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 15, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 16 to 80, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 81 to 88, inclusive, answered orally.

Proposed Legislation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

89 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the promised new regulatory authority for auctioneers and estate agents will be established on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36239/06]

When I published the report of the Auctioneering/Estate Agency Review Group in October 2005, I announced that the Government had accepted its recommendation for the establishment of the Property Services Regulatory Authority to control and regulate the provision of property services provided by auctioneers, estate agents and property management agents.

The Government Legislation Programme published on 26 September last provides for publication of the Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill in 2007. It will give effect to the key recommendations of the Review Group, including establishment of the new Regulatory Authority. My Department is also preparing legislative proposals to provide for powers for the new Authority to deal comprehensively with the issue of estate management charges and management companies for apartments and housing estates.

Pending enactment of the legislation, I have set up an Implementation Group to assist and advise on practical matters relating to establishment of the new body and to prepare for the new licensing system. I am pleased to say that a Chief Executive designate has already been appointed and that Navan, Co. Meath has been chosen as the headquarters of the new Authority.

Weapons Amnesty.

John Gormley

Question:

90 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the low yield of the recent weapons amnesty which resulted in 368 weapons being handed over to An Garda Síochána when compared with a similar amnesty system in the UK in 2003 which resulted in 43,000 weapons and one million rounds of ammunition being handed over to police; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36339/06]

I have been informed by An Garda Síochána that due to a delay in some Garda Stations making their returns to Garda Headquarters, a conclusive figure of weapons surrendered under the recent Amnesty will not be available until later this week. However, to date 627 weapons, and not 368 as referred by the Deputy which were surrendered under the Amnesty, have been returned to Garda Headquarters.

One cannot draw a valid comparison between the recent Amnesty here and the Amnesty in the UK in 2003. Under the UK Amnesty persons were allowed to hand in illegally held guns and just walk away. No questions were asked and neither were those surrendering weapons required to present any form of identification or asked for their names. They were informed, in public notices announcing the amnesty, that there would be no arrests or prosecutions arising out of the surrender of any weapon.

The basis of our Amnesty, and one which all parties agreed with in the course of the passage of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 through the Oireachtas, was that persons would be required to give their name and address when surrendering weapons, that the weapons surrendered would be forensically tested and where a surrendered weapon was found to have been used in the commission of a crime both the weapon and forensic evidence could be used in evidence in any subsequent proceedings. To provide otherwise would, in my view, allow the possibility that criminals would avail of the Amnesty to "dump" weapons used in the commission of crime thus making it more difficult to secure prosecutions in any further cases.

I want to emphasise once again that I never held the view that large numbers of hardened criminals were going to hand over their weapons. Such criminals can only be dealt with by applying the full rigour of the law; they are and will continue to be pursued relentlessly and brought to justice. However, I did believe that there were people who had guns and offensive weapons and who would have found it difficult to come forward or to admit that they had weapons in their house or that they had neglected to license them. The Amnesty afforded such people an opportunity to surrender such weapons safely and I am glad to see that so many availed of the opportunity before the introduction of the new minimum mandatory sentence provided for under the 2006 Act.

The opportunity afforded by the Amnesty will make the new mandatory sentences fair as well as effective. These sentences, which came into effect on 1st November, 2006 provide mandatory minimum sentences of between 5 and 10 years for a range of serious firearms offences.

The court may exercise discretion and impose less than the minimum sentence prescribed where it is satisfied that there are exceptional and specific circumstances for doing so. However, it may only exercise its discretion in the case of a first offence. Where a person charged with any of the above offences has been previously convicted of any such offence then the court has no discretion and must impose at least the mandatory minimum sentence.

Garda Disciplinary Proceedings.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

91 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the disciplinary action taken in relation to two gardaí (details supplied) who had pleaded not guilty to charges of perjury, forgery and using a forged document prior to the collapse of their trial on charges of committing perjury during the trial of a man suspected of involvement in the Omagh bombing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36343/06]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

137 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of two members of the Garda who were acquitted of charges of perjury and forging of documents in the Dublin Circuit Court on 23 October 2006 as certain papers were deemed to be inadmissible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36243/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 137 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, last month, the two Gardaí in question were found not guilty on all counts preferred against them, on direction of the trial judge. Both persons had also been subject to disciplinary proceedings pursuant to the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 1989.

Regulation 38 of these Regulations provides that where a member of the Garda Síochána has either been convicted or acquitted of an offence, then proceedings under the Discipline Regulations for an alleged breach of discipline shall not be commenced or, if already commenced, shall not be continued if the breach of discipline is in substance the same as the offence for which he has been convicted or acquitted.

In respect of one of the persons referred to, who is still a serving member of the Garda Síochána, as the alleged breach of discipline and the criminal charges of which he was acquitted were in substance the same, I am informed by the Garda authorities that disciplinary proceedings were discontinued in accordance with Regulation 38 of the Disciplinary Regulations.

I am further informed that the second person acquitted last month of the charges preferred against him was medically discharged from the Garda Síochána on 18 September, 2006. As this person is no longer a member of the Garda Síochána, disciplinary proceedings were discontinued.

As the Deputies are, no doubt, also aware, in future, such matters could be addressed by the Ombudsman Commission. In particular, under Section 102(4) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Commission will be able to investigate any matter, even where no complaint has been made, where it appears that a member of the Force may have committed an offence or behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings.

In carrying out a criminal investigation, designated officers of the Ombudsman Commission will have Garda powers, immunities and privileges. They will be empowered to obtain search warrants, to arrest members of the Force, to detain and question members of the Force and take forensic samples, and to bring charges against them. Such investigations will therefore be full criminal investigations, carried out independently by the Ombudsman Commission. The members of the Ombudsman Commission were appointed earlier this year, and it intends to become operational in 2007.

Finally, I should add that I have already published comprehensive proposals for reform of the Garda disciplinary regulations, and these are now being discussed within the Garda Conciliation Council.

Garda Strength.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

92 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of positions within An Garda Síochána scheduled to be civilianised; the number of those positions that have been civilianised to date; the number that have been scheduled for civilianisation by the end of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36323/06]

In my reply to a Priority Question from the Deputy on 27 April 2006 I comprehensively set out the position in relation to the process of civilianisation in An Garda Síochána. While I will recap on progress to date, I would like at the outset to state that significant progress is being made on recruitment to a range of new civilian posts, including:

31 posts in the Garda Telecommunications area;

28 staff for the Professional Standards Unit, comprising statisticians, analysts and administrative staff;

10 internal audit posts;

14 additional teaching / training posts in the Garda College in Templemore; and

29 crime analysts.

At the time that the Civilianisation Report was finalised in 2001 there were 818 civilians carrying out clerical or administrative functions in An Garda Síochána. Today that figure is 1,223, a 50% increase in 5 years. The recruitment proposals outlined in the course of this reply will add approximately 140 more to this number. I remain committed to the greatest level of civilianisation consistent with the effective and efficient functioning of An Garda Síochána.

Let me turn now to the 2001 Civilianisation Report under which the Government approved the civilianisation of 496 posts in An Garda Síochána to be filled on a phased basis over a twenty-year period through natural wastage. The programme drawn up provided for: the civilianisation of these posts in the short, medium and long term; the transfer of the finance function from Garda District Officers to civilian staff; and the transfer of civilian staff from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to An Garda Síochána.

Of the 496 posts proposed in 2001 for civilianisation, 296 of these were administrative posts with the balance being specialist posts in areas such as telecommunications, mapping and photography. While 161 posts were identified for civilianisation in the short term, only a further 27 posts were scheduled to be civilianised in the period 2004 to 2006. The remaining posts were scheduled to be civilianised over the period up to 2021, including 121 which were to be civilianised in the final year of the programme. The timescales for implementation reflected an agreement reached at the time with Garda Representative Bodies who I am glad to say have since expressed a wish for a more accelerated programme of civilianisation. I personally regard that extraordinary lead-in time as completely unacceptable.

The initial focus in implementing the programme was on the transfer of the finance function from Garda District Officers to civilian staff and 113 civilian District Finance Officers were accordingly appointed under this process. The Deputy should be aware that the further replacement of members of An Garda Síochána with civilian staff has been stalled for some time by Equal Pay cases taken by members of the Clerical, Public and Services Union. The Equality Tribunal found in favour of claimants in seven of fourteen cases taken and an appeal which I have taken in relation to these cases is currently before the Labour Court. I am, however, pleased to say that other elements of the civilianisation programme are continuing apace and are contributing towards the freeing up of Gardaí for front-line policing.

I would refer in particular to the establishment, at my own instigation, of the Garda Information Service Centre (GISC) in Castlebar, which now has a staffing complement of 162 civilians and is servicing all Garda regions nationally. Whereas previously Gardaí had to return to their Stations following a crime event to enter data on the PULSE system, they now make a call to the GISC, where civilian colleagues input the data for them, allowing officers to remain "on the beat". This major initiative has freed up significant amounts of Garda time for continued operational duty. The Garda authorities are already considering what other tasks could be devolved to the GISC which would release additional Garda resources for front-line policing.

A further key development has been the transfer of civilian staff to the direct control of the Garda Commissioner, as provided for in the Civilianisation Report and in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. This transfer took place on 16 October last. In order to support the transfer of these staff to the Commissioner, a new Human Resources Division for civilian staff in An Garda Síochána has been established, which when fully operational will have a staffing complement of 37 civilians. This Division, which will look after the full range of HR requirements of the 1,900 clerical, administrative, professional, technical and industrial civilians now working with An Garda Síochána, will also play a key role in driving forward the wider civilianisation programme. The Head of the new HR Division has been appointed and a number of staff have now commenced duty, with the remaining staff in the process of being recruited.

The Civilianisation Report envisaged an enhanced administrative career structure in An Garda Síochána but not to the extent that has emerged. The establishment of the GISC has added a significant number of supervisory and management posts to the civilian structure. Furthermore, as part of an agreement reached with staff interests regarding the transfer of civilian staff to the Commissioner, sanction has been granted by the Minister for Finance for an additional 76 civilian clerical and administrative posts to be located around the country on a regional and divisional basis. Recruitment to these posts will be progressed as soon as possible.

Under the Garda Síochána Act, the Commissioner became the Accounting Officer for An Garda Síochána in July of this year. This transfer of responsibility is being supported by the recruitment of nine civilian staff for a new Finance and Procurement Unit within An Garda Síochána. I would also mention that a new civilian Accommodation Manager has been appointed and commenced duty in September last.

The Joint Implementation Group comprising management representatives from An Garda Síochána and my Department is continuing its work on civilianisation. Given that the 2001 Civilianisation Report was written at a particular point in time, the Group is taking account of changes which have occurred in the interim in the environment in which civilianisation is being pursued and looking at ways in which the civilianisation programme can be advanced in the shorter term, both in the context of the Civilianisation Report and otherwise. As the Deputy can see, considerable progress has been made to date and I will continue to drive this civilianisation process forward.

I should mention that I am in receipt of two reports, one from the Hayes Advisory Group, chaired by Senator Maurice Hayes, the other from the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, both of which make a number of recommendations in relation to the civilianisation of senior corporate management positions in An Garda Síochána. I will be announcing further details of these reports later today and they will also be laid before both Houses within the hour, for the benefit of Members. I look forward to discussing the proposals contained in the reports with the Garda Commissioner over the coming weeks.

Coroners Service.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

93 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the requirement of the Dublin city coroner for doctors to report to him all cases of deaths from MRSA prior to the signing of death certificates; if he will make this a requirement throughout the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35573/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

148 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, further to a decision recently by a person (details supplied) that all deaths attributable to MRSA are reported to the coroners and be put on death certificates, this will be made mandatory nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35487/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 148 together.

In my reply to Question 109 of 2 November, 2006, I noted that the circumstances under which a death is reported to the relevant coroner falls within the jurisdiction of that coroner, being a quasi judicial authority charged with the independent investigation of death. A coroner has the entitlement, under section 18 of the 1962 Coroners Act, to require that certain information in regard to certain types of deaths be provided. It is a matter for the coroner to determine what information regarding a death he or she requires in order to carry out his function. I have no role in this process.

My understanding is that there has been contact between the Health Service Executive and the Dublin City Coroner's office on the specific matter raised by the Deputies. I take it that it is in this context that the Dublin City Coroner has requested such information from hospitals within his jurisdiction with regard to the concerns in ensuring proper death certification where MRSA may be involved.

Again, I understand that other coroners, either formally or informally may also have requested or are informed of such information from hospitals within their jurisdiction so as to ensure that the most appropriate information is conveyed in the death certificate.

As indicated in the Government's Legislative Programme published on 26 September, 2006, the Coroners Bill is in the course of being drafted with a view to publication later in the year. My proposals for a Bill to comprehensively reform the legislation relating to coroners and the organisation of the coroner service are available on my Department's website having been approved by the Government for drafting. The new legislation will radically overhaul and reform the coroner service. It will provide for a modernisation of the death investigation, post-mortem and inquest procedures so as to ensure a better service to society in general, and to the relatives of the deceased in particular, than is currently possible under the 1962 Coroners Act.

There are two critical elements involved in the reform of the service which will be reflected in the new legislation. These are:

1. Development of optimum structures and administration for a modern coroner service and

2. Widening the scope of the inquest.

The Bill gives effect to the recommendations of the Report of the Working Group on the Review of the Coroner Service and it takes into account relevant jurisprudence of our courts and the European Court of Human Rights.

Finally, I would like to refer the Deputies to the Minister for Health and Children's comprehensive reply to Deputy Ó Caoláin's Parliamentary Question of 1 November, 2006 (No. 35573/06) concerning MRSA.

Garda Investigations.

Joe Costello

Question:

94 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number and estimated value of illegal fireworks seized by the gardaí in September and October 2006; the number of such cases where prosecutions have been initiated; the number of cases where vehicles being used to transport illegal fireworks have been seized; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36241/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there have been seven proceedings commenced relating to fireworks offences under the Explosives Act 1875, as amended by Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which came into effect on 1 August, 2006.

Under Operation Tombola there have been 64 seizures of fireworks recorded for the period September to October, 2006, with an estimated value of €113,511. Figures provided are provisional, operational and liable to change.

I am also informed that to date no vehicles used for the transportation of fireworks have been seized by An Garda Síochána.

Operation Tombola, the annual Garda operation to combat the illegal sale of fireworks, was launched in September this year. Under this Operation each Assistant Commissioner in conjunction with his or her senior management team, puts initiatives in place, based on information and intelligence available, in each Garda Division to prevent and detect the sale and organised importation of fireworks, particularly in the lead up to Halloween. All operational Gardaí, together with dedicated resources specifically deployed for this Operation, are tasked with preventing and detecting such offences.

I am confident that with the introduction of the new offences and new penalties the Garda operations will be even more successful in combating the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks.

Departmental Properties.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

95 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the site at Shanganagh Castle, Shankill, County Dublin, which Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has requested not be sold, is being sold to private developers to compensate for the overspend on the site at Thornton Hall; and if it is acceptable that the council will be forced to purchase the castle back from the private developers for public use at a greatly inflated cost. [36312/06]

Following an open tender competition I have accepted the highest offer for the site of 6.33 acres at Shanganagh Castle.The proceeds from the sale of this site in addition to approximately 21 acres previously disposed of to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council will meet in full the cost of the site at Thornton Hall. This, contrary to what the Deputy is suggesting, represents excellent value for the State. The sale of the 21 acres to the Council was concluded for a consideration of €9M, a fraction of its market value — on the basis that it would be utilised by the Council for the provision of social and affordable housing.

At the time of the sale of the 21 acres in 2003 Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council expressly stated that it had no interest in the remaining 6.33 acres including Shanganagh Castle a protected structure.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Paul McGrath

Question:

96 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the funding for a closed circuit television system for Mullingar, County Westmeath; and when he expects this system to be installed. [36326/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

123 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the funding for a closed circuit television system for Athlone, County Westmeath; and when he expects this system to be installed. [36327/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 123 together.

As the Deputy is aware, Athlone and Mullingar are two of 17 areas set to receive a Garda CCTV system under the Garda CCTV Programme. The Garda authorities are currently finalising a detailed Request for Tender (RFT) for the outsourced service provision of 14 of these Garda CCTV systems in the following towns: Athlone, Carlow, Castlebar, Clonmel, Drogheda, Dungarvan, Ennis, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Mullingar, Portlaoise, Sligo, Tallaght and Waterford. The locations are listed in alphabetical order.

As I have indicated previously, I am anxious to accelerate the implementation of this CCTV programme and reduce as far as possible the workload of the Garda Síochána in this regard. Garda Management and my Department are currently in consultation with the Department of Finance with a view to proceeding as quickly as possible with the procurement process to contract outsourced service providers for the development, installation and management of these CCTV systems, including Athlone and Mullingar. This will be the subject of a "peer review" process organised by the Department of Finance. Following the successful conclusion of this review it is intended to issue the Request for Tender.

I wish to inform the Deputy that, on 13 October 2006, the Garda authorities published a request for tender document (RFT) for the installation of three Garda CCTV Systems in Ballyfermot, Clondalkin and Tullamore on the Government's procurement website etenders.gov.ie. The closing date for receipt of tenders is 22 November 2006.

Under this tender process the Garda authorities propose, as a pilot project, to seek proposals which use wireless CCTV technology for the installation of these three CCTV systems. This innovative technology will allow CCTV cameras to be redeployed as necessary to meet changing policing requirements.

The emphasis in this project is on speed of implementation and contractors will be required to complete the deployment of these CCTV systems before the end of March 2007. The implementation of these Garda CCTV systems will provide a strong deterrent to anti-social behaviour and an excellent tool for Gardaí in Ballyfermot, Clondalkin and Tullamore in their fight against street crime.

Drug Seizures.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

97 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the increase in the use of crack cocaine in the greater Dublin area; if there are plans within his Department to tackle this increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36336/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that while there has been a slight increase in the quantity of freebase or crack cocaine seized in this jurisdiction over the past two years, this still represents a small proportion of the total number of cocaine seizures recorded annually.

However, the Garda authorities also inform me that most of the recorded seizures of freebase cocaine, have to date been made in An Garda Síochána's North Central Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Region.

This, of course, is a matter of concern and the Garda authorities have taken a number of measures to address the problem. The Garda National Drugs Unit and local drug units conduct intelligence-driven operations to target individuals suspected of involvement in the distribution of freebase cocaine. Drug units and community policing personnel are engaged in intelligence gathering on individuals and groups suspected of involvement in the sale and distribution of the drug. There is also targeted patrolling by uniform and plain-clothes personnel of problem areas in order to detect and disrupt persons involved in such activity.

In addition. I am informed by the Garda authorities, that during 2006 the Garda National Drugs Unit, in conjunction with local Garda management in the DMR North Central Division, commenced an on-going investigation into the alleged distribution of freebase cocaine within that Division. This initiative has resulted in the arrest of 15 persons for offences contrary to section 15, Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977/84 — possession of drugs with intent to supply. Freebase cocaine has been confirmed as one of a number of drugs seized during this initiative to date.

In terms of the Government's overall strategy to tackle drug misuse, the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 addresses the problem across a number of pillars — supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research and implementation of the strategy across a range of Government Departments and agencies is coordinated by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The Government is aware of the increased prevalence of cocaine usage in recent times and efforts to tackle it are broadly based to include measures aimed at both supply and demand reduction, including awareness initiatives.

The national strategy specifies a number of supply reduction targets for An Garda Síochána in terms of all drug seizures and the Gardaí have achieved considerable successes in relation to these targets to date.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that their strategies for dealing with drug offences are designed to undermine the activities of organised criminal networks involved in the trafficking and distribution of illicit drugs, including all forms of cocaine.

The Garda authorities advise that these strategies continue to result in operational successes, including successes against cocaine trafficking. The trafficking and distribution of all illicit drugs, including hydrochloric and freebase cocaine, at local, national and international levels is constantly monitored by the Gardaí.

Finally, the Criminal Justice Act 2006, provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will further enhance the powers of the Gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences, including drug offences.

Garda Operations.

Martin Ferris

Question:

98 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the conduct of gardaí involved in operations at Bellanaboy, County Mayo over the past four weeks and on reports of extreme heavy handedness in the treatment of peaceful protesters. [36311/06]

In order to carry out urgent environmental works, since September 2006, access for workers to a site at Bellanaboy, Co. Mayo, has been required to be facilitated by the Garda Síochána, in the face of protest action by some local campaigners, supported by groups and individuals from outside the area. These groups have at times sought to prevent the workers from travelling to the site in question which goes beyond a peaceful protest, on any view.

The situation at Bellanaboy has been tense at times, and strong emotions on the part of the demonstrators have clearly been in evidence. However, the Garda Síochána is duty-bound to uphold the rule of law without fear or favour, and they have been seeking to do so in a confrontational scenario not of their making.

I do not believe that the actions of the Garda Síochána at Bellanaboy could in any reasonable way be described as ‘heavy handed'.

Garda Investigations.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

99 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a report from the expert group established in view of concerns arising from the case of a person (details supplied); if a deadline has been set for the work of the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36266/06]

Following the establishment of the Commission of Investigation set up to look into the Dean Lyons case, I established an Expert Group to report to me on the adequacy of Garda training, protocols, regulations and procedures, in assessing the fitness of persons to be interviewed and on the recording of any bona fide reservations of an individual member of a Garda investigation team as to the truthfulness or accuracy of self-incriminating statements.

The work of the Expert Group is still ongoing. As I understand it, they have been making good progress in dealing with what is a complex and contentious brief. They have the opportunity of taking the Report of the Dean Lyons Commission of Investigation into account as well as similar type considerations which have arisen before the Morris Tribunal.

I am hopeful that the Group will be in a position to report to me in early 2007. As I have promised previously, I intend to publish the Report.

Asylum Support Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

100 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it was appropriate that the non-national occupants of a hostel that went on fire in Dublin on the night of 25 October 2006 were accommodated, on the direction of gardaí, in Mountjoy Prison. [36313/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that on 25 October, 2006 members of An Garda Síochána, with the assistance of a wide range of government and non-government agencies, dealt effectively with a major incident involving a serious threat to life and property, which resulted in a group of people being left homeless in the early hours of the morning.

I understand that an offer was accepted from the Prison Service to accommodate these temporarily homeless people within the Mountjoy Prison complex, at short notice, and on an emergency basis. Dublin Bus and staff at the Mater Hospital also greatly facilitated this immediate solution. I am also informed that the relevant authorities resumed responsibility for the group's welfare the next day.

Garda Investigations.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

101 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the allegation made by a member of the British House of Commons that MI6 operate in the Republic of Ireland; if they are correct; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36204/06]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to an interview given by Mr. Gerry Adams recently in which, according to the transcript available to me, he said ‘. . . for example lots of concerns raised yesterday about the role of MI5 in the north . . . I have similar concerns about the role of MI6 in the south . . .' In response to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of 25 October, 2006, I indicated that it was not clear what, if any, allegations were being made and, accordingly, that I was not in a position to make any substantive response. That remains the position in that regard.

It is not the practice and would be contrary to the public interest to comment on allegations of activities by foreign security services in this jurisdiction other than to say that the Garda Síochána remains vigilant and engaged in its capacity as the State's security service. In making this point, I should not be taken as suggesting that there is any substance to the allegation cited in the Deputy's question.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

102 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount spent by his Department on staging the Ryder Cup in September 2006 in the K-Club, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34701/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that a total costing of the event will not be available until all expenditure claims have been processed and paid. Due to the large number of claims involved, it will be a number of weeks before this information is to hand.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that following negotiations between the Ryder Cup organisation and An Garda Síochána it was agreed that an amount of €1.7m would be paid by that organisation towards the cost of policing the 2006 Ryder Cup. An amount of €850,000, being the first instalment due, has recently been received by the Garda authorities. The outstanding amount is to be paid shortly.

Fireworks Offences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

103 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of licences that have been issued under the Explosives Act 1875 as amended for the importation or use of fireworks during October 2006; the number of arrests made in respect of offences under the 1875 Act as amended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36322/06]

A total of 45 licences were issued during the month of October, 2006 for the importation of fireworks under the Explosives Act, 1875.

