implementation of the Youth Work Act, 2001 was first established in 2005. Further funding has been made available in 2006 for this purpose.

Resourcing of Vocational Education Committees (VECs) to carry out their functions under the Youth Work Act, 2001: A structure agreed between my Department and the IVEA in July 2006 provides for the appointment of 21.5 Youth Officers shared by 25 VECs. Existing posts already involved in youth work in the remaining eight VEC areas will assume Youth work Officer functions.

Establishment of a Development Unit Structure for the youth work sector: The National Youth Work Development Unit is being established on a pilot basis within the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. This structure is seen as central to the development of youth work.

North/South Education and Training Standards Committee: A North/South Committee for the endorsement of youth work training was established in 2005.

Other matters under consideration by the Youth Affairs Section of my Department include:

Reviews of Funding of Youth Work and of the Provision of Youth Information

Continued roll out of the Youth Work Act, 2001: This includes guidelines and criteria for the continued roll-out of the Act.

Terms of reference and work plan for the National Youth Work Development Unit, and

Finalisation of a Scheme of one-off grants for local youth clubs and groups from the Dormant Account Fund.

Psychological Service.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

195 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will allocate more resources to the National Educational Psychological Service to ensure that all schools have direct access to immediate psychological assessments and subsequent supports. [34148/06]

Since the establishment of the NEPS in 1999, the number of NEPS psychologists has increased from 43 to 123 at present. The Public Appointments Service has concluded a new recruitment competition for the appointment of Educational Psychologists to NEPS. Regional panels have been established to allow my Department give greater priority in filling vacancies to areas with the greatest need.

Four additional psychologists have been appointed in September to the Mid West region and one other to the South East region. These psychologists will be assigned to schools following their induction period of two months. A number of other appointments will be made as soon as possible. The recruitment process will continue in the next few months and priority for a direct service from NEPS in each region will be given to schools designated under the DEIS policy.

The Deputy will be aware that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological services either directly from the National Educational Psychological Service of my Department or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA).

NEPS also provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications for Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations and responds to queries in relation to individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies. NEPS also provides a service to children with visual impairment irrespective of the schools which they attend.

Question No. 196 answered with QuestionNo. 148.

Childhood Obesity.

Simon Coveney

Question:

197 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the actions her Department is taking to tackle the problem of childhood obesity through the education system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34188/06]

Our schools promote, support and encourage healthy eating and physical exercise in a range of ways.

All second level schools have been required to provide Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) as part of the junior cycle curriculum since September 2003. The aims of this programme include preparing students for responsible decision-making and promoting their physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. It aims to make students aware of the elements of a balanced diet and the importance of healthy eating for physical and mental well-being and also to develop awareness of the importance of rest and exercise for health and well-being.

Physical education is also part of the curriculum and plays a key role not just in giving students an opportunity to exercise during the school day but also in encouraging a positive attitude towards physical activity which students will hopefully carry with them into adult life.

Quite apart from curricular provision, schools can implement measures to encourage physical activity during school breaks and schools already play a major role in promoting the involvement of students in sporting activities in the wider community. Sports organisations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, Basketball Ireland, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) provide extensive opportunities for schools to participate in sport.

Together, the above initiatives ensure that students not only get opportunities to exercise at school but also learn about balanced nutrition and making good food choices. I believe that schools are playing their part in terms of promoting a healthy diet and adequate physical exercise for students. However, it is important to remember that students spend just 20% of their waking hours at school so schools can only do so much with regard to promoting exercise and healthy eating and the main role must rest with parents.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Shane McEntee

Question:

198 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science the most up to date figures regarding the number of children in primary classes of 20 to 24 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34235/06]

Information in relation to classes is provided in the annual census of primary schools. The reference date for the provision by schools of this information is the 30th September of the school year in question and the date for return by the schools is 31 October. Consequently, the details for the current school year (2006/2007) are not yet available.

The most recent figures available in my Department are for the 2005/2006 school year in which there were 105,663 children in primary classes of 20 to 24 children.

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary in recent years. At the beginning of the current school year there are no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level.

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.

As you know all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 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 28 children in the school. Next year (2007/2008 school year) this is being reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06.

This Government has shown a clear determination to improve the staffing in our schools and we will continue to prioritise this issue going forward.

Higher Education Grants.

Mary Upton

Question:

199 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science when the Third Level Student Support Bill will be published; if it will address inequalities in the means assessment of different categories of workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34127/06]

I announced earlier this year that the State's thirty three Vocational Education Committees (VECs) are to be given sole responsibility for the administration of third level student maintenance grants for all new applicants with effect from the 2007/08 academic year.

The change in the administration arrangements are part of my overall plans to introduce service improvements in the administration of the student grant schemes. These will include guaranteed timeframes for the earlier payment of grants, an independent appeals procedure and more efficient arrangements for handling applications and making payments. Giving sole responsibility for administering the grants to the VECs will reduce the existing client confusion caused by a variety of agencies being involved, depending on the county. It will mean that we can now achieve a greater consistency of approach across the country, while at the same time retaining local service delivery and reducing unnecessary duplication of bureaucracy.

The assessment of means under my Department's Student Maintenance Grant Schemes is based on gross income from all sources, with specified social welfare and health board payments being excluded from the calculation. Under the schemes reckonable income normally derives from the following:

Employment/Pensions;

Self Employment/Farming;

Rent and income from Land/Property;

Deposit/Investment Accounts;

Maintenance Arrangements;

Gifts/Inheritances and Disposal of Assets and Rights;

Social Welfare in certain circumstances.

I have no plans at present to alter the method of assessing means for grant purposes. However I plan to have a specific provision in the proposed new student support Bill in relation to the means of applicants. This will enable me to make regulations governing the assessment of means.

Question No. 200 answered with QuestionNo. 145.
Question No. 201 answered with QuestionNo. 183.

School Evaluations.

Martin Ferris

Question:

202 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on school evaluation reports and school league tables; and her future proposals. [34153/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have taken action, through the initiative to publish school inspection reports, to provide more information, for parents in particular, about our schools, in a way that I believe ensures a fair and comprehensive picture of all the different activities in a school. In contrast to school league tables, I believe that school inspection reports from Whole School Evaluations (WSE) and other inspections, when read in their entirety, can provide balanced and well-informed information on schools. Schools, of course, also have an important responsibility in relation to effective communication and provision of information for parents.

The Whole School Evaluation process involves an examination of all the varied activities of a school — from the quality of teaching and learning to the availability of extra-curricular activities and the implementation of policies in areas such as bullying, and health and safety. The inspection process also includes consultation with the school's board, parents and staff members, and, at second level, with the school's students. WSE reports can provide valuable information on the educational and social opportunities provided by a school. The evaluations are sensitive to the contexts in which schools operate in a way which is not possible with league tables.

I have said on many occasions that I am strongly opposed to the publication of crude league tables based solely on examination or test results. Such tables provide an unbalanced and grossly limited indication of a school's performance and can lead to ghettoising of schools in disadvantaged areas, penalising schools that have inclusive enrolment policies and encouraging an even greater emphasis on exams at the expense of other valuable school activities that contribute significantly in the holistic development of our young people.

Given the breadth of the contents of WSE reports, I believe that the publication of these and other school inspection reports goes a significant way to addressing the real needs of parents, students, teachers and others for better information on schools.

I am committed to promoting the provision of balanced information on schools to parents and I applaud the good practice in schools of providing comprehensive newsletters and reports for parents. I have seen many excellent examples of these and would strongly encourage all schools to do as much as they can to inform parents about their activities.

Adult Education.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

203 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will re-instate the National Adult Learning Council; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34130/06]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

619 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science to outline if and when the National Adult Learning Council will be reconstituted; the annual cost of running the NALC when it was in operation, updated to 2006 figures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34331/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 619 together.

The National Adult Learning Council was formed in March 2002 on an ad hoc basis with the intention that it would be established as a statutory body under Section 54 of the Education Act 1998.

Following the formation of the ad-hoc Council, concerns emerged that the functions envisaged for it were too wide-ranging and were not sufficiently focused. Additionally, a number of developments had occurred which would impact on the work of the Council, including the establishment of the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland and the Further and Higher Education and Training Awards Councils.

My Department undertook a strategic review of the role and functions of the Council to address these concerns. The results of this review are being considered.

Expenditure for 2002 was €21,012.00 and for 2003 was €59,491.00. No further expenditure has been incurred since then.

Vocational Education Committees.

Joe Costello

Question:

204 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects the review of allocations to Vocational Educational Committees under co-operation hours with other institutions to be completed; if her attention has been drawn to the inequality of access to practical subjects experienced by some schools while awaiting this review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34105/06]

My Department allocates additional teaching hours to VECs to support the delivery of education programmes in a range of facilities. Such allocations are made under the heading Co-Operation Hours with Other Institutions and are made in response to specific applications which are submitted by the VECs in advance of the commencement of the school year to which they relate.

The Co-operation arrangements extend over a range of educational services and needs including areas such as Community Training Workshops, Traveller Training Centres, Prisoner education, Probation and Welfare, Special Education, Youth Services, Music schools and others.

The scheme is currently under review by my Department. This review, which is in progress across all VECs, is a wide-ranging review covering many diverse areas of provision. Some of these areas are, of their nature, complex and require detailed research. Notwithstanding this, however, it is my Department's intention to complete this review to the furthest extent possible before the commencement of the 2007/08 school year.

State Examinations.

Seán Ryan

Question:

205 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the guidance given to the State Examinations Commission on the appointment of correctors for junior and leaving certificate papers; the training given to ensure consistency in marking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34134/06]

With effect from 6 March 2003, responsibility for the operation of the State certificate examinations transferred from my Department to the State Examinations Commission. The majority of key personnel who had worked on the certificate examinations within my Department transferred to the Commission in 2003. This retention of experience and expertise ensured a seamless transition to the new organisation and also ensured the continuation of the high standards set by my Departmentpreviously.

The quality assurance processes in relation to marking of the examinations include

A comprehensive training programme and code of practice for drafters and setters of examination papers

Establishment of examiner teams to provide for the marking and monitoring of the work done and for the provision of advice and support to examiners throughout the marking process

Trialling of draft marking schemes before finalisation, through their application to samples of candidate's work so that any necessary amendments can be made

Provision of comprehensive instructions and marking schemes for examiners

Training of advisory teams, followed by convening of Marking Conferences during which all examiners are trained in the application of the marking scheme and the administrative processes associated with the examinations, and apply the marking scheme to exemplar material

Continued monitoring of the work of examiners to ensure consistency, ensuring a minimum of 5% of the scripts of each examiner are re-marked by a supervising examiner, with larger samples or a complete re-marking where the need is identified

A supervisory structure under the direction of the Commission's Examination and Assessment Managers, which consists of a Deputy Chief or Chief Advising Examiner and a team of Advising Examiners who oversee the work of the examiners

Examination of appeals by a person other than the original marker. At the appeal stage, the training and supervisory process continues, and further quality assurance takes place which includes monitoring of an increased sample of the work of examiners, and where the need is identified, complete re marking by a different examiner.

In addition to this, the marking schemes and examination papers are published on the Commission's website, and candidates may review their marked scripts before deciding whether to appeal their result. For example, in the 2006 Leaving Certificate alone, over 352,000 grades were processed, 9442 results (2.7%) were appealed and 2004 results were upgraded(0.6%). The staff of the State Examinations Commission also keep abreast of best international practice through direct links with other examination authorities, site visits to other examination boards, participation in international conferences and membership of international specialist networks such as the International Association for Educational Assessment. These processes place the State Examinations Commission at the forefront internationally in terms of the openness, transparency and accountability of the examination system.

Question No. 206 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

Early Childhood Education.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

208 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the way she intends to address the roll out of accessible early childhood education and care. [34150/06]

Early Years Education in Ireland covers the period from birth to six years. Almost all five year olds and half of four year olds attend junior infant and senior infant classes in primary schools. Outside of the junior classes in primary schools, my Department's main role in the area of early years education encompasses targeted pre-school provision for children from disadvantaged areas, for traveller children and for those with special needs.

Currently, the Early Start pre-school project operates in 40 primary schools in designated areas of urban disadvantage and my Department also funds 46 pre-schools for Traveller children. In the special needs sector, there are currently 16 pre-school classes for children with autism located throughout the country and a number of children of pre-school age are catered for in 12 stand-alone autism facilities that provide an applied behavioural analysis (ABA) model of response. My Department also sanctions home tuition grants for children with autism who are of pre-school age and for whom a home educational programme is considered appropriate.

The bulk of early childhood care and education places in the country are financed by the Office of the Minister for Children and previously by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has provided unprecedented levels of funding for childcare in recent years. €499.3m has been allocated to the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) 2000-2006 and some 41,000 places will have been created by the time the programme finishes. Going forward, childcare and pre-school provision will continue to attract substantial investment under the new National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010. €575m has been allocated to the new programme, which will also be administered by the OMC and aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality childcare and pre-school services by supporting the creation of an additional 50,000 places and supporting a co-ordinated approach to the delivery of early childhood education and care, centred on the needs of the child.

Under the new action plan for educational inclusion DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), my Department is developing supports for early childhood education which will complement and add value to existing childcare services in disadvantaged communities with a view to ensuring that the overall care and education needs of the children concerned are met in an integrated manner.

Actions will initially be concentrated on those children aged from three up to school enrolment, who will subsequently attend the 190 urban/town primary schools serving the most disadvantaged communities. My Department is working in partnership with other departments and agencies in this regard and a strong emphasis will be placed on adding value to the work of other providers by embedding quality early learning within childcare provision. The Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education will provide advice on the future development and direction of pre-school measures for children in disadvantaged communities.

My Department is committed to the development of quality early learning opportunities for children. Following on from the publication of the White Paper on Early Childhood Education "Ready to Learn", the Centre for Early Childhood Development was established and this year published a comprehensive draft quality framework for early childhood education. In addition, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is developing a national framework for early learning, which will be relevant and useful to all those responsible for children's early learning and development. A new Early Years Education Policy Unit has been established within my Department and will be co-located with the Office of the Minister for Children, established by the Government in December 2005 to maximise the co-ordination of policies for children and young people and to provide an overall strategic policy framework to bring together and promote close co-operation between the relevant areas of my Department, the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Departmental Expenditure.

Martin Ferris

Question:

209 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the fact that Ireland is one of the lowest spenders on education among OECD States. [34154/06]

I assume the Deputy is referring to figures published in the 2006 OECD Education At A Glance report. It is important to note that this report draws on 2003 data in most instances, and that as a result significant advances in Ireland's performance on a number of fronts over the last three years is not reflected in this report. For example, total expenditure by the Department of Education and Science has increased from 4.9% to 5.2% of national income (Gross National Income) between 2003 and 2005 arising from a 23% increase in overall spending. The 2006 budget for my Department is €7.9 billion, compared to €5.4 billion in 2002 and €2.9 billion in 1997.

While the 2003 data are somewhat out of date at this point, nonetheless the figures given in the Education at a Glance report do highlight the fact that among OECD countries we had the third highest growth in real terms in total public spending for education between 1995 and 2003 (at 65% for all levels combined). In terms of European comparisons, public spending on education as a percentage of Gross National Income was 5.2% in 2003, in line with the EU25 (weighted) average of 5.2%. As the Deputy will be aware, the increased investment in education provided by this Government has allowed for major progress to be made in areas such as special education provision, falling pupil-teacher ratios at primary and post-primary levels, large increases in the numbers of teaching staff and higher levels of spending per student in real terms.

Along with other public services such as health and social protection we will continue to give a high priority to investment in education in the overall allocation of national resources. Clearly, different tax levels and proportions of national income devoted to public spending impact on these results. It should be noted that, in 2003, 13.2% of total public spending in Ireland went on education compared to an average of 11.0 across the EU25 average. On this particular comparison Ireland has the 6th highest proportion for education out of 25 EU Member States. Our aim is to strike a balance between a relatively low level of taxation by international comparisons and the provision of strong public services and measures to address socio-economic disadvantage.

While this Government has consistently prioritised increased investment in education, it should be noted that levels of investment are the not the only thing that affect the quality of the education provided. In fact, it is very clear from the Education at a Glance report that countries that some of the countries that spend proportionately more on education do not have outcomes nearly as good as Ireland's. In that context, I am sure the Deputy will be pleased to know that in increasing investment in recent years we have also put a major focus on measures to improve educational outcomes. I am sure the Deputy would agree that it is important to ensure that the resources targeted towards education are being used to best advantage at all levels.

In the past, investment in public services was severely restrained by resources and public indebtedness. Today, with the highly successful economic policies pursued by this Government, Ireland is a relatively more prosperous nation and we have greater scope to make further improvements to public infrastructure and provision. It is my firm intention to continue to provide for additional resources for education at all levels.

Question No. 210 answered with QuestionNo. 107.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which pupil teacher ratios here compare with best practice throughout Europe; her plans to address the issue in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34144/06]

Unfortunately up-to-date figures on pupil:teacher ratios across the EU are not available. The most recent OECD ‘Education At A Glance' report for example provides figures for 2003/04 which are now considerably out of date and fail to reflect the major increases in primary staffing in particular in Ireland in recent years.

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. At the beginning of the current school year there are no less than 4000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. 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. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes. As the Deputy knows all primary schools are staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 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 28 children in the school. Next year (2007/2008 school year) this is being reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher.

A further initiative that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year, as is the case in many schools. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned in the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06.

Significant improvements have been made also been made in the pupil teacher ratio at post primary level in recent years, to the point that the PTR at second level was just 13.2:1 in the 2005/06 school year. This Government has shown a clear determination to improve the staffing in our schools and we will continue to prioritise this issue going forward.

School Staffing.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

212 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will address the pressure on schools that have large numbers of pupils whose first language is neither English nor Irish; if she will, in particular, remove the cap of two extra teachers for such schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34100/06]

In order to ensure that children who do not have English or Irish as a first language are not at a disadvantage in educational terms, my Department gives additional support to schools which can take the form of financial assistance, additional temporary teacher posts or portions of teacher posts.

The level of extra financial or teaching support provided to any school is determined by the numbers of non-English speaking students enrolled. In the school year 2005/06, 562 whole-time equivalent language support teachers were in place at primary level and 262 whole-time equivalent teachers were in place at second level to support such pupils, representing an investment of €46.5 million. This compares to 149 and 113 teachers respectively in the school year 2001/02. I am aware of the particular needs of schools that have large numbers of children who need extra help with their English and am currently working on proposals that will improve the level of assistance given to these schools.

Institutes of Technology.

Denis Naughten

Question:

213 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science when the decision was taken by her Department to locate the proposed school of podiatry in a university; the reason an institute of technology was deemed unsuitable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33719/06]

Meetings are continuing at an official level between my Department, the Department of Health and Children, the Higher Education Authority and the Health Service Executive in relation to a proposed School of Podiatry. Pending the finalisation of these discussions it is not possible to advise when a call for proposals to establish the School will issue.

No decisions have been taken on the location of the proposed School of Podiatry. However, the delivery of clinical training, which is a significant core component of the course, must be facilitated in an integrated manner with Health Service Executive services. The Health Service Executive's view is that a school of podiatry would be best located in a large centre of population, one that is associated with a multi-disciplinary health professional environment and which is linked to a major teaching hospital.

Question No. 214 answered with QuestionNo. 116.

Third Level Education.

Liz McManus

Question:

215 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on reports that students who have enrolled in University College Dublin’s graduate-entry medical programme this year, may not have their degrees recognised by the Medical Council; if she will provide an update on the numbers of medical students enrolled for this year in total for medicine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29537/06]

I understand from the Higher Education Authority that the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science currently offers an undergraduate course leading to the award of an MB BCh BAO honours degree in medicine. This degree has been accredited by the Medical Council.

As a pilot initiative this academic year, the School has enrolled 14 students with high grade honours degrees and high scores in a GAMSAT aptitude test into this degree programme. The ongoing modularisation of the programme allows for accelerated progression, and it is anticipated that these mature learners will complete the curriculum within four years compared with five years for the corresponding undergraduate intake.

These individuals will receive the same educational curriculum and assessment as the school-leaver intake albeit with some timetabling differences. The students will be taught in two 45-week calendar years as opposed to three 30-week academic years. The graduate students will receive identical clinical training in their final two years as current undergraduate students receive. The University has made the Medical Council aware of this cohort intake and, given that they are pursuing essentially the same curriculum with the same outcomes as an already-accredited programme, the University does not envisage any issues with the recognition of this degree. The final numbers of medical students enrolled for the current academic year in the institution is not yet available.

Educational Disadvantage.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

216 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason retention rates are included under the DEIS criteria for post-primary schools; her views on removing this disincentive to making progress at retaining young people in school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34112/06]

DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), 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

The ERC's overall approach was guided by the definition of educational disadvantage in the Education Act (1998), section 32(9), as: ". . . the impediments to education arising from social or economic disadvantage which prevent students from deriving appropriate benefit from education in schools". In the case of second-level schools, the Department supplied the ERC with centrally-held data from the Post-Primary Pupils and State Examinations Commission databases and from data holdings for the Free Books Scheme.

Based on an analysis of these data, the variables used to determine eligibility for inclusion in the School Support Programme were as follows:

Medical card data for Junior Certificate candidates (including Junior Certificate School Programme candidates)

Junior Certificate retention rates by school

Junior Certificate exam results aggregated to school level (expressed as an OPS — "Overall Performance Scale" — score). This was based on each student's performance in the seven subjects in which s/he performed best

Leaving Certificate retention rates by school.

For a school to be eligible for extra resources under DEIS, it was considered that there ought to be evidence that a school was experiencing educational problems (e.g., it was below average on the retention variables and/or Junior Certificate performance) and had above average percentage enrolment of students from poor backgrounds.

Question No. 217 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

Drug-related Deaths.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

218 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach the number of drug-related deaths as a result of overdose in 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34381/06]

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

Number of Drug-Related Deaths as a result of Overdose

(I.C.D. 9 Codes E850 — E858/E930 — E949/E950.0 — E950.5/E980.0 — E980.5) for 2004 and 2005

Year

Number of Deaths

*2004

126

*2005

166

*Please note that figures for 2004, 2005 are by Period of Registration.

Notes:

(a)Deaths are coded according to the Ninth Revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death (I.C.D.9).

(b)An external cause code is used for the classification of environmental events, circumstances, and conditions as the cause of injury, poisoning, and other adverse effects. Where an external cause code is applied, it is intended that it shall be used in addition to the I.C.D.9 code indicating the nature of the condition.

(c)In the Table the following ICD 9 Codes are used:

E850-E858 — Accidental Poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biologicals.

E930-E949 — Drugs, medicaments and biological substances causing adverse effects in therapeutic use.

E950.0-E950.5 — Suicide and self-inflicted poisoning by solid or liquid substances.

E980.0-E980.5 — Poisoning by solid or liquid substances, undetermined whether accidentally or purposely inflicted.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

219 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach the number of deaths from HIV, AIDS or Hepatitis C for each health board area for each year since 1986 to date in 2006. [34382/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is given in the following table;

Number of Deaths from HIV, AIDS or Hepatitis C (I.C.D.9 279.8 / 070.5)

1986 — 1st quarter 2006 by Health Board Area

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

North Eastern

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

North Western

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

1

2

ERHA

1

2

5

8

4

11

22

29

26

38

26

Midland

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

Mid Western

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

2

0

6

1

South Eastern

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

5

0

1

1

Southern

0

0

0

0

2

2

2

4

3

5

3

Western

0

0

1

1

1

1

3

0

0

2

1

Total

1

2

6

9

8

17

28

41

29

54

38

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

*2004

*2005

*Jan-Mar 2006

North Eastern

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

North Western

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

ERHA

13

14

17

6

13

21

19

18

10

1

Midland

1

1

0

0

2

0

0

0

1

0

Mid Western

2

1

1

1

1

1

2

0

0

1

South Eastern

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

2

0

Southern

1

1

3

3

2

0

3

0

1

3

Western

3

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

Total

21

18

21

12

20

24

24

19

15

6

*Please note that figures for 2004, 2005 and Jan-Mar 2006 are by Period of Registration and all other figures are by Year of Occurrence.

Notes:

(a)Deaths are coded according to the Ninth Revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death (I.C.D.9).

(b)In the table the following ICD 9 Codes are used:

279.8 — Disorders involving the immune mechanism — Other

070.5 — Viral Hepatitis — Other specified viral hepatitis without mention of hepatic coma.

(There is no code in ICD 9 for either Hepatitis C nor AIDS/HIV so they are coded to their nearest classification code which are those listed above, Hepatitis C to code 070.5 and AIDS/HIV to 279.8).

(c)The names of the Health Board Areas have changed over the time period requested and the current names are displayed. However it should be noted that the Geographical areas covered by each individual Board have not changed and therefore the data is comparable over the time period provided.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

220 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach the number of deaths as a result of methadone, heroin, ecstasy or heroin overdose for each year since 1986 to date in 2006 in each health board area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34383/06]

Information in relation to the number of deaths from Methadone, Heroin or Heroin overdose is given in the table below. However, it should be noted that ecstasy related deaths are excluded from the figures provided below as the identification of these deaths is not possible due to the varying composition of the drug. In addition the classification system being used does not allow for the separate identification of ecstasy related deaths.

Number of Deaths as a result of Methadone, Heroin or Heroin Overdose

(I.C.D.9 Codes 304.0 / 305.5 / 965.0) 1986-1st quarter 2006 by Health Board Area

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

North Eastern

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

North Western

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

ERHA

5

2

4

3

4

5

8

10

15

28

26

54

Midland

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

Mid Western

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

South Eastern

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

2

Southern

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

1

Western

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

Total

5

2

4

3

4

5

8

11

16

28

31

61

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

*2004

*2005

*Jan-Mar 2006

North Eastern

2

2

0

2

0

0

0

0

North Western

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

1

0

ERHA

49

64

65

46

46

40

29

42

8

Midland

1

1

1

2

2

2

0

3

0

Mid Western

1

1

2

1

3

3

5

1

South Eastern

3

1

2

3

0

3

2

3

0

Southern

1

3

3

2

1

2

1

1

0

Western

0

0

1

1

0

4

1

1

0

Total

57

70

74

56

53

55

37

56

9

*Please note that figures for 2004, 2005 and Jan-Mar 2006 are by Period of Registration and all other figures are by Year of Occurrence.

Notes:

(a)Deaths are coded according to the Ninth Revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death (I.C.D.9).

(b)In the table above the following ICD 9 codes are used:

304.0 — Drug Dependence — Morphine type (Heroin, Methadone, Opium, Opium alkaloids and their derivatives, Synthetics with morphine-like effects)

305.5 — Nondependent abuse of drugs — Cocaine type

965.0 — Poisoning by analgesics, antipyretics and antirheumatics — Opiates and related narcotics (Methadone, Codeine, Heroin, Pethidine, Morphine and opium (alkaloids)) The names of the Health Board Areas have changed over the time period requested and the current names are displayed. However it should be noted that the Geographical areas covered by each individual Board have not changed and therefore the data is comparable over the time period provided.

(c)Drug Dependence: A state, psychic and sometimes also physical, resulting from taking a drug, characterized by behavioural and other responses that always includes a compulsion to take a drug on a continuous or periodic basis in order to experience its psychic effects and sometimes to avoid the discomfort of its absence. Tolerance may or may not be present. A person may be dependent on more than one drug. Nondependent abuse of drugs are not included in these figures.

(d)Nondependent abuse of drugs. This includes cases where a person, for whom no diagnosis is possible, has come under medical care because of the maladaptive effect of a drug on which he is not dependent and that he has taken on his own initiative to the detriment of his/her health or social functioning.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

221 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach the number of drug-related deaths in which cocaine was a factor for each year since 1991 to date in 2006. [34392/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is given in the following table.

Number of Drug-Related Deaths in which Cocaine was a factor

(I.C.D. 9 Codes 304.2, 305.6 and 968.5) from 1991-1st quarter 2006

Year

Number of Deaths

1991

0

1992

0

1993

0

1994

0

1995

0

1996

0

1997

3

1998

1

1999

1

2000

2

2001

4

2002

3

2003

3

*2004

3

*2005

10

*Jan-Mar 2006

2

*Please note that figures for 2004, 2005 and Jan-Mar 2006 are by Period of Registration and all other figures are by year of Occurrence.

State Property.

Tony Gregory

Question:

222 Mr. Gregory asked the Taoiseach the correct positioning of the national flag and EU flag on flag staffs over Government buildings. [34538/06]

An updated version of the booklet dealing with the National Flag entitled "An Bhratach Náisiúnta" was produced by my Department in May 2001. At the time, copies were placed in the Oireachtas Library and a copy was sent to all schools in the country.

The National Flag and the European Flag are correctly positioned over Government Buildings in accordance with this publication which states that the European Flag should be flown on the immediate left of the National Flag or as seen by an observer on the immediate right of the National Flag.

Freedom of Information.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

223 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach the number of requests under the Freedom of Information Acts received by his Department in each year from 2002 to 2005 and to date in 2006; the amount of money received in application fees for each year; the amount of money received in information retrieval fees for each year; the percentage of requests coming from journalists in each year; the percentage of retrieval fees that were charged to journalists rather than members of the public; the percentage of requests from journalists for which a retrieval fee was charged; the percentage of requests from members of the public for which a retrieval fee was charged; the average retrieval fee charged; the median retrieval fee charged; the number of cases in which the retrieval fee was waived; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33876/06]

The statistical information sought relating to Freedom of Information requests received in my Department is contained in the table below.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006 to date

a

number of FOI requests received

146

142

45

61

47

b

amount of money received in application fees

n/a

€315.00

€585.00

€1005.00

€690.00

c

amount of money received in information retrieval fees

€791.60

€180.17

€0.00

€35.12

€0.00

d

percentage of requests from journalists

55%

63%

55%

52%

81%

e

percentage of requests from journalists for which a retrieval fee was charged

9%

6%

0%

2%

0%

f

percentage of requests from others* for which a retrieval fee was charged

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

g

average retrieval charged

€113.08

€36.04

€0

€35.12

€0

h

median retrieval charged

€102.50

€48.19

€0

€35.12

€0

i

number of cases in which the retrieval fee was waived

0

0

0

0

0

j

percentage of retrieval fees charged to journalists rather than others*

see columns e & f

see columns e & f

see columns e & f

see columns e & f

see columns e & f

*Other refers to all FOI applications received excluding journalists.

Register of Electors.

Pat Breen

Question:

224 Mr. P. Breen asked the Taoiseach the live register figures for the County Clare area; the breakdown for Ennis, Ennistymon, Kilrush and Tulla offices, for September, 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34411/06]

The Live Register series gives a monthly breakdown of the number of people claiming Unemployment Assistance, Unemployment Benefit and other claimants registered with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Figures are published for each county and each Local Social Welfare Office. A breakdown by postal district is not available. The most recent information available is for September 2006. The Live Register figures for Co. Clare and all the Local/Branch Offices in Co. Clare for September 2006 are set out in the table below.

Live Register Co. Clare and Offices, September 2006

Persons

Males

Females

All Persons

Under 25 years

25 years & over

Total males

Under 25 years

25 years & over

Total females

Under 25 years

25 years & over

Total persons

County Clare total

348

1,663

2,011

299

1,376

1,675

647

3,039

3,686

Ennis Office total

234

965

1,199

175

848

1,023

409

1,813

2,222

Ennistymon Office total

31

233

264

37

205

242

68

438

506

Kilrush Office total

57

269

326

57

172

229

114

441

555

Tulla Office total

26

196

222

30

151

181

56

347

403

Source: Live Register, Central Statistics Office.

It should be noted that:

(a)the Live Register is not a definitive measure of unemployment as it includes part-time workers, seasonal and casual workers entitled to Unemployment Assistance or Benefit. Statistics on unemployment are measured at regional level by the Quarterly National Household Survey.

(b)the exact area covered by each Local Office is not limited to the immediate locality of the particular office. For instance, in the Tallaght Local Office there may be registered persons from the Blessington area.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

225 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the proportion of the cost of each tribunal made up of legal fees, and the amount of money spent on legal fees in respect of tribunals in each of the years since 1997, under the aegis of his Department. [34557/06]

The proportion of the cost of each tribunal under the aegis of my Department made up of legal fees, and the amount of money spent on legal fees in respect of tribunals in each of the years since 1997, is set out below.

Moriarty Tribunal

Total Costs

Legal Costs

Legal Costs as a % of Total Costs

%

2006 to 30 September

3,151,758

2,682,171

85

2005

3,437,023

2,788,040

81

2004

3,610,026

2,712,094

75

2003

3,440,954

2,409,836

70

2002

2,799,057

2,263,221

81

2001

2,242,361

1,640,706

73

2000

2,171,921

1,678,670

77

1999

2,139,665

1,446,407

67

1998

1,685,962

1,357,669

81

1997

553,303

331,305

60

Total

25,232,028

19,310,119

77

McCracken Tribunal (Dunnes Payments)

This tribunal was completed in 1997 and the total cost of the tribunal was €6,655,332. The legal costs were €865,193 i.e. 13% of the total cost and third party legal costs were €5,657,032 i.e. 85% of the total cost.

Planning Issues.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

226 Mr. Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the number of housing units in respect of which planning permission has been granted throughout County Wexford in each year from 2000 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34616/06]

The following table shows the number of planning permissions granted for houses and apartments in County Wexford and the corresponding number of housing units, in each quarter since 2000.

Planning Permissions Granted for Houses and Apartments in County Wexford, Q1 2000 to Q2 2006

Houses

Apartments

Total Dwellings

Period

Number of Permissions

Number of Units

Number of Permissions

Number of Units

Number of Permissions

Number of Units

2000

Q 1

*

871

*

15

471

886

Q 2

*

1,079

*

76

382

1,155

Q 3

420

727

13

138

433

865

Q 4

408

853

11

72

419

925

Year

*

3,530

*

301

1,705

3,831

2001

Q 1

398

1,216

14

113

412

1,329

Q 2

322

884

11

68

333

952

Q 3

269

449

11

41

280

490

Q 4

264

909

13

129

277

1,038

Year

1,253

3,458

49

351

1,302

3,809

2002

Q 1

221

335

10

33

231

368

Q 2

217

300

3

15

220

315

Q 3

221

303

11

107

232

410

Q 4

207

405

16

125

223

530

Year

866

1,343

40

280

906

1,623

2003

Q 1

172

273

12

154

184

427

Q 2

175

391

7

28

182

419

Q 3

176

470

6

12

182

482

Q 4

228

475

16

104

244

579

Year

751

1,609

41

298

792

1,907

2004

Q 1

300

1,078

13

346

313

1,424

Q 2

297

1,169

17

250

314

1,419

Q 3

354

811

16

113

370

924

Q 4

346

711

14

76

360

787

Year

1,297

3,769

60

785

1,357

4,554

2005

Q 1

307

513

9

12

316

525

Q 2

313

763

14

81

327

844

Q 3

311

960

16

76

327

1,036

Q 4

268

435

18

208

286

643

Year

1,199

2,671

57

377

1,256

3,048

2006

Q 1

320

592

9

28

329

620

Q 2

287

1,147

13

274

300

1,421

* Detailed information on Permissions for Houses and Apartments are not available for Q1 and Q2 2000

The Planning Permissions series is published by the CSO and gives a quarterly breakdown of the number of planning permissions granted. Figures are published for each county and each planning authority. Only final grants of permission or approvals are covered, i.e. only works which involve construction. The following permissions are excluded since they do not entail construction per se:

Changes of a technical and business nature as distinct from a building or structural nature;

Outline permission;

Retention of an existing building;

Changes to existing plan;

Bye-law permission;

Refusals — permissions subsequently granted on appeal by An Bord Pleanála are included.

The most recently published planning permissions data is for the second quarter of 2006.

National Identity Card.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

227 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in having Garda identification cards issued to persons who are eighteen years and over; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that applicants have to wait over three months to receive their ID cards; and if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that they cannot apply until after they reach the age of 18 years. [33872/06]

The Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988 (Age Card) Regulations 1999 (S.I. No. 4 of 1999) provide for a voluntary national age card scheme. Section 4 of the Regulations provides that any person who has attained 18 years of age may apply for an age card at his/her local Garda Station in order to confirm that they have attained the legal age for the purchase of intoxicating liquor. Applicants who fail to meet the necessary application criteria may be refused an age card.

Applicants must have attained the age of 18 years and shall present his/her application in writing, on the designated application form, to the Garda station in the area in which he/she resides. The application form must be accompanied by the applicant's birth certificate, at least one other document confirming identity, two recent identical passport sized photographs and the prescribed fee of €6.00.

I am informed by the Garda authorities, who administer the national age card scheme, that on average there is currently an eight week delay in the issue of cards. However, individual applications can be delayed longer than this if the application form has not been completed properly and has to be returned for amendment. The current age card is due to be replaced shortly and a new application process will be put in place which will allow for faster processing of applications and the eradication of delays in the process.

Residency Permits.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

228 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when will a decision be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth who has applied for permission to remain in the State as a parent of an Irish born child. [33894/06]

The person in question applied for permission to remain in the State on the basis of being the parent of an Irish child, born prior to 1 January 2005, in accordance with the revised arrangements announced by me on 15 January 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme.

It is a requirement under the revised arrangements that each applicant parent is residing with their Irish born child in the State on a continuous basis since the child's birth. Alternatively if the applicant is not residing in the same household as the child evidence must be provided that the person concerned is playing an active role in the upbringing of the child. The person in question in this case stated in his application form that he did not reside in the same household as his Irish born child but he failed to provide any evidence as to his role in his child's upbringing. The applicant did not meet the criteria for the granting of permission to remain in the State under the revised processing arrangements and a letter refusing his application for permission to remain in the State under the IBC/05 scheme issued on 6 December 2005. However it is noted from recent correspondence received that the person in question has changed address. A copy of the letter issued on 6 December 2005 refusing the residency application under the revised arrangements has now been re-issued to the new address provided.

In the event that the person in question does not have permission to remain on any other separate basis he will have an opportunity to make representations as to his continued presence in the State.

Garda Deployment.

Joan Burton

Question:

229 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí allocated to the Dublin west district; the breakdown by rank and area of activity; the number of community Gardaí and the areas to which they are assigned; the number in each area; the equivalent numbers for May 2005; his proposals to appoint additional Gardaí to the area in view of the developments taking place in the area and the consequent growth in population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33895/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms. I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (by rank) of the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Division as at 19 October, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder:

Strength

C/Supt.

Supt.

Insp.

Sgt.

Gda.

Total 19/10/06

Blanchardstown

1

2

5

23

135

166

Finglas

1

8

74

83

Cabra

1

10

57

68

Clondalkin

1

2

10

76

89

Ballyfermot

1

12

68

81

Rathcoole

2

21

23

Lucan

1

3

8

57

69

Ronanstown

1

14

75

90

Leixlip

3

21

24

Total

1

4

14

90

584

693

I have also been informed that the personnel strength of the Dublin Metropolitan West Division as at 31 December, 1997 was 513 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 180 (or 35%) in the number of Garda personnel allocated to the Division between 31 December, 1997 and 19 October, 2006.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (by rank) of the Community Policing Units attached to each Station in the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Division as at 31 May, 2005 and 19 October, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder:

31 May, 2005

19 October, 2006

Station

Sergeant

Gardaí

Sergeant

Gardaí

Blanchardstown

2

16

2

17

Finglas

1

11

1

9

Cabra

4

1

6

Clondalkin

1

10

1

9

Ballyfermot

1

9

1

9

Rathcoole

1

1

Lucan

1

6

1

6

Ronanstown

1

11

1

11

Leixlip

4

4

Total

7

72

8

72

In addition, I would point out to the Deputy that the Division's resources are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and other specialised units.

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. Garda management state that 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 three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. 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 Dublin West will be given the fullest consideration.

Prison Building Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

230 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount spent since 26 January 2004 on the site at Thornton Hall including expenditure on surveys, tree planting, archaeology and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33896/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

231 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of contracts for work signed for work to be done at the Thornton Hall site; the number of these projects not completed; the cost of the contracts that have not yet been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33897/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 231 together.

A total of nine contracts have been put in place for the work on Thornton Hall site.

Six of these are complete and three are ongoing. These are the landscape planting contract, the team of consultants appointed to oversee all of the planning of the preliminary works and the site security services.

A total of €2,568,542.36 has been expended to date on works at or related to the Thornton Hall site including surveys, tree planting, archaeology, etc.

As is the case in all major infrastructural projects, comprehensive geological/archaeological surveys were conducted at the site. I am glad to inform the Deputy that, in accordance with assurances I have previously given the House, there are no recorded national monuments on the site. In addition, the comprehensive survey undertaken did not reveal any archaeological impediment to the proposed development.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

Finian McGrath

Question:

232 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 is being used by Gardaí to deal with anti-social activity; and the position regarding other legislation to deal with drunkenness, noise and vandalism. [33908/06]

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

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

The Criminal Justice Act, 2006 contains provisions to deal with anti-social behaviour. The Act empowers a senior member of the Garda Síochána to apply to the District Court by way of a civil procedure for an order which will prohibit an adult from behaving in an anti-social manner.

The relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 will be commenced following consultations between my Department, the Office of the Minister for Children and the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. These consultations are currently ongoing. The purpose of this is to ensure that these provisions will commence as soon as the Commissioner has made the necessary internal arrangements to ensure the smooth introduction of these new procedures.