The 1875 Act was amended by the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 and, on 1st August, I signed an order bringing all sections of the Act relating to fireworks into immediate effect. These amendments provide for new offences governing the possession of illegal fireworks with intent to supply and misuse of fireworks in public places. 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. There have been 7 arrests under these new provisions since they were introduced a little over 2 months ago.

Missing Persons.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

104 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the recommendations of a report (details supplied) he will reintroduce funding for the operation of a missing persons helpline, including a dedicated budget for advertising and a public awareness campaign on the helpline and the problems faced by missing persons and their families; if he will provide funding for an integrated missing persons website; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36316/06]

Funding of €110,000 in respect of a National Missing Persons Helpline made available by my Department in 2002 and 2003 was channelled through the Victim Support organisation, and was in addition to the ongoing funding that organisation received for the provision of services to victims of crime. This funding of €110,000 was provided subject to the conditions that no funding beyond the year 2003 should be implied, and audited accounts should be provided to my Department on a calendar year basis. To date no audited accounts have been received in my Department.

At the end of 2003, and as a matter of good practice in the handling of public money, my Department commissioned a review of the Helpline from the Department of Social Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology, which recorded the number of phone calls to the Helpline up to that time in the region of 100.

In March 2005, I decided that continued funding of the Victim Support organisation could no longer be justified due to serious concerns in relation to governance, accountability for public funds and poor service levels, after a lengthy period of instability within the organisation. I understand that Victim Support closed down its headquarters operation during 2005 and that a number of staff were made redundant, including the person employed to operate the Missing Persons Helpline. My Department had no role in the decision of Victim Support to make a number of its staff redundant, other than to insist that statutory requirements (notice, holiday pay, etc.) be met and that the interests of the staff be protected.

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

The Garda Síochána are continuously monitoring international developments in relation to missing persons in order to ensure that best practice is followed. 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.

The disappearance of any person is traumatic for their family and friends, and for this reason I am anxious to assist them in any way I can. I am of the view that a Helpline for this purpose is best set up on an independent basis and by a non-official, voluntary organisation.

A proposal for funding has been received in my Department from the Missing In Ireland Support Service to restore the National Missing Persons Helpline and officials are currently examining the proposal.

Crime Levels.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

105 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the figures for headline offences for the third quarter of 2006 published by the Central Statics Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36240/06]

The provisional headline crime statistics for the third quarter of 2006 show a decrease of 1.6% for the quarter compared with the same quarter in 2005. These statistics are the first crime statistics to be published by the Central Statistics Office following my decision that new arrangements should be put in place.

As I have consistently done since I directed the quarterly publication of the figures in 2003, I once again emphasise that care must be taken in interpreting the statistics, especially when considering short term fluctuations and extrapolating trends over short periods.

Of particular note in the figures published for the third quarter are the decreases in murder and manslaughter offences (overall decrease of 6%) and sexual offences (overall decrease of 9%). There have also been significant decreases in the range of robbery and theft offences, including decreases of 43% in robberies of cash and goods in transit and of 24% in theft from the person.

The largest percentage increases have been in low volume crimes, such as aggravated sexual assault and false imprisonment, where a small increase in the number of crimes will result in a large percentage increase.

I welcome the large increase of 183% in the detection of the offences of cultivation, manufacture and importation of drugs, which is due to professional and skilful police work by An Garda Síochána, as well as the increased resources available.

Looking at longer term crime trends, the level of headline crime in 2005 was lower than that in 2002 by 4.4%. Furthermore, in 1995, when we had a population of almost 3.6 million, there were 29 crimes per 1,000 of the population, while in 2005, with a population of over 4.1 million, there were 24.6 crimes per 1,000 of the population — 15% less crimes per 1,000 of the population. By way of comparison, during 1995 and 1996, the last full two years of the Rainbow Government, when the population was 600,000 lower than it is at present, there were 29 and 28 crimes per 1,000 population in each of the two years.

Courts Service.

Ivor Callely

Question:

106 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the moneys allocated to date for the Courts Service; the level of funding required to progress the Courts Service strategic plans and policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35922/06]

The moneys allocated to date for the Courts Service are as shown in the table.

Year

€’000

1999

60,624

2000

75,190

2001

84,779

2002

91,056

2003

93,530

2004

98,908

2005

104,416

2006

111,841

The Estimates for 2006 include €19.6m to enable the Service to continue its ambitious nationwide programme of courthouse renovation and refurbishment. Negotiations are currently underway between the Courts Service and the preferred tenderer for the new Criminal Court Complex in Dublin under the Public Private Partnership approach.

In addition, this year's estimates include €9.4m to support major IT modernisation initiatives such as the Civil Case Management System, the delivery of court services by electronic means and courtroom technology upgrades.

The Courts Service has confirmed to me that its level of funding is sufficient to enable it to progress the strategic plans and policies of the Service. As the Deputy will appreciate, the Courts Service is responsible for the day to day management of the courts and deciding how the funding provided is specifically allocated. I am responsible for ensuring that the Service is adequately funded and I am confident that the level of funding provided is sufficient, not only to maintain the existing levels of service, but also to provide for their improvement.

Garda Stations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

107 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations equipped for the video recording of interviews with suspects; the percentage of all stations this represents; the number of Garda stations with detention facilities that are so equipped; if there are plans to equip further Garda stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36281/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 162 of Tuesday 3 October, 2006 which sets out the current position regarding stations equipped with audio/video equipment for recording of suspect interviews. The Garda Authorities have recently submitted proposals to my Department for the provision of additional systems and fit-out of further interview rooms.

Election Management System.

Joe Costello

Question:

108 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures being put in place to ensure that the maximum number of prisoners possible are allowed to exercise the franchise at the next election, following the enactment of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2006; the steps being taken to create awareness of this entitlement among prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36263/06]

As the deputy will be aware, the main purpose of this Bill is to provide specific arrangements for voting by prisoners by way of postal voting. In Ireland, there is no legal prohibition on voting by prisoners, once they meet the standard qualifying criteria under electoral law which apply on a general basis. But, while a person in legal custody may be registered as an elector, under section 11(5) of the Electoral Act 1992 they are deemed to be ordinarily resident in the place where they would have been residing but for their detention and there is no specific mechanism to enable prisoners to exercise the franchise. The Bill will modernise existing electoral law in this area and provide a practical framework for prisoners to vote. It will bring certainty to Ireland's position in meeting fully our obligations under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

In accordance with the provisions of the Bill, relevant officials will be appointed in each prison who will be responsible for ensuring that prisoners who are eligible and wish to vote will be facilitated in exercising that right. Officials of the Irish Prison Service are preparing draft operating procedures which will allow the implementation of this important piece of legislation, when enacted. Of course, in implementing this legislation, it will be important to strike the right balance between, on the one hand, providing for and facilitating as much as possible the prisoner's right to vote and, on the other, the need to maintain an orderly and appropriate regime within our prisons.

It is important that prisoners will be fully aware of their entitlement to vote and there are various mechanisms available in this regard. I understand that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will arrange for the publication and distribution of appropriate literature concerning the new arrangements for prisoner voting. It should be possible to arrange for posters to be devised advertising the new arrangements within the prisons. Leaflets can also be developed specifically for prisoners in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for distribution by the Prison Service. In terms of information and assistance, section 5 of the Bill already requires local authorities to give public notice of the availability of prisoner postal voting. Application forms have to be made available by the local authority, including in every prison, and these forms will contain appropriate explanatory information on what needs to be done. In addition, prisoners receive information on their arrival in prison and this provides a good opportunity for relevant details of voting rights to be given to the prisoner. Library facilities in prison will also be an important focal point for information on voting entitlements.

Prisoner access to the media and coverage of political and electoral matters therein will, of itself, serve to raise awareness among prisoners of the postal voting arrangements. TV sets are installed in all cells in prison; in open centres, there are communal viewing areas. Prisoners are supplied with small radios in prisons and, in many cases, bring in their own units. They also have access to a range of daily newspapers and weekly publications, in addition to what they might receive through the post. Prisoners have access to visits and a number of phone calls per week which will facilitate this process. I would also look to prisoners' families, as well as to organisations representing prisoners, to play their part in helping to publicise the new arrangements and facilitating take-up.

I understand that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will be collating data on the numbers of prisoners taking up postal voting facilities. This will provide a good basis for monitoring progress with the new arrangements provided for under the Bill.

Juvenile Offenders.

Jack Wall

Question:

109 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to increase the number of juvenile liaison officers in view of the proven success in dealing with juvenile offenders and the increasing burden that is expected to be placed on them following the enactment of the juvenile justice sections of the Criminal Justice Bill 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36278/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

184 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the date when the review on the issue of additional juvenile liaison officers was completed; and the number of such additional officers recommended in the review. [36364/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 184 together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, 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 to this, 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. The Programme provides that, in certain circumstances, a juvenile under 18 years of age, who freely accepts responsibility for a criminal incident, may be cautioned as an alternative to prosecution. The Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for a change to the age of criminal responsibility and for the introduction of behaviour orders for children. Officials of the Irish Youth Justice Service in my Department have begun consultations with the Garda authorities on the effect and resource implications which these changes will have on the work of the Juvenile Diversion Programme.

In addition to the Juvenile Diversion Programme, there are also 74 Garda Youth Diversion Projects nationwide. Garda Youth Diversion 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. 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.

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 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.

Proposed Legislation.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

110 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to his speech in Limerick on 20 October 2006, his proposals for a review of the criminal justice system; the particular areas that will be examined in the review; the persons by whom the reviews will be undertaken; when it is expected to be completed; if he plans to involve the Law Reform Commission in the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36237/06]

In order to further the proposals I made in my recent speech in Limerick concerning the issue of rebalancing criminal justice I have appointed an expert review group to examine and review certain aspects of the criminal law. The terms of reference of the Balance in the Criminal Law Review Group are to examine issues affecting:

the right to silence;

allowing character evidence of an accused;

the exclusionary rule of evidence;

requiring the accused to outline the nature of his defence before or at the commencement of a trial;

re-opening new evidence;

nullifying an acquittal where there is evidence of jury or witness tampering;

"with prejudice" appeals in the case of wrongful acquittal;

extending alibi evidence rules to other analogous situations;

allowing submissions by the prosecution before sentencing;

modifying the rule in relation to hearsay evidence;

and any other proposals regarding criminal law, criminal evidence and criminal procedure that may come to the attention of the Review Group in the course of their examination of those issues. I have requested the Review Group to report back to me by 1 March 2007.

The members of the Review Group are as follows:

Dr. Gerard Hogan, S.C, Law School, Trinity College, Dublin, Chairperson;

Professor David Gwynn Morgan, U.C.C;

Mr. Richard Humphreys, Barrister-at-Law;

Ms Nora Owen, Chairperson of the Justice Group of the Institute of European Affairs and Member of the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime;

Mr. Barry Donoghue, Deputy Director, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions;

Ms Caitlín Ní Flaithearthaigh, Advisory Counsel, Office of the Attorney General;

Mr. Tony McDermottroe, Assistant Secretary, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; and

Mr. Ken O'Leary, Assistant Secretary, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

I consider that the members represent a solid blend of legal, academic and practical expertise and I am confident that their work will be a valuable contribution to what I described in my Limerick speech as a need to sometimes consider and review values and standards in our criminal justice system to ensure that the scales of justice remain balanced and are not tilted unfairly in one direction.

In relation to the involvement of the Law Reform Commission I understand that the Review Group is seeking submissions from interested parties and members of the public to assist it with its deliberations. Advertisements inviting such submissions by 5 January 2007 have already appeared in the press. This approach will afford the Commission an opportunity to present its views should it wish to do so.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

111 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will bring forward legislation dealing with privacy issues arising from the development of and widescale use of closed circuit television and other monitoring equipment at inappropriate locations such as toilet and changing room facilities; if he recognises the dangers of allowing such equipment to be used by private individuals in an unmonitored and unregulated fashion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36319/06]

The Privacy Bill which was published on 4 July 2006 creates an offence to be known as the tort of invasion of privacy, for a person wilfully and without lawful authority to violate the privacy of another individual.

Where material obtained from closed circuit television or other monitoring equipment may be used in an inappropriate manner then the aggrieved person will have an accessible remedy in law.

The Privacy Bill contains a defence (in Section 5) in a privacy action for a defendant to prove that the act in respect of which a privacy action is being brought consisted of the installation or operation, in good faith, of a closed circuit television system or other surveillance system for a purpose authorised by law, or for the purpose of detecting or preventing the commission of an offence or the protection of persons or property.

The Data Protection Acts 1998 and 2003 apply to personal data recorded through the operation of the CCTV systems or other monitoring equipment.

With regard to the operation of CCTV systems in public places for the purposes of crime prevention by the Garda Síochána and community based groups, section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides a legislative basis for the operation of such CCTV systems. It does not apply to persons operating CCTV cameras on their premises for the purposes of protecting persons or property on the premises or environs.

In the context of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006 in respect of which the Government gave approval to draft a general scheme in July of this year, I am considering the possible extension of the definition of harassment as set out in section 10 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997 to include a new offence, on the basis of the evidence found, of video recording or photographing of persons without their knowledge in any place that a person could reasonably expect privacy.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

112 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to the establishment of the Garda Ombudsman Commission; the number of staff recruited to date; when he expects that the commission will begin dealing with complaints from the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36238/06]

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

The Commission's current programme of work involves:

securing the lease and internal kit out and security of a headquarters in Dublin City centre to include all internal building work, wiring and furnishing;

commissioning and delivery of IT infrastructure, desktop and telephony system, including a call centre for Dublin;

commissioning and delivery of a suite of business applications to support the operation including the implementation of a bespoke case management solution;

recruitment of an initial staff of 81 at all levels across the following areas: Case Officers, Investigators, Legal Staff, Communications, Human Resources, IT and Corporate Services;

training of all of the staff including highly specific training for Investigators and Case Officers;

documentation of the internal business processes around complaints handling/ investigations/ mediation;

creation of a full set of documents to support the core business process of case management/ investigation and the Ombudsman Commission organisation in general;

negotiation of interfaces to external organisations such as An Garda Síochána, the DPP, Forensics, etc and documentation of the resulting procedures;

set up of a Corporate Services/ Management function to include Financial Management and Human Resources Management.

The Commission has advertised all of its senior posts — Director of Investigations, Deputy Director of Investigations, Director of Administration and Head of Legal Affairs — and all of its investigative posts. General staff will be sourced from within the Civil Service. An appointment is currently being made to the posts of Director of Investigations and Head of Legal Affairs. Interviews for the remaining senior posts are scheduled by the Public Appointments Service and are ongoing. The Commission is working towards being in a position to receive complaints as soon as possible in 2007.

Weapons Amnesty.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

113 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of firearms and knives surrendered under the recent amnesty by the closing date of 31 October 2006; if he is satisfied with the number of items surrendered; the steps taken to promote public knowledge of the amnesty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36244/06]

I have been informed by An Garda Síochána that due to a delay in some Garda Stations making their returns to Garda Headquarters, a conclusive figure of weapons surrendered under the recent Amnesty will not be available until later this week. However, to date 522 firearms and 82 knives, which were surrendered under the Amnesty, have been returned to Garda Headquarters.

A successful national awareness campaign was undertaken to promote the Amnesty. The campaign included advertisements in the national and provincial newspapers and specialist publications together with an extensive high visibility billboard campaign. In addition 20,000 information leaflets were printed and circulated through Garda Stations throughout the country and a website was launched to provide extensive on-line information in relation to the Amnesty.

I want to emphasis that I was never of the view that serious criminals were going to come into police stations and hand over their firearms. However, I was satisfied there were people with guns and offensive weapons in their possession who might find it embarrassing to come forward or to admit that they had them in the house and that the amnesty would afford them an opportunity to surrender such weapons safely. This indeed has proven to be the case.

The Weapons Amnesty has afforded people an opportunity to hand in illegally held firearms and other offensive weapons before the introduction of new stringent sentences for firearms offences. From here on, persons found in possession of illegal weapons will face very harsh penalties with the introduction of the mandatory minimum prison sentences provided for in the Criminal Justice Act, 2006. From the 1st November, minimum mandatory sentences of up to 10 years, for a range of firearms offences, have come into operation. Only in exceptional and specific circumstances, and in the case of a first offence only, can the court exercise discretion to impose less than the minimum sentence. I am satisfied that the Amnesty has been a success and fully achieved its aims.

Inspector of Prisons.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

114 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the term of office of the Inspector of Prisons is due to expire; if it is intended to reappoint a person (details supplied) to this position; when it is planned to put the position on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36250/06]

Mr Justice Dermot Kinlen was appointed on a non statutory basis as Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention for a five year term with effect from his retirement from the High Court Bench in April, 2002 on reaching the statutory age limit for service in that Court. His existing term of office will, therefore, expire in April, 2007.

I have received Government approval to establish an Office of Inspector of Prisons on a statutory basis. I will be introducing an appropriate statutory provision by means of the Prisons Bill in the near future. I would hope that the Bill, will be enacted before Christmas of this year so that the statutory office can be established in 2007.

Crime Prevention.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

115 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the anti-social behaviour provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, will be brought into operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36275/06]

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. In relation to children aged 12 to 18 years, specially tailored provisions, fully integrated into the Children Act 2001, provide for a number of steps. These culminate in court orders for those engaged in anti-social behaviour.

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. Section 1(3) of the Act makes specific provision to this effect. The purpose of this is to ensure that these provisions will only be commenced after the Commissioner has had the opportunity to make the necessary internal arrangements to ensure the smooth introduction of these new procedures. Work is underway in the Garda Síochána to put these arrangements in place.

I want to emphasise again that separate provision is being made in relation to young people. The Criminal Justice Act, 2006 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 has to 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.

In addition to new administrative procedures within the Garda Síochána, behaviour orders require changes to the existing Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme provided for in the Children Act, 2001.

Garda Operations.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

116 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of weapons seized to date in relation to Operation Anvil; the number of arrests made; the reason no information is available regarding the number of charges preferred, arising to date from the operation; the length of time the operation is intended to continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36264/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drugs, guns or other weapon searches that have taken place affecting organised criminal gangs in the past 12 months; the number of seizures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36591/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 216 together.

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

Operation Anvil was also extended nationwide during 2006 and consists of a series of special operations, proposed by each Regional Assistant Commissioner, which are designed to focus on areas where there is a high incidence of crime.

The Operation outside the DMR is significantly different from that in the DMR, in that initiatives have a short time-focus and are designed to address the particular needs of specific areas. A number of operations have been completed, while further operations are on-going. The methodologies utilised in doing this vary from area to area and from time to time, commensurate with the assessed need. For these reasons there is no comparable system in place for the systematic collation of statistical data in these Garda Regions.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the information requested in respect of the number of persons charged is not readily available as some of the incidents resulting in arrest are the subject of ongoing investigation. The information could only be obtained by the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources to examine each individual incident and resultant arrest or arrests.

Operation Anvil has proved to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs. It has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the acquisition of intelligence on the movements of criminals. Notable improvements have been achieved in recorded crime in the target crime areas under the operation.

In addition to the introduction of Operation Anvil, the Commissioner in November 2005 augmented the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation with an additional 55 Garda members to address the problem of criminal gang activity. Enforcement by the Unit has resulted in further firearms being seized and a number of persons arrested, thereby disrupting their criminal activities.

Operation Anvil will continue to be funded to the extent and as long as the Commissioner considers that it is necessary to do so and it is fulfilling its objectives. The tables show the successes of Operation Anvil up to 31 October 2006.

Operation Anvil in the Dublin Metropolitan Region up to 31 October 2006

Arrests

Murder

53

Burglary

1,640

Robbery offences

769

Serious assaults

752

Theft from shops*

345

Theft from MPV*

46

Theft other*

75

Total Arrests

3,680

Searches

Drugs

18,137

Thefts

1,771

Firearms

1,251

Total Searches

21,159

Seizures

Firearms

536

Section 41 (Road Traffic Act)

7,350

Total Seizures

7,886

Number of Checkpoints Established

40,434

Value of property recovered

€13,527,747

*Figures commenced from 25 September 2006.

Operation Anvil outside the Dublin Metropolitan Region up to 31 October 2006

Arrests

2,595

Firearms seized

238

Departmental Agencies.

Jack Wall

Question:

117 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for reform of the chief State pathologists office; if it is intended to introduce a new system whereby homicide cases would be handled by two pathologists; the discussions he has had with the chief State pathologist on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36279/06]

I can inform the Deputy that the position remains as set out in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 185 of 3 October, 2006.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

118 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for further development of the probation service; the additional resources, that will be provided for the service, particularly having regard to additional responsibilities arising from the Criminal Justice Act 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36274/06]

The Probation Service has been re-vitalised over the last twelve months and the process of change is continuing apace. I can advise the Deputy that following an open competition a new Director was appointed to the Probation Service in September, 2005. To support the Director and strengthen the management of the Service a new senior management structure for the Service has now been put in place comprising three Deputy Directors and 2 Assistant Deputy Directors. The services of an Accountant have been engaged in recent weeks and further work is ongoing to enhance the IT expertise available to the Service.

The Probation Service Strategy Statement and Work Plan of Strategic Actions 2006-2007, which set out the strategic goals of the Service for the period, was launched by me on the 26 June, 2006. This launch was also used to rebrand the Service.

A Young Persons Probation Division (YPP) has been established within the Probation Service. The YPP Interim Strategy 2006-2007 is due to be launched later this month by my colleague, Mr. Brian Lenihan T.D., Minister for Children.

I can confirm that the Service has received increased resources including 30 additional staff as well as extra financial resources in recent years. The need for additional resources, in the context of the 2006 Criminal Justice Act, will be kept under review.

Garda Investigations.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

119 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the investigation that has been held into the circumstances of the wounding of a man by gardaí following a standoff in Gort, County Galway on 9 October 2006; his views on the fact that the less than lethal weapons available to the gardaí are reported to have been ineffective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36242/06]

I am informed that the Garda Commissioner has appointed a Chief Superintendent from outside the Division in question to investigate all the circumstances surrounding the incident in Gort, Co. Galway, on 9 October, 2006, including the deployment of ‘less lethal' weapons.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that this investigation is ongoing and, accordingly, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this point.

Equality Issues.

David Stanton

Question:

120 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reviews the equality division of his Department has carried out regarding equal access to employment opportunities for older people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36331/06]

My Department has considered the issue of access to employment opportunities for older people in the preparation of Employment Equality legislation, in equality proofing initiatives and in the context of social partnership agreements.

The Employment Equality Acts are framed on the basis of a general principle that there ought to be no discrimination on the grounds of age, where the employee is willing to undertake or continue to undertake, or will accept or continue to accept, the conditions under which the duties are required to be performed, and is fully competent and available to undertake, and fully capable of undertaking the duties attached to the position. There are certain exceptions provided in cases such as the Emergency services and Defence Forces.

The provisions in the Employment Equality Act 1998 for prohibiting discrimination on the ground of age were strengthened in the Equality Act 2004, which gave effect to the EU Anti-discrimination Employment Directive. The Equality Act 2004 amended the exclusion in the 1998 Act from discrimination on the age ground of persons less than 18 years or 65 years or over. No upper age threshold is provided for; however, compulsory retirement ages may continue to be set.

The Working Group on Equality Proofing is established under the aegis of my Department and is Chaired by the Equality Authority and Diversity & Equality Law Division of my Department. The Working Group continues to work towards developing a system for the proofing of policies and services in the public sector in order to avoid unanticipated negative impact on any of the groups protected under equality legislation (including older people) and to ensure policy coherence and best use of resources.

My Department has participated in the development of the new framework social partnership agreement, "Towards 2016", which includes priority actions for the promotion of education and employment opportunities for older people. The Government will continue to encourage and to facilitate an increase in work force participation by older people.

Garda Strength.

Mary Upton

Question:

121 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has brought to Government his request for approval for the appointment of an additional 1,000 gardaí; the response received from Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36283/06]

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

On these last three issues, strong action has been taken. The 2006 Garda overtime budget allocation has risen by €22.4 million to €83.5 million, an increase of 36.6% over the original allocation of €61.1m in 2005. The Garda Reserve has been established, with the first group of recruits expected to complete their training next month. Significant progress is being made on providing additional civilian support for An Garda Siochána.

On the issue of an increase in the strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000, the priority has been the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of An Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government. The induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. This has involved a major redevelopment of the facilities at the Garda College, almost doubling its student capacity.

I am now giving careful consideration to the case for a continuation of the current intensive recruitment drive beyond the target of 14,000, and I will shortly bring new proposals to Government in this regard.

Irish Prison Service.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

122 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the general increase in the cost of keeping prisoners in jail and particularly the fact that the cost of keeping a prisoner in Portlaoise is now close to a quarter of a million euro per year; his plans to examine ways of reducing such costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36262/06]

The average cost of keeping an offender in custody is calculated by averaging out the current running costs of the prisons and places of detention against the average number of offenders in those institutions. These costs include certain items which are fixed no matter what the number of offenders in custody, e.g. utilities, staff salaries, etc. It also reallocates the cost of central services, e.g. H.Q., Prison Service Training Centre, I.T., etc. to each prison institution.

The general increase in the cost of keeping an offender in 2005 relates to a number of specific areas:

(i) pay increases in line with National Wage Agreements,

(ii) an increase in maintenance costs associated with the higher costs of maintaining older prison building stock,

(iii) higher than expected increase in the costs of utilities, and

(iv) the provision of additional teaching staff.

The relatively high costs of keeping a prisoner in Portlaoise Prison arises primarily because of the unique nature of the prisoners held there and the consequent security considerations which require a higher staff to prisoner ratio.

The Deputy will of course be aware of my determination to reduce costs in the Prison Service. For example, following protracted negotiations with the Prison Officers' Association, agreement was reached last year on a major programme of change which has since been rolled out across the Service. This agreement involves radical change, including new attendance arrangements which involve the elimination of overtime working.

Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 96.

Drug Seizures.

Ivor Callely

Question:

124 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the level, volume and value of illegal drugs over the past five years; the success of the Garda operations in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35921/06]

I have been advised by the Garda authorities that the tables show the quantity, type and estimated street value of the major drugs seized for the years 2001 to 2005. More detail in relation to these statistics is provided in An Garda Síochána's Annual Reports.

Year 2005

Type of Drug

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

150,401 grams

300,802

Cannabis Resin

6,259,750 grams

43,818,250

Heroin (Diamorphine)

32,283 grams

6,456,600

Ecstasy

327,179 tablets 3,444 grams

3,306,230

Amphetamine

10,515 grams 19,452 tablets

449,505

Cocaine

229,388 grams

16,057,160

Year 2004

Type of Drug

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

103,958 grams

207,916

Cannabis Resin

3,226,445 grams

22,585,185

Heroin (Diamorphine)

26,480 grams

5,296,000

Ecstasy

1,099,138 tablets

10,991,380

Amphetamine

92,417 grams

1,386,255

Cocaine

167,336 grams

11,713,520

Year 2003

Type of Drug

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

201,759 grams

403,518

Cannabis Resin

5,349,500 grams

37,446,500

Heroin (Diamorphine)

27,046 grams

5,409,200

Ecstasy

1,291,809 tablets 616.3 grams 3 capsules

12,924,283

Amphetamine

67,787 grams 1,019 tablets

1,032,090

Cocaine

107,460 grams

7,522,200

Year 2002

Type of Drug

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

5,500,000 grams

11,200,000

Cannabis Resin

3,332,710 grams

23,328,970

Heroin (Diamorphine)

16,739 grams

3,347,800

Ecstasy

117,033 tablets, 153 grams 13 capsules

1,171,990

Amphetamine

16,428 grams 12,728 tablets

437,340

Cocaine

31,752 grams

2,222,640

Year 2001

Type of Drug

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

Cannabis

9,590,057 grams

19,180,114

Cannabis Resin

567,026 grams

3,969,182

Heroin (Diamorphine)

29,527 grams

5,905,400

Ecstasy

469,862 tables

4,698,620

Amphetamine

17,955 grams

269,325

Cocaine

5,325 grams

372,750

I am further informed by the Garda Authorities that provisional data for 2006 indicates that there has been an overall increase in the quantities of drugs seized so far this year. I welcome this as a reflection of the success of the Garda Síochána in combatting the drugs trade.

In tackling the problem of drug trafficking, An Garda Síochána continues to record significant operational successes, directly attributable to increased law enforcement through intelligence-driven operations at national, regional, divisional and district levels, coordinated by the Garda National Drugs Unit in conjunction with other specialist Garda Units and local Garda Management, whereby criminals believed to be involved in the sale, distribution and importation of illegal drugs are identified and actively targeted by An Garda Síochána.

On an international level the Garda National Drugs Unit continually strives to increase the level of cooperation, through international law-enforcement agencies, Interpol and Europol. Garda liaison Officers are currently in place in the UK, Spain, The Netherlands, and at Europol and Interpol.

Ongoing cooperation through these arrangements continue to result in a number of significant drug seizures and arrests such as the recent seizure of approximately 50kgs of heroin, believed to be destined for Dublin, at a private airfield in Belgium. This police operation which was initiated in Ireland, developed into a joint operation with the Belgian and Dutch police.

In terms of the Government's position in relation to these issues, I would refer the Deputy to my reply earlier today to Priority Question No. 82.

Sexual Offences.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

125 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he intends to implement section 16 of the Criminal Evidence Act 1992 that provides that a video recording of any evidence given by a person under 17 years of age in respect of sexual or violent offences shall be admissible as trial evidence; the reason for the long delay in bringing this provision into effect, having particular regard to reduce the potential stress for young persons giving evidence in cases involving sexual offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36245/06]

Section 16 of the Criminal Evidence Act, 1992, as amended, makes provision for the video recording of any evidence given, in relation to a sexual offence or an act involving violence, by a person under 17 years of age through a live television link in proceedings relating to indictable offences. The relevant subsection — (1)(a) — was commenced in 1993. It will be noted that this subsection covers persons under 14 years of age also.

Section 16 also makes provision — in subsection (1)(b) — for the video recording of a statement made by a person under 14 years of age (in respect of whom a sexual offence or an offence involving violence is alleged to have been committed) during an interview with a member of the Garda Síochána or any other person who is competent for the purpose. It provides that such a video recording shall be admissible at a trial as evidence, provided that the person whose statement was video recorded is available at the trial for cross examination.

My predecessor as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform established a committee in 1998 to draw up guidelines for persons involved in video recording interviews with a complainant (aged under 14 years of age or with an intellectual disability) in relation to a sexual and/or violent offence during an interview with a member of the Garda Síochána or other person competent for the purpose, as he considered that it would benefit complainants and interviewers if good practice guidelines on the conduct and recording of such interviews were made available. This committee subsequently submitted in 2003 advisory Good Practice Guidelines with related recommendations. The Guidelines cover a number of areas. In addition, the committee made a number of recommendations, including recommendations that:

there should be sufficient suitable facilities available for video recording evidential interviews;

there should be a joint national programme in place for training interviewers, which should be regularly reviewed. In tandem with this, there will be a need for a national training programme for all professionals who are likely to have reference to the Guidelines.

I wish to assure the Deputy that I attach the highest importance to the setting up of these facilities. Officials from my Department are actively working on setting up these facilities in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, the Probation Service, the Office of Public Works and the Health Service Executive. My Department plans to have a network of suitable facilities to video record evidential interviews established at a number of locations throughout the country early in 2007. The Probation Service has identified suitable accommodation in a number of its premises. Arrangements are being made to view this week a similar facility in this jurisdiction which is used for therapeutic purposes and also a facility in Northern Ireland, and receive briefing on training and advice on other relevant service issues such as equipment and fitting out. A specification for the facilities will be drawn up soon after, on the basis of which suitable accommodation will be identified. Work will then commence on fitting out and equipping the facilities.

The Garda Síochána is arranging for the training of a number of selected officers to enable them to conduct such interviews in accordance with good practice. It is expected that this training will be completed in January.

Citizenship Applications.

Dan Boyle

Question:

126 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a financial discrepancy exists between the cost of applying for Irish citizenship as the spouse of an Irish citizen and as an EU citizen who has been resident here for five years (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36335/06]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Fees) Regulations, 1993, as amended in 1996, sets out the fees payable by various categories of persons who obtain Irish citizenship. The standard fee for naturalisation is €634.87. Exceptions are made in the case of a spouse of a naturalised Irish citizen; the non-national widow or widower of an Irish citizen; or a non-national minor child of an Irish Citizen, all of whom pay €126.97. In the case of Convention refugees, programme refugees and stateless persons, no fee is payable.

I agree that the situation regarding fees for spouses of Irish citizens is anomalous and work is already underway to address this situation.

Departmental Reports.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

127 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report of a person (details supplied); the main findings of the report; if he has not yet received the report, when he expects to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36249/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 245 of 27 September, 2006 in which I indicated my intention to publish the report referred to by the Deputy in due course, with the exception of any parts which could be deemed prejudicial to potential criminal proceedings. I have not received this report as yet.

Garda Disciplinary Proceedings.

Willie Penrose

Question:

128 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the new draft Garda discipline regulations, regarding their consideration by the Garda Conciliation Council; when it is expected that the new regulations will be in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36269/06]

In the Garda Síochána Act, 2005, I made detailed provisions for the making of Disciplinary Regulations for the Garda Síochána.

In its report earlier this year, the Garda Síochána Act Implementation Group, chaired by Senator Maurice Hayes, acknowledged the requirement for changes to the Garda disciplinary regulations to coincide with the coming into operation of the Garda Ombudsman Commission. The Group was strongly of the view that the opportunity should be taken for a comprehensive revision of the Garda disciplinary framework so as to bring it into line with modern practice in human resource management.

Subsequently, on 19th of May 2006, the Government statement regarding Reports of the Morris Tribunal acknowledged and accepted the views of the Tribunal that the current disciplinary regulations need to be replaced by a new less complex approach which will be swift and fair with a simple appeal process.

On 17 August, on publication of the 3rd, 4th and 5th reports of the Morris Tribunal, I published new draft Garda Discipline Regulations which were drawn up in consultation with the Garda Commissioner. These draft regulations take account of the recommendations of the Morris Tribunal, follow well-established principles in the public sector and beyond, and are significantly more streamlined than existing Garda Discipline Regulations. The new draft regulations have been put into the Garda Conciliation Council for discussion with the Garda representative associations and, in recognition of the fundamental changes now proposed, I have made available additional time beyond the original target date of the Summer recess. I do expect, however, those discussions to be concluded promptly and effectively, and I will bring final proposals to Government for approval in the near future.

Crime Levels.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

129 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2006; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases where convictions were secured; if he is satisfied with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36271/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the table shows the number of murder offences recorded, detected, proceedings commenced and convictions, where a firearm was used, for the years 1998 to 2005 and in 2006 up to 2 November.

All killings regardless of the circumstances involved are the subject of a rigorous investigation by the Garda authorities. The identification of the motive and the evidence available in its support are key elements of the investigation and prosecution process. I am informed that Garda management analyses available intelligence and selects for specific individuals involved in serious criminal activity, particularly gun-related crime. Intelligence-led operations against such individuals are used by Garda management to combat this type of criminal activity on an ongoing basis. This involves the strategic deployment of both local and specialised Garda operation units to counter such activities.

Operation Anvil, which commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in May, 2005 and was subsequently extended nationwide at my request, has proved to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs. It has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the acquisition of intelligence on the movements of criminals. Notable improvements have been achieved in recorded crime in the target crime areas under the operation. I am pleased to note that the number of offences of discharging a firearm was stable in the third quarter of this year. I believe that Operation Anvil has contributed significantly to this situation.

In addition to the introduction of Operation Anvil, the Commissioner in November 2005 augmented the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation with an additional 55 Garda members to address the problem of criminal gang activity. Enforcement by the Unit has resulted in further firearms being seized and a number of persons arrested, thereby disrupting their criminal activities.

Following the completion of the weapons amnesty on 31 October, the mandatory minimum sentences in relation to possession of firearms came into effect on 1 November. The penalties available to the courts have now been greatly strengthened and stringent penalties now apply:

Possession of firearms with intent to endanger life — maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment;

Use of firearms to resist arrest or aid escape — maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment;

Possession of firearm while hijacking a vehicle — maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment;

Possession of firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances — maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment;

Carrying firearm with criminal intent — maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment; and

Altering a firearm — maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

The new law specifies that the courts may exercise discretion to impose less than the minimum sentence only where it is satisfied that there are exceptional and specific circumstances for doing so. In addition, it may exercise its discretion only in the case of a first offence. Where a person charged with any of the above offences has been previously convicted of any such offence, then the court has no discretion and must impose at least the mandatory minimum sentence. I am confident that these stringent new provisions, combined with the continuing efforts of the Gardaí in Operation Anvil, will go a long way to ensuring that those found in possession of firearms will pay a very serious price for their crimes.

Murder Offences Recorded, Detected, Proceedings Commenced and Convictions, where a firearm was used, for years 1998 to 2005 and in 2006 up to 2 November.

Year

Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

2006 *

16

7

4

0

2005

21

4

2

1

2004

9

8

5

3

2003

20

11

4

2

2002

10

5

4

3

2001

9

6

2

2

2000

12

7

6

2

1999

12

7

7

5

1998

4

3

2

1

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

Prison Building Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

130 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that his Department sanctioned the funds to purchase the Thornton prison site in which he said that the sanction was conveyed on the condition that all procurement guidelines have been strictly followed; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s annual report concludes that procurement guidelines were not followed when purchasing this site; if disciplinary procedures have been initiated within his Department to investigate this matter; if procedures have been put in place to ensure that the spending of public funds cannot be sanctioned in this way in future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33085/06]

The Annual Report for 2005 of the Comptroller and Auditor General includes a chapter on the acquisition of a Site for Prison Development. The Department of Finance granted sanction for the acquisition of the site on the condition that procurement guidelines were followed. Contrary to the implications of the Deputy's question all the relevant procurement guidelines were followed by my Department in acquiring the Thornton site. The Comptroller and Auditor General did raise a question with respect to the engagement of advisors by the Office of Public Works but that does not affect the sanction for the acquisition of Thornton.

I am satisfied that the site selected is an excellent site and will allow Mountjoy to be replaced by a modern high standard prison with conditions and facilities beyond anything that could be contemplated in Mountjoy.

At its recent hearings on the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General for 2005 there was an overwhelming consensus among the members of the Public Accounts Committee that it would have been wrong to buy a prison site by a secret deal or process. Accordingly, there was no agreement by the members that any premium on the sale value of the site arising from the open process of purchase adopted by the Committee should have been avoided by purchasing the site on a secret or confidential basis.

Prison Education Service.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

131 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason training and education programmes in St. Patrick’s Institution for 16 to 21 year olds are almost non-existent; his plans to rectify this situation at St. Patrick’s Institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36332/06]

I do not accept the Deputy's assertion that training and education programmes in St. Patrick's Institution are almost non-existent. On the contrary, there are a number of workshops currently in operation — covering Woodwork and Joinery; Computer Training; Industrial Cleaning and Industrial Skills. A Metal Workshop is also due to open soon. Some young persons also work in the kitchen and laundry areas — with others engaged in painting, general cleaning and horticultural work around the Institution.

Educational classes and courses are provided by a team of twelve full time teachers in the Education Unit. Courses offered cover a wide range of subjects — including English, Maths, Computers, Art, Music, Home Economics and Guidance. St Patrick's Institution also has a structured literacy programme.

All young persons are interviewed for both Work/Training and the Education Unit and offered places in one or other of these activities. In addition, all have access to library facilities and a fully fitted out gymnasium.

I should also add that St Patrick's Institution has, in recent years, introduced important new programmes for the rehabilitation of young persons including a drug-free wing and a positive sentence management programme. It also offers a range of in-house programmes in the areas of addiction awareness, treatment and counselling (i.e., drugs, alcohol).

Furthermore, St Patrick's Institution takes a proactive approach in developing and maintaining links with a wide range of community and voluntary bodies. There are about 50 such bodies and groups with which the Institution engages and interacts either on an in-reach basis or with a view to securing post-release placements for young persons from St Patrick's Institution.

Ongoing implementation of the new working arrangements agreed with the Prison Officers Association in the Proposal for Organisational Change should enhance prisoner regimes in the years ahead, particularly in terms of improving availability and facilities, and making the most of out-of-cell time for all persons in custody — including young persons in St Patrick's Institution.

The Deputy will also be aware of my plans to close St Patrick's Institution as part of the redevelopment of the Mountjoy complex on the new site in Thornton Hall in North County Dublin. This major prison building programme will offer significant improvements in the areas of work, training, educational and medical services for inmates as well as predominantly single cell accommodation with proper in-cell sanitation facilities.

Prison Building Programme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

132 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposed timetable for the development and completion of the new prison at Thornton Hall; the estimated cost of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36247/06]

Tender documentation have been issued to the candidates short-listed to compete for the design, construction, finance and maintenance of the prison development at Thornton Hall. It is intended that work should commence in 2007 and is expected to be completed within 3 years. The precise date for completion of the project forms part of the tender process.

In relation to the estimated cost of the project, as this is currently the subject of a public tender competition it would not be appropriate for me to comment.

Departmental Reports.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

133 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report of the working group on categories of partnerships and relationships outside of marriage, which was expected before the end of October 2006; the main findings of the report; if it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36284/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

152 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date by the working group on partnerships; when the group’s recommendations will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36340/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 152 together.

I understand that the Working Group on Domestic Partnership is finalising the Options Paper for submission to me in the coming weeks. Following its receipt, I intend to bring the Options Paper to Government with a view to early publication.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

134 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a response from the Garda Commissioner to the copy sent to him of the report of the commission of investigation into the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36265/06]

An Assistant Commissioner has been appointed to assess the impact of the Report's recommendations for An Garda Síochána, with a view to recommending remedial action where necessary. An analysis of the processes employed during the interviews of the person referred to is also being carried out.

Following a review of the original investigation by an Assistant Commissioner, a number of initiatives were commenced, including the preparation and circulation of guidelines for the interviewing of vulnerable persons. The guidelines were circulated prior to the publication of the recent Report.

European Court Judgments.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

135 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Government’s position on the recent judgment by the European Court of Justice on a case (details supplied); his views on whether changes to Irish law will be required following this judgment; if he has sought advice on the matter; his further views on whether time spent caring for children should be taken into account when determining equality of pay between genders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32059/06]

David Stanton

Question:

189 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the European Court of Justice judgment delivered on 3 October 2006 on Case C-17/05; the possible implications of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31856/06]

David Stanton

Question:

190 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the implications of the European Court of Justice judgment on Case C-17/05 for people in employment here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32086/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135, 189 and 190 together.

My Department has consulted with the Office of the Attorney General and with the Department of Finance about the implications of the judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the case referred to by the Deputies.

As the Deputies will appreciate, under EU law, indirect discrimination on the ground of sex, in issues relating to pay is unlawful. In such cases, indirect discrimination would be defined as where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of one sex at a particular disadvantage compared with persons of the other sex, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim, and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.

The point at issue in the recent case under reference was: where the use by an employer of the criterion of length of service (an apparently neutral provision) as a determinant of pay has a disparate impact as between relevant male and female employees, does Article 141 of the EU Consolidated Treaties require the employer to provide special justification for recourse to that criterion?

In 1989, in the judgment in Danfoss, the ECJ, after stating that it is not to be excluded, that recourse to the criterion of length of service may involve less advantageous treatment of women than of men, held that the employer does not have to provide special justification for recourse to that criterion. By adopting that position, the Court acknowledged that rewarding in particular experience acquired, which enables the worker to perform his/her duties better, constitutes a legitimate objective of pay policy.

As a general rule, recourse to the criterion of length of service is appropriate to attain that objective. Length of service goes hand in hand with experience, and experience generally enables the worker to perform his/her duties better. The employer is therefore free to reward length of service without having to establish the importance it has in the performance of specific tasks entrusted to the employee.

In the same judgment, the Court did not, however, exclude the possibility that there may be situations in which recourse to the criterion of length of service must be justified by the employer in detail.

In the case under reference the Court of Appeal of England and Wales was uncertain whether the case-law of the ECJ had departed from the finding in Danfoss that ‘the employer does not have to provide special justification for recourse to the criterion of length of service' and submitted the question for a preliminary ruling under Article 234 of the EC Treaty. The ECJ in their recent judgment found that Article 141 EC is to be interpreted as meaning that, where recourse to the criterion of length of service as a determinant of pay leads to disparities in pay, in respect of equal work or work of equal value, between the men and women included in the comparison

the employer does not have to establish specifically that recourse to that criterion is appropriate to attain that objective as regards a particular job, unless the worker provides evidence capable of raising serious doubts in that regard, since, as a general rule, recourse to the criterion of length of service is appropriate to attain the legitimate objective of rewarding experience acquired which enables the worker to perform his/her duties better;

there is no need to show that an individual worker has acquired experience during the relevant period which has enabled him/her to perform his/her duties better where a job classification system based on an evaluation of the work to be carried out is used in determining pay.

The ECJ characterised this judgment as containing only a clarification of the case-law in this field. It has, thus, clarified the meaning of Danfoss but confirmed that it remains good law and that, as a result, has confirmed, in principle, that the use of criterion of length of service is an appropriate means of attaining the legitimate objective of rewarding experience acquired which enables the worker to perform his/her duties better. In general, the employer will not be required to prove that actual experience has been acquired.

Given that the judgment does not represent a significant change to existing case law, no change in Irish domestic law is required. The Government recognise that the gender pay gap, while narrowing, remains. It is committed to policy measures, to facilitate work-life balance, which enable parents to manage work and family responsibilities without breaching service, and thus maintaining pay scale progression.

Garda Investigations.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

136 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to the Garda investigation into the murder of Ms Donna Clery in Coolock on 5 March 2006; if a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions; if persons have been charged in connection with the murder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36273/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Gardaí at Coolock Garda Station are investigating the death of the person referred to and have arrested a number of persons in connection with the incident. An investigation file has been completed and submitted to the Law Officers. To date no person has been charged in connection with the death of the person referred to.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 91.

Prison Building Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

138 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the discussions his Department has had with Fingal County Council in regard to the provision on infrastructural services such as water, sewerage and roads for the proposed new prison at Thornton Hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36248/06]

The provision of services to the Thornton Hall site to service the prison development has been the subject of detailed discussions between the relevant officials at Fingal County Council and the Irish Prison Service and its technical advisors. Discussions have also been held with the various utilities including the Electricity Supply Board. Arising from these discussions, agreement in principle has been reached with the Council for the servicing of the water and sewerage requirements along existing public roadways, i.e., the N2 and the R130. It has, in addition, been agreed with the Electricity Supply Board that the required electricity supply will be sourced from existing lines adjacent to the site.

The roads providing direct access to the site have been assessed in a detailed study by consulting road traffic engineers. They have been found to contain significant spare capacity to meet the total projected traffic generated by the prison development in addition to background traffic growth. As such there is no requirement arising to provide additional roads to service the site.

Road Traffic Offences.

John Gormley

Question:

139 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the number of people here who continue to drink and drive as evidenced by the 418 arrests made over the bank holiday weekend in October 2006 in relation to suspected drink driving; the action which will be taken by the relevant authorities to combat this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36338/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that despite the high level of enforcement activity by An Garda Síochána, as evidenced by the number of arrests for drink driving over the October Bank Holiday week-end, there still exists a hardcore element in our society who persist in engaging in drink driving.

An Garda Síochána will continue this high level of enforcement activity, through the use of mandatory alcohol testing coupled with ongoing deployment of additional resources to the Garda Traffic Corps, in order to change driver behaviour and enforce compliance with road traffic legislation. An Garda Síochána continues to prioritise drink driving offences as one of the major causes of road traffic injuries and fatalities.

The Road Safety Authority, which is under the aegis of the Department of Transport and has responsibility in this area, is examining ways in which the level of compliance by motorists with the law and road safety can be increased and is preparing proposals in this regard for submission to the Minister for Transport.

Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 2006 provides the legal basis for mandatory alcohol testing (MAT). It confers a statutory power to administer a roadside breath test to a motorist stopped at a checkpoint without a member of An Garda Síochána being required to form an opinion that the motorist has consumed alcohol, been involved in a collision or breached a provision of the Road Traffic Acts.