Separate provision is being made in relation to young people. The Act introduces provisions for behaviour orders for children aged 12 to 18 years into the Children Act, 2001 and the protections of that Act will apply. There will be a series of incremental stages, with parental involvement, preceding an application for a behaviour order. These include a warning, a good behaviour contract and referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme. Only after these stages can a behaviour order be sought through the courts.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána has a pro-active approach to policing anti-social /public disorder issues by immediate intervention, arrest and prosecutions or advice, as appropriate. Local Garda management provide for this in policing plans and make every effort to provide a highly visible police presence on the streets of our towns and villages through the deployment of uniform Gardaí, detective units, divisional traffic corps, community policing units and mountain bike units as appropriate. Garda patrols pay particular attention to areas where the public tends to congregate such as licensed venues and fast food outlets while awaiting transport, so as to prevent and detect incidents of public disorder.

I am further informed that Operation Encounter, which was introduced by Garda management in 2002, targets public disorder offences including assaults and drinking by underage persons.

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

Members of An Garda Síochána are frequently in contact with other Government and non-government agencies, including the Health Service Executive and the local authorities in order to have a multi-agency approach to addressing criminal issues. This multi-agency liaison will continue.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development and promote civic responsibility. The Garda Youth Diversion Projects are funded by my Department and administered through Garda Community Relations Section of An Garda Síochána.

The allocation of funding for the 74 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (along with 7 Local Drug Task Force Projects) in 2006 is just over €6.6 million, which is an increase of € 1.2 million on 2005.

It is my intention to ensure that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. As part of this expansion, ten new projects were established this year and they are located in Blanchardstown, Birr, Carlow, Castlebar, Cavan, Clondalkin, Limerick, Tallaght and Tralee (two projects).

The legislation in relation to noise pollution is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The steps which can be taken where a person is experiencing nuisance caused by noise are primarily a civil matter and as such are outside the remit of An Garda Síochána. However, when the Gardaí receive a complaint about neighbours causing noise, they can request them to lower the noise levels. The Garda powers in this regard relate to ensuring that a breach of the peace does not occur. Complainants may also be advised by the Gardaí of their civil entitlements under section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992.

The Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 was enacted to make further and better provision for the protection of the environment and the control of pollution and to establish the Environmental Protection Agency.

A local authority, the Agency or any person may complain to the District Court regarding any noise, which is so loud, so continuous, so repeated and of such duration or pitch or occurring at such a time, as to give reasonable cause for annoyance.

The court may order the person or body making the noise to take the measures necessary to reduce the noise to a specified level or to take measures to limit or prevent the noise.

An authorised person, shall, for any purpose connected with the Act, be entitled, at all reasonable times, to enter any premises and to bring therein such other persons (including members of An Garda Síochána).

An offence under the Act may be prosecuted summarily by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Finian McGrath

Question:

233 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will put in place safety and security plans at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 9 to deal with anti-social activity. [33909/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is regularly patrolled by uniform and plain clothes Gardaí from Santry Garda station with a view to ensuring a concentrated and visible Garda presence in the area. These patrols are backed up by Divisional Garda Units, including the Traffic Corps, Mountain Bike Unit, Drug Task Force and the District and Divisional Detective Units. I understand that Gardaí attached to the Community Policing Unit have a good relationship with the local community.

I am also informed by the Garda authorities that arising from correspondence received, and following meetings with residents' groups in the area referred to, a policing plan was put in place by local Garda management to target anti-social behaviour in this area. This resulted in a number of persons being either charged or dealt with under the Juvenile Diversion Programme for public disorder and anti-social behaviour type offences.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that current policing plans in the area are predicated on the prevention of anti-social and public order offences; the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy will continue to be central to the delivery of a policing service to the area.

Garda Stations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

234 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm future plans for Mountjoy and Fitzgibbon Street Garda Stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33910/06]

No final decision has been made in relation to the future of the Mountjoy and Fitzgibbon Street Stations. The decision to dispose of the Mountjoy Prison complex and the need to address the accommodation issues at Fitzgibbon Street stations are factors being considered in this regard. I will be advised by the Garda Authorities on this matter taking into account the policing requirements of the area.

Visa Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

235 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a visitors visa for a person (details supplied) will be granted; if, in this context his attention has been drawn to the fact that this person will return to their own country on 16 January 2007; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that evidence in this regard has been provided to the Consulate involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33925/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Dublin Visa Office on 19th October, 2006 and is awaiting examination by a Visa Officer. A decision in respect of the application in question will be made in the coming weeks.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to asylum or family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33929/06]

The person concerned, a Nigerian national, arrived in the State on 24 November, 2005 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of the case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, the person concerned was informed by letter dated 21 July, 2006 that the Minister was proposing to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was, in accordance with the Act, given the option of making representations, within 15 working days, setting out the reasons why he should not be deported i.e. be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before the deportation order was made; or consenting to the making of the deportation order.

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

Missing Persons.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

237 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has seen the business plan submitted by an organisation (details supplied); if he has reviewed the plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33950/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

238 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on reinstating funding for the missing persons helpline based on the proposals in the business plan submitted by an organisation (details supplied); when the organisation can expect a response to their proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33951/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

239 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has or will research the services available to families of missing persons in other areas, such as in England, to look for best practice models; the steps which will be taken to provide the services recommended and requested by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33952/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 237 to 239, inclusive, together.

A proposal for funding the organisation referred to by the Deputy has been submitted to my Department and officials are currently examining the proposal. A response on this proposal will issue to the organisation in question in the near future.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they regularly liaise with other police forces to ensure that best practice is in place for investigations relating to missing persons, including liaison with family members of such persons. If their professional judgement is that some change in the existing legislation, protocols or structures would be of assistance in improving investigations, this would be considered by me.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Joe Costello

Question:

240 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of money that has been seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau in each year since its establishment in 1996; the amount of money seized and still frozen; the amount of money seized and released; the use to which the money has been put; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33973/06]

It has not been possible within the timeframe involved to collate the information required by the deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly when the information is to hand.

State Property.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

241 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department, the Office of Public Works or the Irish Prison Service is responsible for the sell off of the land and castle at Shanganagh Castle in Shankill. [33974/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

242 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council have called on him not to sell the land and castle at Shanganagh Castle; the status of the 6.33 acre site including whether it has been put on the market; the conditions that will be attached to the sale; and if he will ensure that the land is put in the hands of the county council who are best placed to guarantee that it is put to good use for the people of Shankill and the surrounding area. [33975/06]

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

The property referred to is, following a public tender competition, being disposed of for in excess of €20m. The Chief State Solicitor has been instructed to accept the highest tender received and to proceed with the sale. There are no special conditions attached to the sale. The property is vested in the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the disposal has been arranged by the Prison Service.

Officials of the Prison Service recently facilitated a request from the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Manager and his officials to view the property. No detailed discussions on possible future uses of the lands took place nor was the matter raised by the County Manager or his officials. I would like to point out that last year about 21 acres of this site was sold to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. I would also add that Prison Service Officials were at the time informed by the Council that it had no interest in the remaining lands, including the buildings, which have now been sold by Tender.

The proceeds from the sale of this property will be used to offset the costs of the major capital investment programme which I am making in the Prison system.

Registration of Title.

John Perry

Question:

243 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made on the land registry application for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33990/06]

I understand that the Land Registry has forwarded the information requested directly to the Deputy.

I would like to refer the Deputy to my letter of 26 May, 2006 to members of the Oireachtas regarding a new service for TDs 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.

Prisoner Transfers.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

244 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the moves by the British Home Secretary to repatriate Irish citizens who are currently in prison in Britain; if his further attention has been drawn to the number of Irish citizens currently in prison in Britain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33991/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

245 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the contingencies he has put in place to prepare for the possible repatriation of Irish citizens held in prisons in other EU States; the number of such prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33992/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

246 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will repatriate non Irish EU citizens currently being held in prisons here to their European countries of nationality; the number of such prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33993/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

248 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the Irish Prison Service could cope with the repatriation of Irish citizens currently being held in EU prisons to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33995/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 to 246, inclusive, and 248 together.

The current mechanism by which prisoners can be transferred from one state to another is the 1983 Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. The legislative basis for the operation of the Convention in Ireland is the Transfer of Sentence Persons Acts, 1995 and 1997.

The Convention requires extensive documentation to be exchanged between both jurisdictions in order to allow an application to be fully considered. A three-way consent is also required to enable any transfer to take place i.e. from the authorities of both jurisdictions and from the person concerned. On receipt of those consents (assuming they are forthcoming), an application must be made to the High Court for a warrant authorising the transfer of the person concerned and his/her continued detention here.

These procedures are required under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts and must be adhered to in processing each application.

Other than the Convention and certain forms of mutual cooperation in the criminal justice area, there is no mechanism whereby a sentenced prisoner can be transferred from another country to Ireland or vice versa. It is open to countries to consider deportation of non national prisoners when they have completed their sentence. However, the deportation of a European Union citizen from one Member State to another may only occur in exceptional circumstances and a sentence of imprisonment on its own is not sufficient to justify deportation. Each case has to be considered on its own particular merits.

The number of prisoners in Irish prisons who are from other parts of the European Union stands at 114. A breakdown by nationality is attached. It is estimated that there are approximately 700 Irish citizens in prisons in other EU member States. The vast majority of these are in Britain.

I am aware that certain Irish citizens who have completed or who are about to complete prison sentences in Britain have been served with deportation orders. There is no legal basis for detaining such persons in this jurisdiction and their deportation has no direct implications for the Irish Prison Service. I am also aware that the Home Secretary made a statement on 10 October, 2006, setting out his policy regarding the deportation of foreign prisoners from the United Kingdom. In that statement he stated that because of the close historical, community, and political ties between the United Kingdom and Ireland, he was considering treating Irish citizens as a special case.

A new proposal to replace the 1983 Convention, known as "The Council Framework Decision on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judgments in criminal matters imposing custodial sentences or measures involving deprivation of liberty for the purpose of their enforcement in the European Union", has been sponsored by Sweden, Austria and Finland and is currently under discussion at EU level. Ireland, along with several other member states has registered a number of substantial reservations on the text as it currently stands and discussions are continuing on the matter on an ongoing basis.

Nationality

Number of Persons

United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland)

56

Dutch

5

Portuguese

3

Spanish

3

Italian

2

German

1

Danish

1

Lithuanian

19

Latvian

10

Polish

10

Czech

1

Estonian

1

Hungarian

1

Maltese

1

Total

114

Prison Accommodation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

247 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the capacity of prisons here; the capacity of each institution under the management of the Irish Prison Service; the number of prisoners by institution currently being accommodated here; the amount by which the accommodation capacity of the Irish Prison Service will expand for each of the years 2006 to 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33994/06]

The capacity and number of prisoners in prison custody on 23 October 2006, is set out in the table below:-

Institution

Normal Bed Capacity

Number in Custody

Mountjoy Prison

480

463

Dóchas Centre

85

91

St. Patrick’s Institution

217

177

Cork Prison

259

270

Limerick Prison (Male)

271

278

Limerick Prison (Female)

20

16

Castlerea Prison

206

224

Cloverhill Prison

433

408

Wheatfield Prison

378

376

Portlaoise Prison

188

116

Arbour Hill Prison

139

139

Training Unit

96

89

Midlands Prison

447

439

Loughan House

110

89

Shelton Abbey

60

56

Total

3,389

3,231

Where the number in custody exceeds the normal bed capacity alternative accommodation arrangements are made to accommodate the temporary increase in numbers.

The Prison Service five year capital building programme has been prepared, details of which are set out below. The main objectives of the capital programme are as follows:

Provide a predominantly single cell model,

eliminate the practice of slopping out,

accommodate prisoners in a range of security levels consistent with the prisoners circumstances,

as far as possible, operate each prison complex as a single campus with shared facilities,

provide accommodation in anticipation of future growth in the prison population.

Additional Prison Places to be provided:

2007138 at Portlaoise Prison, 61 at Loughan House, 60 at Shelton Abbey, 12 at Castlerea Prison

2008146 at Wheatfield Prison, 60 at Castlerea Prison

200950 at Limerick Prison

20101,400 at Thornton Hall Prison PPP Project

2011450 at Spike Island.

It should be noted that the net increase in capacity will be less than the additional spaces referred to above as, for example, the Mountjoy complex and Cork prison will be withdrawn from service in due course.

Question No. 248 answered with QuestionNo. 244.

Residency Permits.

Tony Gregory

Question:

249 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the entitlement of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 to residency here; and the way they might best apply for residency. [34014/06]

The person concerned was the subject of Oral Parliamentary Question No. 6 of 2 February, 2006 at which time the particular circumstances of her case were outlined.

It was pointed out that the person concerned was illegally resident in the State and was required to leave the State. It was advised that she could reapply for the appropriate visa should she wish to return. However, the Visa Office of my Department have no record of having received a new visa application.

I understand from the Immigration Division of my Department that a request issued to her legal representatives on 13th July 2006 for details of her departure but to date no response has been received. As it is now apparent that the person concerned has continued to remain illegally in the State, it is now the intention of the Immigration Division of my Department to issue notification to deport her under Section 3 (4) of the Immigration Act 1999.

Garda Operations.

Tony Gregory

Question:

250 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is appropriate for the Gardaí to film or video the movements and statements of Houses of the Oireachtas Members carrying out their duties as public representatives as occurred on 16 October 2006 at the Shell installation at Ballinaboy, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34015/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that, as part of the routine Operational Orders put in place by Garda Management to prevent and detect breaches of criminal law during protests, marches and other events are routinely recorded on video by An Garda Síochána. I am further informed that the video-taping of events is intended to record the movement of all persons, including the members of An Garda Síochána tasked with policing the protests. Such video evidence is securely retained and is available in support/ defence of any allegations made which may be subject of investigation.

Legislative Programme.

John Curran

Question:

251 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when Section 185 of the new Criminal Justice Act 2006 will come into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34034/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that section 185 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 came into effect on 1 August 2006, in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act 2006 (Commencement) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 390 of 2006).

Section 185 amends section 19 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 in order to extend the existing offences of assaulting or obstructing peace officers to other workers including ambulance and fire brigade members and those providing medical services at or in a hospital. In doing so it recognises the special demands of acting in an emergency situation and provides explicit statutory protection for this essential group of workers and those assisting them.

Asylum Support Services.

John Curran

Question:

252 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he or his Department have plans to use a premises (details supplied) in Dublin 22 to accommodate asylum seekers or for other related purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34035/06]

The Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), has entered into a contractual arrangement for the accommodation of asylum seekers at a premises in Dublin 22 as per details supplied. The centre will have an overall capacity for 250 persons or approximately 60-65 families. The centre opened on 10th October and to date, a total of 21 families have been placed there.

Residency Permits.

John Curran

Question:

253 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the application for residency here by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 will be processed from their original documentation or if they must make a new application for long term residency in the State; and the steps this person must take to secure long term residency here. [34036/06]

The person concerned should make a new application for long term residency when he has completed 60 months legal residency on the basis of Work Permit, Work Authorisation, or Working Visa conditions. An exemption from Work Permit requirements is considered at the same time. He should submit the following documentation in support of the application:

1. Clear and legible copy of passport, all pages (in the event that the passport has been renewed since commencing employment, a copy of the previous passport must be provided.

2. Copy of Certificate of Registration

3. Copies of work permits / working visa endorsements / work authorisation endorsements.

Applicants are advised that where their permission to remain on Work Permit conditions is due to expire, they should seek to renew their permission to remain with their local Immigration Office while their application is under consideration. Due to the significant volume of applications, the Immigration Division is currently unable to acknowledge applications for long term residency in writing. The processing time is currently 22-24 weeks.

If the person concerned changes address while their application is under consideration, they must notify the Immigration Division of their change of address in writing immediately quoting their Department of Justice Immigration Division reference number.

Garda Vetting Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

254 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the average time it takes to process an application, from the time of receipt to the position being filled, in respect of applications to in the Garda Vetting Unit, in Thurles, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34043/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the average processing time for valid applications for Garda vetting received at the Garda Central Vetting Unit is currently four weeks.

Any further time frame involved in the filling of a position for which Garda vetting is required is solely a matter for the recruiting organisation, over which the Garda authorities have no control.

Garda Stations.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

255 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is intended to open Celbridge, Maynooth and Leixlip Garda Stations on a 24 hour basis. [34049/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed that the personnel strength (all ranks) of Celbridge, Maynooth and Leixlip Garda Station as at 31 December, 1997 and 20 October, 2006 was as set out hereunder:

Station

31/12/97

20/10/06

Increase (%)

Celbridge

12

20

8 (67%)

Maynooth

9

16

7 (78%)

Leixlip

11

24

13 (118%)

I have also been informed that the Celbridge and Maynooth Garda Stations form part of the Carlow/Kildare Division and the Leixlip Garda Station forms part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Division. The official opening hours of each of these stations are as set out in the table hereunder:

Station

Monday — Saturday

Sundays

Celbridge

10am-1pm 2pm-6pm 7pm-9pm

12 midday-2pm

Maynooth

10am-1pm 2pm-6pm

12 midday-2pm

Leixlip

12.30pm-1.30pm 7.30pm-9.30pm

Garda management state that the opening hours as set out above are dependent on the availability and rostered tour of duty of the members attached to each station.

Garda management further state that there are no plans to change the opening hours of Celbridge, Maynooth and Leixlip Garda Stations at this time. The extension of the opening hours would necessitate the employment of additional personnel on indoor administrative duties who may be more effectively engaged on outdoor policing duties.

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. Garda management state that 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 three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. 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 Celbridge, Maynooth and Leixlip Garda stations will be given the fullest consideration.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

256 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of the country’s 144 Garda stations which operate on a 24 hour basis that were established within the past 10 years; the number of stations that were downgraded from 24 hour a day operations to other hours of operation, or were closed entirely; if his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 230 of 10th October, 2206 only applies to areas in which there is a new demand for an expansion to station opening times, or if he intends to scale 24 hour station opening times back in order to facilitate an increased level of outdoor policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34053/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed that the number of Garda Stations established within the past 10 years which operate on a 24 hour basis and the number of Garda stations that were changed from 24 hour a day operations to other hours of operation, or were closed, are as set out in the table hereunder:

No. of 24-hour Stations established within the last 10 years

1

No. of Stations changed to other hours of operation

11

No. of Stations closed

0

Garda management state that the extension of the opening hours at individual Garda Stations is a matter for each Divisional Officer. The extension of opening hours at any Garda Station would necessitate the employment of additional personnel on indoor administrative duties and consequently a loss to outdoor operational policing.

Garda management further state that there are currently no proposals to change opening times in 24 hour Garda stations. 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 three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. 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 all Garda Stations will be given the fullest consideration.

Residency Permits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

257 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who, in accordance with correspondence received from his Department on 22 February 2006, has taken up employment, will have confirmed that their permission to remain in the State remains granted on the basis that they have sufficient funds to maintain themselves and is not a burden on the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34065/06]

The Immigration Division of my Department has received correspondence from the person concerned. They will be in touch with her in due course in relation to her immigration status.

Citizenship Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

258 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm that his Department received an application for citizenship by naturalisation from a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath in 2004; the current status of the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34066/06]

An application from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 1 June 2004. I am advised by my officials that processing of the application of the person concerned has commenced. When this is completed, I will advise both the Deputy and the applicant of my decision.

Garda Vetting Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

259 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, who was allegedly arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, despite the fact that they claim to have never been arrested, never accused of drunken driving and never in a criminal court, can appear on a vetting request; the way fingerprints can match when the person in question is puzzled with the details; if he will examine this case, and request details from the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34072/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, in October 2005, an application for criminal history vetting was received at the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) from the Health Service Executive (HSE) in respect of the person in question. On this vetting application, previous residential addresses in the United Kingdom (UK) were supplied, and a Garda enquiry was made with the relevant UK authorities in respect of these. The resultant reply indicated that the person in question had previous convictions in a former name in the UK. The HSE was duly advised of this information in January 2006.

The disclosed information was disputed by the person in question. Accordingly, in September 2006, the person provided a set of her fingerprints to the Garda authorities for the purpose of verifying identity. These fingerprints were forwarded to the relevant UK authorities, which indicated a positive match with their records. The HSE was advised of this on 12 October, 2006.

I am further informed that correspondence has now been received by the GCVU from the legal representative of the person in question and that further enquiries are been made with the relevant UK authorities. In the circumstances, I consider that it is appropriate to await the outcome of these further inquiries.

Visa Applications.

John Perry

Question:

260 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the application for a tourist visa by a person (details supplied) in view of correspondence which has been issued to his officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34073/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Dublin Visa Office on 4th October, 2006 and is awaiting examination by a Visa Officer. A decision in respect of the application in question will be made in the near future.