Developments since the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing in July have been encouraging. The number of road deaths in August was 17 — the lowest number for any month since November 1999. This trend continued in September, when the number of deaths was 23, compared with 31 in 2005 and in October when the number of deaths was 32 compared with 44 in 2005. Up to and including the 2 November, there were 315 deaths in 2006, 14 less than for the same period last year.

The current strength of the Garda Traffic Corps stands at 745, with an additional 60 members to be allocated during the remainder of 2006 and is well on target to achieve the target strength of 805 members at the end of 2006.

Departmental Procedures.

Mary Upton

Question:

140 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has put in place the procedures he promised in the Houses of the Oireachtas on 8 June 2006 for consultation between his Department and the Offices of the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions in the case of litigation on constitutional and policy issues; the new procedures in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36282/06]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 154 of 3 October, 2006 in which I referred to a conference due to be held on 6 October 2006 in compliance with recommendation no 16 of the examination into the Attorney General's Office by an official from the Department of Finance. An official from my Department attended that conference and, as a follow up to it, discussions are taking place between my Department and the Chief State Solicitor's Office to ensure that my Department is immediately informed of all relevant constitutional and other cases.

Prison Building Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

141 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress to date on the construction of a new prison on Spike Island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36330/06]

The Office of Public Works will shortly be publishing a planning notice in respect of the construction of a bridge to facilitate the development of the prison facilities on the island. The construction of the bridge, which will be followed by the prison development on the island, is scheduled to commence in 2007.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

142 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the findings of a recent survey, Child Pornography and the Criminal Justice System, which found that one third of all detected cases led to no prosecution; if he is satisfied resources are available to the gardaí to investigate such offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36246/06]

My Department approved funding in 2004 to the Institute of Criminology at UCD for research on sentencing under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998. The research report was recently received by my Department and its findings are being considered by the Internet Advisory Board.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that in all cases where criminal activity is alleged the matter is fully investigated and a file is prepared for the Director of Public Prosecution, who adjudicates on what action, if any, is to be taken. The Director of Public Prosecutions is statutorily independent in the performance of his function, and it would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment on his decisions.

Where there is evidence to support a prosecution criminal proceedings are commenced, as directed by the DPP.

The resources currently available to investigate this type of crime are considered adequate by Garda management who constantly monitor and review the allocation of personnel and resources.

In terms of legislation, in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998, Ireland has in force one of the most robust pieces of legislation in this respect anywhere in the World. Under the Act, the possession, distribution, importation and exportation or sale of all forms of child pornography — films, videos, or material in written or auditory form including material produced or transmitted via the Internet — are offences with penalties of up to 14 years' imprisonment. Mere possession of child pornography can be punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years. Using a child or allowing a child to be used for the production of child pornography is also punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment.

Proposed Legislation.

Seán Ryan

Question:

143 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the main proposals for dealing with child offenders following the raising of the age of criminal responsibility to 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36276/06]

As the Deputy is aware, amendments to the Children Act 2001, introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, effectively raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 7 years to 12 years, in all but the most serious cases, and this provision was commenced on 16 October 2006.

In the preparation of the recent legislation on the matter, careful consideration was given to getting the balance right, taking into account the vulnerability of young people and the consequential obligation on the State to respond appropriately to their needs and behaviours.

In practical terms what this means is that no child under 12 years of age can be charged with an offence apart from unlawful killing, a rape offence or aggravated sexual assault; and no proceedings can be taken against a child under 14 years except by or with the consent of the DPP.

Where a member of An Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing that a child under 12 years of age has committed an offence, the child is to be taken to a parent or guardian. If it is thought that the child is not receiving adequate care or protection, the member has a duty to inform the Health Service Executive and a care order may be obtained if required. An Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive are in consultation on a set of guidelines around the practicalities of the implementation of the new provisions regarding children and the restriction on criminal proceedings against children. In addition, the amendments introduced to the Children Act 2001 by way of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 make provision for the admission of children aged 10 and 11 years of age to the Garda Youth Diversion Programme.

In respect of children who are 12 years of age and over the Children Act 2001, as amended, provides for the appropriate intervention of both care and sanction and I am confident that sufficient safeguards have been included to protect the interests of the child, the victim and society.

It is my intention, and that of my colleague the Minister for Children, to see the outstanding provisions of the 2001 Act implemented in early 2007. As the Deputy will be aware, I have also established an overarching executive office in my Department, the Irish Youth Justice Service, which will, as part of its overall remit, oversee the implementation of the Children Act 2001, as amended, and develop a wide ranging national youth justice strategy. These along with other developments are already creating improvements in our youth justice system and delivering better outcomes for children who come into contact with the law.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

144 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the evidence necessitating the proposals made by him on 20 October 2006 in Limerick to reverse long standing democratic legal norms safeguarding due process. [36315/06]

I made a speech in Limerick concerning rebalancing criminal justice arose from concerns that the rights of the prosecution and the rights of the defence be evenly balanced. Having regard to the major changes which our society has undergone in recent years I consider that the principles underpinning our criminal justice system, while having largely served us well, were developed in a different era and would benefit from a robust examination to ensure that the proper balance is struck between the needs of the accused on the one hand and the needs of the victim and the community on the other.

As the Deputy may be aware I have set up an expert review group chaired by Mr Gerard Hogan, S.C. to progress these proposals. The terms of reference of the Balance in the Criminal Law Review Group are to examine issues affecting:

the right to silence;

allowing character evidence of an accused;

the exclusionary rule of evidence;

requiring the accused to outline the nature of his defence before or at the commencement of a trial;

re-opening new evidence;

nullifying an acquittal where there is evidence of jury or witness tampering;

"with prejudice" appeals in the case of wrongful acquittal;

extending alibi evidence rules to other analogous situations;

allowing submissions by the prosecution before sentencing;

modifying the rule in relation to hearsay evidence;

and any other proposals regarding criminal law, criminal evidence and criminal procedure that may come to the attention of the Review Group in the course of their examination of those issues.

I have requested the Review Group to report back to me by 1 March 2007. The Review Group is seeking submissions from interested parties and members of the public to assist it in its deliberations and has advertised for such submissions in the press. I understand the closing date for submissions is 5 January 2007.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

145 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects that the proposed new Immigration Bill will be published; his proposed legislative timetable for the Bill; if he intends to bring the heads of the Bill before the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36280/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 160 of 3 October, 2006.

Departmental Expenditure.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

146 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the projects and initiatives that have received funding under the €5 million provided in July 2006 for integration related projects for newcomers to Ireland; the amount that these projects have been allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36337/06]

Since my announcement of a special €5M Integration Fund to help integrate legally- resident immigrants, my Department has established a variety of schemes and initiatives for its effective dispersal. A total of €2M has been allocated to local partnerships working on locally-based initiatives and a further €1M to national and regional NGOs working in the relevant area. The funding is being distributed through Pobal who are at an advanced stage of project selection with final decisions expected over the next few weeks.

A further €.9M is being used to accelerate the implementation of the National Action Plan against Racism. While no final decision have been taken at individual project level, this part of the funding is being focussed on the promotion of integration through sport, publicity initiatives and research on the management of cultural diversity in the workplace. It is expected that specific project allocations will be made by the end of the year.

The balance of the Fund (€1.1M) will be used to implement a wide range of initiatives being managed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) which is now part of the new Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department. A total of €96,920 has been allocated to two specific projects to date: €25,000 in support of the EPIC programme — an employment-based initiative and €71,920 for a parish-based integration programme being run by the Inter-Church Committee on Social Issues. However, as with the Pobal and NAPR aspects of the fund, the selection of detailed projects are, in the main, currently being finalised and decisions are expected over the next few weeks. The Deputy may wish to be made aware however of the general nature of the projects which are being funded. These include:

Ongoing processes and initiatives associated with the increased quota of resettlement refugees

International co-operation on selected refugee issues

A "small grants" scheme (up to €15,000 per project) for integration initiatives being managed by RIA

Research on the development of a national English language policy for newcomers

Research on an effective approach to language interpretation for newcomers

Final project funding details will be made public as soon as they are available.

Garda Reserve.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

147 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications received to date in regard to the Garda Reserve; the number of applications processed and approved; the number of persons who have completed or commenced training; when it is expected that the first members of the reserve will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36268/06]

The total number of applicants for the Garda Reserve at 6 November was 7,125. The first interviews were held in September and involved 374 candidates. The first group of 37 trainees commenced phase one training in Templemore on 30 September 2006. They are currently in phase two of their training and are expected to complete their training in December.

Of those interviewed in September, not all applications were processed to completion and there will be further trainees selected from this group who will commence training at a later date. The next interviews will be carried out this month and will involve applicants from counties Limerick, Kerry, Galway, Clare, Sligo and Dublin.

Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 93.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of his contention that serious crime has reduced significantly as compared with 1995, there has been a re-classification of the various categories of crime resulting in a removal of a large number of what were previously deemed to be serious crimes to what is now termed a less serious crime category; the serious crime figures arising form the combinations of the two categories referred to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36325/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the manner in which serious crimes have been re-categorised in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36593/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 218 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the ten crime classifications used to show the more serious crimes (headline offences) were first introduced in the Garda Síochána Annual Report of 2000. The Deputy will be aware that, with respect to the year 2000, the Garda Síochána changed the system of crime presentation as part of the PULSE information technology project. Specifically, the changeover to the PULSE platform allowed the Gardaí to reorganise its crime classification system, so that it more accurately reflects the complex, modern criminal activities reported or known to the Garda Síochána.

The previous crime classifications and sub-categorisations, based essentially on the distinction between indictable and non-indictable offences, were many decades old and were becoming increasingly unsuitable. PULSE proved a considerable improvement in this respect, and the new classification of headline offences contains ten sub-divisions which offer a comprehensive description of modern criminal activity in a much more readily understandable form.

Classification changes, to reflect the introduction of new legislation, were made in 2002. Changes included the introduction of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 which required a minor change to Group 6 Larcenies, by changing the name of the offences from Larceny to Theft Offences.

The introduction of this Act required greater change to Group 9, Fraud where the offences of Embezzlement and False Pretences were repealed by the Act of 2001. Four new classifications were created to replace the Falsification of Accounts/ Companies Offences. Three new offences, European Communities Fraud, Counterfeiting Notes and Coins, and Possession of Article (Fraud), were included in Group 9, Fraud.

Coinage offences were removed from Group 10, Other Headline Offences, but replaced with a new classification, Counterfeiting Notes and Coins, in Group 9, Fraud. The removal of Coinage Offences had no statistical impact as no offences had been recorded since the introduction of the new headline groups in 2000.

In 2003 a new crime classification, Criminal Assets Bureau Offences, was added to Group 9, Fraud. In 2005 two new headline offences were added. Sexual Offenders Act Offences were added to Group 3, Sexual Offences; and Employer Permit (Employer) Offences were added to Group 10, Other Headline Offences.

Reclassification of crime is due, primarily, to the introduction of new legislation which creates new offences or repeals old ones. Any changes to the crime classifications are identified in the Garda Síochána Annual Report of the relevant year.

Following the submission to me in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, I decided that the compilation, production and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act, 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO established a dedicated Unit for this purpose.

The CSO published the reported crime statistics for the third quarter of 2006 on 27 October, 2006 marking the formal transfer for the published crime statistics from the Gardaí to the CSO. The figures released by the CSO did not involve any change in the methodology from that used by the Garda authorities in the production of quarterly headline crime statistics.

The CSO has established an Advisory Group to assist it in the development of crime and criminal justice statistics. One of the first tasks of the Advisory Group will be to review current methodology and to make recommendations for the development and presentation of crime statistics. In particular it will involve examination of:

the distinction between headline and non-headline offences;

the impact of the counting rules used where there are multiple offences involved in the one crime incident; and

the development of a new robust classification of offences /incidents to be used in the future.

This review, which is to be informed by best practice in other countries, will better align crime statistics with public and specialist user needs. This element of the work of the Group should be completed in the first half of 2007.

The CSO is also preparing to develop a more integrated and comprehensive system of crime statistics on crime and victimisation. This will include offences which do not necessarily come to the attention of the Gardaí as well as offences that are often under reported to the Gardaí.

Finally, the CSO is giving consideration to the development of statistics on the wider criminal justice system to include the courts, prisons and probation services.

Restorative Justice.

Seán Ryan

Question:

150 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the terms of reference and membership of the working group to produce proposals for the development of restorative justice models; if a time limit has been set for the completion of the group’s work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36277/06]

I wish to advise the Deputy that proposals for the establishment of a working group to review restorative justice nationally and internationally were received from the Probation Service on 2 November, 2006. The terms of reference and composition of the group are currently being considered. I would hope to be in a position to announce the details shortly.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has information which might suggest that a number of serious criminals serving prison sentences are operating their syndicates from within the prison; if an investigation has been undertaken into such alleged activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36324/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of criminals allegedly running their criminal empires from prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36580/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 205 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 262 of 3 October, 2006 in which I indicated that I was aware of reports which suggest that prisoners are attempting criminal activities from inside prison cells. I want to reiterate that I am committed to implementing all appropriate measures to prevent the possibility of such activity and to ensure that the contact that prisoners have with the outside world is tightly controlled and monitored in an appropriate way.

In this regard, prisoner visits in all closed prisons are carefully controlled and held in sight of prison officers and monitored on CCTV. In addition, new visiting arrangements are in place in almost all closed prisons whereby only persons who have been pre-approved by the Governor are permitted to visit. Telephone calls in closed prisons are monitored by prison officers and incoming and outgoing mail is subject to examination by a prison censor. There is regular contact between the Prison Service and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues and I can advise the Deputy that Gardaí will be contacted whenever any suspected criminal offence has taken place.

One of the major challenges in prisons today lies in preventing access to contraband items, primarily mobile phones and drugs, which for obvious reasons, are viewed as highly valuable commodities which could assist in illegal activity from the prisoner cells. Efforts are made on a continuous basis to prevent the flow of such contraband into our prisons, by for example, the installation of nets over exercise yards, vigilant observation of prisoners by staff, upgraded CCTV monitoring, the use of screened visits and the use of daily prisoner and cell searches. In addition, the Irish Prison Service is currently examining technological options for dealing with the use of mobile phones within prisons.

Random searches of cells and their occupants and searching of correspondence and all other items entering the prison have all intercepted significant quantities of contraband in recent years. When a person is admitted to prison custody, he or she is searched and prohibited items and money are taken. Similarly, searching takes place of prisoners returning from court, temporary release or after visits. Searches of prisoners also take place where their behaviour or information received raises suspicions that they may be in possession of contraband.

The Prison Service has recently conducted a number of trial tests on modern cameras and probe systems which assist in searching previously difficult areas such as hollow chair or bed legs, U-bends in toilets, drain holes, under floor boards and other cavities. Initial tests would appear to indicate that these new technologies will be a valuable asset in this area. The new prison estates at Thornton Hall and Spike Island will also make it harder for contraband to enter the prison over the perimeter walls by means of locating recreation yards away from perimeter walls and having a cordon sanitaire.

Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 133.

Departmental Reports.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

153 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a response from the chief inspector of the Garda inspectorate to the copy of the Barr report he sent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36267/06]

As I stated when welcoming the publication of the Barr Report in July, in accordance with the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, I chose to forward a copy of the Report to the Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate so that Garda procedures and practices for dealing with incidents of the type which unfolded at Abbeylara might be reviewed. I understand from the Garda Inspectorate that work on a Report in this regard is well-advanced.

International Conferences.

Dan Boyle

Question:

154 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the conclusions reached at the recent international conference on gambling which he attended; the action that will be taken to address the growing risks posed by on-line gambling; his views on whether the refusal of the US authorities to attend was damaging to the conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36334/06]

The International Remote Gambling Summit was held in Ascot on Tuesday 31 October 2006. I attended at the invitation of the host, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell, MP. The proceedings were chaired by the Rt. Hon. Richard Caborn, Minister of State for Sport. In excess of thirty States participated in the Summit.

The main purpose of the Summit was to have an open and high-level political discussion about the future direction Governments should take in regard to remote gambling and to seek agreement on a draft Communiqué. While this Communiqué had not been agreed at the end of the Conference, and is still being worked on, it seeks a commitment from participants that in enacting legislation or regulations in relation to remote gambling the principal and over-riding priorities will be:

The responsible conduct of remote gambling with appropriate safeguards to protect children and vulnerable people;

The regulation of remote gambling in accordance with generally accepted international standards to prevent fraud, money laundering and other crime;

That remote gambling, where offered, should be verifiably fair to the consumer.

The draft Communiqué accepts that each jurisdiction may choose to address these priorities differently and, within the scope of international law and trade agreements, may choose to control gambling within its borders in a way that is appropriate to its national regulatory approach and particular circumstances.

In addition, the draft Communiqué seeks to identify areas for greater international cooperation including effective measures to protect children and vulnerable people, sharing research and expertise on remote gambling as well as methods of preventing problems, promoting public awareness of responsible gambling and developing effective licensing regimes.

As the Deputy is aware, I have established an inter-departmental committee chaired by Mr. Michael McGrath BL to report on the possibilities for a legislative basis for the strict regulation of casino-style operations in the State, the composition of a Casino Regulation Commission and related matters. The Casino Committee has also been asked to consider the issue of remote gambling. I expect to receive the Casino Committee's report in the near future. I attended the Summit, without prejudice to the work of that Committee, because I am aware of the issues surrounding remote gambling and wished to hear the views of other States on this important topic. The Deputy will understand that, having established a committee to consider these complex issues, I do not propose to comment on future policy in advance of receiving and considering the report of the Casino Committee.

I cannot comment on the non-participants at the Summit as I did not organise the event and I do not know what other States were invited. I found the Summit extremely useful and informative and I commend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell, MP, for her initiative in organising such an opportune and well-timed political discussion.

International Agreements.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

155 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the Government has decided not to participate in the negotiation and implementation of new EU Commission proposals on divorce and legal separation which proposes to amend the Brussels II Regulation by introducing new EU wide rules determining which member states’ law should apply and which member states’ courts should have jurisdiction in divorce and legal separation cases which have a cross-border dimension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36342/06]

The Government decided not to participate in the adoption and application of the proposed Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 2201/2003 (Brussels II bis) as regards jurisdiction and introducing rules concerning applicable law in matrimonial matters (COM2006 399), published on 17 July 2006.

The EU Commission published the proposed Council Regulation following its Green paper on this subject in 2005 which launched a wide-ranging consultation process. The Government's decision not to opt-in to the adoption and application of this proposal is in line with its response to the Green Paper in November 2005. If Ireland were to accept this measure, it would permit EU nationals resident in Ireland to obtain a divorce in our courts on substantially different grounds than that provided for in our Constitution as allowed by the referendum on divorce in 1995, which is 4 years separation of the parties. It would also mean that the present Constitutional requirement on Irish Courts in divorce proceedings to grant a divorce only where proper provision is made for the parties involved and for dependent children would not apply in such cases.

Under EU Treaty provisions in the area of civil law, Ireland does not participate in the adoption and implementation of such measures unless we exercise an option to so participate. In view of the concern that this measure would facilitate some couples in bypassing the special provisions introduced following the 1995 Constitutional amendment, which I have outlined, the Government took the decision not to exercise the option to participate in the adoption and implementation of this measure.

Export Trade.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

156 Mr. McGinley asked the Taoiseach the estimate of the number of trees exported annually from Donegal to Northern Ireland. [36387/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is not available from external trade statistical records.

State Property.

Tony Gregory

Question:

157 Mr. Gregory asked the Taoiseach further to Parliamentary Question No. 222 of 24 October 2006, if his Department will request all State buildings including the Four Courts to so arrange the flags. [36098/06]

In accordance with the guidelines in An Bhratach Náisiúnta, it is the normal practice to fly the National Flag daily at all military posts and from a limited number of important State Buildings equipped with a permanent flagpole. State Buildings equipped with more than one flagpole, including Government Buildings, the Four Courts, the General Post Office and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin also fly the European Union Flag at the same time.

All Government Departments are notified by my Department on an annual basis of specific occasions during the year on which the National Flag should be flown from buildings under their control, equipped with a permanent flagpole, e.g. Easter Sunday/Easter Monday and The National Day of Commemoration.

Additionally, my Department advises on occasions when the National Flag should be flown at half mast such as on the death of a national or international figure.

Departmental Properties.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the name and location of every vacant building under his Department’s ownership or control; the security arrangements in place in respect of each property; the cost of such security arrangements in respect of each property in the period 1 October 2005 to 30 September 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36308/06]

My Department does not have any vacant buildings under its ownership or control.

National Statistics.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

159 Ms Shortall asked the Taoiseach the number of deaths registered in each of the past five years and in the first quarter of 2006 by sex, cause of death, and age. [36374/06]

The information requested by the deputy is given in the tables.The deaths have been classified by the Underlying Cause of Death. Deaths are coded according to the Ninth Revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death (I.C.D. 9).

The categories for Underlying Cause of Death specified here are:

Malignant Neoplasms

i.e. Cancer

Diseases of the Circulatory System

includes Heart Disease, Stroke

Diseases of the Respiratory System

includes Pneumonia, Bronchopneumonia, Influenza, Asthma

Injury and Poisoning

includes Road Accidents, Falls, Drowning, Homicide, Suicide

Deaths for Year 2001

Underlying Cause of Death

Age

Sex

Malignant neoplasms

Diseases of the circulatory system

Diseases of the respiratory system

Injury and poisoning

All other causes

All Causes

Under 1

Female

1

2

3

2

145

153

Male

0

3

5

3

167

178

Total

1

5

8

5

312

331

1-4

Female

4

1

4

11

13

33

Male

4

0

4

18

19

45

Total

8

1

8

29

32

78

5-9

Female

4

0

2

4

6

16

Male

2

1

1

10

6

20

Total

6

1

3

14

12

36

10-14

Female

3

0

1

10

6

20

Male

3

0

0

12

8

23

Total

6

0

1

22

14

43

15-19

Female

5

1

2

22

10

40

Male

8

3

6

91

21

129

Total

13

4

8

113

31

169

20-24

Female

17

3

2

29

13

64

Male

8

6

3

140

28

185

Total

25

9

5

169

41

249

25-29

Female

7

4

2

17

17

47

Male

10

10

2

130

38

190

Total

17

14

4

147

55

237

30-34

Female

15

11

3

21

14

64

Male

23

17

1

98

36

175

Total

38

28

4

119

50

239

35-39

Female

57

14

9

21

34

135

Male

32

36

8

86

44

206

Total

89

50

17

107

78

341

40-44

Female

89

15

10

20

32

166

Male

55

56

7

80

64

262

Total

144

71

17

100

96

428

45-49

Female

129

46

8

20

42

245

Male

109

103

11

77

63

363

Total

238

149

19

97

105

608

50-54

Female

218

73

20

22

65

398

Male

170

207

27

75

83

562

Total

388

280

47

97

148

960

55-59

Female

219

84

36

18

58

415

Male

261

299

48

64

99

771

Total

480

383

84

82

157

1,186

60-64

Female

302

129

47

10

85

573

Male

390

442

85

68

117

1,102

Total

692

571

132

78

202

1,675

65-69

Female

408

275

86

13

122

904

Male

562

660

156

50

180

1,608

Total

970

935

242

63

302

2,512

70-74

Female

494

493

182

17

181

1,367

Male

669

863

258

54

228

2,072

Total

1,163

1,356

440

71

409

3,439

75-79

Female

633

953

369

31

348

2,334

Male

731

1,133

397

34

314

2,609

Total

1,364

2,086

766

65

662

4,943

80-84

Female

502

1,317

497

60

448

2,824

Male

550

1,087

469

54

312

2,472

Total

1,052

2,404

966

114

760

5,296

85 and over

Female

487

2,356

1,033

99

748

4,723

Male

451

1,183

668

57

360

2,719

Total

938

3,539

1,701

156

1,108

7,442

All ages

Female

3,594

5,777

2,316

447

2,387

1,4521

Male

4,038

6,109

2,156

1,201

2,187

15,691

Total

7,632

11,886

4,472

1,648

4,574

30,212

Deaths for Year 2002

Underlying Cause of Death

Age

Sex

Malignant neoplasms

Diseases of the circulatory system

Diseases of the respiratory system

Injury and poisoning

All other causes

All Causes

Under 1

Female

1

3

2

1

129

136

Male

0

2

3

2

162

169

Total

1

5

5

3

291

305

1-4

Female

2

0

2

5

20

29

Male

2

1

1

10

16

30

Total

4

1

3

15

36

59

5-9

Female

1

0

1

2

7

11

Male

4

0

0

6

7

17

Total

5

0

1

8

14

28

10-14

Female

2

1

2

11

5

21

Male

4

0

1

11

13

29

Total

6

1

3

22

18

50

15-19

Female

4

1

2

25

15

47

Male

8

2

2

83

22

117

Total

12

3

4

108

37

164

20-24

Female

11

4

2

26

11

54

Male

6

10

5

141

24

186

Total

17

14

7

167

35

240

25-29

Female

14

7

0

26

12

59

Male

11

10

5

128

38

192

Total

25

17

5

154

50

251

30-34

Female

18

10

6

19

25

78

Male

15

13

7

117

40

192

Total

33

23

13

136

65

270

35-39

Female

40

16

6

17

32

111

Male

28

29

4

75

37

173

Total

68

45

10

92

69

284

40-44

Female

69

26

8

15

29

147

Male

50

80

14

84

48

276

Total

119

106

22

99

77

423

45-49

Female

103

38

11

29

43

224

Male

98

120

14

74

75

381

Total

201

158

25

103

118

605

50-54

Female

188

55

22

18

46

329

Male

224

222

26

58

83

613

Total

412

277

48

76

129

942

55-59

Female

251

84

30

16

52

433

Male

299

288

46

68

115

816

Total

550

372

76

84

167

1,249

60-64

Female

278

130

55

17

83

563

Male

400

388

74

44

113

1,019

Total

678

518

129

61

196

1,582

65-69

Female

376

239

92

19

126

852

Male

525

615

116

52

167

1,475

Total

901

854

208

71

293

2,327

70-74

Female

523

473

170

23

212

1,401

Male

668

849

233

38

225

2,013

Total

1,191

1,322

403

61

437

3,414

75-79

Female

526

915

332

33

329

2,135

Male

741

1,061

411

44

289

2,546

Total

1,267

1,976

743

77

618

4,681

80-84

Female

520

1,279

463

57

437

2,756

Male

578

1,084

481

45

322

2,510

Total

1,098

2,363

944

102

759

5,266

85 and over

Female

522

2,445

1,028

120

792

4,907

Male

393

1,152

667

44

380

2,636

Total

915

3,597

1695

164

1,172

7,543

All ages

Female

3,449

5,726

2,234

479

2,405

14,293

Male

4,054

5,926

2,110

1,124

2,176

15,390

Total

7,503

11,652

4,344

1,603

4,581

29,683

Deaths for Year 2003

Underlying Cause of Death

Age

Sex

Malignant neoplasms

Diseases of the circulatory system

Diseases of the respiratory system

Injury and poisoning

All other causes

All Causes

Under 1

Female

0

2

4

3

124

133

Male

0

2

3

1

187

193

Total

0

4

7

4

311

326

1-4

Female

2

1

1

6

13

23

Male

3

0

3

9

11

26

Total

5

1

4

15

24

49

5-9

Female

2

1

0

3

4

10

Male

8

1

1

6

3

19

Total

10

2

1

9

7

29

10-14

Female

2

0

0

5

7

14

Male

7

1

2

11

7

28

Total

9

1

2

16

14

42

15-19

Female

4

1

1

21

7

34

Male

6

3

0

60

18

87

Total

10

4

1

81

25

121

20-24

Female

4

2

1

29

18

54

Male

7

7

3

141

25

183

Total

11

9

4

170

43

237

25-29

Female

9

6

3

11

19

48

Male

14

12

9

98

30

163

Total

23

18

12

109

49

211

30-34

Female

13

5

6

18

17

59

Male

20

12

3

78

37

150

Total

33

17

9

96

54

209

35-39

Female

44

16

4

20

24

108

Male

31

35

11

74

41

192

Total

75

51

15

94

65

300

40-44

Female

67

22

6

14

33

142

Male

50

49

8

83

50

240

Total

117

71

14

97

83

382

45-49

Female

104

42

9

15

38

208

Male

88

112

10

71

59

340

Total

192

154

19

86

97

548

50-54

Female

190

65

18

29

55

357

Male

175

191

34

67

83

550

Total

365

256

52

96

138

907

55-59

Female

294

100

30

19

64

507

Male

298

306

34

64

92

794

Total

592

406

64

83

156

1,301

60-64

Female

357

141

45

23

73

639

Male

405

390

90

40

113

1,038

Total

762

531

135

63

186

1,677

65-69

Female

373

253

88

18

113

845

Male

550

521

148

41

154

1,414

Total

923

774

236

59

267

2,259

70-74

Female

474

388

171

17

209

1,259

Male

667

730

231

38

222

1,888

Total

1,141

1,118

402

55

431

3,147

75-79

Female

569

853

345

37

343

2,147

Male

702

1,003

418

35

299

2,457

Total

1,271

1,856

763

72

642

4,604

80-84

Female

543

1,283

484

56

413

2,779

Male

553

1,103

473

57

323

2,509

Total

1,096

2,386

957

113

736

5,288

85 and over

Female

536

2,285

1,086

101

818

4,826

Male

432

1,094

671

38

376

2,611

Total

968

3,379

1,757

139

1,194

7,437

All ages

Female

3,587

5,466

2,302

445

2,392

14,192

Male

4,016

5,572

2,152

1,012

2,130

14,882

Total

7,603

11,038

4,454

1,457

4,522

29,074

Deaths for Year 2004

Underlying Cause of Death

Age

Sex

Malignant neoplasms

Diseases of the circulatory system

Diseases of the respiratory system

Injury and poisoning

All other causes

All Causes

Under 1

Female

0

2

1

2

125

130

Male

0

1

1

1

167

170

Total

0

3

2

3

292

300

1-4

Female

4

2

2

2

14

24

Male

4

0

3

5

12

24

Total

8

2

5

7

26

48

5-9

Female

3

1

0

2

7

13

Male

7

1

2

5

7

22

Total

10

2

2

7

14

35

10-14

Female

5

0

0

3

5

13

Male

4

0

2

8

6

20

Total

9

0

2

11

11

33

15-19

Female

8

1

0

12

4

25

Male

10

4

1

65

9

89

Total

18

5

1

77

13

114

20-24

Female

4

1

3

17

17

42

Male

9

5

2

109

18

143

Total

13

6

5

126

35

185

25-29

Female

14

5

1

15

17

52

Male

7

14

5

79

28

133

Total

21

19

6

94

45

185

30-34

Female

23

6

4

15

15

63

Male

9

18

1

74

44

146

Total

32

24

5

89

59

209

35-39

Female

44

14

2

20

22

102

Male

34

30

7

59

47

177

Total

78

44

9

79

69

279

40-44

Female

94

22

4

14

30

164

Male

47

64

4

85

52

252

Total

141

86

8

99

82

416

45-49

Female

110

28

11

19

44

212

Male

90

117

8

62

44

321

Total

200

145

19

81

88

533

50-54

Female

155

70

24

24

57

330

Male

186

226

28

56

64

560

Total

341

296

52

80

121

890

55-59

Female

296

85

32

17

69

499

Male

305

279

50

55

101

790

Total

601

364

82

72

170

1,289

60-64

Female

309

109

43

23

89

573

Male

383

371

88

36

110

988

Total

692

480

131

59

199

1,561

65-69

Female

379

210

73

15

114

791

Male

535

506

118

35

150

1,344

Total

914

716

191

50

264

2,135

70-74

Female

497

400

162

19

160

1,238

Male

708

726

202

37

234

1,907

Total

1,205

1,126

364

56

394

3,145

75-79

Female

543

767

305

27

293

1,935

Male

710

908

379

26

310

2,333

Total

1,253

1,675

684

53

603

4,268

80-84

Female

544

1,166

445

63

432

2,650

Male

617

1,072

462

37

306

2,494

Total

1,161

2,238

907

100

738

5,144

85 and over

Female

545

2,325

992

71

878

4,811

Male

475

1,052

593

27

424

2,571

Total

1,020

3,377

1,585

98

1,302

7,382

All ages

Female

3,577

5,214

2,104

380

2,392

13,667

Male

4,140

5,394

1,956

861

2,133

14,484

Total

7,717

10,608

4,060

1,241

4,525

28,151

Deaths for Year 2005

Underlying Cause of Death

Age

Sex

Malignant neoplasms

Diseases of the circulatory system

Diseases of the respiratory system

Injury and poisoning

All other causes

All Causes

Under 1

Female

2

2

2

2

122

130

Male

0

0

3

0

111

114

Total

2

2

5

2

233

244

1-4

Female

3

2

1

5

12

23

Male

4

1

0

5

15

25

Total

7

3

1

10

27

48

5-9

Female

1

0

0

2

8

11

Male

3

2

0

6

5

16

Total

4

2

0

8

13

27

10-14

Female

2

0

2

3

11

18

Male

0

0

2

7

8

17

Total

2

0

4

10

19

35

15-19

Female

2

1

1

13

19

36

Male

8

5

1

65

18

97

Total

10

6

2

78

37

133

20-24

Female

9

4

4

17

16

50

Male

5

11

5

105

35

161

Total

14

15

9

122

51

211

25-29

Female

15

2

2

15

11

45

Male

19

12

0

88

31

150

Total

34

14

2

103

42

195

30-34

Female

23

4

1

22

25

75

Male

15

17

6

83

40

161

Total

38

21

7

105

65

236

35-39

Female

42

11

4

17

24

98

Male

14

36

4

67

38

159

Total

56

47

8

84

62

257

40-44

Female

81

13

6

20

31

151

Male

62

53

9

68

45

237

Total

143

66

15

88

76

388

45-49

Female

137

38

15

10

37

237

Male

90

98

13

71

65

337

Total

227

136

28

81

102

574

50-54

Female

184

49

26

29

51

339

Male

170

167

20

61

81

499

Total

354

216

46

90

132

838

55-59

Female

271

75

28

15

66

455

Male

257

271

36

54

103

721

Total

528

346

64

69

169

1,176

60-64

Female

329

121

56

14

77

597

Male

412

350

68

43

117

990

Total

741

471

124

57

194

1,587

65-69

Female

433

200

69

20

123

845

Male

496

458

114

36

156

1,260

Total

929

658

183

56

279

2,105

70-74

Female

473

351

146

20

167

1,157

Male

672

641

210

46

243

1,812

Total

1,145

992

356

66

410

2,969

75-79

Female

554

686

251

20

324

1,835

Male

680

866

302

38

281

2,167

Total

1,234

1,552

553

58

605

4,002

80-84

Female

568

1,050

446

51

496

2,611

Male

576

996

454

40

326

2,392

Total

1,144

2,046

900

91

822

5,003

85 and over

Female

535

2,283

1,075

74

857

4,824

Male

467

1,108

573

51

390

2,589

Total

1,002

3,391

1,648

125

1,247

7,413

All ages

Female

3,664

4,892

2,135

369

2,477

13,537

Male

3,950

5,092

1,820

934

2,108

13,904

Total

7,614

9,984

3,955

1,303

4,585

27,441

Deaths for First Quarter of 2006

Underlying Cause of Death

Age

Sex

Malignant neoplasms

Diseases of the circulatory system

Diseases of the respiratory system

Injury and poisoning

All other causes

All Causes

Under 1

Female

0

0

1

0

29

30

Male

0

1

1

0

25

27

Total

0

1

2

0

54

57

1-4

Female

0

0

0

0

4

4

Male

1

0

0

1

4

6

Total

1

0

0

1

8

10

5-9

Female

0

0

0

0

3

3

Male

2

0

0

1

0

3

Total

2

0

0

1

3

6

10-14

Female

0

0

0

2

2

4

Male

3

0

0

1

1

5

Total

3

0

0

3

3

9

15-19

Female

3

1

0

1

3

8

Male

3

0

2

10

1

16

Total

6

1

2

11

4

24

20-24

Female

2

1

0

4

3

10

Male

2

0

0

10

2

14

Total

4

1

0

14

5

24

25-29

Female

3

1

0

1

4

9

Male

1

2

1

11

6

21

Total

4

3

1

12

10

30

30-34

Female

1

2

0

4

2

9

Male

5

1

2

13

6

27

Total

6

3

2

17

8

36

35-39

Female

8

1

1

0

4

14

Male

4

6

0

4

9

23

Total

12

7

1

4

13

37

40-44

Female

11

5

2

2

7

27

Male

9

12

2

9

9

41

Total

20

17

4

11

16

68

45-49

Female

36

3

2

3

18

62

Male

23

19

2

5

10

59

Total

59

22

4

8

28

121

50-54

Female

42

11

1

1

12

67

Male

46

38

8

6

13

111

Total

88

49

9

7

25

178

55-59

Female

74

20

13

0

23

130

Male

77

47

7

6

20

157

Total

151

67

20

6

43

287

60-64

Female

88

27

17

4

24

160

Male

101

88

16

4

24

233

Total

189

115

33

8

48

393

65-69

Female

120

49

16

1

22

208

Male

140

123

31

5

28

327

Total

260

172

47

6

50

535

70-74

Female

121

92

43

2

54

312

Male

168

179

71

2

71

491

Total

289

271

114

4

125

803

75-79

Female

160

158

84

2

80

484

Male

199

255

90

6

82

632

Total

359

413

174

8

162

1,116

80-84

Female

170

306

144

3

128

751

Male

151

246

136

3

112

648

Total

321

552

280

6

240

1399

85 and over

Female

164

631

328

10

252

1385

Male

125

340

187

6

144

802

Total

289

971

515

16

396

2,187

All ages

Female

1,003

1,308

652

40

674

3,677

Male

1,060

1,357

556

103

567

3,643

Total

2,063

2,665

1,208

143

1,241

7,320

Richard Bruton

Question:

160 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the number of households here in 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006 and a forecast for 2007; and the population figures for the same period and forecast. [36375/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the table.

Population and Households in Mid-April for selected years

Reference period

Number of households (thousands)

Number of Persons (thousands)

April 2004

1405.9

4043.8

April 2005

1453.9

4130.7

April 2006

1488.4

4234.9

The official population projections for the period since 2002 have been exceeded because the net inward migration flows in recent years have been higher than those assumed for the Census 2002-based population projections exercise. While no official forecast for 2007 exists, the recent experience would suggest a continuing annual increase of around 2 per cent in population and a slightly higher increase in the number of households.

Departmental Transport.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

161 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach if vehicles used by his Department use fuel from a particular fuel supplier; if so, the name of that supplier; if departmental staff are issued with fuel cards in connection with their duties; if so, the person who is the supplier of this service; and the amount it cost his Department in the past five years. [36424/06]

This Department does not provide any official vehicles, so the question of obtaining fuel from fuel suppliers does not arise. Official Garda transport provided to Minister of State Kitt and myself is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Garda Investigations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

162 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he received documentation on the case of a person (details supplied) and the allegations of forgery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36116/06]

Finian McGrath

Question:

163 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation regarding a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will clarify his complaint on the matter. [36203/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 and 163 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an investigation was conducted by An Garda Síochána into the incident referred to which concluded that no crime of forgery had been committed in this jurisdiction. The matter was reviewed in 1997 and 2003 when the investigation file was submitted to the Law Officers, who directed no prosecution in the matter.

Further documentation has recently been provided to Gardaí by the person referred to and this is currently being examined.

As the Deputy will be aware I have no role in the investigation or prosecution of cases. This is a long standing principle of our system of justice. The role of the Gardaí is to investigate alleged offences, to gather whatever evidence may be available and to submit a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The question of whether or not a particular person should be prosecuted and for what criminal offence is the responsibility of the DPP. The Director, who is independent in the performance of his functions, makes his decision on the basis of the Garda findings viewed against the background of common and/or statute law. In the circumstances it would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment further on the case.

Parliamentary Questions.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

164 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 377 of 27 September 2006. [36084/06]

My response to Parliamentary Question No. 377 of 27 September 2006 set out the position in relation to the person in question. This remains the position.

Residency Permits.

Ivor Callely

Question:

165 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the breakdown of the number of applications for residency visas over the past ten years; the number of applicants; the number approved; the number withdrawn; the number refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36090/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and could not be compiled in the time available for answering Parliamentary Questions. However, I am arranging to have the information compiled and will write to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Ivor Callely

Question:

166 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of residency visas issued to non-EEA nationals over the past five years; if such visas have been revoked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36091/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and could not be compiled in the time available for answering Parliamentary Questions. However, I am arranging to have the information compiled and will write to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Visa Applications.

Ivor Callely

Question:

167 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures available to overturn a visa of a non-national if they are found to have terrorist connections or are connected to international cell operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36092/06]

As an Irish visa merely allows the holder to travel to the frontiers of the State, I presume the Deputy is referring to circumstances where a non-national has residency in the State. Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 provides for the removal, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, of persons for a range of specified circumstances.

Garda Strength.

Ivor Callely

Question:

168 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the personnel strengths of An Garda Síochána for Dublin city and north Dublin metropolitan area; the recorded headline offences and detection rates for the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36093/06]

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 induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. 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) for the operational Dublin Metropolitan Divisions as at 3 November, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder:

Division

Strength

Eastern

569

North Central

642

Northern

615

South Central

716

Southern

576

Western

692

D.M.R. Traffic

142

The Dublin Metropolitan Region'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, all of which have had increased resources to provide a comprehensive policing service to the community.

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.

The figures for headline offences recorded and detected for the Dublin Metropolitan Region are available in the Garda Annual Report for 2005, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas library.

Citizenship Applications.

Ivor Callely

Question:

169 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures associated with processing an application for naturalisation; if applicants are aware of the timescale involved; if they are advised of the process when they make their application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36094/06]

The average processing time for applications for certificates of naturalisation is approximately 24 months and this is primarily due to the significant increase in the volume of applications received in the last number of years. The table below shows the number of applications received in the years 2000 to date. These figures illustrate a significant upward trend. With over 5,500 applications received to date in 2006, this upward trend looks set to continue and it appears likely that some 6,500 will be received this year.

Year

Applications for naturalisation received

2000

1,004

2001

1,431

2002

3,574

2003

3,580

2004

4,074

2005

4,523

2006 (as at 2/11/06)

5,578

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is an honour and applications must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is given only to persons who satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

The documentation accompanying the application form for naturalisation provides potential applicants with a general overview of the procedures and processing times, although further information can be obtained, if required, by telephoning the Citizenship Section helpline on Tuesdays or Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at Lo-call 1890 551 500 or (01) 6167700.

The procedures employed to assess an applicant for naturalisation are as set out in summary form below. Upon receipt, each application is examined to determine if the statutory application is completed fully. Incomplete application forms are returned to the applicant for amendment. Valid applications are then examined to determine if the applicant meets the statutory residency criteria set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act. Passports and other documentation are examined in detail and enquiries with the Garda National Immigration Bureau may also be necessary. Since this procedure was introduced on 1 April 2005, over 3,000 applicants who applied since that date have been found to be ineligible. All such applicants are informed of any shortfall in their residency and will be able to reapply when they have the required residency.

The next stage of the process involves assessing an applicant's financial status in respect of their ability to support themselves in the State. Enquiries with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs may be necessary in this regard. At the same time enquiries are also made with the Garda Síochána to clarify if the applicant can be deemed to be of good character. There may also be circumstances in individual cases which require a greater level of investigation than other cases. Once all enquiries are completed, the file is referred to me for a decision. The Deputy will appreciate that these processes can take a lengthy time to complete.

The above procedures have been developed and refined over a number of years and I am satisfied that they are necessary to maintain the integrity of the naturalisation process. Consequently, having regard to the resources currently available, which are kept under constant review, there is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved.

Garda Investigations.

Ivor Callely

Question:

170 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the escalation in the number of private security and cash in transit personnel and their families who have been involved in robberies in recent years; the progress that has been made to solve these robberies; and the ten biggest robberies over the past 10 years; and the result of Garda investigations of same. [36096/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Question No. 85 of today's date.

While not all of the information sought by the Deputy is readily available in the manner sought, or could not be made available without the disproportionate expenditure of Garda resources, the table below sets out the number of robbery offences recorded, detected, proceedings commenced and convictions for the years 2000 to 2005.

With regard to two specific major incidents involving security companies I am informed by the Garda Authorities that, in relation to the false imprisonment of a family and the robbery of over €2 million from a security company in April, 2005, following an intensive investigation a ‘search and arrest' operation took place on the 27th April, 2005 during which twenty-six people were arrested and detained under the provisions of Section 30 Offences Against the State Act 1939/98. A number of firearms, drugs with an estimated street value of €750,000, and a large quantity of cash were seized. A significant amount of documentation and other evidence was also recovered.

Two persons were charged with offences relating to the drugs and firearms. An investigation file was submitted to the Law Officers in respect of the other people arrested and charges of robbery and false imprisonment against eight other individuals were directed.

In relation to a second robbery in April 2005 during which €1.9 million was taken from another security company, a number of searches were carried out the following day and significant evidence was seized. The investigation is on-going.

Intelligence-led operations and initiatives are continuously being conducted by local Garda management, at District, Divisional and Regional levels, in conjunction with the national specialist units under Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services, to target criminals, their associates and crime gangs, and their finances, responsible for this type of criminality in order to disrupt and disband such crime networks.

Number of Robbery Offences Recorded, Detected, Proceedings Commenced and Convictions for Years 2000 to 2005

Year

Reported

Detected

Proceedings

Convictions

2005

2,333

938

693

227

2004

2,611

958

727

427

2003

2,803

950

719

471

2002

2,932

1,062

786

519

2001

2,876

1,142

657

501

2000

2,608

1,155

286

240

Prison Building Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

171 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his Department’s position in respect of the proposed prison at Thornton Hall on the installation of sewerage, water and electricity to the site; his view on whether the development of these services comes under Part 11 of the Planning and Development Act 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36120/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

172 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in respect of the proposed prison at Thornton Hall the sewage and water pipes and electrical facilities will run through and potentially service, significant areas of land that are currently zoned for agricultural use; if this will potentially enhance land values along the route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36121/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

173 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the discussions his Department has had with Fingal County Council in the context of the Fingal development plan in respect of the proposed prison at Thornton Hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36122/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 to 173, inclusive, together.

The provision of services to the Thornton Hall site to service the prison development has been the subject of detailed discussions between the relevant officials at Fingal County Council and the Prison Service and its technical advisors. Discussions have also been held with the various utilities including the Electricity Supply Board. Arising from these discussions, agreement in principle has been reached with the Council for the servicing of the water and sewerage requirements along existing public roadways i.e. the N2 and the R130. It has, in addition, been agreed with the Electricity Supply Board that the required electricity supply will be sourced from existing lines adjacent to the site. It is not the case, therefore, that these services will be run through significant areas of land that are zoned agricultural. The security aspects of allowing other parties access to services for the prison in the immediate proximity of the site is still under consideration.

In relation to the Deputy's reference to Part 11 of the Planning and Development Act 2001, I can only assume that this should be a reference to the Act of the same name of 2000. I am advised that the provision of the services referred to the Thornton site does not fall within the remit of this section of the Act.

Garda Deployment.

Damien English

Question:

174 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a crime prevention officer will be reappointed to Navan Garda station. [36123/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that interviews for the position of Crime Prevention Officer in respect of the Louth/Meath Garda Division have taken place and the appointment will be made shortly.

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 have been further informed that the Divisional Crime Prevention Officer for the Louth/Meath Division is based at Drogheda Garda Station. There has never been a Crime Prevention Officer assigned to Navan Garda Station. Garda management state that there are currently no plans to allocate a Crime Prevention Officer to Navan Garda Station.

Damien English

Question:

175 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to increase Garda numbers at Navan Garda station in view of the increase in population in the past four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36124/06]

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 induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. 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 Navan Garda Station as at 3 November, 2006 was 48. Navan Garda Station is located within the Louth/Meath Division. The personnel strength (all ranks) of the Division as at 3 November, 2006 was 541.