Garda Operations.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

261 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost to the Exchequer of the ongoing security operation at Shannon Airport by the Gardaí including an annual breakdown since 2002; and his views on whether the operation is necessary and is money well spent. [34093/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the cost, excluding basic salaries, of ongoing Garda policing arrangements at Shannon Airport is as follows:

Year

Expenditure

2002

486,603

2003

762,999

2004

975,091

2005

738,018

2006 (as of September)

1,309,008

Total

4,217,719

Pursuant to the Garda Síochána Act 2005, it is the function of the Garda Síochána to provide policing services for the State with the objective of, inter alia, preserving peace and public order, protecting life and property and preventing crime.

In this context, the Garda authorities are required to allocate resources in an appropriate fashion to, inter alia, protect critical State infrastructures in accordance with assessed threat, so it is the latter which ultimately determines the associated costs. I am satisfied that Garda policing arrangements at Shannon Airport remain both necessary and appropriate.

Garda Strength.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

262 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide the wage bill and overtime costs to Gardaí serving in the Clare Division in 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006 and the number of Gardaí serving in the division in each of the three years concerned. [34094/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Clare Division as at 31 December 1997, 31 December, 2004, 31 December, 2005 and as at 12 October, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder:

31/12/97

31/12/04

31/12/05

12/10/06

219

259

261

318

This represents an increase of 99 (or 45%) in the number of personnel allocated to the Clare Division since 31 December, 1997 and an increase of 59 (or 23%) in the number of personnel allocated since 31 December, 2004. I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that the total salary and overtime bill in respect of Gardaí serving in the Clare Division for 2004, 2005 and to 12 October, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder:

31/12/2004

31/12/2005

12/10/2006

Salaries, PRSI and Allowances

13,516,843

14,127,278

12,705,351

Overtime

1,060,228

1,227,685

1,467,599

Total

14,577,071

15,354,963

14,172,950

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. Garda management state that 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 three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. 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 Clare Division will be given the fullest consideration.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

263 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convictions for drug offences in the Clare Garda Division in 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; and the number of samples that have been sent away for analysis in the same period. [34095/06]

It has not been possible, within the timeframe available, to collate the information required by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly when the information is to hand.

Illegal Fireworks.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

264 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the changes made to the Explosive Act 1875, relating to possession of fireworks without a licence, in the last year; the amount of illegal fireworks seized to date in 2006; the numbers of fines and penalties imposed for same; the number of seizures of fireworks for the past three years; if he could give a breakdown of figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34162/06]

The Explosives Act, 1875 provides for control of the importation, manufacture, storage and sale of fireworks. The 1875 Act was amended by the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 which came into effect on 1 August, 2006. These amendments provide for new offences governing the misuse of fireworks in public places and an offence of possession of illegally imported fireworks with intent to supply. They also provide for significantly increased penalties governing the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks.

Under the new provisions it is an offence

for any person to possess a firework with intent to sell or supply, without a licence,

to throw an ignited firework at any person or property, and

to light unlicensed fireworks in a public place.

The penalty for such offences is as follows:

a fine of up to €2,500 or 6 months imprisonment or both on summary conviction, and

a fine of up to €10,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both on conviction on indictment.

The simple possession of fireworks without a licence is also an offence for which a person may be liable to a fine of up to €10,000.

As the Deputy will appreciate the new provisions only came into effect on 1 August last and there have been no fines or convictions recorded for fireworks offences in the information available to date in 2006. Operation Tombola, the annual Garda operation to combat the illegal sale of fireworks, was launched in September this year. To date this year there have been thirty seizures of fireworks, with a total value of €86,966. The following table details the number of seizures of illegal fireworks and approximate value in recent years.

Year

No. of Seizures

Estimated Value

2006

30

86,966

2005

126

454,760

2004

34

170,000

Citizenship Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

265 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) will receive certification of their Irish citizenship. [34177/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a certificate of Irish citizenship for the person referred to was issued on 19 October 2006 by the Citizenship section of my Department. As the declaration was lodged originally at the Irish Embassy in London, the certificate has been forwarded to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin for transmission to officials at the Embassy, who will then issue it to the person concerned.

Crime Prevention.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

266 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda youth diversion projects that have been established in the country and the location of each project. [34363/06]

Garda youth diversion projects are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seek to divert young persons from becoming involved — or further involved — in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda/community relations. The number of projects has increased from 12 in 1997 to 74 at present, a process made possible, in part, by funding under the National Development Plan 2000 — 2006. Some 71 of the projects are in operation with three under review.

The allocation of funding for the 74 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (along with seven Local Drug Task Force Projects) in 2006 is just over €6.6 million, which is an increase of €1.2 million on 2005. It is my intention to ensure that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. As part of this expansion, ten new projects were established this year and they are located in Blanchardstown, Birr, Carlow, Castlebar, Cavan, Clondalkin, Limerick, Tallaght and Tralee (two projects).

The 74 Garda Youth Diversion Projects and 7 Local Drugs Taskforce Projects currently in place are as follows:

Project

Location

Able

Ballyfermot, Dublin

ACORN

Edenderry, Offaly

ALF

Athlone, Westmeath

Arrest Referral Scheme (Drugs Project)

Dublin

BAP (Ballincollig)

Innishmore.

BALL

Ballybeg, Waterford

BAN

Ballybane, Galway

Bandon Youth

Bandon, Cork

BAPADE

Killarney, Kerry

BAY

Ballymun, Dublin

BLOCK

Portlaoise, Laois

BOYNE

Drogheda, Louth

Bray New Directions

Bray, Co. Wicklow

Bris

Westside, Galway

Cabra Step-Up

Cabra, Dublin

Cavan

Cavan Town

Clonmel (CYD)

Clonmel, Tipperary

CODY

Cherry Orchard, Dublin

Connect 7

Tralee, Kerry

Corpus Christi Youth DG

Moyross, Limerick

CYAP

Castlebar

DAN

Donore Avenue, Dublin

DAY

Dungarvan, Waterford

DIME

North Inner City, Dublin

Ennis Youth Project

Ennis, Clare

EYE

Mullingar, Westmeath

FAN

Finglas, Dublin

FAYER

Farranree, Cork

Feabhas

Midleton/Cobh, Cork

GAP

The Glen, Cork

GRAFT

Ronanstown, Dublin

HAY

St. Agathas, Dublin

High Voltage

Dundalk, Louth

HUB

Carlow

JAY

Jobstown, Dublin

Junction

Ballinasloe, Galway

Just Us

Tralee, Kerry

KEY

Killinarden, Tallaght

Kilkenny

Kilkenny

Kings Island

Limerick

Knocknaheeny/Holyhill

Knocknaheeny, Cork

Knocknaheeny/Holyhill (Drugs Project)

Cork

LAB

Loughlinstown/Ballybrack, Dublin

LEAF

Raphoe, Co. Donegal

LEAP

Longford

LSCYI

Southill, Limerick

MAY

Mahon, Cork

MAY (Drugs Project)

Cork

Mayfield (Drugs Project)

Cork

Monaghan NYP

Monaghan

MOST

Phoenix Park, Dublin

MY

Tralee, Co. Kerry

Neighbourhood Policing Unit (Drugs Project)

Cork

NICKOL

North Inner City, Dublin

Northside (Ballynanty)

Ballynanty, Limerick

NYPD

Navan, Meath

ORB

Blanchardstown, Co. Dublin

PACT Waterford

Waterford

Poodle Close

Dublin

RAD (Roscommon)

Roscommon

SAFE

Clonard/Coolcotts, Wexford

SAY

Sandyford, Dublin

Sli Eile

Tullamore

SMART

Trim, Meath

STAY

Tallaght, Co. Dublin

SUB

Birr, Co. Offaly

SWAY

Waterford

SWIFT

Clondalkin, Dublin

TACT

Togher, Cork

TEAM

Dundalk, Louth

The Valley

Ronanstown, Co. Dublin

Togher Link-Up (Drugs Project)

Cork

WAY

Wicklow

WEB

Blanchardstown, Dublin

WEB (Drugs Project)

Dublin

Woodale

Darndale, Dublin

YAB (Ballina)

Ballina, Mayo

YAK

Kilmore, Dublin

YAPS

Sligo Town

YEW

Whitechurch, Dublin

YIS

Oliver Bond Street, Dublin

Dinny McGinley

Question:

267 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a Garda youth diversion project has been established in a Gaeltacht area here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34364/06]

Garda youth diversion project guidelines have been developed to deal with the establishment, operation, administration and monitoring of projects. In accordance with the Guidelines, proposals to establish new Garda youth diversion projects are forwarded to the Garda Commissioner for consideration and recommendation to my Department. Projects are established when resources permit and in locations where it is considered this method of intervention is most needed. I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently no Garda youth diversion projects operating through the medium of Irish or established covering a location which is a Gaeltacht area.

Drugs in Prisons.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

268 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drug-related deaths as a result of overdose in prison each year since 1986 to date in 2006; the drug involved if established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34385/06]

The information sought by the Deputy on the deaths attributed to drug overdose during the period 1986 — 2006 (to date) together with details of the drug involved, if established, is not readily available. It will require an examination of the individual files concerned. I am arranging for this work to be carried out and will communicate further with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

269 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the value of illegal drugs confiscated in prisons since 1986 to date in 2006; and the number of prosecutions for drug possession initiated and concluded for each year. [34386/06]

The compilation of these statistics would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort to prepare and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources.

Prison Accommodation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

270 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners incarcerated on 1 November each year since 1986; and the number of beds in the prison service at that time. [34387/06]

The bed capacity and number of prisoners in prison custody for the dates requested are set out in the following table:

Date

Design Capacity

Bed Capacity

Number in Custody

1 November, 1986

Not available

Not available

1,901

1 November, 1987

Not available

Not available

1,934

1 November, 1988

Not available

Not available

1,958

1 November, 1989

Not available

Not available

2,057

1 November, 1990

Not available

Not available

2,131

1 November, 1991

Not available

Not available

2,141

1 November, 1992

Not available

Not available

2,161

1 November, 1993

Not available

2,224

2,111

1 November, 1994

Not available

2,233

2,142

1 November, 1995

Not available

2,195

2,113

1 November, 1996

Not available

2,251

2,256

1 November, 1997

Not available

2,358

2,463

1 November, 1998

2,385

2,793

2,793

1 November, 1999

2,382

2,798

2,767

1 November, 2000

3,372

3,771

2,971

1 November, 2001

3,372

3,509

3,177

1 November, 2002

3,372

3,489

3,163

1 November, 2003

3,312

3,412

3,208

1 November, 2004

3,291

3,336

3,209

1 November, 2005

3,293

3,352

3,070

The increase in bed capacity in the period 1997 to 1998 followed the opening of Castlerea Prison as well as additional places being provided in Wheatfield and the ‘D' Wing in Limerick Prison. The opening of Cloverhill Prison, the Midlands Prison and Dochas Centre between late 1999 and 2000 is reflected in the increase in bed capacity from 1 November 1999 to 1 November 2000. In the following year, the bed capacity in Mountjoy reduced with the closure of the ‘A' Wing and Separation Unit. The closure of Shanganagh Castle in late 2002 and The Curragh and Fort Mitchel Places of Detention in early 2004 led to further reductions. However, the impact of these closures was partly offset by the opening of the new ‘C' Block in Limerick Prison which provided an additional 100 beds. In May 2005, following refurbishment, an additional 25 beds were made available in Loughan House.

The Deputy should note that as I have stated in previous replies, accommodating prisoners is not simply a matter of matching the global prisoner population to a global figure for beds or cells. A number of factors have to be taken into account including the prisoner's age, gender, the nature of the offence, location, security and whether they are on remand or sentenced. The opening of the new C Block in Portlaoise in 2007 will realise a further 150 spaces while new developments in Spike Island and Thornton will see a massive expansion in capacity, providing prisoners with predominantly single cell accommodation with in-cell sanitation facilities.

The excess of bed capacity over the design capacity became necessary to accommodate the ongoing demands of prison spaces during the periods concerned. The figures supplied illustrate a significant reduction in the differences between the design capacity and bed capacity of the system over the last number of years.

Drug Treatment Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

271 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners undergoing methadone treatment per prison per year since 1986 to date in 2006. [34388/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

272 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of addicts registered with the prison’s medical authorities for other drug treatment services while in prison, per prison, per year since 1986 to date in 2006. [34389/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 271 and 272 together.

Prior to 2000, there was no systematic recording of the number of prisoners receiving methadone treatment in the Irish Prison Service. Such treatment consisted almost exclusively of brief methadone detoxification provided in prisons in the Dublin area. The position changed in 2000 in that after 2000 the number of prisoners who have received methadone treatment while in prison has increased significantly. While not directly comparable to subsequent years because the changes took place during the year, five persons in the Dochas Centre, 46 in Mountjoy Prison and 17 in Wheatfield Prison received methadone treatment in the calendar year 2000.

The annual figures for 2001 to 2005 (as reported to the Central Treatment List) are as follows:

2001

Cloverhill

306

Dóchas Centre

250

Limerick Prison

16

Mountjoy Prison

339

St Patrick’s Institution

20

Wheatfield Prison

85

Total

1,016

2002

Cloverhill Prison

343

Dóchas Centre

260

Limerick Prison

14

Mountjoy Prison

376

Portlaoise Prison

8

St. Patrick’s Institution

21

Wheatfield Prison

148

Total

1,170

2003

Cloverhill Prison

591

Dóchas Centre

257

Limerick Prison

15

Mountjoy Prison

592

Portlaoise Prison

30

St. Patrick’s Institution

43

Wheatfield Prison

226

Total

1,754

2004

Cloverhill Prison

528

Dóchas Centre

211

Limerick Prison

3

Mountjoy Prison

394

Midlands Prison

6

Portlaoise Prison

6

St. Patrick’s Institution.

3

Wheatfield Prison

158

Total

1,309

2005

Cloverhill Prison

571

Dóchas Centre

228

Limerick Prison

4

Midlands Prison

6

Mountjoy Prison

590

Portlaoise Prison

3

St. Patrick’s Institution.

1

Wheatfield Prison

162

Total

1,565

Accurate figures for 2006 will not be available until the end of this year.

The number of prisoners who take part in other drug treatment programmes is not routinely collected. Prisoners have access to a variety of services to address difficulties associated with drug misuse including health, psychology and counselling services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

273 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps that are taken to ensure that prisoners in receipt of drug-related treatment while incarcerated have continuity of treatment when released. [34390/06]

As part of the overall drug treatment process all possible steps are taken to ensure that prisoners being released are linked to an appropriate community treatment resource so that on-going treatment needs are coordinated and addressed. This involves engagement by and with the relevant community agencies involved in this area.

Press Council.

Joe Walsh

Question:

274 Mr. Walsh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to establish a press council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34397/06]

The Defamation Bill 2006, published on 4 July contains provisions for the recognition of an independent press council.

Residency Permits.

Sean Fleming

Question:

275 Mr. Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a current Garda national immigration board card will be issued to a person (details supplied) who submitted their GNIB card to his Department in March 2006 but which has since expired. [34449/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 04 October 1999 and claimed asylum on the same day. His claim was investigated by the Refugee Applications Commissioner who concluded that he did meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee and was granted refugee status by my Department on the 21 November 2001. He registered with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) on 30 November 2001. He was issued with a registration card for one year, as is the practice, after which he failed to renew his registration (as he was required to do) until the 18 March 2004. His registration was renewed on application for two further periods up to 18 March 2006, where again he failed to renew his residency in the State. I am informed by the GNIB that he was stopped in Dundalk on 31 May 2006 crossing the border from Northern Ireland without a current registration certificate or valid travel document. His expired registration card was taken from him and he was directed to report to his local Immigration office at Abbeyleix Garda Station, Co. Laois. To date he has not presented himself as requested. The person in question should report immediately to the Immigration Officer at Abbeyleix Garda Station to apply to have his residency in the State renewed.

Crime Levels.

David Stanton

Question:

276 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of domestic violence incidents recorded by the Gardaí in 2004 and 2005 in each of the respective Garda regions and districts; the corresponding number of people arrested, charged, injured and committed as a result of domestic violence incidents in each of three regions and districts; the reason these figures have not been published in An Garda Síochána Annual Reports since 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34533/06]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Prison Accommodation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

277 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the tender notice, the two tenders for the former open prison at Shanganagh Castle referred to by him in a press statement of 17 October 2006 were submitted in response to; the date on which this notice was published; the medium by which and by whom the notice was published; and the criteria for assessment of the tenders.. [34534/06]

The sale of the property by public tender was publicly advertised in the national newspapers commencing on 13 September 2006. The advertisements stated that copies of the tender documents were available from the Chief State Solicitor. Two tenders were received by the closing date and the highest tender was accepted.

Crime Prevention.

Tony Gregory

Question:

278 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a report from the Garda Commissioner detailing if adequate resources are available to the Mountjoy Garda Station, Dublin 7 to allocate a regular Garda foot patrol to cover the Blessington Basin and Royal Canal Bank, Dublin 7 to ensure that this amenity does not become a meeting place for anti-social elements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34540/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed that the personnel strength of Mountjoy Garda Station as at 20 October, 2006 was 88 (all ranks). The personnel strength of Mountjoy Garda Station as at 31 December, 1997 was 78 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 10 (or 12.82%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

Local Garda Management report that two (2) Community Gardaí based at Mountjoy Garda Station are specifically assigned to an area that includes the Blessington Basin and Royal Canal Bank. The Community Gardaí maintain contact with the Park Ranger and local residents in relation to issues of concern at the location.

Garda management state that the area is patrolled by Garda Mountain Bike Unit patrols in addition to regular foot and mobile patrols from Mountjoy Garda Station. The area is also patrolled by uniformed and plain clothes units, supplemented by District and Divisional Units, i.e. District Detective and Drug Units and the Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps Units, in order to prevent incidents of public disorder and other anti-social behaviour.

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. Garda management state that 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 three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. 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 Mountjoy Garda Station will be given the fullest consideration.

Garda Dog Unit.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

279 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to expand the number of dogs available to An Garda Síochána in view of the low level of such useful resources here compared to many other countries internationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter in view of the fact that the success rates of detections are acknowledged elsewhere and we currently have to bring in resources from outside the jurisdiction rather than deploying more of our own resources. [34541/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Dog Unit consists 26 Garda dogs and is staffed by 2 Sergeants and 14 Gardaí. I have been further informed that the current profile of Garda dogs within the Garda Dog Unit is as follows: 14 General Purpose Dogs — trained in public order duties, tracking for missing persons, criminals and articles contaminated by human scent; six dogs trained in drugs detection and firearms residue detection; five dogs trained in explosives detection; and one dog trained in detecting the presence of dead bodies. I have also been informed that the Unit currently has two dogs being trained in tactical support and one dog in blood detection.

Garda management state that it is proposed to expand the Garda Dog Unit nationwide on a regional basis. As part of this a pilot in the southern division (based in Cork and Limerick) has just been completed and will now be evaluated. Garda management further state that it is satisfied with the current level of expertise available within, and being developed by, the Garda dog unit.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

280 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proportion of the cost of each tribunal made up of legal fees, and the amount of money spent on legal fees in respect of tribunals in each of the years since 1997, under the aegis of his Department. [34555/06]

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

Name of Tribunal

Expenditure on Legal Fees

Total Cost/Cost to date

Morris Tribunal

€14,277,462 to end September, 2006

€26.2m to end September, 2006

Barr Tribunal *

€6,300,093.70 to 12 October, 2006

€10,458,181.89 to 12 October, 2006

Smithwick Tribunal

€389,729.25 to end August, 2006

€1,329,022.87 to end August, 2006.

*The Deputy should note that the details of this Tribunal were omitted in error from the response to his parliamentary question on this subject of 11 October, 2006 (PQ 32429/06).

Departmental Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

281 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria for persons with disabilities for seeking employment opportunities within his Department; the application procedures that apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34602/06]

I wish to inform the Deputy that appointment to civil service positions is generally by way of open competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service. Persons with disabilities are entitled to apply for all competitions subject to their meeting the eligibility requirements of the competition in question. The same applies to any competition that my own Department might run from time to time. Recruitment campaigns targeted at people with disabilities are occasionally run by the Public Appointments Service and I understand that it expects to advertise such a competition for recruitment to the grade of Executive Officer by year end.

I am informed that there are no special application procedures as such for persons with disabilities. Online facilities are available from the Public Appointments Service and are convenient for many people with disabilities. Where applicants request special facilities every effort is made to accommodate them during the selection process. Particular consideration is also given, when placing successful candidates in posts, to the work environment and the provision of special equipment or facilities. The overall emphasis is on ensuring that people with disabilities are facilitated with access to employment opportunities and that every necessary accommodation is made.

The Government's 3% target for the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service has a key role to play in creating employment opportunities which might not otherwise be available. The Minister for Finance is responsible for this target which applies to all Government Departments and other public bodies. The proportion of staff with a disability employed in my Department exceeds the 3% target, and currently stands at over 5%. My Department's commitment to the employment of people with disabilities is further underlined by its active participation in a work experience programme for graduates with disabilities, under which five people have been placed over the last two years. This "Willing, Able and Mentoring" project, WAM as it is known, is operated and coordinated by the Department of Finance which arranges temporary placements for graduates with disabilities across Government Departments.

Anti-Fraud Measures.

John Dennehy

Question:

282 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to combat identity fraud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34603/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that identity theft is an umbrella term used for crime committed, whereby crimes are effected against an injured party by assuming the injured party's identity. The most common type of crime relates to so called phishing — debit and credit card fraud. The act of phishing constitutes a number of offences contained in the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which was signed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on behalf of Ireland in February 2002, contains provisions dealing with extra-territorial jurisdiction, in certain circumstances, in relation to fraud committed by means of computer.

Examination of the requirements to enable Ireland to ratify the Convention has been carried out and that examination has shown that some legislative changes will be required. The extent and scope of these changes are still being considered by my Department in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. When this work is completed I will bring proposals to Government to give legislative effect to the Convention.

The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation has been involved in a number of initiatives raising public awareness of this type of criminality including the following. A website entitled Safecard was launched in partnership with the Irish Payment Services Organisation, which addresses many issues around payment card fraud, in particular the issue of identity theft. The Garda website also contains advice to members of the public on how to avoid this form of criminal activity. The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation also participates in a High-Tech Crime Forum, which includes representatives from the major financial institutions in Ireland, the Irish Bankers Federation, the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland and the Irish Payment Services Organisation. The Forum considers strategies to target certain categories of crime, including identity theft. The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation also participated in a ‘Make IT Secure' Programme in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Advice booklets, including one on identity theft, which were produced in this programme, have been circulated to every Garda Station in the country. My Department will continue to keep developments in this area under review.

Drug Seizures.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

283 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drug seizures in areas (details supplied) in County Wexford; the number of people arrested with drugs in their possession; the number of people arrested for trafficking in drugs; the average age of persons arrested; the average sentence they received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34612/06]

It has not been possible, within the timeframe available, to collate the information required by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly when the information is to hand.

Garda Strength.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

284 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí in areas (details supplied) in County Wexford for the years 1997 to 2005; if there is a suitable number of Gardaí to police there areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34613/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Enniscorthy, Gorey, Wexford and New Ross Garda Districts as at 31 December, 1997 to 2005, inclusively and as at 20 October, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder:

District

Enniscorthy

Gorey

Wexford

New Ross

31/12/97

41

63

76

37

31/12/98

43

68

86

40

31/12/99

40

68

88

37

31/12/00

41

69

81

42

31/12/01

44

76

89

41

31/12/02

44

79

87

42

31/12/03

44

78

89

41

31/12/04

45

77

86

41

31/12/05

45

80

90

43

20/10/06

47

86

99

47

The Garda Districts of Enniscorthy, Gorey, Wexford and New Ross form part of the Wexford/Wicklow Division. The personnel strength (all ranks) of Wexford/ Wicklow Division as at 31 December, 1997 and 20 October, 2006 was 269 and 339, respectively, representing an increase of 70 (or 26%) in the number of Gardaí (all ranks) allocated to the Division during that period.

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. Garda management state that 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 three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. 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 Garda Districts referred to by the Deputy will be given the fullest consideration.

Drug Courts.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

285 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the parts of the country that have dedicated drug Courts; his plans to provide more; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34614/06]

Earlier this year, the Pilot Drug Treatment Court, currently operating in the North inner city, was placed on a permanent footing. It will be extended on a phased basis to the wider Dublin area in consultation with the other agencies involved in supporting the Court. The President of the District Court has assigned a Judge of the Dublin Metropolitan District Court to the Drug Treatment Court on a permanent basis. The effect of this is to bring the Drug Treatment Court in closer contact with the other courts in the Dublin Metropolitan District from which the clients of the Drug Treatment Court are referred.

I am satisfied that the Court is providing a very worthwhile and innovative service and I will continue to provide it with every support. In this regard, the matter of extending the Drug Treatment Court to areas outside Dublin will be considered.

Garda Strength.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

286 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of personnel that were in the Garda drugs squad in County Wexford in each year from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34615/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms. I have been further informed that the Divisional Drugs Unit in the Wexford/ Wicklow Garda Division was established in 2004. Garda Divisional boundaries do not always correlate with County boundaries. Garda Management state that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Divisional Drugs Unit in the Wexford/ Wicklow Division and the number of personnel allocated to the County of Wexford, in the years 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006, was as set out in the table hereunder:

Year

Divisional

Wexford

2004

12

7

2005

13

8

2006 to date

13

9

Garda management further state that all Gardaí have responsibility to deal with drugs related issues as they arise. 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. Garda management state that 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 three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. 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 Wexford/ Wicklow Garda Division will be given the fullest consideration.

Garda Deployment.

Seamus Healy

Question:

287 Mr. Healy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will allocate additional Gardaí to the town of Cahir, County Tipperary in view of the increase in population in the intercensal period 1996 to 2006 and the fact that there are less Gardaí on outdoor duties than there were in 1988; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34672/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,762 on Friday, 8 September, 2006, following the attestation of 249 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,060 (or 19%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms. I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of Cahir Garda Station as at 31 December, 1997 and 20 October, 2006 was 22 and 33, respectively, representing an increase of 11 (or 50%) in the number of Garda personnel allocated to Cahir Garda station during that period.

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. Garda management state that 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 three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. 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 Cahir Garda Station will be given the fullest consideration.

Juvenile Offenders.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

288 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his view on whether there is need for the appointment of additional juvenile liaison officers in An Garda Síochána; when the review in this regard was completed; the number of additional JLO’s recommended in this review; and when will they be appointed. [34673/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, that at present, there are 87 Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers and 8 Juvenile Liaison Officer Sergeants working in various Divisions throughout the country. In addition, the National Juvenile Office has a staff of 1 Superintendent, (the Director of Diversion Programme), 1 Inspector and 2 Sergeants.

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

In addition, there are also 64 Garda Youth Diversion Projects nationwide. These projects aim to bring about the conditions whereby the behavioural patterns of young people towards law and order can develop and mature. These projects cater for approximately 2,500 participants per annum and are particularly targeted at 10-18 year old "at risk" youths in communities where a specific need has been identified. The allocation of funding for the 64 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (along with 7 Local Drug Task Force Projects) in 2006 is just over €6.6 million, which is an increase of €1.2 million on 2005.

As I explained in my reply to Questions Number 179 and 187 of 3 October 2006, it is my intention to ensure that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. Recently, I announced the establishment of ten new projects in the first phase of the expansion of the scheme, bringing the total number of projects to 74. The ten new projects are located in Blanchardstown, Birr, Carlow, Castlebar, Cavan, Clondalkin, Limerick, Tallaght and Tralee (two projects). The appointment of additional Juvenile Liaison Officers for these projects is under consideration.

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 three groups of newly attested Gardaí under this accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March, June and September of this year and the fourth such group will become fully attested members of the Force later this year. 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 Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme will be given the fullest consideration.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

289 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that certain financial institutions are deeming accounts dormant where there has been no transactions over a three year period; and his views on this practice. [33864/06]

The Dormant Accounts Act 2001 provides that accounts where there have been no customer-initiated transactions for fifteen years or more are dormant accounts and the balance in such accounts transferred to the Dormant Accounts Fund. The accounts remain with the banks in question and all monies can be reclaimed by the account holder at any time upon request. However, I understand that accounts may also be labelled dormant under a credit institution's internal procedures if there has been no activity on them for some time. It is important to stress that such accounts are not dormant under the legislation, but each institution uses its own archiving system to administer old accounts. While procedures may vary, customers should not be unduly inconvenienced in accessing their funds and should complain to the institution in the first instance, or to the Financial Service Ombudsman, in the event that they are still unsatisfied that their request for access to their accounts has been given appropriate attention and been dealt with in a timely manner.

EU Funding.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

290 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance the cohesion funds received by Ireland in the years 2001 to 2007; the percentage of these funds that were spent in the east and southern region and in the Border Midland Western region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33879/06]

Ireland qualified for Cohesion Fund assistance since the inception of the fund in 1994 until the end of 2003, following a mid-term review conducted by the Commission because our GNP per capita exceeded 90% of the EU average. The main purpose of the assistance was to improve our transport and environment infrastructure and to bring them up to the standards required by EU Directives. In the case of Ireland, projects were approved over two periods i.e. 1994-1999 and 2000-2003. The projects were chosen in consultation with the European Commission, and were mainly large infrastructure projects. Details of Cohesion Fund receipts by region for the years 2001 to 2006 (to-date) are set out in Table 1 below. The total receipts from the Fund for the period 2001-2006 was €745m. As can be seen from the table the Border, Midland and Western Region received €105.4m while the Southern and Eastern Region received €636.4m. A number of the projects approved under the 1994-1999 round of Cohesion Fund assistance spanned the two regions and are reflected separately in the Table below e.g. National Water Conservation, Vessel (Marine) Traffic Management Information.

Table 1: Cohesion Fund Receipts by Ireland 2001-2006

Year

B.M.W. Region

S&E Region

Both Regions

Total

2001

36,621,595

260,112,369

357,205

297,091,169

2002

38,967,327

164,157,500

2,869,659

205,994,486

2003

16,368,556

156,151,170

55,675

172,575,401

2004

13,451,618

12,397,578

25,849,196

2005

15,633,546

15,633,546

2006 (to-date)

27,991,936

27,991,936

Total

105,409,096

636,444,099

3,282,539

745,135,734

Percentage

14%

85%

1%

100%

Joan Burton

Question:

291 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance when his Department plans to publish a draft of the National Strategic Reference Framework for consultation; if he will indicate when there will be a debate in Dáil Éireann on this draft and on the Structural Funds Programme for 2007 to 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33890/06]

For the next round of Structural Funds 2007-2013 the EU arrangements require each Member State to prepare a National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF). This is not a development plan but a document that will set out the strategic focus for the Structural Funds and the link between Community priorities and national and regional policies. The Commission propose that activities to be funded should concentrate on implementing the Lisbon and Gothenburg programmes with particular focus on innovation and the knowledge economy, environment and risk prevention, accessibility to services of general interest (broadband, public transport), increasing adaptability of workers and enterprises, and enhancing access to employment and social inclusion measures. The December European Council agreed a total Budget for the 2007-2013 period of €347 billion for Cohesion Policy. During this time Ireland will receive €901 million in Structural Funds assistance. The minimum value, excluding the Exchequer matching element, for each programme to the regions is estimated at: €458 million for the BMW Region; €293 million for the S&E Region; €150 million for Territorial cooperation including €65 million for the PEACE Operational Programme to be spent in the Border Region.

The Structural Funds will be delivered through one National European Social Fund (ESF) Operational Programme, two Regional European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Operational Programmes i.e BMW Operational Programme and S&E Operational Programme and the trans-national PEACE Operational Programme. The NSRF is being drafted in parallel with the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and will incorporate the outcome of the Estimates and Budgetary process for 2007. It also takes account of the outcomes of the Social Partnership agreement Towards 2016 and the consultation processes undertaken by the Managing Authorities for the Operational Programmes and the regional NDP 2007-2013 consultation seminars. The formal consultation on the final draft NSRF will take place in advance of the deadline for submission set down in the General Regulation of March, 2007.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

292 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the proposals for the Dublin offices that will be vacated in relation to the Governments decentralisation programme; if after they are sold or leased the number of workers in each of the offices will decrease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33891/06]

As the Government's Decentralisation Programme advances office space will become vacant in Dublin, thereby giving rise to a rationalisation of the Dublin property portfolio. Any decisions on the future use of buildings in Dublin will, however, depend on a range of factors, including: the particular requirements of Departments remaining in Dublin, including accommodation for non decentralising staff; the timing of the relocation of staff to decentralised offices; the specific circumstances associated with each building including location, size, and whether it is leased or owned; the prevailing market conditions.

Joan Burton

Question:

293 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost of moving the existing information technology centres out of Dublin under the decentralisation programme; the expected cost of recruiting new IT specialists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33892/06]

The ICT functions of three large Departments, together with the Centre for Management Organisation & Development of the Department of Finance (CMOD) are due to relocate under the Decentralisation Programme as follows: Revenue Commissioners to Kildare; Social & Family Affairs to Drogheda; Agriculture & Food to Portlaoise; CMOD to Kildare. In addition, REACH and the Local Government Computer Services Board are due to move to Drogheda. As all decentralising organisations moving in their entirety will also be relocating an ICT capacity, ICT is addressed in their implementation plans to a varying degree.

The Decentralisation Implementation Group (DIG) has received a comprehensive update from CMOD in relation to progress on ICT moves in the four main organisations. Following from this, the Group proposes to discuss immediately with the Secretaries General of the organisations concerned the progress made and issues arising in each case in more detail. The Group will then revert to my Department with options for a feasible way forward.

The issue of managed data centre services was also addressed by the DIG. The OPW is being asked to convene a working group to determine (i) the feasibility of procuring private sector versus State owned accommodation for data centres, including a cost benefit analysis of the options, and (ii) the logistics, costs, financing and staffing implications of State managed/operated data centres. It is expected that this work will be completed by Spring of 2007.

A protocol has been prepared by my Department to address the filling of ICT posts and a sub-group of General Council has been established to move the process forward. The Centre for Management and Organisational Development (CMOD) has already concluded a pilot programme of ICT certified training and is currently developing tender proposals to source trainers to provide such certified training for new entrants to the ICT area. These initiatives will assist in ensuring a pipeline of skilled ICT staff in the Civil Service. Pending the outcome of the work detailed above, it is not possible to estimate the costs associated with the ICT relocation.

National Monuments.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

294 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the status of the project for development of the Mountjoy site in Dublin; if a consultant has been appointed to lead this work; the details of the brief for this consultant; if the local community will be consulted in this process; if so, when this process will start; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33912/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works, on behalf of the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, have appointed a Design Team, headed by Heneghan Peng Architects, in order to seek full Planning Permission for the re-development of the Mountjoy Prison site. The brief for the Design Team recognises that the Mountjoy Prison site is a location of great cultural and historic importance and the Commissioners of Public Works are now charged with creating a new role for the site which will contribute to the regeneration of that part of Dublin while respecting and enhancing the site's important historic and cultural characteristics. A process of consultation involving all relevant stakeholders including the local community will start shortly.

National Parks.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

295 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the status of the plan to implement a new traffic management system in Blackhorse Avenue, Phoenix Park, Dublin 7; if a consultant’s report has been published on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33913/06]

A comprehensive traffic management study for the Phoenix Park was completed earlier this month by an independent firm of consultants, Messrs. Faber Maunsell, engaged by the Commissioners of Public Works earlier this year. In formulating the study the consultants engaged in a wide ranging public consultation process. A firm of environmental consultants, Messrs. ERM were also engaged to vet the measures proposed in the study.

The study contains a number of measures to regulate traffic using the Park and enhance the heritage ethos and amenities of the Park for the benefit of the public.

One of these measures involves the provision of a one way system at the Ashtown and Cabra gates which would have some marginal effect on Blackhorse Avenue. However, the study concludes that the marginal effects on traffic on Blackhorse Avenue arising from this measure, will be more than offset by improved traffic safety in the area. The full report is published on the OPW website.

Museum Projects.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

296 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance when a lease or contract between the Office of Public Works and Ireland’s Children’s Museum was laid before Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33927/06]

It is not the practice to lay leases or property contracts before the Dáil.

As the ‘community gain' element of a large and complex planning application for the development of State Lands at Military Road, Kilmainham, the OPW agreed to lease a building on the development to the charitable body known as the Irish Children's Museum for them to operate a science-based educational facility for children in accordance with the government's policy of encouraging children to study science subjects.

The proposed activities in the building would be governed by lease clauses agreed with the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment.

Partly as a result of this innovative ‘community gain' offer, OPW was granted permission for a large mixed development on the site which will add value to the land and greatly contribute to the transformation of the Kilmainham/Heuston area in accordance with Dublin City Council's Heuston Area Framework Plan.

Tax Collection.

Phil Hogan

Question:

297 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the cost of developing the health service system promotion of the self service system which is operational by the Revenue Commissioners Office; the number of people who have registered to use it since 1 June 2006; the number who have used it to arrange balancing statements for 2005; the number of phone requests made to the Revenue Commissioners since 10 February 2006 for balancing statements; the number of all requests made to the Revenue Commissioners since 10 February 2006 for balancing statements; the number of tax refunds made by the Revenue Commissioners since 10 February 2006; the latest estimates of the PAYE that remains overpaid for the years 2002 to 2005; the latest estimated of the PAYE that remains underpaid for each of the years 2002 to 2005; the estimates of the numbers of form 12 being, or have been, submitted for each of the years 2002 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33935/06]

It is presumed that the Deputy is referring to the general extension by the Revenue Commissioners of the Revenue On-line Service (ROS) to PAYE taxpayers which is currently under way. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that this on-line service will allow PAYE taxpayers to deal with all aspects of their tax affairs on-line and is not confined to tax issues related to health service or the claiming of reliefs associated with health expenses.

As the PAYE on-line service is part of the general development of ROS it is not possible in the time available to give an exact figure for the development costs associated with this subset. However Revenue inform me that with a view to maximising take-up of the service and encouraging people to claim their full entitlements they are actively promoting this new service and have allocated a budget for 2006 of approximately €1.4 million for this purpose most of which is for the purpose of posting a personalised mailshot to each PAYE taxpayer encouraging them to avail of the service and enclosing a unique Revenue pin number which is necessary for secure use of the service.

Up to 15 October 2006, 36,464 taxpayers have registered with this service and up to 18 October 2006 a total of 2,439 taxpayers have used the PAYE On-Line service to arrange for the issue of a balancing statement for 2005. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they do not record the number of requests for balancing statements via other contact channels many of which are made during contacts for other purposes. I can however inform the Deputy that the total number of balancing statements issued in the period 10 February 2006 to 19 October 2006 was 621,728.

The number of tax refunds made by the Revenue Commissioners in the period since 10 February 2006 was 442,881. The refunds arose from balancing statements and repayments made on foot of persons becoming unemployed. Below are set out the number of Forms No. 12 submitted in each of the years requested by the Deputy, plus a provisional figure for the number received up to the end of September 2006.

2002

144,314

2003

95,264

2004

64,290

2005

81,587

2006

65,146

Revenue records the number of Forms No. 12 submitted annually. Accordingly, the figure for each year would include Returns for years other than the current year. The variances in the numbers of Forms No. 12 submitted are due to changes from year to year in the number of taxpayers selected to submit Returns.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy in relation to estimates of underpayments and overpayments of PAYE is not readily available. However Revenue will source as much information as possible and forward this to the Deputy within a matter of weeks.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

298 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance his plans to incentivise the use of E-bikes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33940/06]

I understand that the level of VRT on e-bikes is usually no more than €20 for such vehicles. However the issue of whether the minimal tax on e-bikes should be abolished in order to incentivise their purchase, will, as with all other tax proposals, be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget.

Tony Gregory

Question:

299 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the pensions of Irish nationals serving in the EU Commission or Civil Service are tax free; if so, the basis for this arrangement; if consideration will be given for a similar arrangement for the pensions of Irish nationals who formerly worked as civil servants in the UN service and who paid into the tax equalisation fund known as staff assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33942/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the salaries, wages and emoluments of Irish nationals who are serving civil servants of the EU are exempted from income tax in this State by virtue of Article 13 of Chapter V of the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the EU. This section was amended by Article 2 of Regulation number 549/69 of the Council of the European Communities to include pensions. Consequently, pensions receivable from the EU by Irish nationals in respect of service to the EU by such individuals are exempt from tax in Ireland. Of course, the salaries and pensions of such EU civil servants are subject to EU tax.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that under the provisions of Article V of the Third Schedule and Article VI of the Fourth Schedule of the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967, officials of (a) the United Nations and (b) its specialised agencies shall be exempt from taxation in this State on the salaries and emoluments paid to them by the United Nations.

The exemptions provided for by these two articles apply only to officials of the United Nations and its specialised agencies. These exemptions do not apply to ex-officials or retired officials and consequently United Nations pensions payable to Irish nationals are not exempt from Irish tax under the provisions of the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967.

The tax treatment of salaries and pensions payable to officials and former officials of the UN and its specialised agencies is a complex matter and I have asked officials of my Department and the Revenue Commissioners to examine the issues raised in the question. I will report back to the Deputy on the results of this examination.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael Ring

Question:

300 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide adequate funding in the Budget for personal assistants services in County Mayo. [33949/06]

At this time of the year I receive a large number of pre-budget submissions and requests for funding for a wide range of issues. I note the Deputy's representations in that regard.