Garda management state that it is proposed to allocate an additional 10 Gardaí to the Louth/Meath Division before 31 December, 2006 in conjunction with the allocation of Probationer Gardaí from the Garda College.

The Louth/Meath 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, all of which have had increased resources to provide a comprehensive policing service to the community.

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 attested strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. 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 Navan Garda Station will be given the fullest consideration.

Asylum Applications.

Pat Breen

Question:

176 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for family reunification for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36211/06]

The person in question made a Family Reunification application in July 2005.

The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department.

Applications of this type are dealt with in chronological order. This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

Deportation Orders.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

177 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will allow persons (details supplied) in County Waterford to remain temporarily in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36223/06]

I would refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to his Dáil Question No. 169 of Thursday 9 March 2006. The status of the persons concerned remains as set out in that reply.

Residency Permits.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

178 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if permanent residency will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36259/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State and claimed asylum on 10 November, 2000. He failed to attend at interview with the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and a recommendation that he should not be declared a refugee was made on 18 April, 2002.

Consequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed on 31 October, 2002 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before a Deportation Order is made; or consenting to the making of a Deportation Order. No representations were received from or on behalf of the person concerned. I subsequently signed a Deportation Order in respect of the person concerned on 16 December, 2002. He was notified of his impending deportation from the State by letter dated, 27 January, 2003.

On 31 January, 2003 the person concerned informed the Department through a legal advisor that he was the parent of an Irish born child and that he intended to apply for residency on that basis. He further stated that he intended to initiate Judicial Review proceedings.

As a consequence of the Judicial Review proceedings this person's case was further reviewed and I decided to revoke the Deportation Order and grant him temporary leave to remain in the State. This decision was communicated to the person concerned by letter dated 15 January, 2004.

The leave to remain was subsequently extended for a further year on 02 June, 2005. The person in question applied for further renewal of his leave to remain by letter dated 03 May, 2006. Permission to remain in the State for a further year has now been granted to the person concerned and a letter of confirmation will issue in early course.

Departmental Properties.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the name and location of every vacant building under his Department’s ownership or control; the security arrangements in place in respect of each property; the cost of such security arrangements in respect of each property in the period 1 October 2005 to 30 September 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36306/06]

I can inform the Deputy that in my Department the following buildings are currently not in use:

1. Prison Service Buildings.

Fort Mitchel Prison, Spike Island; and

Curragh Prison, Co Kildare.

2. Probation Service Buildings

Roxborough House, Limerick;

Thomastown, Co Kilkenny;

Lionsvilla, Chapelizod, Dublin; and

Clonakilty, Co Cork.

Appropriate security arrangements, designed to protect State assets, are in place in respect of each of these properties. I do not have the costs incurred for this purpose, but I will forward them to the Deputy when they are available.

Anti-Racism Measures.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

180 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the fact that racial discrimination claims by migrant workers have more than doubled in the first half of 2006. [31656/06]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the cases before the Equality Tribunal. The Equality Tribunal is the impartial forum to hear or mediate complaints of alleged discrimination under equality legislation. It is independent and quasi-judicial and its decisions and mediated settlements are legally binding. The equality legislation prohibits discrimination on 9 grounds — gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community.

For the period January to June, 2006, the number of cases referred to the Equality Tribunal under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2004, on the race ground alone, was 64 involving 105 individuals. There were 6 decisions issued by the Equality Tribunal and of these one was upheld in favour of the complainant. The figures for previous years are set out below:

Decisions of the Equality Tribunal (ET) on Race Ground under Employment Equality Acts 1998-2004

Year

Referrals to ET

Decisions issued

Decisions upheld for complainant

2005

82 cases; 105 individuals

11

3

2004

51 cases; 71 individuals

11

3

2003

35 cases; 85 individuals

9

0

2002

30 cases; 43 individuals

2

0

While there is a rise in ‘cases' on the race ground taken to the Equality Tribunal, this is more likely to reflect the huge growth in the numbers of workers from abroad who are now in the workforce rather than any increase in intolerance in the workplace. It should also be borne in mind that these figures refer to ‘cases' and not to ‘decisions'.

I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to the increased awareness of the needs of the intercultural workplace and the renewed emphasis on the enforcement of employment protections so as to tackle workplace discrimination and exploitation. The Equality Authority, with the support of the social partners and the National Action Plan Against Racism, organises Anti-Racist Workplace Week which is taking place this week. This will be the eight year of operation. The aim of the week is to raise awareness in organisations of the need to combat racism and promote support for the accommodation of diversity in the workplace.

Towards 2016, the Ten Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement 2006-2015, while recognising the broad level of compliance with employment rights across the economy generally, includes a commitment between the parties to securing enhanced compliance with legal requirements, underpinned by adequate enforcement. It was agreed, in particular, that an effective employment rights compliance system should be put in place. The parties to Towards 2016 have agreed a major package of measures with these aims in mind. The package makes provision for the establishment of a new statutory Office of the Director for Employment Rights Compliance (ODERC) under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, led by a Director at top management level.

The number of Labour Inspectors under this Office will be progressively increased from 31 to 90 by end-2007, as part of an initiative to increase the staffing resources of the Employment Rights Bodies generally. In addition, the new Office will be provided with legal, accounting and other administrative support to ensure its effective functioning.

The necessary legislation to establish the new Office will be published during 2007. In the meantime, the ODERC and its Advisory Board will be established on an interim basis.

Crime Levels.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

181 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people murdered in each of the past 12 years through violence on the streets, or by whatever means; the number who have died in similar circumstances to date in 2006; if he is satisfied that sufficient effort is being made to control this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36361/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table shows the number of murder offences recorded and detected for each year from 1994 to date in 2006.

All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of a rigorous investigation by the Garda Síochána. The identification of the motive and the evidence available in its support are key elements of the investigation and prosecution process.

The personnel strength of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 12,765 on 8 September, 2006 compared with a total strength of 10,702 as at 30 June, 1997. The first group of trainees for the Garda Reserve are due to graduate in December. The Garda budget now stands at €1.3 billion, which represents an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

Murder Offences Recorded and Detected for the Years 1994 to Date in 2006*

Murder

Year

Recorded

Detected

2006*

46

33

2005

54

25

2004

37

30

2003

45

29

2002

52

42

2001

52

45

2000

39

32

1999

38

31

1998

38

34

1997

38

34

1996

42

33

1995

41

30

1994

25

20

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

Crime Prevention.

Liam Twomey

Question:

182 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken by gardaí to stop the recent escalation of thefts from shops in Wexford town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36362/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that to date in 2006 there have been 126 reported incidents of thefts from shops in Wexford Sub-District, 81 of which have been detected.

Local Garda management have taken a number of steps to address this issue. Since June, 2006 a dedicated uniform foot-patrol has been established in the commercial centre, particularly during business hours, to reduce criminal activity in this area. Local Garda management has also appointed a Garda Liaison Officer to the commercial centre in Wexford, who has visited a number of business premises offering crime prevention information, including security advice. In August, 2006 the local Superintendent met representatives of the local business associations and the Chamber of Commerce. Arising from this, a Crime Prevention Seminar has been organised for 14 November at which the Divisional Crime Prevention Officer and a representative from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigations will be available to offer crime prevention advice to local business owners and staff.

Equality Issues.

David Stanton

Question:

183 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the disability equality section of his Department has carried out a review of the 3% employment quota in the public service; if this target is being met in all areas of the public service; the details and breakdown of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36363/06]

Part 5 of the Disability Act 2005, dealing with public service employment of persons with disabilities, came into effect on 31 December 2005. It places the 3% employment target in the public service on a statutory footing. Under section 48 of the Act, a public service body must prepare a report for submission to the relevant monitoring committee established under the Act on its compliance with the requirements in respect of the year ended 31 December 2006 by 31 March 2007 at the latest. The monitoring committees established by Ministers in respect of the public bodies under their aegis have until 30 June 2007 at the latest to report both to the relevant Minister and the National Disability Authority on compliance by the relevant public bodies with the requirements. The Act confers significant new monitoring functions in this regard on the National Disability Authority.

It is in the context of these new statutory arrangements and timeframes that the current position will be formally reported for all areas of the public service.

In the implementation of these provisions, Government Departments and any other public body staffed by civil servants are accountable to the Minister for Finance, while local authorities and organisations within the Health Service Executive are accountable respectively to the Ministers for Environment, Heritage and Local Government and for Health and Children. All other public bodies are accountable to the relevant Minister.

Question No. 184 answered with QuestionNo. 109.

Road Traffic Accidents.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

185 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of road traffic accidents involving Garda or ministerial cars over each of the past five years. [36365/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the number of road traffic accidents involving Garda and ministerial cars over the past five years was as set out in the table hereunder:

Year

Vehicle Type

No. of Accidents

2001

Garda Car Ministerial Car

360 0

2002

Garda Car Ministerial Car

388 0

2003

Garda Car Ministerial Car

389 2

2004

Garda Car Ministerial Car

386 1

2005

Garda Car Ministerial Car

419 4

Citizenship Applications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

186 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications currently before his Department for certificates of naturalisation on the basis of marriage to Irish citizens. [36366/06]

The number of applications for naturalisation on hand as of 2 November 2006, including applications based on marriage to an Irish citizen, is approximately 11,000. I am advised that statistics are not maintained in such a manner as to readily identify applications from the spouses of Irish citizens from any other applicants.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

187 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason applications for certificates of naturalisation, lodged by persons who are married to Irish citizens for three years, take a further two years to process from the date of application; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that such delays cause hardship and inconvenience to many families; and if he will take steps to have such applications dealt with efficiently in his Department within a reasonable time. [36367/06]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation, including those from persons married to Irish citizens, are generally dealt with in chronological order as this method is deemed to be fairest to all applicants. The average processing time for such applications is approximately 24 months and this is primarily due to the significant increase in the volume of applications received in the last number of years.

The table below shows the total number of applications received in the years 2000 to date. I should point out that statistics are not maintained in such a manner as to readily identify applications from the spouses of Irish citizens from other applicants. These figures illustrate a significant upward trend in the number of applications received in recent years. With over 5,500 applications received to date in 2006, this upward trend looks set to continue and it appears likely that some 6,500 will be received this year.

Year

Applications for naturalisation received

2000

1,004

2001

1,431

2002

3,574

2003

3,580

2004

4,074

2005

4,523

2006 (as at 2/11/06)

5,578

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is an honour and applications must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is given only to persons who satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

The procedures employed to assess an applicant for naturalisation are as set out in summary form below. Upon receipt, each application is examined to determine if the statutory application is completed fully. Incomplete application forms are returned to the applicant for amendment. Valid applications are then examined to determine if the applicant meets the statutory residency criteria set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act. Passports and other documentation are examined in detail and enquiries with the Garda National Immigration Bureau may also be necessary. Since this procedure was introduced on 1 April 2005, over 3,000 applicants who applied since that date have been found to be ineligible. All such applicants are informed of any shortfall in their residency and will be able to reapply when they have the required residency.

The next stage of the process involves assessing an applicant's financial status in respect of their ability to support themselves in the State. Enquiries with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs may be necessary in this regard. At the same time enquiries are also made with the Garda Síochána to clarify if the applicant can be deemed to be of good character. There may also be circumstances in individual cases which require a greater level of investigation than other cases. Once all enquiries are completed, the file is referred to me for a decision. The Deputy will appreciate that these processes can take a lengthy time to complete.

The above procedures have been developed and refined over a number of years and I am satisfied that they are necessary to maintain the integrity of the naturalisation process. Consequently, having regard to the resources available, which are kept under constant review, there is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Paul McGrath

Question:

188 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the funding for a closed circuit television system for Longford town; and when he expects this system to be installed. [36383/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are no plans at present to provide a Garda CCTV system for Longford Town. I understand, however, that there are a number of CCTV cameras in operation on Main Street, Longford which were funded and installed by local business people and are operated voluntarily. Neither the Garda authorities or my Department have any involvement with this CCTV system.

I am advised that there is no record of any formal application for a Garda CCTV system in Longford. All applications for Garda CCTV systems must be prepared in co-operation with the local Garda District and Divisional Officers and must receive their full support. Applications must then be submitted by the Divisional Officer to the Garda Advisory Committee for consideration and evaluation on the basis of Garda operational needs.

I am further informed that an application for grant-aid funding under my Department's Community Based CCTV Scheme was received from Longford Town Council. The Scheme is being administered by Pobal on behalf of my Department. I understand that following a thorough assessment of their application, Longford Town Council's application for funding was deemed not to reach a high enough standard to be granted funding. I am further advised that Pobal provided feedback on applications directly to all unsuccessful applicants under the Scheme, including Longford Town Council.

Applications for funding are thoroughly assessed by Pobal against the criteria set out in the Community Based CCTV Scheme Application Guidelines with a view to forming a list of projects suitable for funding under the Scheme. All applications, including those recommended for funding by Pobal, are then considered by the Community Based CCTV Project Board, which is chaired by my Department, before a final decision is taken on the matter.

I intend to invite a new round of applications for funding under the Community Based CCTV Scheme in the coming weeks, and it will be open to Longford Town Council to submit another application for funding at that stage having taken on board the feedback from Pobal about their earlier application.

Questions Nos. 189 and 190 answered with Question No. 135.

Voluntary Repatriation Schemes.

Joe Costello

Question:

191 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in Britain and Ireland on the repatriation application of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36396/06]

The person referred to by the Deputy has expressed an interest in transferring to a prison in Ireland under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. However, the formal application and necessary supporting documentation has not been received to date from the United Kingdom authorities. My Department has already written to the United Kingdom authorities requesting them to commence processing this individual's application.

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 will be forthcoming), an application must then be made to the High Court for a warrant authorising the transfer of the person concerned and his continued detention here.

These procedures are required under the Convention and the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Act, 1995, and must be adhered to in processing each application.

Departmental Transport.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

192 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if vehicles used by his Department use fuel from a particular fuel supplier; if so, the name of that supplier; if departmental staff are issued with fuel cards in connection with their duties; if so, the person who is the supplier of this service; and the amount it cost his Department in the past five years. [36422/06]

Topaz Energy Limited supply the fuel for vehicles used by my Department and a number of fuel cards have been issued to the relevant staff from that supplier. The total cost of fuel over the past 5 years is approximately €14,400.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

193 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements in place to supply Garda vehicles with fuel; if they are supplied through retail forecourts using fuel cards of other such forms of credit or debit arrangements; and if so, the forecourts used in each divisional area or if they are supplied by other means. [36426/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the arrangements in place to supply Garda Vehicles with fuel are as follows: Fuel cards are issued by the relevant fuel companies following receipt of a written request, either directly from a District Headquarters or through Transport Section, Garda H.Q. Fuel is supplied through retail forecourts in each Division and is paid centrally through Finance Section on a monthly basis. The forecourts used under this arrangement are Esso, Texaco Statoil and Shell.

In some rural areas (where a major fuel dealer is not present) fuel is purchased locally and paid monthly from the local Imprest Account (District Office). The suppliers under this arrangement are Maxol, Topaz and Jones Oil. I have been further informed that there are similar arrangements in place for the supply of fuel for Ministerial State cars, which are regarded as part of the Garda Fleet.

Citizenship Applications.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

194 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a post nuptial citizenship application for a person (details supplied) has been granted; and when a certificate of citizenship will be sent to the applicant. [36431/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a formal certificate confirming the Irish citizenship of the person concerned issued to him by registered post on 2 November 2006.

Visa Applications.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

195 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the rules that will apply in 2007 in relation to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals seeking to travel here for purposes other than work, including family visitation; if special rules will apply to nationals of those countries seeking to travel here for non-work purposes but who have previously been deported or removed from the State for working here without a permit; if any or all such deportation or removal orders will remain in effect after those countries join the EU; if he has discretion in dealing with individual cases of persons previously deported; if so, the considerations that will affect his discretion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36463/06]

As and from 1 January, 2007 the main immigration law which will apply to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals is the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No 226 of 2006). Those Regulations, which I signed on 28 April 2006, transposed into Irish law the European Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. Visa requirements will no longer apply to those nationals and they will be able to enter the State on production of their passport and/or national identity card and they may reside here for up to three months. Thereafter, they must be: in lawful employment; self-employed; enrolled on a course of study or vocational training and have private medical insurance; or, self-sufficient and have private medical insurance.

As the Deputy is well aware, in respect of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals the purpose of their short-term visit is not of importance as they will be citizens of the European Union. They will have the same rights as other EU citizens apart from one restriction whereby Romanian and Bulgarian nationals may not enter employment in the State except in accordance with an Employment Permit, or where they are otherwise exempt. Apart from that, there will be no special rules applicable to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals arising from those countries' accession to the EU.

Nationals of Romania and Bulgaria who have been the subject of Deportation Orders cannot expect to be automatically allowed to reside in or re-enter the State following the accession of their countries of origin to the European Union. Freedom of movement for European citizens is not an absolute right. It is subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security and public health. Where a deportation order has been made against an individual from either of the two countries it is open to the person concerned to apply for revocation of that order if they wish to ensure that there will not be a bar to free movement. I will consider any such applications under the power conferred on me by section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999. I would be open to the revocation of deportation orders which were made in respect of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens solely on the grounds that they were failed asylum seekers or general illegal immigrants where issues of security or criminal behaviour did not arise in the particular cases as a reason for their deportation.

Under the Free Movement Regulations, I have the power to make an Expulsion Order or Removal Order in respect of any EU citizen who might seek to enter this State, or who resides here, on limited grounds set out in the Regulations.

Citizenship Applications.

Marian Harkin

Question:

196 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the stage of an application for naturalisation for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [36481/06]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 25 November 2004.

Applications received in the second half of 2004 are currently being processed and there are approximately 600 applications awaiting processing before that of the person in question. It is likely that processing of the application of the person in question will commence early in 2007. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the application.

Crime Prevention.

Tony Gregory

Question:

197 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of calls received by the Garda authorities regarding vandalism and anti-social behaviour in the West Road area of East Wall, Dublin 3 on the night of 31 October 2006 and the morning of 1 November 2006; the number of gardaí who attended at West Road to deal with the reported incidents; and the number of arrests made. [36531/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities concerned that a total of six incidents were recorded in the area referred to on the night of 31 October / 1 November. Nine members of An Garda Síochána, including three members of the local Community Policing Unit, attended these incidents, which included criminal damage and anti-social behaviour, as well as a road traffic collision which resulted in material damage. I understand that these incidents are currently under active Garda investigation.

Garda Investigations.

Tony Gregory

Question:

198 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 113 of 11 October 2006 if the report referred to is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36532/06]

I have now received a report from the Garda authorities in respect of the matters concerned.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local management received the memo referred to on 15 August, 2006. The memo details a number of issues in relation to the area concerned and an incident currently under investigation by the Garda authorities relating to the husband of the person mentioned, an injured party in the incident. The person mentioned expressed dissatisfaction in relation to the response of the Gardaí to the incident.

On the day following the incident a meeting was held between the injured party and local Garda management. No complaint was made against any individual Garda and the Garda investigation into the incident is expected to be completed shortly. Furthermore, the memo acknowledges that there were no incidents in the area mentioned until recently, and that similar incidents they had experienced two years previously had been fully addressed by the Gardaí.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the area concerned is regularly patrolled by the Community Policing Unit at Mountjoy Garda Station and by both regular mobile and foot patrols with a view to ensuring a concentrated and visible Garda presence. Garda patrols have been instructed by local Garda management to be proactive in dealing with any complaints from the location mentioned.

Garda Transport.

John Dennehy

Question:

199 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is a maximum mileage limit on Garda patrol cars; if he is satisfied that any of the cars are not old, or unsafe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36534/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that while there is no specific maximum mileage limit for Garda cars, the economic mileage for Garda cars is calculated to be 160,000 kilometres and this is the target figure set by the Garda Síochána.

I am further informed that Garda Fleet Management policy is to ensure, as far as possible, that official vehicles are maintained to a standard where there are no unsafe vehicles in use by the Force. While there are some older cars in the fleet, these are kept to a minimum as the safety of Garda personnel is of paramount importance. The average age of all Garda vehicles, including commercials and motorcycles, is 3.28 years and reducing. The average age of Garda patrol cars is 2.05 years and reducing.

Significant orders have recently been placed for a range of Garda vehicles which will greatly assist in lowering the age profile of the Garda fleet as well as enabling the Garda Síochána to meet their target mileage ceiling of 160,000 kilometres for Garda patrol cars.

John Dennehy

Question:

200 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the number of Garda traffic marked patrol cars in operation; if he is satisfied that all of these cars are sufficiently equipped with speed cameras; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36535/06]

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 induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. 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 within the range of vehicles available to the Garda Traffic Corps there are currently 62 marked Garda patrol cars. An Garda Síochána is satisfied that Garda Traffic Corps vehicles are sufficiently equipped to carry out speed enforcement.

Members of the Garda Síochána who are not members of the Traffic Corps have the responsibility, inter alia, to deal with traffic duties when breaches of road traffic law occur. Marked and unmarked patrol vehicles driven by these members are therefore also available for road traffic law enforcement.

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 attested strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. 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 Garda Stations will be given the fullest consideration.

Residency Permits.

Sean Fleming

Question:

201 Mr. Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 275 of 24 October 2006, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the person concerned did report on 14 March 2006 to a Garda station (details supplied) and did apply for renewal of their residency GNIB card in the State on that day and that this application was in his Department for renewal at the time the person was stopped in Dundalk on 31 May 2006; and if he will re-examine same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36567/06]

Further to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 275 on 24 October last, I have checked the matter further with An Garda Síochána who is responsible for the issuing and renewal of Registration Certificates. I am informed by the Commissioner that the person in question did call to Abbeyleix Garda Station on 14th March 2006 with a view to renewing his Registration Certificate. The Commissioner informs me that the Certificate could not be issued at the time by the local Immigration Officer pending the consideration of certain issues. A renewed Certificate of Registration has since issued and is now available for collection by him from Abbeyleix Garda Station. I regret the inaccurate information given in my earlier reply with regard to the person not reporting to Abbeyleix Garda Station which was based on general enquiries that have since been corrected by an up to date Garda report. I trust this now clarifies the matter.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of public order incidents reported in the past five years; the number of prosecutions which followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36577/06]

The figures for public order offences where proceedings commenced and persons were convicted for the years 2000 to 2005 are available in the relevant Garda Annual Reports, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas library.

Missing Persons.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people currently recorded as missing persons; the extent to which adequate resources are available to the gardaí to fully monitor and investigate such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36578/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of persons reported missing and remaining untraced at the end of 2005 was 395. The figure for 2006 will not be available until after year end.

The Missing Persons Bureau in Garda Headquarters is responsible for maintaining data relating to missing persons. The District Officer in the area where a person has been reported missing takes direct responsibility for all issues relating to the investigation of the circumstances of the missing person. All cases of a person reported missing in suspicious circumstances remain open and under ongoing review and investigation until the person is located or, in the case of a missing person who is presumed drowned, a verdict to that effect by the coroner.

At present, local Garda management takes direct responsibility for missing person cases, and special investigation teams are appointed as necessary. All missing persons are recorded on the PULSE system. When a person is reported missing, the local Garda Superintendent will appoint an investigation team to include any specialised unit deemed necessary, for example, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation or the Technical Bureau. The systems put in place by An Garda Síochána to manage and deal with reports of missing persons are in line with best international police practice, and Garda management have assured me that they are satisfied that the systems in place are adequate to deal with any reported case of a missing person.

An Garda Síochána interacts fully and as appropriate with all of the media outlets — print, radio and TV — in highlighting cases involving missing persons. The services of other external agencies such as Interpol and Europol are also available to assist in the investigation. In addition, every Garda District has a specially trained search team that is familiar with the locality. The investigation of missing persons is a dedicated subject on the curriculum at the Garda College, Templemore, and is also a subject covered in in-service training.