Tax Collection.

Billy Timmins

Question:

301 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is working since April 2006 and is still on emergency tax; and if this will be dealt with as speedily as possible. [33961/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a Certificate of Tax Credits and Standard Rate Cut-Off Point for the year 2006 was updated on 18 October 2006 and will issue to the taxpayer within 5 working days.

The issue of the Certificate of Tax Credits and Standard Rate Cut-Off Point will mean that the taxpayer will no longer be on emergency tax.

Dublin Castle.

John Perry

Question:

302 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if his Department had involvement in the provision of Dublin Castle for a conference entitled a New Heart for Dublin being held on 20 October 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33967/06]

Dublin Castle and its associated conference facilities is managed by the Office of Public Works. The organisers of the conference in question hired the conference facilities for the standard fee of €5,470.

Tax Yield.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

303 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the pattern of increases in returns from income tax, corporation profits tax, stamp duty and other tax revenues since 2000; the impact on the economy in the medium to long term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34008/06]

The table below details the annual rates of change in Exchequer receipts from income tax, corporation tax, stamp duty and the other main tax heads since 2000.

Tax-Head

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

%

%

%

%

%

%

Income Tax

+13.5

+2.6

-3.0

+1.1

+16.2

+5.8

Corporation Tax

+13.0

+6.9

+15.6

+7.5

+3.3

+3.0

Stamp Duty

+21.2

+10.8

-4.9

+44.7

+23.7

+30.5

Capital Gains Tax

+71.1

+13.8

-28.7

+130.0

+5.0

+29.3

Capital Acquisitions Tax

+15.4

-24.0

-11.0

+42.6

-11.3

+31.0

Excise Duty

+5.3

-5.0

+9.7

+3.0

+7.8

+6.2

VAT

+20.6

+6.0

+12.2

+9.4

+10.0

+13.1

Customs

+14.4

-20.4

-19.0

+2.1

+27.5

+30.9

Total

+14.9

+3.2

+4.9

+9.6

+10.8

+10.3

The growth rates of certain tax-heads in certain years were affected by once-off or particular factors. For example, the large year-on-year increase in 2004 Income tax was due to the very significant receipts from the Revenue Commissioners' Special Investigations, most notably the offshore assets investigation, in that year.

Another example is where the very strong growth rate in capital gains tax receipts in 2003 owes much to the due date for the payment of capital gains tax on liable transactions in the first nine months of 2003 being brought forward to the 31st October 2003 from the 31st October 2004. This meant a significant once-off cash-flow gain to the Exchequer.

In addition, corporation tax in each of the years 2002-2006 has been impacted upon by cash-flow yields from the transitional arrangements for bringing forward the payment date from six months after the end of a company's accounting period to one month before the end of the accounting period. However the transition period ends this year and in 2007 there will be a cash-flow loss to the Exchequer from the ending of these transitional arrangements.

Notwithstanding the variations between years in the growth rates for the individual tax-heads, the overall pattern of change in total Exchequer receipts reflects the strength of the economy in the period.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

304 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding income tax when SSIA’s mature (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34029/06]

The Pensions Incentive Tax Credits Scheme, introduced in the 2006 Finance Act, provides an incentive for eligible SSIA holders on lower incomes to reinvest all or part of their net SSIA proceeds, after maturity, into an approved pension product. It is primarily a savings scheme and is designed for people who are saving for retirement. The incentive involves a tax credit of €1 for every €3 of SSIA proceeds reinvested, up to a maximum of €2,500 credit (i.e. €7,500 invested). Secondly, there is an additional tax credit involving a percentage of the tax deducted from the SSIA on maturity. Where an SSIA holder avails of the Pensions Incentive Tax Credits Scheme, it is not possible to claim any tax relief for amounts invested up to and including €7,500. Tax relief can be claimed, however, on amounts in excess of €7,500 transferred from a matured SSIA to an approved pension product, subject to the standard limits.

If a person invests SSIA proceeds in a pension product without availing of the Pensions Incentive Tax Credits Scheme, he/she can claim tax relief in respect of that investment subject to the standard limits.

National Development Plan.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

305 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Finance the stage of the negotiations for a new National Development Plan; the way he proposes to deal with regionalisation under the new plan; if it is proposed to make up the shortfall in expenditure under the 2000-2006 NDP in the new plan. [34051/06]

The preparation of the next NDP (2007-2013) which is being coordinated by my Department is continuing. An extensive consultation process on the Plan has taken place. Formal submissions have been received by my Department from the Social Partners, the Regional Assemblies, Regional Authorities and a number of concerned interest groups including the Heritage Council, Comhar, the Combat Poverty Agency and the Western Development Commission. My Department has also had meetings with some of the bodies concerned. Consultation seminars in Dublin (S&E Region) and Tullamore (BMW Region) have also been held. In addition there has been extensive liaison between my Department and other Departments on the Plan. I envisage that a draft text will be submitted to Government for consideration in the near future. The Government has decided that the Plan will be published in mid January next.

The precise details of the Plan including indicative 7 year financial allocations will have to await its publication. Allocations will, however, be set out at national level rather than the two region approach of the current NDP. This approach arose from EU Structural Fund requirements but this will not be the case on the occasion of the new Plan. The Plan will have the promotion of regional development as a central objective. The regional dimension will be strongly based on the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) and on investment necessary to progress implementation of the NSS.

With regard to the issue of expenditure under the 2000-2006 NDP I refer the Deputy to my earlier replies to questions from Deputy Harkin taken on 10th October last.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

306 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Finance the figures on actual expenditure vis-a-vis planned expenditure under the National Development Plan for all programmes in the Border Midlands Western region and the south-east region. [34052/06]

The National Development Plan/Community Support Framework (NDP/CSF) 2000-2006 is implemented through seven Operational Programmes (OPs). The most recent expenditure data on the Plan relates to the period to the end December 2005. This data is set out in Tables 1 to 4 below. Data for first six months of 2006 will be available at end October 2006 following the meetings of the Operational Programme Monitoring Committees. I will write to the Deputy when this data becomes available.

The House will be aware of the general state of play in relation to expenditure in the BMW region from previous debates and questions on this issue. The figures reported indicate that some €12.1bn or 76% of the total original forecast for expenditure (Exchequer, EU and private) and €10.7bn or 88% of forecast Exchequer expenditure had been incurred by the end of 2005. This is a healthy implementation rate in view of the slow start up in some areas at the very beginning, the relatively disappointing response in certain demand lead schemes and the fact that Exchequer spending in relation to the Structural Fund OPs for the 2000-2006 period will in fact continue up to 2008.

There is a wide spread of results over the various OPs. The strongest performances are in the key Economic and Social Infrastructure OP and the Employment and Human Resources Development OP, the two biggest OPs, with expenditure at 113% and 96% of profile respectively. However, this is offset by relatively poor performance in the Productive Sector OP where expenditure is 34% of profile. The result here is due to a lack of demand rather than a lack of Exchequer resources. Results over the 2000-2005 period show that, from a slow start up, there has been a steadily improving trend. I have made the point previously that the overall outturn for the NDP is expected to be near to forecast by the end of 2006, but with some over-performance and underperformance of expenditure taking place within the Operational Programmes. It is also expected that co-funded measures under the Plan will achieve their full entitlement to Structural Funds in the BMW Region by the end of 2008, the timetable set out in the Regulations.

Table 1 sets out the original indicative total expenditure forecasts and the estimated total expenditure (Exchequer, EU and Private) incurred under each Operational Programme in the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) Region for the period January 2000 to December 2005.

Table 1 — Total Profiled and Estimated Expenditure in BMW Region

January 2000 to end December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile

Estimated Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

5,863

5,435

92%

Employment & Human Resources Development

3,653

3,496

96%

Productive Sector

2,663

786

29%

Border, Midlands & Western Regional

3,519

2,273

64%

PEACE II & Technical Assistance

146

109

74%

Total

15,844

12,099

76%

Profiles and Expenditure data includes all NDP sources of funding; Exchequer, EU and Private.

The original Exchequer forecast and estimated Exchequer expenditure incurred under each Operational Programme in the BMW Region for the period January 2000 to December 2005 is set out in Table 2.

Table 2 — Profiled and Estimated Exchequer Expenditure in BMW Region

January 2000 to end December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile

Estimated Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

4,054

4,570

113

Employment & Human Resources Development

3,654

3,471

95

Productive Sector

1,741

600

34

Border, Midlands & Western Regional

2,566

1,920

75

PEACE II & Technical Assistance

146

109

74

Total

12,161

10,670

88

The figures reported indicate all demands for expenditure are being met. This represents some €12.1 billion or 76% of the total original forecast for expenditure (Exchequer, EU and private) and €10.7 billion or 88% of forecast Exchequer expenditure had been incurred by the end of 2005.

Table 3 below sets out the original indicative total expenditure profiles and the estimated total expenditure (Exchequer, EU and Private) incurred under each Operational Programme in the Southern and Eastern (S&E) Region for the period January 2000 to December 2005.

Table 3 — Total Profiled and Estimated Expenditure in S&E Region

January 2000 to end December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile

Estimated Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

16,078

18,266

113

Employment & Human Resources Development

8,568

8,500

99

Productive Sector

4,627

2,405

52

Southern & Eastern Regional

4,694

3,376

72

Technical Assistance

7

7

100

Total

33,967

32,554

96

Profiles and Expenditure data includes all NDP sources of funding; Exchequer, EU and Private.

The original Exchequer profile and estimated Exchequer expenditure incurred under each operational programme in the S&E Region for the period January 2000 to December 2005 is set out in Table 4.

Table 4 –Profiled and Estimated Exchequer Expenditure in S&E Region

January 2000 to end December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile

Estimated Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

10,639

14,434

135

Employment & Human Resources Development

8,568

8,441

99

Productive Sector

3,133

2,072

66

Southern & Eastern Regional

3,388

2,987

88

Technical Assistance

7

7

100

Total

25,735

27,941

108

The figures reported indicate all demands for expenditure are being met. This represents some €32.6 billion or 96% of the total original forecast for expenditure (Exchequer, EU and private). The data presented in Table 4 shows that the Exchequer contribution to the S&E Region under the NDP has exceeded its original target by €2.21 billion to the end of 2005. The overall outturn for the NDP is expected to be near to forecast by the end of 2006, but with some over-performance and underperformance of expenditure taking place within the Operational Programmes. However, a complete picture of expenditure will not be available until the full year expenditure data for 2006 are analysed and reported at the Spring 2007 meetings of the Operational Programmes Monitoring Committees and when the co-funded measures under the NDP achieve their full entitlement to Structural Funds by the end of 2008, the timetable set out in the Regulations.

Public Private Partnerships.

Richard Bruton

Question:

307 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the aggregate value of PPP projects funded in each of the past five years; the value of projects funded to date in 2006; and the expected outturn by end of 2006. [34062/06]

Information is not collated centrally on a routine basis on the aggregate value of investment in PPP projects on account of such factors as the significant number of separate authorities that are responsible for procuring individual PPP projects, differences in the public-private funding mix that arise between the different sectors involved and differences between sectors in the public funding contribution to projects.

The areas in which significant PPP investment occurred in the period in question were roads, education and local government. In the education area, information provided to my Department by the Department of Education and Science for the estimated level of capital construction investment in privately-financed PPP projects for the years in question to be funded by means of ongoing unitary payments from that Department's Vote is set out in the table following:

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006*

€9.2m

€70.4m

€25.7m

€25.6m

€10m

€30m

* = projected

In the roads area, information furnished by the Department of Transport in respect of the National Roads Authority (NRA) for the value for capital construction investment for 2001-2006 is set out in the table following:

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006*

€2.5m

€9.6m

€89.9m

€237.6m

€212.1m

€92.2m

* = projected

The Deputy may wish to note that the NRA gives a subvention towards construction payments and therefore the construction values reported are partly privately financed and partly publicly financed.

Within the Local Government sector, there are a wide range of PPP projects involving, for example, land swaps, own resources, some Exchequer funding or a mix of these but which have not to date involved ongoing unitary payments. I have therefore asked my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to arrange for his officials to contact the Deputy directly with a view to giving him an appropriate response that reflects the nature of the PPPs which are delivered in the Local Government sector.

Proposed Legislation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

308 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance his views on amending Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1967, in order to allow the cost of specific tuition for dyslexia to qualify for tax relief under the heading of health expenses, which would apply where a child has been diagnosed by a psychologist as having dyslexia and is deemed to be in need of specialist teaching; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34063/06]

The position is that expenses in respect of tuition for children with dyslexia do not qualify for health expenses tax relief and have never qualified for the relief since it was first introduced in 1967.

I understand from the Revenue Commissioners, who deal with such claims, that individuals may have been under the impression that tuition for children with dyslexia was allowable under the heading of health expenses relief. I also understand that the Revenue Commissioners have written to the Dyslexia Association to clarify the matter.

In recent years, the Government has increased significantly the supports available through the direct expenditure system for children with disabilities, including those with dyslexia.

As with many areas where State support may be required, the question arises as to whether such support may be more effectively provided through the direct expenditure route rather than through the tax system. One advantage of the former mechanism is that the support may be better targeted at those in need, irrespective of family income, whereas support through the tax system can only benefit those whose incomes are high enough to benefit from tax relief.

I have no plans to extend Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to cover expenses incurred by parents who have children with dyslexia. However, this matter, like any other, can be raised by the Deputy at Finance Bill time.

Architectural Heritage.

Enda Kenny

Question:

309 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if he will make arrangements for officials from his Department to meet with members of the local authority and local community in a case (details supplied) in County Mayo for improvements needed in keeping with the character of an area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34259/06]

The site referred to by the Deputy is not in the care of the Office of Public Works. However, given the association of the site with two national monuments under the care of the Office of Public Works I have asked officials from the national monuments section to contact Mayo County Council with a view to meeting to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Mortgage Interest Relief.

John Perry

Question:

310 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance the annual cost of mortgage interest relief for first time buyers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34260/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that statistics are not available which would enable the precise information sought by the Deputy to be given.

However, out of a total cost of approximately €280 million for all mortgage interest relief granted under the Tax Relief at Source (TRS) system in 2005 it is estimated that approximately €160 million relates to first time buyers.

It should be noted that the €160 million is an estimated figure calculated by reference to base data for the tax year 2003. As such it is provisional and may be subject to change as more up-to-date data becomes available.

National Development Plan.

Enda Kenny

Question:

311 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount of funding spent to date on the National Development Plan; the amount estimated to be spent by the end of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34264/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

313 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent to date under the National Development Plan programmes (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34266/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

314 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent to date on the Border Midland Western regional programme under the National Development Plan; the total amount estimated to be spent by the end of the NDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34267/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

315 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent to date on the south and east regional programme under the National Development Plan; the amount estimated to be spent by the end of the NDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34268/06]

I propose to take Question Nos. 311 and 313 to 315, inclusive, together.

The National Development Plan/Community Support Framework (NDP/CSF) 2000-2006 is implemented through seven Operational Programmes (OPs). The most recent expenditure data on the National Development Plan reported to my Department by the OP Monitoring Committees relate to the period January 2000 to December 2005. The data for the first six months of 2006 will be available at the end of October 2006 following the Autumn meetings of the OP Monitoring Committees. I will write to the Deputy with this data when it becomes available.

Table 1 below sets out the total estimated expenditure (Exchequer, EU and private) to end 2005 and compares it against the total original indicative forecast for the lifetime of the Plan. This represents some €44.7 billion or 78% of the total original indicative forecast for expenditure (Exchequer, EU and private) on the Plan.

Table 1 — Total Original Forecast 2000-2006 and Total Estimated Expenditure from January 2000 to December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile 2000-2006

Estimated Expenditure to end 2005

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

26,021

23,701

91

Employment & Human Resources Development

14,199

11,996

84

Productive Sector

7,341

3,191

43

Border, Midlands & Western Regional

4,094

2,274

56

Southern and Eastern Regional

5,379

3,376

63

PEACE and Technical Assistance

155

116

75

Total

57,189

44,654

78

Profiles and Expenditure data includes all NDP sources of funding; Exchequer, EU and private.

Table 2 sets out the total estimated Exchequer expenditure to end 2005 and compares it against the total original indicative forecast for the lifetime of the Plan. This represents some €38.6 billion or 87% of forecast Exchequer expenditure for the Plan. The figures reported indicate that all demands for expenditure are being met.

Table 2 — Total Original Exchequer Forecast Profiled and Estimated Exchequer Expenditure January 2000 to end December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile 2000-2006

Estimated Expenditure Jan 2000 to Dec 2005

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

17,601

19,004

108

Employment & Human Resources Development

14,199

11,912

84

Productive Sector

5,822

2,672

46

Border, Midlands & Western Regional

2,948

1,920

65

Southern and Eastern Regional

3,731

2,987

80%

PEACE and Technical Assistance

155

116

75

Total

44,456

38,611

87

With respect to the Operational Programmes, the Economic and Social Infrastructure OP is performing well with total expenditure to end 2005 at 91% of original target. The Employment and Human Resources Development OP is on course to meet its original targets. Good progress is evident under the BMW and S&E Regional Operational Programmes. However, difficulties still exist in the tourism and agriculture sectors where implementation has been slower and demand for grant support has been less than anticipated due mainly to the impact of the slowdown in economic activity in 2000-02 and the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. This meant that businesses and the agricultural sector were not in a position to put forward sufficient investment plans to avail of funding in those early years of the Programmes. The performance of the Productive Sector Operational Programme is behind original target. Key factors accounting for the low rate of expenditure relate to the lower take up of financial opportunities by the private sector, the slowdown in economic activity in the early years of the programme, less than anticipated absorption capacity for R&D projects in the BMW Region and delays in getting State Aid clearance resulting in the late start to some funding schemes. The PEACE and Technical Assistance Operational Programmes are on track to meet their targets by the end of the programming period.

Table 3 below details the forecast expenditure under each Operational Programme for the NDP/CSF 2000-2006 based on the end 2005 position as reported by the OP Monitoring Committees.

Table 3: Expenditure Forecasts for NDP/CSF 2000-2006 as of December 2005

Operational Programme

Forecast expenditure to completion of Plan €m

Economic and Social Infrastructure

28,605

Employment and Human Resources Development

14,619

Productive Sector

4,487

Border, Midlands and Western Regional

3,846

Southern & Eastern Regional

5,028

PEACE & Technical Assistance

209

Total

56,794

The amount of estimated expenditure by completion of the NDP/CSF 2000-2006 is expected to be €56,794 million. This means that the overall outturn for the NDP is expected to be near to forecast but with some over-performance and underperformance of expenditure taking place within the Operational Programmes. However, a complete picture of expenditure will not be available until the full year expenditure data for 2006 are analysed and reported at the Spring 2007 meetings of the Operational Programmes Monitoring Committees and when the co-funded measures under the NDP achieve their full entitlement to Structural Funds by the end of 2008, the timetable set out in the Regulations.

Public Private Partnerships.

Enda Kenny

Question:

312 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount of PPP investment invested under the National Development Plan to date; the amount estimated to be invested by the end of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34265/06]

Information on this matter is being compiled by my Department and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 313 to 315, inclusive, answered with Question No. 311.

Tax Yield.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

316 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance the amount of VAT paid by primary schools in the last year for which figures are available. [34309/06]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

317 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance the amount of VAT paid by second-level schools in the last year for which figures are available. [34311/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 316 and 317 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to furnish figures of the VAT paid by both primary and second-level schools on their purchases of goods and services from VAT registered bodies, as the information furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from particular consumers to be identified.

I would add that primary and second-level schools are treated as exempt bodies for VAT purposes. This means that the persons engaged in an exempt activity do not charge VAT on the goods or services they provide nor are they entitled to recover the VAT incurred on the goods and services which they purchase in the course of their activities. However, I would point out that the expenditure allocated to primary and second-level schools is calculated on the basis of the VAT inclusive cost of primary and second-level school spending.

Tax Collection.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

318 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the tax credits available where work related expenses are incurred by a PAYE worker such as clothing, uncompensated petrol expenses and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34339/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, where a PAYE worker is not reimbursed in respect of the cost of his/her work related expenses, then he or she may claim a tax deduction in respect of — (a) the cost of expenses of travel necessarily incurred in the performance of the duties of an office or employment; and (b) the cost of expenses, other than expenses of travel, wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred in the performance of the duties of an office or employment.

However, it is a long established principle of tax case law that the expenses of travelling from home to work and work to home are not expenses of travelling necessarily incurred by an employee in the performance of the duties of an employment and do not qualify for a deduction.