The Garda authorities are continuously monitoring international developments in relation to investigations of missing persons in order to ensure that best practice is followed. 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.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prison spaces currently occupied by more than one person to a cell; the highest number of prisoners to a cell; if this is in accordance with best practice; the action he proposes to take to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36579/06]

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

Institution

Cells/Units with occupancy of more than one person on 3 November 2006

Mountjoy Prison

61 double cells (2 persons in each) and 15 four person cells (4 in each)

Dóchas

Two single units (2 persons in each) and 1 single unit (occupied by 4 persons)

Castlerea Prison

33 single cells (2 persons in each), 2 double cells (2 persons in each), 3 treble cells (3 persons in each) The Grove area — 7 double units (2 persons in each) and one treble unit (occupied by 3 persons)

Cork Prison

6 single cells (2 persons in each) and 114 double cells (2 persons in each)

Limerick Prison (Male)

98 single cells (2 persons in each)

Limerick Prison (Female)

8 single cells (2 persons in each)

Wheatfield Prison

60 double cells (2 persons in each)

Portlaoise Prison

6 double cells (2 persons in each) and 2 treble cells (3 persons in each)

Loughan House

31 double rooms (2 persons in each), 1 four person room (occupied by two people) and 1 four person room (occupied by three people)

Shelton Abbey

Dormitory accommodation provided for prisoners. 4 Four person rooms (4 persons in each), 1 Four person room (occupied by 3 persons), 1 Four person room (occupied by 2 persons), 1 Five person room (occupied by 5 persons), 2 Five person rooms (4 persons in each), 1 Six person room (occupied by 6 persons), 1 Six person room (occupied by 5 persons) and 1 Seven person room (occupied by 7 persons)

Cloverhill Prison*

5 double cells (2 persons in each) and 120 treble cells (3 persons in each)

Midlands Prison

20 treble cells (3 persons in each)

Arbour Hill Prison

4 treble cells (3 in each), 1 treble cell (occupied by 2 persons) and 14 double cells (2 persons in each)

* The figures for Cloverhill Prison relate to capacity rather than occupancy.

Note: All prisoners in the Training Unit Place of Detention and St. Patrick's Institution were single occupants of a cell on 3 November 2006. Accordingly, neither institution is included in the above table. Where possible, it is the aim of the Prison Service to provide single cell occupancy for all sentenced prisoners. Exceptions are made for some prisoners who actually seek to double-up. Prisoners may ask to share a cell with a friend or relative in custody and such requests are facilitated where possible. Doubling up may also occur from time to time to meet concerns about the physical/mental health of a prisoner. On Friday 3 November 2006, a total of 1,744 prisoners were single occupants of a cell or unit.

It is anticipated that the new prison buildings at Thornton Hall and Spike Island will allow for increased single cell usage. The construction of new facilities will address the issue of cell occupancy levels and will, in addition, offer significant improvements in the areas of work training, education, medical services and in-cell sanitation. It must be noted, however, that 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 prisoners' age, gender, the nature of the offence, location, security and whether they are on remand or sentenced.

Question No. 205 answered with QuestionNo. 151.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incidents of anti-social activity reported to the various Garda stations throughout County Kildare in the past 12 months; the number of incidents of such activity allegedly affecting residential areas or public open spaces; the number of prosecutions arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36581/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table provides the number of proceedings commenced for assault and public order offences in a residential area and all other areas for the Garda Division of Carlow/Kildare in 2005 and 2006 up to 3 November.

Offences recorded as occurring in a residential area occurred in a house, apartment, flat or halting site.

2006*

2005

Residential Area

Other

Residential Area

Other

Total

103

1534

172

2837

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

Garda Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda patrol cars available to each station throughout County Kildare on a nightly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36582/06]

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 induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. 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 official Garda vehicles available at Garda Stations in County Kildare is as set out in the table hereunder:

Stations

Number of Vehicles

Athy

2

Celbridge

1

Clane

1

Kilcullen

1

Kildare

2

Kill

1

Maynooth

1

Monasterevin

1

Naas

21

Newbridge

4

Robertstown

1

Kilcock

1

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate Garda resources, including Garda patrol cars, to and within Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. Such 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 attested strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. 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 County Kildare will be given the fullest consideration.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations currently operational throughout County Kildare; the number of such stations that have been modernised and upgraded in terms of accommodation and technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36583/06]

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 induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

Garda Divisional boundaries do not correlate exactly with County boundaries. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that there are 18 Garda Stations currently operational in County Kildare. This figure includes Monasterevin which is temporarily closed due to fire damage. Over the past 5 years, all 18 stations have had either maintenance works carried out, new stations have been built or planned (Derrinturn and Leixlip respectively) or have been painted as part of the Garda Station painting programme.

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. 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 County Kildare will be given the fullest consideration. I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to fully compile the information requested by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the balance of the information is to hand.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he has taken to combat drive-by shootings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36584/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all incidents involving the use of firearms, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation. The identification of the motive and the evidence available in its support are key elements of the investigation and prosecution process. Speculation as to the nature of the motive could serve to jeopardise successful investigation and prosecution of these serious crimes.

Garda management have introduced a number of intelligence-led policing initiatives, including Operation Anvil and Operation Steel, specifically targeting those involved in armed crime. The focus of such operations is the targeting of active criminals and their associates by preventing and disrupting this type of criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling, static checkpoints and by uniform mobile and foot patrols supported by armed plain-clothes patrols and other specialist units.

This integrated approach adopts best practice in implementing a co-ordinated use of Garda resources and using available criminal legislation to its fullest extent. These initiatives are reviewed by Garda management on an ongoing basis to ensure their effectiveness.

In addition to the introduction of Operation Anvil, the Commissioner in November 2005 augmented the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation with an additional 55 Garda members to address the problem of criminal gang activity. Enforcement by the Unit has resulted in further firearms being seized and a number of persons arrested, thereby disrupting their criminal activities.

With regard to legislative measures, the Deputy will be aware that the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which enhance the powers of the Gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences. In addition, the Act contains an essential updating of our criminal law to ensure that criminal offences can be investigated and prosecuted in a way which is efficient and fair and which meets the needs of modern society.

In relation to firearms, the new Act updates and strengthens the law. With effect from 1 November, mandatory minimum sentences, of between five and ten years, came into effect for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of a firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest came into effect. There are also new offences concerning the modification of firearms such as "sawing-off" a shotgun.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the ratio of gardaí to the civilian population in the years 2000, 2002, 2005 and to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36585/06]

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 induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I can inform the Deputy that based on the definitive Census figures available, which is the 2002 census population figure, the ratio of Gardaí per 100,000 of the civilian population for the years 2000, 2002, 2005 and as at 3 November, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder. These ratios will of course require to be adjusted in due course when the final report of the 2006 Census is available.

2000

2002

2005

03/11/2006

297

304

313

324

I should add that the current recruitment drive to increase the attested strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources.

Public Order Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if gardaí have sufficient resources to respond to the needs of residents and community groups who bring to their attention the growing incidents of anti-social activity, more often in the vicinity or adjacent to public open space or recreational areas in housing estates and where serious drug dealing, car theft, malicious damage and intimidation of residents takes place on a regular basis; if he will appoint a dedicated task force to deal with such activity which is becoming more sinister with the passage of time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36586/06]

I share the concerns expressed about anti-social behaviour and its effects on communities. In many anti-social incidents, vulnerable people, often the elderly, are subjected to serious nuisance and forms of harassment which cause significant and persistent distress to the those concerned, and interfere fundamentally with their capacity to enjoy quiet and peaceful lives. Often such people are simply too frightened to stand up to their persecutors. Equally, few of them have the financial resources to engage lawyers to seek private law injunction-type remedies to protect their rights to enjoyment of their property.

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.

Separate provision is being made in relation to young people. The Criminal Justice Act, 2006 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.

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. 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. Work by the Garda Síochána is underway to draw up the necessary procedures to implement the provisions.

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

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 has also been enacted, the main purpose of which is to provide the Garda Síochána with additional powers to deal with late night street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking. It does this by providing for the closure of premises such as pubs, off 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.

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.

Under the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme Divisional 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). I expect to announce a further ten projects in the near future.

In relation to Garda Resources 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 induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137.

There has also been excellent progress made in relation to the establishment of the Garda Reserve. Over 7,000 have applied to join the Reserve. Reserve members will provide valuable support for their full-time colleagues and will enhance the capacity of the Garda Síochána to respond to emerging policing challenges and allow for more Gardaí to be visibly deployed on the street. The first group of trainees are due to graduate in December.

The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, which represents a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms. In addition to expenditure on operations, these resources are also being used to provide required facilities. Most recently, significant property has been purchased in Tipperary to provide a major tactical and practical training centre for the Force. This will enable a broad range of training facilities to be developed.

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.

Gangland Killings.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of shootings, including fatal shootings, attributable to organised crime gangs in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36587/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána is engaged on a daily basis in targeting criminals who are suspected of involvement in the use of firearms. These individuals are monitored and arrested where reasonable grounds exist that they are involved in criminal activity. In many cases firearms have been seized and persons charged.

All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation by An Garda Síochána. Terms such as gangland murders and drug related murders do not correspond to the manner in which An Garda Síochána classifies crime or particular offences. Caution is necessary in ascribing particular motives to any particular incident as, potentially, this might jeopardise the procedures which need to be followed for the proper investigation and prosecution of offences.

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the number of gardaí deployed to the various Garda divisions throughout Leinster has increased in the past six years; the extent to which the civilian population has increased in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36588/06]

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 induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 has resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

The Garda Divisional boundaries do not correlate exactly with the Provincial and County boundaries. I have been informed that the personnel strength (all ranks) of each operational Garda Division within the Leinster area as at 31 December, 2000 and as at 3 November, 2006 was as set out in the table hereunder. I can inform the Deputy that based on the definitive Census figures available, which are the 2002 census figures, the population of Leinster was 2,105,579. This figure will of course require to be adjusted in due course when the final report of the 2006 Census is available.

Division

31/12/00

3/11/06

Increase

DMR East

549

569

20

DMR North Central

603

642

39

DMR North

596

615

19

DMR South Central

697

716

19

DMR South

508

576

68

DMR West

589

692

103

DMR Traffic

118

142

24

Carlow/ Kildare

303

362

59

Laois/ Offaly

274

286

12

Louth/ Meath

538

541

3

Longford/ Westmeath

241

268

27

Wexford/ Wicklow

288

339

51

Waterford/ Kilkenny

332

371

39

Witness Intimidation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incidents of witness intimidation here in the past four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36589/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the table shows the number of proceedings commenced and convictions recorded for the offence of intimidation of a witness or juror, contrary to section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1999, for the years 2002 to 2005. Section 41 creates a specific offence of intimidation, in respect of persons assisting the Garda Síochána with a criminal investigation, witnesses, potential witnesses, jurors, potential jurors or a member of their family.

Offences contrary to section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1999.

Year

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

2005

21

4

2004

30

9

2003

30

7

2002

11

2

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the resources available to the gardaí and the CAB are sufficient to tackle the full extent of organised crime and criminal gangs here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36590/06]

An Garda Síochána are continuing to conduct an ongoing major crackdown on organised crime, including drug trafficking and other types of organised criminality and the Garda authorities now have a record level of resources available, both in financial and personnel terms, in order to enable An Garda Síochána carry out its functions.

The Garda authorities advise that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána made up of the number of attested Gardaí plus recruits in training now stands at a record high of 14,137 and that the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government to recruit an additional 2,000 members of An Garda Síochána has been met.

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

I am informed by Garda management that they are satisfied that the Criminal Assets Bureau has sufficient resources for it to operate effectively pursuant to its statutory remit. The Criminal Assets Bureau has been at the forefront of the fight against organised crime in this jurisdiction since its inception in 1996. The manner in which the Bureau operates has, in that 10 year period, come to be viewed, both domestically and internationally, as a very successful model for targeting persons seeking to derive profits from criminal activities.

The assignment of staff to the Bureau from An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs ensures a multi-disciplinary, coordinated and integrated approach to the identification, freezing and seizure of criminal proceeds, the assessment and collection of unpaid taxes, and the recovery of social welfare overpayments.

The resources available to the Bureau, including manpower, facilities and technology, are kept under continuous review to ensure that it is fully able to fulfil its statutory remit. In this context, in late 2005 following consultation with the Garda Commissioner, my Department secured Department of Finance sanction for two additional specialist staff for the CAB. These staff, a financial crime analyst and a forensic accountant have recently been recruited. There is also now a Divisional criminal assets profiler based in every Garda Division nationwide, increasing the capacity of the organisation to target the finances of criminals. The Chief Bureau Officer closely monitors the allocation of personnel and the matter also remains under constant review by local Garda management.

In addition, Operation Anvil was launched on the 17 May, 2005 in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. It is an intelligence-led policing initiative the focus of which is the targeting of active criminals and their associated involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting this criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling, and static checkpoints, by uniform mobile and foot patrols supported by armed plain-clothes patrols. Operation Anvil has been extended nationwide during 2006 and consists of a series of special operations, proposed by each Regional Assistant Commissioner, which are designed to focus on areas and incidence of high crime.

In November 2005 an additional 55 members were allocated to augment the Organised Crime Unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation to address the problem of criminal gang activity and serious crime continues to be detected through police operations resulting in significant numbers of firearms and quantities of drugs and money being seized by An Garda Síochána. There are a number of persons currently before the Courts arising from these policing initiatives.

On an international level An Garda Síochána constantly strives to increase the level of cooperation, through international law enforcement agencies, Interpol and Europol in the enforcement of drug legislation and to proactively target those individuals and criminal gangs involved in criminal activities to disrupt and disband such networks. Garda Liaison Officers are currently in place in the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, and at Europol and Interpol.

Finally, I can assure the Deputy that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling serious crime under continuing review, and to this end I will continue to ensure that every necessary resource is made available to An Garda Síochána.

Question No. 216 answered with QuestionNo. 116.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of organised crime gangs currently operating throughout the greater Dublin area; if any, all or none, have been detained or questioned in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36592/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are a number of groupings of persons who come within the ambit of organised crime gangs within the greater Dublin area, many of whom have been arrested and detained for questioning in the past twelve months with charges having been brought against a number of those arrested.

Question No. 218 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

Court Procedures.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons charged with serious crime who have been on bail in the past 12 months or are currently on bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36594/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

220 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons charged with serious crime and currently on bail; the duration of such bail; the category of crime with which they are being charged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36595/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 and 220 together.

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

Visa Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

221 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will take steps to ensure that an application for a visitor’s visa for a person (details supplied) is expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36681/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Dublin Visa Office on 9th October, 2006. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the application in question was approved on 2nd November, 2006.

Prison Education Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

222 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the specific steps he is taking and the timeline he has set for the implementation of the positive sentence management system in prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36717/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

223 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the specific steps he is taking and the timeline he has set for the provision of staffing and funding for the expansion of work training in the prison system, including the CONNECT project. [36718/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

224 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the roll-out of an acknowledged successful work training programme, such as the CONNECT project, is being further delayed, more than a year after the resolution of the industrial relations difficulties that led to it being halted and withdrawn; the reason it is dependent on the development of a system of positive sentence management in the prisons; and his views on reinstating the project in the interim at least in Limerick prison as recommended by the Inspector of Prisons. [36719/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

225 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will clarify his previous reply on the 18 October 2006, in which he states that the CONNECT project was launched in 2000 and was not funded by the European Union, when in a speech on 8 April 2002 it was stated that the pilot stage of the project commenced in 1998 and the extension of the project was launched in 2000, and that the pilot was EU funded; the amount of funding received from the EU in view of those comments; the way that funding was spent; if all funding available from the EU has been used; if the €58 million provision in the national development plan agreed to by the Government for the expansion of the CONNECT project was used; the way it has been used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36720/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 to 225, inclusive, together.

The CONNECT project was launched in 2000 as a part of the Prison Service Training and Development Programme under the National Development Plan 2000 to 2006. There is no separate budget for this programme and it was not funded by the European Union; all funding during the period 2000 to 2006 was provided annually by the exchequer as part of the Prisons Vote. This followed on from the piloting of the project from 1998 to 2000, which was carried out under funding from EU INTEGRA Employment Initiative. This EU funding related only to the piloting period and no EU funding was available to the project thereafter.

Expenditure since 2000 has gone to funding salary and incidental costs incurred in providing vocational training in the prisons and the provision of support to the Project by the National Training and Development Institute (NDTI), as well as meeting the cost of some capital works, notably the new laundry training facilities at Wheatfield Prison, and materials used in the manufacture of products in prison workshops for the Special Olympics in 2003. While the industrial relations and attendant financial difficulties during the period impacted on the CONNECT Project, the ongoing operation of the work training element, while somewhat constrained, resulted in the significant majority of the National Development Plan funding being expended.

The future roll out plans for the various elements of the CONNECT Project are being considered in the context of the elaboration of a system of Positive Sentence Management in the prisons. Specifically, the individual programme planning elements that were part of the project need to be more centrally located in the Prison Service's sentence management systems. Experience of the project was that while its original purpose was to assist prisoners in making vocational choices, in fact much work focussed on personal development which would assist prisoners pursuing a crime free life on their release. The work training elements envisaged under the project are currently being enhanced across the prison system. This involves the provision of dedicated new staffing and funding for the expansion of work training in the prison system, which will result in an increase in the number of authorised work training staff posts from c. 215 to c. 250.

A group to examine the elaboration of Positive Sentence Management has reported to the Director General of the Irish Prison Service. Their Report details a proposed model of sentence management based on multidisciplinary working. The Report also details a number of areas that require further work to underpin the process; these include assessment processes, information sharing systems and working relationships, both with the prisons and with the community. Piloting of the proposed system on an action research basis will begin in at least one institution in the coming month. The purpose of the piloting process is to further develop the system by getting feedback from prison-based staff on the practical operation of the structures and processes proposed. In parallel to the prison based piloting, working groups have also been established to examine specific elements of the underpinning processes (i.e. assessment and information sharing).

Finally, the work training elements envisaged under the CONNECT project at Limerick Prison are being developed as part of the overall expansion of work training in the prison system, which I have outlined above. The sentence management elements of the project will be addressed in the context of the roll-out of Positive Sentence Management.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

226 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the rationale for making the proceeds of the health repayment scheme for nursing home charges taxable in respect of the beneficiaries of the deceased patient’s will. [36108/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a repayment of nursing home charges in the case of a deceased patient would form part of the estate of that deceased person, and would be paid out to beneficiaries under the terms of the deceased patient's will or, in accordance with the Succession Act 1965 where the patient died intestate.

The capital acquisitions tax code charges to tax any benefit taken by a beneficiary upon the death of another person. In the case of a repayment of nursing home charges, the benefit of the repayment (or part thereof) is taken by the beneficiary, since the patient who incurred the charges in the first place is deceased and consequently, inheritance tax is potentially due from the beneficiaries concerned. It should be noted that the capital acquisitions tax code also provides for very generous thresholds which may result in a beneficiary not paying any inheritance tax on a benefit. The threshold amounts for 2006 (after indexation) are:

Relationship to Deceased Patient

Son/Daughter €478,155

Parent/Brother/Sister/Niece/

Nephew/Grandchild €47,815

Relationship other than those above €23,908

In addition, an inheritance taken by the surviving spouse of the deceased patient is completely exempt. I am further advised that the treatment for tax purposes of the repayment is exactly the same as it would be if the Estate of the deceased had been enlarged, by for example, a previously unknown bank account, where the proceeds pass on to the relevant beneficiaries.

Government Expenditure.

Seán Crowe

Question:

227 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance the way in which the Government intends to spend the money it realised from the proceeds of the sale of the majority of its shares in Aer Lingus. [36208/06]

To date the Exchequer has received €240,902,257 from the sale of its shares in Aer Lingus. These funds have been lodged to the Exchequer and will be classified in the Finance Accounts as Capital Receipts. Accordingly the funds have not been allocated towards any specific expenditure, but will be used to fund expenditure generally.

State Property.

Seán Crowe

Question:

228 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by groups (details supplied) regarding the use of the Garden of Remembrance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36226/06]

The Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to the memory of those people who gave their lives for Irish freedom. Consequently it is a particularly sensitive site and events there are arranged in consultations with the Protocol section of the Department of the Taoiseach and confined, almost exclusively, to State ceremonials. In the circumstances, I am sure the deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate to make this national memorial site available as a venue for public events generally, given its special significance.

Disabled Drivers.

John Dennehy

Question:

229 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Finance if the inter-departmental group which examined the disabled drivers schemes examined, or made recommendations regarding, the involvement of blind passengers in the scheme; if not, his views on such a course of action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36525/06]

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

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

In respect of the long-term recommendations, including the qualifying disability criteria, given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. This consideration is undertaken on a regular basis.

Tax Code.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

230 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if special treatment is given by the Revenue Commissioners in cases where employed persons claim rent tax credit in respect of rent paid to their parents while living in the family home; if so, the basis for such treatment; if there is a requirement that rent must in such cases be charged at a commercial rate in order for the tax credit to be available; if so, if the market value of the family home is taken into account in order to determine a commercial rate; the level within the Revenue Commissioners at which decisions are made on such questions; if a review or appeal process is available; if written guidelines or instructions apply; if rent a room tax exemption applies in these circumstances to parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36105/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 473 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for an allowance at the standard rate of income tax for individuals who, for a tax year of assessment, prove that they have paid rent in respect of a residential premises that is their main residence. The definition of rent for the purposes of Section 473 is such that it refers only to the bare right to use, occupy or enjoy the premises and it also excludes payments in respect of the provision of goods and services. For example, payment in respect of ‘board and lodgings' would not be considered rent for the purposes of the rent allowance.

Where it appears that a payment is made partly on account of rent and partly on account of an amount which is not rent, Section 473 provides that an apportionment of the payment may be made in order to determine for the purposes of that section the amount paid on account of rent. The legislation further provides that, where such apportionment is required, such apportionment shall be made by an inspector of taxes according to the best of his or her knowledge and judgment.

There is no requirement in Section 473 that, for the purposes of that section, rent must be charged at a commercial rate and, accordingly, the market value of the family home is not a factor for the purposes of Section 473.

There is no special treatment for individuals residing in the parental home wishing to claim the rent allowance. However, in such cases there is the question as to whether an amount paid by such individuals to their parents represents rent within the meaning of the Section 473 or whether such amount represents a payment in respect of board and lodging including items such as heat and light. For example, in the case of working individuals who continue to live with their parents, it would not be considered unusual if such individuals contributed to normal family outgoings. Whether such contribution can be categorised a ‘pure rent' or whether it is, or includes, an amount in respect of normal outgoings such as the cost of food, light, heat, etc. is a question of fact to be determined having regard to the facts and circumstances of the relevant case being examined. In addition, claims for the rent allowance are examined on their individual merits and what may prevail in one case may not necessarily be replicated in another case.

The Revenue Commissioners' customer service staff process claims for rent allowance, as they do with claims for other allowances and tax credits. Local managers monitor claims and critically examine a number of such claims as part of their normal compliance programmes. As regards written guidelines and instructions, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that staff instructions are in place outlining the basis for the allowance and that staff also have access to the necessary legislation and to the Notes for Guidance to that legislation.

As regards a review or appeal process generally, these are outlined in the Revenue Commissioners' Customer Service Leaflet CS4 available at www.revenue.ie. In brief, there are separate mechanisms in place for persons to:

1. Lodge a customer service complaint about the standard of service received in their personal contact with the Revenue Commissioners, e.g. by phone, correspondence, fax, e-mail or as a caller at one of the Revenue Commissioners' Public Offices.

2. Request an internal review in relation to any aspect of the way in which their tax affairs have been handled (there is also provision for this review to be carried out jointly by an internal and external reviewer).

3. Lodge an appeal under statutory provisions (such appeals are heard, in the first instance, by the Tax Appeal Commissioners). Section 473(7) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 outlines a specific right of appeal against apportionment and any person who is aggrieved by a decision of an inspector as regards such apportionment may, by notice in writing to that effect given to the inspector within thirty days from the date on which notice is given by the inspector, make an application to have his or her claim for relief heard and determined by the Tax Appeal Commissioners. In addition, any person dissatisfied with any aspect of Revenue's handling of his/her tax affairs may take the matter up with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Finally, where an individual rents out a room (or rooms) in a qualifying residence (being a residential premises in the State, which is occupied by that individual as his or her principal private residence during the year of assessment) and the gross amount received by that individual, including sums arising for food, laundry or similar goods and services does not exceed €7,620, then such income will be exempt from income tax. Parents in receipt of amounts paid by persons living in the parental home are not precluded from entitlement to the rent a room exemption.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

231 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if he will change the system of benefit in kind in order that the tax burden would no longer decrease in inverse proportion to the number of miles covered and the size of the vehicle’s engine. [36145/06]

There are special rules for estimating the value of the benefit of company provided cars which are available for the private use of employees. Where annual business mileage is 15,000 miles or less the benefit of the car is calculated at 30% of the original market value with this figure reducing in the context of higher annual business mileage categories. For example, where the business mileage is 30,001 business miles and over the cash benefit is calculated at 6% of the original market value of the car.