The cost of clothing does not, generally, qualify for tax relief. However, where the duties of his/her employment require an employee to incur the cost of protective clothing, then a deduction may be due in respect of the cost of such outlay.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, as an alternative to employees submitting individual expenses claims to them, agreements have been entered into between Revenue and employee representative bodies (e.g. trade unions) resulting in what are known as ‘flat rate' tax deductions in respect of qualifying employee expenses. The Revenue Commissioners publish such agreed flat rate expenses deduction on their website [Go to www.revenue. ie/publications/txbrefng/tb06supl — the list of agreed flat rate employee tax deductible expenses are on pages 30 to 32 of this Index].

Tax Yield.

Sean Fleming

Question:

319 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the number of taxpayers analysed between PAYE taxpayers and other taxpayers who claimed tax relief or allowance in respect of charges for refuse collection in 2003, 2004, 2005 and based on information available to date in 2006; the number in each of these categories of taxpayers who received this relief at the 20% rate and the 42% rate; the cost in each of these categories; and the overall cost to the Exchequer. [34448/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which complete information on cost to the Exchequer and numbers of claimants for tax relief in relation to local authority service charges is the income tax year 2003. In that year an estimated number of 169,300 claimants availed of the tax relief for the service charges at an estimated cost to the Exchequer of €8.2 million.

These figures relate to the numbers of income earners in a position to absorb the tax relief either partly or fully, but do not include the numbers of qualifying claimants who, because of the operation of other deductions and reliefs, have their taxable income reduced to nil or have their tax liability reduced to nil by the impact of other tax credits. Accordingly, potential claimants for the tax relief for service charges whose tax liability has been reduced to nil in this way are not included in the numbers given in this reply.

Irrespective of the marginal tax rate of claimants, tax relief for service charges is confined to the standard rate of tax in respect of charges taxpayers have paid in the previous financial year.

A breakdown of the relevant figures by reference to the marginal tax rate of each claimant is set out in the following tables:

Service Charges — by Tax Rate 2003

All claimants

Tax Rate

Number of cases

Amount allowed for Tax Relief

Reduction in Tax

Standard Rate (20%)*

64,711

15,120,655

3,024,131

Higher Rate (42%)

98,461

24,587,000

4,917,400

Total

163,172

39,707,655

7,941,531

*Includes claimants benefiting from marginal relief or with zero tax liability arising from the granting of service charges credit.

Claimants whose main source of income is subject to tax under Schedule E /PAYE

Tax Rate

Number of cases

Amount allowed for tax relief

Reduction in Tax

Standard Rate (20%)*

48,920

10,801,110

2,160,222

Higher Rate (42%)

84,500

20,791,495

4,158,299

Total

133,420

31,592,605

6,318,521

*Includes claimants benefiting from marginal relief or with zero tax liability arising from the granting of service charges credit.

Claimants whose main source of income is subject to tax under Schedule D

Tax Rate

Number of cases

Amount allowed for tax relief

Reduction in Tax

Standard Rate (20%)*

15,791

4,319,545

863,909

Higher Rate (42%)

13,961

3,795,505

759,101

Total

29,752

8,115,050

1,623,010

*Includes claimants benefiting from marginal relief or with zero tax liability arising from the granting of service charges credit.

The lower aggregate figures in these tables (compared to the slightly higher figures mentioned in the opening paragraph) are taken directly from filed income tax returns which represent about 98 per cent of all income tax returns expected for 2003. The higher figures in the initial table have, in accordance with normal practice, been grossed-up at aggregate level to adjust for this 2% incompleteness.

The designation of a tax rate to claimants is based on identifying the top tax rate applying to the taxable income of each claimant while taking into account the impact of tax credits and standard rated reliefs where they reduce tax liability to nil. To arrive at the figure for taxable income, the gross income is reduced by various relevant deductions and allowances such as capital allowances, losses, allowable expenses and retirement annuities. In some cases, these will reduce the taxable income to nil. In other cases where the impact of tax credits and standard rated reliefs, such as the relief provided for service charges, is to reduce tax liability to nil it gives rise to a cost in terms of tax forgone.

Departmental Expenditure.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

320 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of the cost of the Commission on Electronic Voting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34460/06]

The Commission on Electronic Voting was appointed by the Government on 1 March 2004. The Commission, which was independent in the performance of its functions, was placed on a statutory footing by the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2004, which was enacted on 18th May, 2004. As set out in Section 22 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2004, the Commission was dissolved on 4th September 2006, two months after the presentation of the last of its reports to the Ceann Comhairle.

The Government formally decided in March 2004 that the funding for the Commission would be provided via the Central Fund with a procedure for approval of payment by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Section 25(5) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2004, states that the accounts of the Commission on Electronic Voting shall be submitted by the Minister for Finance to the Comptroller and Auditor General for audit and, immediately after the audit, a copy of the accounts and a copy of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the accounts shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

The accounts of the Commission on Electronic Voting for the years ended 31st December 2004 and 31st December 2005, as well as the accounts for 2006 up to the date of the Commission's dissolution on 4th September 2006, have been submitted to the Comptroller and Auditor General for audit. These, when audited by the C&AG, become the definitive record of the Commission's expenditure, and it would not be appropriate to put details of these un-audited accounts into the public domain in advance of this audit being completed.

As required by Section 25(5) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2004, I will immediately after the audit lay a copy of the audited accounts and a copy of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the accounts before each House of the Oireachtas.

Tax Code.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

321 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance the reason persons are being charged VAT on medical devices such as a coclear implant; if he will continue this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34461/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that in accordance with paragraph (xixa) of the Second Schedule to the Value-Added Tax Act 1972 (as amended) the supply of medical equipment and appliances to assist hearing is subject to the zero VAT rate. This would include devices such as cochlear implants. The zero rate of VAT also applies to parts and accessories that are suitable for use solely or principally with "deaf aids".

Accordingly, if the Deputy is aware of a situation where a person is being charged VAT on a cochlear implant he should advise that person to contact the Office of the Revenue Commissioners with the details.

Social Partnership.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

322 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that the technical working group, compromising representatives of his Department, Central Statistics Office, the Revenue Commissioners, together with the IFA be immediately reconvened in order that the results of its work would form an input into the 2007 budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34523/06]

The farmers flat rate addition review group reconvened on 12 October 2006. Under the last partnership agreement "Sustaining Progress" there was a commitment that the relevant Departments and Offices would meet with farming representatives to elaborate on the data and methodology used in the calculation of the flat rate addition with a view to full transparency in its operation.

A working group chaired by the Department of Finance was convened to discharge the commitment. The methodology employed in the calculation of the flat rate refund was fully explained to the farming organisations over a series of meetings. In this regard, the commitment made under Sustaining Progress "to elaborate on the data and methodology used in this calculation with a view to full transparency in its operation" has been met.

However, the farming organisations subsequently questioned the continuing validity of a number of assumptions unpinning the flat rate calculation on the basis of developments in the farming sector since the methodology was last reviewed in 1988. In the context of the current partnership agreement "Towards 2016" the Government has agreed that the relevant Departments and Offices should meet with farming representatives to review the data and methodology used in the calculation of the farmer's flat rate addition.

As I have stated earlier the working group overseeing the review met on the 12th October 2006 and is due to meet again on the 1st November. In relation to the review providing an input into the forthcoming budget, the flat rate refund for unregistered farmers is examined every year in the lead up to the Budget. It is, however, not customary for me to comment on any possible changes to the existing rate which may arise in the context of the forthcoming budget.

Tax Code.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

323 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a provision to ensure that no capital gains tax arises on the disposal of farmland to a local authority for road building or road widening purposes provided the proceeds of the compensation are reinvested in farm business assets or to fund retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34524/06]

I have no plans to introduce such a relief. Capital Gains Tax applies to farmers as it does, and should apply, to those disposing of property in general. The abolition of reliefs allows for a lower rate of tax for all.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

324 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce an increased tier of tax relief of €25,000 for rental income arising from the leasing out of farmland for farming periods of 12 years or more; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34525/06]

The Deputy will appreciate that in line with normal practice in the run up to the annual Budget and Finance Bill I do not wish to comment on the intention or otherwise to make changes in taxation.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

325 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a targeted relief from stamp duty to farmers for farm consolidation where purchase or sale of land reduces the number of land parcels in a holding or reduces the distances between individual land parcels or increases the size of the overall holding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34526/06]

As the Deputy is aware, I do not comment on possible tax changes ahead of the Budget. However, as far as the existing tax policy is concerned, he may be aware that in Budget 2005, I announced a special stamp duty relief relating to an exchange of farm land between two farmers for the purposes of consolidating each farmer's holding. The relief is contained in section 121 of the Finance Act 2005 which provides that no stamp duty will be charged on an exchange of such lands where the lands are of equal value. In a case where the lands exchanged are not of equal value, stamp duty will only be charged on the amount of the difference in the value of the lands concerned. This relief was introduced for a period of two years commencing 1 July 2005.

At the Partnership talks earlier this year it was agreed to look at the possibility of extending this relief to cases where only one farmer is consolidating his/her farm holdings. However, as was stated at the time, such a measure will need EU Commission approval, which cannot be taken for granted.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

326 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will extend to all tax payers the employee PAYE tax credit through the system of personal credits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34527/06]

The position is that the PAYE allowance, as it was then, was introduced in 1980 to improve the tax progression of PAYE taxpayers and to take account of the fact that the self-employed generally then had the advantage of paying tax on a preceding year basis. The argument was also made at the time that the general scheme of allowances discriminated against employees and in favour of other taxpayers.

There have been changes since 1980 — the self-employed now pay tax on a current year basis, for example. However, the PAYE allowance has become a tax credit. Moreover, given that there can be significant timing advantages in the payment of tax for the self employed, the employee credit is still perceived as necessary to ensure a balance in the system.

I might also mention that implementation of the Deputy's proposal would cost about €845 million in a full year. I have no plans to extend to all taxpayers the employee PAYE tax credit as proposed by the Deputy.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

327 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a targeted capital gains tax farm consolidation re-investment relief whereby the proceeds from the sale of farmland by farmers are reinvested into replacement farmland without charges to capital gains tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34528/06]

As the Deputy is aware, I do not comment on possible tax changes ahead of the Budget. However, as far as the existing tax policy is concerned, he may be aware that it was announced in the 2003 Budget that no rollover relief would be allowed for any purpose on gains arising from disposals on or after 4 December 2002. This relief was introduced when CGT rates were much higher than current levels. In effect, it was a deferral of tax to be paid, where the proceeds of disposal were re-invested into replacement assets. The taxation of these gains would take place following the eventual disposal of the new assets without their replacement.

The abolition of this relief was in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates low. Such reliefs and allowances made sense when CGT rates were 40% and above. In Budget 1998, the rate was halved from 40% to 20%. Taxing capital gains when they are realised is the most logical time to do so, and this change brought CGT into line with other areas.

Customs and Excise Service.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

328 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance his plans to expand the number of dogs that are available to Customs Officers, in view of the low level of such useful resources here compared to many other countries internationally; if he will make a statement on the matter in view of the fact that the success rates of detections are acknowledged elsewhere and that these dogs can be deemed as a deterrent. [34542/06]

The Revenue Commissioners are responsible for the Customs Service and its detector dog programme.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Customs Service deployed its first drug detection dog team in 1984 and since then has steadily increased this complement to its current level of ten. In addition to these drug detector dogs and in tandem with developments in proceeds of crime legislation a cash detector dog team was also deployed last year. These detector dogs teams are strategically located at all major entry points into the State and are used to screen all modes of transport, passengers and their baggage, freight, postal and express courier packages.

In recent times the Customs Service has moved towards the use of multi purpose passive (sit and stare) dogs which can be used to screen passengers as well as freight and vehicles in the most effective manner. The active dogs that were previously deployed could not be used to screen passengers. This decision is in keeping with best practice within the international Customs sphere.

While all dog teams are assigned to specific locations, they can be deployed to any area at short notice as the need arises. They also assist local Garda units and the Criminal Assets Bureau in searches on request.

It is planned to bring the full complement of customs detector dog teams to thirteen, which, given the size and population of the country and the nature of the drug trafficking threat, compares favourably with the Customs Services of other jurisdictions.

The deployment of these detector dogs teams, the acquisition of the Revenue Customs Cutter, and the commissioning of new mobile X-ray scanning technology last year are evidence of the Commissioners' commitment to support the Government's National Drugs Strategy.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

329 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the proportion of the cost of each tribunal made up of legal fees, and the amount of money spent on legal fees in respect of tribunals in each of the years since 1997, under the aegis of his Department. [34552/06]

There were no tribunals initiated under the aegis of my Department since 1997.

Flood Relief.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

330 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding plans for flood relief work to be carried out by his Department in an area (details supplied) in County Wexford; when work will begin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34580/06]

The draft Final Feasibility Report for the area in question has been passed to Wexford County Council for their examination and the Environmental Assessment of Options Report will be forwarded to the Council in the next few weeks.

Subject to agreement on a preferred scheme, the preparation of a full Environmental Impact Statement and of other documents and surveys, which will be required for the public exhibition of the scheme will be undertaken. It is envisaged that the public exhibition would take place in summer 2007 and that work on a scheme could commence in the second half of 2008.

Departmental Properties.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

331 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the properties sold by his Department in County Wexford in the years 2000 to date in 2006; the amount each property sold for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34581/06]

The Devereaux Hotel in Rosslare Harbour was sold on 21st July 2003 for €1,854,999.00. There were no other properties sold during the period in question.

Tax Code.

Michael Lowry

Question:

332 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance the grants and financial supports available for the renovation or conversion of dwelling homes to nursing homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34593/06]

Capital expenditure incurred on the construction or refurbishment of registered nursing homes may be written off for tax purposes over 7 years at the rate of 15% p.a. over the first 6 years and 10% in year 7. Capital expenditure incurred on the renovation or conversion of a dwelling house also qualifies for such capital allowances. As a result of changes made in Finance Act 2006, the registered nursing home must be retained for a period of 15 years to avoid a clawback of any allowances already claimed. The holding period was previously 10 years. However, the tax life of the building was also increased to 15 years so that it will be possible for a subsequent purchaser of the registered nursing home to claim capital allowances where a sale takes place within the 15-year period. The longer 15-year holding period and tax life will come into operation for registered nursing homes that are first used, after the qualifying expenditure is incurred, from 1 February 2007

To qualify for allowances the registered nursing home must be operated or managed as a registered nursing home within the meaning of section 2 of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990 and be registered under section 4 of that Act.

I am also informed by the Minister for Health and Children that there are no grants available for the conversion or renovation of nursing homes from her Department.

Flood Relief.

Seamus Healy

Question:

333 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the Clonmel flood alleviation scheme including date of commencement, cost, phasing, early warning scheme and the arrangements agreed for the erection of the demountable defences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34668/06]

Detailed designs of the River Suir (Clonmel West) Drainage Scheme is currently underway. It is hoped to advertise for a civil works contractor to undertake the main construction of this scheme in January 2007. Tenders have already been received for two elements of advance works on this scheme and are currently being considered. These elements involve the embankments contract for Clonmel West and the overall project design and supply of the demountable flood defence barriers. It was hoped to commence the embankment works before the end of the year but this is now unlikely due to the risk of deteriorating weather. These works will be undertaken as early as possible in 2007.

Detailed design of the Clonmel North Scheme will commence during the construction phase of Clonmel West. Similarly, the design of the Clonmel East Scheme will be undertaken during the construction of the preceding Clonmel North Scheme. OPW hopes to complete the overall construction works over a five year period. The overall project is estimated to cost €44 million based on current pricing conditions.

While the development of the flood relief scheme for Clonmel has been ongoing the OPW has been developing an early flood warning system, which will be required for the erection of the demountable flood defences. An interim system has been designed and is currently in use which provides 5 — 12 hours warning of a flood, with decreasing reliability as the warning period extends. The final system is expected to be in place in 2007 which will increase the warning time available.

The Office of Public Works has been in discussions with relevant bodies in relation to the erection of the demountable defences. Clonmel Borough Council will be responsible for the erection of these defences when the schemes have been completed. Discussions have also taken place with other interested and relevant bodies who will provide a back-up service to the local authority. The finer details of these arrangements have yet to be put in place but the OPW is endeavouring to have these arrangements completed at an early date.

Tax Code.

Seamus Healy

Question:

334 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Finance if he will amend Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to allow the cost of specific tuition for dyslexia to qualify for tax relief under the heading of health expenses in the same way as expenses for speech and language therapy are allowable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34669/06]

The position is that expenses in respect of tuition for children with dyslexia do not qualify for health expenses tax relief and have never qualified for the relief since it was first introduced in 1967.

I understand from the Revenue Commissioners, who deal with such claims, that individuals may have been under the impression that tuition for children with dyslexia was allowable under the heading of health expenses relief. I also understand that the Revenue Commissioners have written to the Dyslexia Association to clarify the matter.

In recent years, the Government has increased significantly the supports available through the direct expenditure system for children with disabilities, including those with dyslexia.

As with many areas where State support may be required, the question arises as to whether such support may be more effectively provided through the direct expenditure route rather than through the tax system. One advantage of the former mechanism is that the support may be better targeted at those in need, irrespective of family income, whereas support through the tax system can only benefit those whose incomes are high enough to benefit from tax relief.

I have no plans to extend Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to cover expenses incurred by parents who have children with dyslexia. However, this matter, like any other, can be raised by the Deputy at Finance Bill time.

Child Care Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

335 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for a capital grant under the equal opportunities child care programme will be decided in relation to a creche (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34005/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006 -2010 (NCIP), which are being implemented by the newly established Office of the Minister for Children.

I understand that the project in question has submitted an application for capital grant assistance under the NCIP. I understand from enquires I have made that this application is currently under appraisal. Each application undergoes a thorough assessment by Pobal, formerly known as Area Development Management Ltd., which is engaged to administer the Programme.

Following completion of the assessment, the application will be considered by the Programme Appraisal Committee, before a decision is made regarding funding. The applicant will be informed of the outcome of the assessment in due course.

Health Services.

Seán Crowe

Question:

336 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of speech and language therapists working in schools here. [34157/06]

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

Seán Crowe

Question:

337 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she acknowledges the need for a national strategy to produce sufficient numbers of speech and language therapists. [34158/06]

In response to concerns regarding labour shortages, my Department commissioned a report from Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates on current and future supply and demand conditions to 2015 in the labour market for speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. The report was published in 2001.

Arising from its recommendations three additional speech and language therapy courses commenced in the 2003/2004 academic year in UCC, NUIG and UL, providing an additional 75 training places in speech and language therapy. This expansion in training numbers was identified in the Bacon report as sufficient to meet the long-term demand-supply balance for speech and language therapists in Ireland. The first graduates from the two year Masters course in UL completed their studies in June, 2005. The first graduates from the BSc courses in UCC and NUIG will graduate in 2007.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive is responsible for the recruitment of its staff. I am advised that it is at present undertaking a national and international recruitment campaign to fill current vacancies and development posts and that the situation will be reviewed in 2007.

Child Care Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

338 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent to date on the child care measure under the National Development Plan; the estimated amount to be spent by the end of the NDP; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34275/06]

The Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme is funded as part of the two Regional Operational Programmes under the National Development Plan, and is split between two measures: the Childcare Facilities measure (which receives co-funding from the European Regional Development Fund) and the Childcare Measure (which receives co-funding from the European Social Fund and is divided into the Support for Staffing Grants and Quality Improvement sub-measures).

The following table sets out the amount spent to the end of December 2005 under the Measures, and the estimated amount to be spent by the end of the NDP.

Outturn to December 2005

Forecast to end of NDP

€m

€m

Childcare Facilities

106.171

150.361

Childcare (incl. Support for Staffing Grants and Quality Improvement)

166.798

244.398

Health Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

339 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are approximately 900 to 1,000 children on the waiting list of a clinic (details supplied) in Dublin 6 and that at the rate of three to four being assessed on a monthly basis, as well as the arrival of additional children, it is virtually impossible to get a child fully assessed in order to establish the level of special needs educational assistance at primary school level; the steps she proposes to take to make the extra resources needed to the clinic to enable them to meet the requirements of many parents and children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34452/06]

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.

Community Care.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

340 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will allocate adequate funding to the Centre for Independent Living in County Mayo in view of the fact that this service is under funded with 70 people urgently awaiting a personal assistant in order that they can live independently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34462/06]

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 Allowances.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

341 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4 who is being funded by the social services, Northern Ireland and the independent living fund, England will be funded in a similar manner by her Department as the person is a resident tax payer here and will be without a job, education and home unless they are granted funding. [34465/06]

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.

Community Care.

Phil Hogan

Question:

342 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on increasing the grant assistance for a voluntary group (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the shortfall of funding for that community organisation and the failure by other groups in the area to fulfil the criteria relating to site and planning permission in the current year and the fact that this group is approved in respect of the necessary criteria; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34535/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which are being implemented by the Office of the Minister for Children.

I understand that the Group in question has been approved total capital grant assistance of €417,323 under the EOCP and has also been approved staffing grant assistance of €177,830, up to 31 December 2007. I understand from enquiries I have made that, to date, the Group has not submitted a formal request for additional funding under the EOCP.

Child Care Services.

Seamus Healy

Question:

343 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make child care funding available to traveller women attending Cashel Primary Health Care Project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34674/06]

The question relates to funding which is the responsibility of the Health Services 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.

Richard Bruton

Question:

344 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for orthodontic treatment on Dublin’s northside for children of different categories of urgency; the number waiting in each category; and if she has under consideration the proposal mooted of providing a partial subsidy to parents wishing to obtain this work privately. [33865/06]

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

Hospital Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

345 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason an appointment in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has been cancelled by Waterford Regional Hospital; if an earlier date than 20 November 2006 will be arranged; and if she will expedite the matter. [33866/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

346 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [33867/06]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

347 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a full medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason a request for an appeal in their case made in writing by his Deputy on 12 June 2006 has not been responded to; and if she will expedite a response. [33868/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

John McGuinness

Question:

348 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the supports and services in place at Kilkenny County Clinic for persons with ADHD; if patients have been informed of a change to this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33869/06]

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 Qualifications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

349 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the commencement of a school of podiatry in a university here. [33870/06]

The FÁS "Healthcare Skills Monitoring Report" (2005) provided a quantitative analysis of demand and supply in 21 health care occupations including podiatry. It highlighted podiatry as among those professions where current and future supply shortages should be addressed and recommended that a School of Podiatry providing 20 to 30 places be established.

Responsibility for its establishment will be a matter, in the final instance, for the Department of Education and Science.

The delivery of clinical training, which is a significant core component of the course, must be facilitated in an integrated manner with Health Service Executive (HSE) services. The HSE has advised the two Departments of its view that the school of podiatry would be best located in a large centre of population, one that is associated with a multi-disciplinary health professional environment and which is linked to a major teaching hospital.

Meetings are continuing at an official level between my Department, the Department of Education and Science, the Higher Education Authority and the Health Service Executive to progress the matter. When these discussions are finalised, it is likely that a call for proposals will be made.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

350 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the registration of podiatrists, chiropodists and other health professionals as provided for in recent legislation. [33871/06]

The Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a system of statutory registration for health and social care professionals, including podiatrists.

The structure of the system of statutory registration comprises a registration board for each of the 12 professions to be registered, a Health and Social Care Professionals Council with overall responsibility for the regulatory system and a committee structure to deal with disciplinary matters. The system will be administered by a Chief Executive Officer and staff.

My Department is proceeding with the establishment of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council in the first instance. In this regard, nominations have been sought from relevant professional bodies and other stakeholders and it is intended that the first meeting of the Council will take place in the coming months.

Following the appointment of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council, work will commence on the establishment of each of the registration boards including the Podiatrists Registration Board. It will be a matter for the Podiatrists Registration Board, when established, to determine criteria for registration and the Board will be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a register of professionals who meet these criteria.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

351 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if transport will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo for their hospital appointment in Galway. [33883/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

352 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to assist the 2,118 people with intellectual disabilities on residential waiting lists; and if she will make this a priority in 2006. [33885/06]

The 2006 annual report from the national intellectual disability database committee indicates that of the additional residential and respite services required to meet the needs of those registered on the database, the majority of these individuals are already in receipt of a major element of service. For example, of the overall total who require a major element of service in the period 2007 to 2011, 89.7% are already in receipt of at least one major element of service.

As the Deputy is aware an integral part of the national disability strategy is the multi-annual investment programme published by the Government in December 2004 which contains details of commitments in relation to the provision of specific high priority disability services over the period 2006 to 2009. These commitments include the development of new residential, respite and day places for persons with intellectual disability and autism in each of the years covered by the programme.

Additional funding of €59 million was provided in 2006 to meet costs associated with the various elements of this programme. This funding will be used to put in place 255 new residential places, 85 new respite places and 535 new day places for people with intellectual disability and autism. In addition funding of €41 million was provided to enhance the multi-disciplinary support services for people with disabilities in line with the Government's commitment to build capacity within the health services to deliver on the various legislative provisions contained in the national disability strategy. Capital funding of €55 million was also being provided in 2006 to support these developments.

The Deputy will also appreciate that I cannot at this stage give specific commitments in relation to the level of expenditure in 2007 for any particular service as these matters will be decided as part of the discussions on the Estimates and Budget for that year between the Health Service Executive, my Department and the Department of Finance.

Health Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

353 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications made for primary medical certificates in each of the old health board and new Health Service Executive regions in the years 2003 to 2006; and the number of these applications granted. [33886/06]

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.

Food Labelling.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

354 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the decision of October 2006 by the French Government to require labels on alcoholic beverages warning of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy; her plans to introduce a similar requirement here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33887/06]

My Department is aware of the decision of the French Government to require labels on alcohol beverage containers warning of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy. Officials from my Department are contacting the French authorities to obtain further details.

The issue of the information contained on labels on alcoholic beverages was considered by the Working Group on Alcohol Misuse which was established to help mobilise the stakeholders through social partnership to achieve a targeted and measurable reduction in alcohol misuse. One of the recommendations of the Working Group was that a group, representative of all relevant stakeholders, would be established to consider what useful information could be included on non-draft alcohol products, taking account of international evidence. An Implementation Group is now being established to monitor implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group. The issue of warning labels on alcohol products will, therefore, initially be considered within this framework.

Care of the Elderly.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

355 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money her Department has invested in the carers development officer role in a centre (details supplied); the changes this role has made to the carer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33900/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

358 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the role the carers development officer appointed in 2002 to a centre (details supplied) has played since appointment; the way in which to contact this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33907/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 355 and 358 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which is responsible for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the funding of these services. However, the centre referred to by the Deputy is a private company and therefore not within the remit of the HSE. I have however forwarded the Deputy's questions to the HSE and asked that it sends any information it may have to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

It should be noted that the only monies available to the Department are provided through Lottery funding. No such funding has been provided to the centre in question to fund a development officer role since its establishment in 2002.

I understand that the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs may have provided funding to this centre under the Dormant Accounts Fund.

Hospital Staff.

James McDaid

Question:

356 Dr. McDaid asked the Minister for Health and Children when the permanent appointment of the breast cancer consultant is due to take place in Letterkenny General Hospital. [33905/06]

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.

Health Service Staff.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

357 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will elaborate on the skills project for carers as referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 279 of 22 November 2005; if she will outline where funding is or will be available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33906/06]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Health Service Executive provides funding for Carers Groups. Any training, or skills projects, and funding for same are therefore a matter for the HSE. Accordingly, the Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange for information to be supplied to the Deputy regarding funding these Groups.

Question No. 358 answered with QuestionNo. 355.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

359 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is funding freely available for a skills project for carers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33914/06]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

360 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of house repairs in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare as per letter from the Health Service Executive dated 11 August 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33918/06]

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 operation of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Mary Upton

Question:

361 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the detection of non-authorised genetically modified organism LL RICE 601 in rice products imported from the US into the EU has implications for Ireland; the steps taken to ensure such rice is not on sale here and has not entered the Irish food chain; if any has been imported into Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33919/06]

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), which is the competent authority in Ireland for the enforcement of EU legislation regarding genetically modified (GM) foods, carries out checks on the marketplace for compliance with GM legislation on an on-going basis.

Ireland, in common with other Member States and as required by EU rules, applies EU legislation on GM foods whether produced within the EU or imported. Under EU rules, only authorised GM foods, or foods containing ingredients thereof, can be placed on the market. The safety of GM products is independently assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on a case-by-case basis and GM food is required to be clearly labelled thus ensuring greater consumer confidence and choice.

The European Commission brought in emergency measures on 23 August last (Commission Decision 2006/578/EC) requiring certification of imported long grain rice as a result of the US authorities revealing that they had found traces of a genetically modified rice line in rice batches from Arkansas and Missouri of a type which is not approved for commercial use on either side of the Atlantic: the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (which consists of representatives of the Member States) backed this decision at an emergency meeting two days later. These emergency measures were superseded by Commission Decision 2006/601/EC of 5 September 2006 on emergency measures regarding the non-authorised genetically modified organism LL RICE 601 in rice products. This Decision stipulates that EU Member States may only allow certain long grain rice products on the EU market where they are accompanied by analytical certification that the rice in question is not present. The Commission Decision also stipulates that Member States must carry out random sampling and analysis of rice products already on the market to verify its absence.

The FSAI, as competent authority for GM foods, has carried out random sampling and testing of rice in the Irish retail sector in line with the Commission Decision: of nineteen samples tested to date, four brands of long grain rice have produced positive results for GM LL RICE 601. Last September, the FSAI notified the European Commission of the initial unfavourable result.

In October, the FSAI forwarded three further notifications to the Commission: in all cases, the batches concerned have been removed from sale. The FSAI has also made contact with Customs and Excise to ensure that only long grain rice products with the required clearance certificates are allowed into Ireland.

In a separate development, on 14 September the Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms of EFSA concluded that ‘The available data are not sufficient to allow the safety of LL RICE 601 to be assessed in accordance with the EFSA guidance for risk assessment. However, on the basis of the available molecular and compositional data and on the toxicological profile of PAT proteins, EFSA considers that the consumption of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LL RICE 601 is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals.'

Member States were updated on the position at a meeting of the Standing Committee held yesterday (Monday, 23 October) and there was a discussion on likely further developments. The Commission tabled a revised Decision which extends the scope to further rice products and requires systematic testing of imports by Member State authorities according to the EU testing protocol at the point of entry to the EU which is an additional measure which supplements the certification procedure being applied by the US exporters: Member States voted in favour of this revised Decision.

Mary Upton

Question:

362 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to unauthorised genetically modified rice in products imported from China being detected in the EU and here, on foot of the European Commission’s response to non-Governmental organisations reports referred to in the European Commission’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health’s GM Food and Feed Section meeting of 11 September 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33920/06]

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), which is the competent authority in Ireland for the enforcement of EU legislation regarding genetically modified (GM) foods, carries out checks on the marketplace for compliance with GM legislation on an on-going basis.

Ireland, in common with other Member States and as required by EU rules, applies EU legislation on GM foods whether produced within the EU or imported. Under EU rules, only authorised GM foods, or foods containing ingredients thereof, can be placed on the market. The safety of GM products is independently assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on a case-by-case basis and GM food is required to be clearly labelled thus ensuring greater consumer confidence and choice.

Government policy with regard to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is based on the Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Modern Biotechnology published in October 2000. In line with the recommendations of this report, my Department adopts a ‘positive but precautionary' approach to the issue of GM foods which reflects the priority given to consumer choice and safety.

At the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health's GM Food and Feed Section meeting held on 11 September 2006 the European Commission informed Member States of reports received from non-Governmental organisations to the effect that an unauthorised genetically modified rice, known as Bt63, had been detected in products imported from China. The reports indicated that the rice products, which are not authorised for use anywhere in the world, were found in Chinese specialty stores in the UK, France and Germany.

At the meeting of the Standing Committee held yesterday (Monday, 23 October) the Commission provided an update on this issue to Member States' representatives. The Commission has requested further information on the rice products and testing methods and has followed up on the information received: it is currently awaiting validation of the testing methods used. The Commission has also contacted the Chinese authorities seeking data on GM rice in China, in particular as regards the Bt genetic constructs developed in China.

In the last number of weeks a number of Member States through their official controls (France, Germany and Austria) have informed the Commission of the presence of Chinese food products containing the unauthorised rice. In respect of the Irish market, the FSAI has not discovered any samples of rice products testing positive for this GM rice.

The Commission has pledged to keep Member States informed on progress on this issue and has indicated that similar emergency measures to those taken with the GM RICE LL 601 will be introduced if considered necessary based on information as it becomes available. This issue will again be on the agenda for the next meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health's GM Food and Feed Section.

Member States were advised by the Commission to ensure compliance of products with EU law as regards non-authorised GMOs. In addition, the Commission has informed the industry that it is their responsibility to ensure that they do not place on the market any products which do not comply with EU legislation.

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

363 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to repeated problems faced by carers (details supplied); the resolution that is or will be available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33924/06]

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

Jack Wall

Question:

364 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not received an earlier appointment in regard to their health condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33943/06]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

365 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the application for special housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33944/06]

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 operation of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

366 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is planned to proceed with plans to construct an elderly care facility in Borrisokane, County Tipperary, including a day care centre; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33945/06]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

367 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there are long delays being experienced by children in need and waiting for speech and language facilities; the reason there have not been extra personnel recruited to deal with the current caseload; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33946/06]

As part of the investment package for Disability Services for 2006, a sum of €12.5 million was made available to the Health Service Executive to enhance the multi-disciplinary support services for people with disabilities.

As the Deputy is aware it is a matter for the Health Service Executive, as part of its management of the employment ceiling, to determine the appropriate staffing mix required to deliver it's service plan priorities, including speech and language therapy services. My Department understands that a priority for the HSE in 2006 is to increase service provision in the area of multi-disciplinary supports to meet obligations to children with developmental delay. The investment package will facilitate the recruitment of up to 200 extra therapists, particularly speech and language, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. Due to the current limited supply of these grades it is acknowledged that in the short term recruitment from overseas will be required. The HSE has put in place a project plan for this.

The specific issue of extra personnel raised by the Deputy in his 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 Ring

Question:

368 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a full reply has not been received to date to two parliamentary questions (details supplied); and when full replies will issue to same. [33947/06]

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 again requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have replies issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

369 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to retain services at St. Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33954/06]

The decision to transfer St. Luke's Hospital was taken by the Government in the context of its consideration of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology Services. The decision is based on expert advice and is designed to ensure that radiation oncology, one element of cancer care, is integrated with all other aspects of care, including surgery and medical oncology. This is in line with best international practice. I am convinced that this model will provide better patient centred treatment with improved quality of service and outcome for patients. The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting the Government's decision in relation to the development of radiation oncology. A transfer on similar lines took place earlier this year in Northern Ireland when radiation oncology services transferred to Belfast City Hospital, a major academic teaching hospital.

In progressing the transfer, I will build on the expertise and ethos of St. Luke's. I have ensured that experts at St. Luke's are centrally involved in the planning and delivery of the National Plan. The plan consists of large centres in Dublin (at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals), Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital. Medical and scientific experts from the hospital are involved in developing the output specifications for the delivery of new radiation oncology services nationally. The Chief Executive at St. Luke's will lead the management team of the new facility at St. James's. I also appointed the Chairman of St. Luke's to chair a National Radiation Oncology Oversight Group to advise me on progress on the implementation of the plan. I have also approved the provision of two additional linear accelerators at St. Luke's to provide much needed interim capacity pending the roll out of the national plan. I expect these services to commence late next year.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

370 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be assessed for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33955/06]

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

John Perry

Question:

371 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Sligo had to avail of a private clinic appointment in Beaumont Hospital in view of their serious medical condition; if she will waive all charges in view of their circumstances as their only income is disability benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33956/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

John Perry

Question:

372 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the circumstances of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; when a personal assistant and transportation will be sanctioned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33957/06]

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

Hospital Services.

John Deasy

Question:

373 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the conditions that must be met for a private hospital to provide radiotherapy services to public patients; and when negotiations between a clinic (details supplied) in County Waterford and the Health Service Executive will be completed. [33969/06]

Quality standards for the provision of radiation oncology services for public patients have been prepared by an expert group established on foot of a Government decision in January 2004. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised my Department that it is applying these standards to radiation oncology services that it provides or arranges to have provided. My Department is working closely with the HSE to progress the National Radiation Oncology Plan announced by Government in July 2005. It will deliver integrated care to cancer patients by multidisciplinary teams of cancer experts at centres in Dublin, at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals, Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital. The specific issue in relation to negotiations between the HSE and the Whitfield Clinic is a matter for the HSE. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to this matter.

Cancer Treatment Services.

John Deasy

Question:

374 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are private facilities currently providing radiotherapy or oncology services to public patients here. [33970/06]

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.

Medical Cards.

John Deasy

Question:

375 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if a clinic (details supplied) in County Waterford and the Health Service Executive are engaged in service provider negotiations to cater for medical card holders. [33971/06]

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.

Joe Costello

Question:

376 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if a house (details supplied) in Dublin 9 has been purchased for use by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33972/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department is requesting the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

377 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if the winter initiative scheme will be issued in a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo; the funding which will be provided towards this; and when this funding will be available to the hospital. [33987/06]

The question raised by the Deputy 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. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the particular matter raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to him.

Child Care Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

378 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children her view on whether the proposed Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006 are feasible particularly in view of the new adult to child ratio; her further view on whether this is sustainable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33988/06]

The Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006 provide that "a person carrying on a pre-school service shall ensure that a sufficient number of suitable and competent adults are working directly with the pre-school children in the pre-school service at all times". The changes to the age ranges and the adult-child ratios applying to each age range under the revised Regulations are set out in the Explanatory Guide to the Regulations as follows:

The new ratios for full day care are:

Age range

adult child ratios

0-1 year

1:3 (no change)

1-2 years

1:5 (new age range — ratio for 1-2 years is currently 1:6)

2-3 years

1:6 (new age range — no change in ratio)

3-6 years

1:8 (no change)

The above ratios will apply to part-time services also. For sessional services the new ratios are:

Age range

adult child ratios

0 -1 year

1:3 (new age range — ratio currently 1:10)

1 — 2.5 years

1:5 (new age range — ratio currently 1:10)

2.5 years — 6 years

1:10 (new age range — no change in ratio)

For drop-in centres the new ratios are:

Age range

adult child ratios

0-6 years

1:4 (currently 1:3 for under 1 year and 1:8 for 1-6 years)

There is a maximum group size for each age range in each category.

For childminders the new ratio is that a childminder (a person who provides a childminding service) should look after not more than 5 pre-school children including her own pre-school children. The ratio is currently not more than 6 pre-school children including her own pre-school children. No more than two children should be less than 15 months. Exceptions in relation to numbers under 15 months can be made for multiple births or siblings. If a childminder is caring for 6 pre-school children, including her own pre-school children, at the time of the commencement of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006, the childminder will not be required to reduce the number cared for to 5 until the first child from that group of 6 pre-school children begins to attend school or leaves the service voluntarily. The Review Group chaired by the Department of Health and Children which drew up the Regulations had representation from the Health Service Executive, the National Voluntary Childcare Organisations and other Departments. There was broad agreement across the Review Group membership on the ratio changes in the revised regulations. The Group applied the revised ratios and group sizes and revised space ratios to some existing services and found they did not have any significant impact in terms of reducing numbers that could be cared for or in terms of the cost of the service. The Explanatory Guide advises that the adult-child ratios be applied in a flexible manner in so far as is safe and practical to facilitate sibling interaction and mixed aged groupings. It also states that the total number of child care staff available in the service should be considered as opposed to the per room allocation so that staff are fully utilised.

Health Services.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

379 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children in County Galway on the waiting list for orthodontic treatment or assessment; the longest waiting period for assessment; the longest waiting period for orthodontic treatment for people on the list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33989/06]

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

Ambulance Service.

Enda Kenny

Question:

380 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients transported to hospital by helicopter in each of the Health Service Executive areas for each of the past five years; the cost on an annual basis of such transport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34004/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

381 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons currently employed in her Department whose status has changed to that of disabled since the commencement of their employment with her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34010/06]

Since the commencement of their employment, two members of staff in my Department have developed a disability as most recently defined under the Disability Act, 2005.

Health Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

382 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding will be targeted for diabetes treatment and prevention, as recommended and costed by the diabetes expert group four years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34011/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

383 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in introducing stroke units nationwide, where patients would be managed under the direct care of a stroke specialist in conjunction with a dedicated multidisciplinary team; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34012/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, 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.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

384 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children if legislation will be introduced requiring pharmacists to report adverse side effects of drugs on patients to the authorities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34013/06]

There is no legislation requiring pharmacists to report adverse drug reactions. Nevertheless, pharmacists may, if as part of their professional input into the medicine therapy of their patients they become aware of such reactions, advise the Irish Medicines Board, which is the relevant regulatory authority. I have no plans to introduce legislation requiring pharmacists to report adverse drug reactions.

Ambulance Service.

James Breen

Question:

385 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide an air ambulance to cover Loop Head peninsula and the greater west Clare area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34018/06]

Inter-hospital air ambulance transport services are currently provided by the Air Corps on a request and availability basis. In this regard, a Service Level Agreement is in place between the Department of Defence, the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive, the Defence Forces and the Air Corps for the provision of air ambulance services. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have the specific service matter raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to him.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

386 Mr. Keh