This tapering of rates is designed to ensure that employees who need to travel significantly in the course of their work can incur a lower benefit-in-kind charge, based on their actual yearly mileage. There is no evidence to suggest that this encourages employees to artificially increase their business mileage in order to maximise their tax position. Indeed as such an approach would result in additional costs for employers (e.g. by way of extra fuel costs) they would be unlikely to countenance it. Overall I would regard the current scheme as relatively neutral in terms of its effect on the environment.

Financial Services Regulation.

John Perry

Question:

232 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance the level of guaranteed deposit savings protection available to customers of licensed banks operating here; the extent of the protection afforded by such guaranteed schemes in the event that customers need to rely on the guarantee; the manner in which these guarantee schemes are funded and administered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36147/06]

The Deposit Protection Scheme is a system to compensate depositors in the event of the failure of a credit institution. The European Communities (Deposit Guarantee Schemes) Regulations, 1995, which came into effect on 1 July 1995, set out the terms and conditions governing deposit protection in Ireland. Responsibility for funding the Irish deposit protection scheme rests with participating credit institutions, which are authorised by the Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland. The system is administered by the Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland. Deposits with credit institutions authorised in another European Economic Area (EEA) country and operating in Ireland on a branch basis are covered under that country's system.

The level of contribution required from each credit institution is 0.2% of deposits held at all branches of the credit institution in the EEA (EU member-states, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). A minimum contribution of €25,400 is required. Each contribution is maintained in a Deposit Protection Account at the Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland. The maximum amount payable to any depositor is 90% of the aggregate deposits held by that depositor subject to a maximum compensation payment of €20,000. Thus, a depositor with a deposit account totalling €5,000 would receive compensation of €4,500 while a depositor with deposits of €22,222 or more would receive the maximum compensation of €20,000.

The Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland (or liquidator, where one has been appointed) is expected to pay compensation to depositors within three months of a determination by the Central Bank & Financial Services Authority of Ireland that deposits are unavailable, or of a ruling by the court (subject to the terms and conditions set out in the Regulations).

John Perry

Question:

233 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the recent evidence provided to the Joint Committee on Finance and Public Service suggesting that members of credit unions have less protection in regards their savings in the absence of admittance to a State guaranteed savings guarantee scheme; his views on whether members of credit unions should be given access to the guarantee scheme currently operated by the financial regulator for savings held by licensed banks operating here; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that such a development has occurred in England and Wales; and his views on whether it would be desirable here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36148/06]

John Perry

Question:

234 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance his policy in relation to the provision of a State backed savings guarantee to savers with credit unions; his views on whether credit union savers are to be afforded the same statutory protection as savers with banks and building societies; and his further views on whether Government backed explicit limited deposit protection is a fundamental requirement in underpinning the financial stability of the credit union sector. [36149/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.

There is no State savings guarantee for savers with Irish credit institutions generally. There is, however, a deposit protection scheme funded by credit institutions (other than credit unions) which are authorised by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. The Deputy should note that a key principle underlining the operation of the deposit protection scheme is that the full cost of financing the scheme must be borne by the participating credit institutions. The level of contribution required from each credit institution is 0.2% of deposits held at all branches of the credit institution in the EEA, including deposits on current accounts and share accounts with a building society (but excluding certain other specified deposits). Contributions are maintained in a Deposit Protection Account at the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. The European Communities (Deposit Guarantee Schemes) Regulations, 1995 set out the terms and conditions governing deposit protection in Ireland.

In the case of credit unions the Irish League of Credit Unions operates a separate Savings Protection Scheme (SPS). The SPS aims to protect the individual savings of members by making sure that the credit unions are financially and administratively sound and by providing remedial help to any participating credit union which shows signs of weakness in these areas. Savings of individual credit union members are also protected. The operation of the credit union SPS is consistent with the specific regulatory approach adopted for credit unions under the Credit Union Act, 1997 which is differentiated from that applying to mainstream commercial financial institutions on account of the unique ethos and philosophy of the credit union movement. In this context, the 32 county all-island basis of the current SPS is valuable and one that it is important to maintain. In May 2006 the Financial Regulator agreed to examine proposals for the reform of the existing Savings Protection Scheme for credit unions.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Lowry

Question:

235 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if he has received correspondence (details supplied); his views on the matter; the options available to the individual involved; when he expects to issue a detailed response to the individual; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36168/06]

I received the correspondence dated 17 October 2006 and have already acknowledged its receipt. A substantive reply, along the lines set out below, has also now been issued. The position is that prior to the passing of the Finance Act, 1999, any person going on pension under a defined contribution scheme or a retirement annuity contract was required to purchase an annuity with any remaining pension fund moneys, following the drawdown of the appropriate tax-free lump sum. The Finance Act, 1999 introduced changes which gave a significant degree of flexibility and personal choice to certain categories of individual in relation to the drawing down of benefits from their pension plans. These choices include the options to purchase an annuity, receive the balance of the fund in cash (subject to tax, as appropriate) or to invest in an Approved Retirement Fund (ARF) or Approved Minimum Retirement Fund (AMRF), depending on the circumstances. Proprietary directors, self-employed individuals and certain employees/directors in non-pensionable employment represent the categories of individual who can exercise these options in relation to their pension plans.

While these flexible options for drawing down pension benefits are not available to members of employers' defined contribution schemes (who are outside of the categories of individual described above) in respect of benefits derived from standard contributions to the schemes, the flexible options do apply as regards any Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) made by such members either to their main schemes or to separate AVC schemes. The flexible options also apply to Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) introduced in the Finance Act, 2002 to create an alternative pension product which is flexible, portable and user-friendly.

The question of extending the flexible options described above to the broad membership of defined contribution or defined benefit schemes, generally, is a complex matter and needs to be considered as part of the wider issue of pension and retirement provision in Ireland. In this regard, the Government is committed to the publication next year of a Green Paper on Pensions Policy. The Green Paper, into which my Department (among others) will have an input, will outline the major policy choices and challenges facing us in the pensions area and important issues such as the significant extension of flexible options for drawing down pension benefits are best left for consideration in that context.

Flood Relief.

Liam Aylward

Question:

236 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Finance when an offer of compensation will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny relating to the Nore drainage scheme in Kilkenny; and if all professional fees incurred will be paid for by the Office of Public Works. [36193/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

238 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance when the compensation arising from the flood relief scheme in Kilkenny city will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the valuers from both sides have met in recent times; if they have reached agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36292/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 236 and 238 together.

The claimant's valuer and the OPW valuer have met in recent weeks to discuss the various elements/heads of this claim for compensation for interference arising out of the works on the River Nore (Kilkenny City) Drainage Scheme. It is expected that offers of compensation in respect of most of the elements comprised in the claim will issue within the next few days but further information and clarification is still required in relation to a few remaining elements of the claim before these can be progressed further. Contact between the respective valuers is ongoing and it is hoped that a mutually acceptable settlement of the full claim can be successfully negotiated at an early stage. It is normal practice for any reasonable Professional fees incurred to be included in the assessment of compensation.

Tax Code.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

237 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the cost of abolishing the €125 and €250 deduction that is applied in calculating tax relief on medical expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36290/06]

Tax relief for health expenses is allowable as a deduction against income at the taxpayer's marginal rate for annual expenses incurred in excess of €125 per person. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that data on health expenses incurred by individuals where the total amount of expense falls below the threshold are not recorded centrally on Revenue tax records. There is, therefore, no statistical basis on which an estimate of the potential cost to the Exchequer of abolishing the threshold could be compiled in respect of these expenses.

The cost to the Exchequer of abolishing the threshold in respect of claims where the total amount of qualifying expenses exceeds the threshold is estimated at €9 million in a full year based on Revenue tax records of such claims for the income tax year 2003, the most recent year for which the relevant information is available.

Question No. 238 answered with QuestionNo. 236.

Departmental Properties.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the name and location of every vacant building under his Department’s ownership or control; the security arrangements in place in respect of each property; the cost of such security arrangements in respect of each property in the period 1 October 2005 to 30 September 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36303/06]

Because of the range of properties owned or under the control of the Commissioners of Public Works, (office accommodation, Garda Stations, houses, cottages, huts, historic properties, former customs posts, etc.) the time required to compile the information requested would be disproportionate in view of the fact that the information is not held in a readily accessible format. However if the deputy has a particular category of buildings in mind I will be happy to supply the information in respect of that category.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent of discussions or agreements reached with Kildare County Council in regard to works concluded to date for the completion of cleaning and drainage works at the Slate River, Allenwood, Naas, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36401/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the position in regard to the completion of the cleaning, improvement and drainage works at the Slate River, Allenwood, County Kildare; when the works are expected to be completed. [36404/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.

The Slate River forms part of the Rathangan Drainage District and maintenance of this river is therefore a matter for the local authority. The Office of Public Works carried out drainage works on the River Slate in 2003, as agents for Kildare County Council and there are no proposals to carry out further works.

Budget Submissions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received a pre-budget submission from an organisation (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if he will favourably consider same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36405/06]

I have received a pre-Budget submission from the organisation concerned. Its contents will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill. As Deputies are aware it would not be appropriate for me to comment in advance of the Budget on possible Budget decisions.

Departmental Transport.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

243 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if vehicles used by his Department use fuel from a particular fuel supplier; if so, the name of that supplier; if departmental staff are issued with fuel cards in connection with their duties; if so, the person who is the supplier of this service; and the amount it cost his Department in the past five years. [36419/06]

Official transport for myself and Minister of State, Deputy Tom Parlon is provided by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. My Department does not use any other official vehicles. However, I have asked the Office of Public Works and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, both of which operate a fleet of vehicles, to provide any relevant information, which will be forwarded to the Deputy.

Tax Code.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

244 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance the number of farmers who were able to benefit from the special stamp duty concession towards land consolidation that was announced in budget 2005; if he is satisfied that this scheme has achieved its purpose; if it will be extended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36453/06]

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.

The scheme was introduced on 1 July 2005 for a period of 2 years. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that from 1 July 2005 to 31 December 2005 there were two cases of farm consolidation relief. In 2006, from 1 January to 31 September there were 12 cases.

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, if such a measure was introduced, it would probably be subject to EU Commission approval.

Michael Ring

Question:

245 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance his views on introducing an increased tier of tax relief of €25,000 for rental home income arising from the leasing out of farmland for farming periods of 12 years or more subject to the same conditions as attached to the rental income relief currently available on leases of five to seven years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36455/06]

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 further on the intention or otherwise to make changes in taxation.

Michael Ring

Question:

246 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce appropriate tax arrangements in order to ensure that the maximum amount of funds are available to offset grower costs arising from the closure of the sugar beet industry. [36456/06]

There are three significant financial elements of the sugar compensation package, as far as farmers, as sugar beet growers, are concerned. The first is an amount of €123 million, payable over the next seven years via the single payment scheme, as compensation for the drop in the support price of beet. The second element of the compensation package is the restructuring aid. In July 2006 the Government decided that a sum of €40m restructuring aid be reserved for beet growers. This decision has been challenged by the Irish sugar processor by way of Judicial Review proceedings in the High Court. The third element is the diversification aid worth almost €44m, which will be drawn down in the framework of a National Restructuring Programme to be prepared and submitted to the EU Commission by the end of this year.

As the details of the full compensation package have not yet been finalised for those farmers who have grown beet in the past, in respect of the cessation of this activity, it is not possible at this stage to give a definitive view of the matter.

Michael Ring

Question:

247 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that no capital gains tax arises on the disposal of farmland to a local authority for road building or road widening purposes, provided that the proceeds of the compensation are reinvested in farm business assets or to fund retirement income; and his views on introducing this measure in budget 2007. [36457/06]

I do not comment on tax proposals ahead of the Budget. I might say, however, that Capital Gains Tax applies to farmers as it applies to those disposing of property in general. The abolition of reliefs allows for a lower rate of tax for all.

Michael Ring

Question:

248 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will increase the CAT tax class thresholds in line with the general increases in asset values and where the principal private residence is situated off farm, it should be excluded from the assessment of gross assets. [36458/06]

The Group thresholds, below which no Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) is liable, are increased automatically each year according to the Consumer Price Index. With regard to the exclusion of principal private residences from assessment, I assume the Deputy is referring to the gross assets test contained within CAT Agricultural Relief. In order to qualify for Agricultural Relief, at least 80 per cent of the assets of a beneficiary of a gift or an inheritance, after taking the gift or inheritance, must consist of agricultural property, as defined in section 89(1) of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003. The 80% test was designed to ensure that the relief applies to farmers and as such to exclude individuals with substantial non-agricultural assets from qualifying for the relief.

If the principal private residence of the claimant is part of a farm, it will be considered as agricultural property for the purposes of the 80% test. Where the claimant has a principal private residence that is unconnected to farming, this will be included in the 20% section of the test. Capital Acquisitions Tax, along with all other taxes, are subject to review every year in the context of the annual Budget.

Michael Ring

Question:

249 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will substantially expand the excise relief scheme for renewable energy in budget 2007 to ensure the development of a sustainable biofuel industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36459/06]

While the promotion of biofuels and other renewable energy is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that in Finance Act 2006 I provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland. The scheme of excise relief for biofuels will:

provide for excise relief on up to 163 million litres of biofuels per annum;

cost over €200m over 5 years;

when fully operational, result in CO2 savings of over 250,000 tonnes per annum;

meet a target of 2% transport fuel market penetration by biofuels by 2008;

help reduce our dependency on conventional fossil fuels, and

stimulate activity in the agricultural sector.

The level of excise relief available is that which had been proposed by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in advance of last year's Budget and is regarded as a figure which is sufficient to match Ireland's output potential in relation to renewable energy crops for motor fuels over the period of the scheme. Opting for a Scheme where project applications are assessed in preference to a general blanket excise relief for biofuels ensures that projects chosen offer a greater degree of quality control to end-users and are best positioned to promote the long-term use of biofuels in the Irish market.

As regards other fiscal supports for the Biofuels industry, I would point out that also in Budget 2006, I introduced a 50% VRT relief for flexible fuel vehicles. These are defined as cars or small vans produced so as to be capable of using a blend of ethanol and petrol containing a minimum of 85% ethanol. This should encourage the purchase of vehicles that have been manufactured with flexible fuel capabilities which will result in lower pollutant emissions than conventional vehicles fuelled exclusively by petrol/diesel.

Joan Burton

Question:

250 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the effect that the restrictive VAT threshold for service businesses has on small businesses, particularly those with a large cost element in their turnover; his proposals to raise the threshold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36460/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

251 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that bed and breakfast businesses in Northern Ireland have a higher VAT threshold than their competitors in the Republic; his proposals to raise the VAT threshold for bed and breakfasts here to a comparable level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36461/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 250 and 251 together.

The position is that traders making supplies in the State are obliged to register for VAT where certain turnover thresholds are exceeded or are likely to be exceeded in any continuous period of twelve months. However, businesses may if they wish opt to register for VAT where their turnover is below these thresholds. Businesses generally choose to register where they have a large input cost element to their turnover. It is important to note that VAT registered businesses are entitled to claim the VAT back on their expenses.

Under EU law, with which Irish VAT law must comply, Member States may only increase thresholds in line with inflation. The VAT registration thresholds for small businesses have been increased from €25,500 to €27,500 in the case of services (including Bed and Breakfast) and from €51,000 to €55,000 in the case of goods with effect from the 1 May 2006. As a result some 2,200 businesses were removed from the VAT net reducing the administrative burden for small businesses. The VAT registration thresholds were previously increased in 1994.

While the VAT registration thresholds in the UK are higher than ours it has also to be noted that the VAT rate applied to the provision of such services in the UK is 4 percentage points higher than our own at 17.5% compared to 13.5% in Ireland. I would add that Ireland has the fifth highest registration thresholds for services in the EU. Indeed, some EU Member States have no registration thresholds at all.

Any further consideration of the current thresholds would have to be balanced between the desirability of reducing the administrative burden on small businesses and the Revenue authorities and the need to avoid undermining tax compliance or causing competitive distortions. Finally, it is not customary for me to comment on any possible tax changes which may or may not arise in the context of the forthcoming budget.

Tax Yield.

Pat Breen

Question:

252 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance the estimated value of tax revenue lost through the importing of smuggled cigarettes in 2004 and 2005; if the estimated amount of smuggled tobacco is rising or decreasing during that period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36476/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amount of tax collected on cigarettes was €1,059 million in 2004 and €1,079 million in 2005. The position up to end October 2006 is that tax revenue on cigarettes is 1.3% above the corresponding period in 2005. It is not possible to estimate how much revenue has been lost during 2004 and 2005 due to smuggling. The number of cigarettes seized in 2004 and 2005 amounted to 60.9 million and 50.7 million respectively while seizures up to 30 September 2006 amounted to 39.7 million. In many cases both the cigarette brands and the circumstances in which they were seized would, however, suggest that a significant portion of what was seized was intended for the UK market leading to the conclusion that the penetration of the domestic market by smuggled cigarettes is low.

Nevertheless, there has been a noticeable increase in the frequency and volume of cigarettes being seized from passengers and couriers arriving by air from Eastern Europe where prices are significantly lower than in Ireland. This is a cause for concern as these cigarettes are intended for a certain segment of the Irish market. This matter is being kept under review. The number of convictions for cigarette smuggling was 49 in 2004, 102 in 2005 and 105 up to 30 September 2006.

Duty Free Sales.

Pat Breen

Question:

253 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance the amount of duty free cigarettes sold in Dublin Airport Authority owned outlets at airports here since 2004 on an annual basis; the amount of duty paid cigarettes sold through normal retail outlets in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36477/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have been advised by the Dublin Airport Authority that the amount of duty free cigarettes sold in Dublin Airport Authority owned outlets at airports here for 2004 and 2005 are as follows:

2004 — 57.07 million; and, 2005 — 69.04 million.

The Revenue Commissioners have advised me that the information available on the amount of duty paid cigarettes sold through normal retail outlets relates to the quantities of cigarettes released for home consumption. The quantity is measured by reference to the sales of Tobacco Tax Stamps on which excise duty has been paid. The volume of cigarettes for 2004 and 2005 are as follows:

2004 — 5,330.6 million; and, 2005 — 5,514.2 million.

Tax Code.

James Breen

Question:

254 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will remove the liability for VAT on medical aids for the visually impaired and the handicapped; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36478/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that paragraph (xixa) of the Second Schedule to the VAT Act 1972 (as amended) provides for the zero-rating of a range of medical equipment and appliances for use by invalids or infirm persons. Excluded from the zero-rating, however, are corrective spectacles and contact lenses, which are liable to the 21% rate of VAT.

However, it should be noted that under the Value-Added Tax (Refund of Tax) (No. 15) Order 1981 repayment may be claimed of the VAT paid on certain special aids and appliances for disabled persons. These are aids and appliances which are specially constructed or adapted for use by a disabled person. Goods which, although not so specially constructed or adapted, are of such a kind as might reasonably be treated as so constructed or adapted having regard to the particular disablement of the person concerned also qualify. The relief is also available in certain circumstances to persons other than disabled persons who purchase such goods for handing over to a particular disabled person.

Further information on VAT (Refund of Tax) (No. 15) Order, 1981 is available from VAT Refunds Section, The Revenue Commissioners, Government Buildings, Kilrush Road, Ennis, Co. Clare (tel. no. — 065-6849000). That office would be glad to answer any queries and provide the necessary application forms where required.

Departmental Expenditure.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

255 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 307 of 1 November 2006, the cost of the translation work carried out by staff in his Department referred to in the reply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36558/06]

Translation into Irish of Budget documents is just one of many tasks involved in the production of the annual Budget. In so far as work is carried out by the staff of my Department, no separate costings are prepared for individual tasks. Accordingly, it is not possible to provide a costing of the translation work on Budget documents carried out by my Department's staff. All such translation work for the Budget is conducted through Gaeleagras na Seirbhíse Poiblí, the cost of which is met from within the Vote for my Department. Furthermore, the cost of Gaeleagras would have to be borne on the Vote whether or not any internal translation work was carried out for the Budget.

Tax Code.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

256 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to introduce carbon taxes; the way he proposes to minimise their impact on lower income groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36559/06]

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

In September 2004, the Government decided not to introduce a specific carbon tax, following a thorough examination of the issues involved, including how a carbon tax would be implemented and the associated environmental, economic and social impacts. In addition, my Department carried out an extensive consultation process in which 117 written submissions were received. Following this examination, the Government decided that a carbon tax was not an appropriate policy option and that, instead, it would intensify action on the other measures under the National Climate Change Strategy.

The Government concluded that the environmental benefits of a carbon tax would not justify the difficulties that would arise, particularly for households, from the introduction of such a tax. In this respect, the carbon energy tax would have imposed price increases on many products already suffering sharp increases, particularly as a result of increases in international oil prices. While a carbon tax would have involved a range of compensatory measures, these would not fully address the adverse economic and social effects arising. Moreover a carbon tax would apply to products which are in the main already subject to excise duties and where a new tax is not specifically necessary to increase tax rates.

The carbon energy tax was just one possible element of the Government's approach to meeting Ireland's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to which the Government remains fully committed.

Taxation can play a part in attaining environment objectives. However, as Minister for Finance, I am concerned to ensure that in developing policy on tax measures we take into account any effects on Ireland's international competitiveness, particularly in relation to non-EU countries which compete with us and which may have low taxes on energy. I am also concerned in framing policy about the effect that the imposition of such taxes may have on the Consumer Price Index and how they could impact on the less well off members of our community.

Apart from the carbon tax, the National Climate Change Strategy does envisage other initiatives in the tax area with one such example being tax reliefs for "green initiatives". Essentially this approach uses the tax system to provide incentives for certain behaviour. Such incentives include the significant Biofuels excise relief scheme which I announced in the Budget and for which provision was made in Finance Act 2006. The scheme will:

provide for excise relief on up to 163 million litres of biofuels per annum;

cost over €200m over 5 years, starting this year;

when fully operational, result in CO2 savings of over 250,000 tonnes per annum;

meet a target of 2% transport fuel market penetration by biofuels by 2008;

help reduce our dependency on conventional fossil fuels, and

stimulate activity in the agricultural sector.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

257 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a tax refund will issue in the case of person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36573/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that PAYE Balancing Statements for 2005 issued to the taxpayer on 9 October 2006 and 25 October 2006. However, further clarification is being sought regarding the taxpayer's pay and tax and an amended PAYE Balancing Statement will issue shortly. The taxpayer has been advised of the position.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

258 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when the original decision to provide a new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare was taken; the action taken each year since then to finalise the project; the extent to which all matters affecting the provision of the station have been currently examined, resolved and finalised; when he expects the station to be commissioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36597/06]

The search for the site for a Garda Station in Leixlip commenced in 1997. In 1997, 2000, and 2002 ten sites, four sites and two sites were examined, respectively. All of the sixteen sites investigated were located within a reasonable distance from the centre of Leixlip, in line with OPW's understanding of Garda operation requirements but no suitable site was identified until a site at Station Road came to attention. The acquisition of the site at Station Road, Leixlip was completed in October 2002.

Following the acquisition of the site at Station Road the Garda accommodation requirements increased to reflect newly increased policing operations generally within the force. Consequently OPW sought to acquire additional land adjacent to the Station Road site. In May 2005 agreement was reached with Kildare County Council to transfer this plot of land to OPW. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform approved the revised sketch scheme and the Part 9 consultation began in December 2005. Some 98 submissions were received in response to the Part 9 Notice and the Commissioners of Public Works appointed an independent assessor to consider the submissions. In September 2006 the Commissioners made a formal decision to proceed with the construction of the Station. The tendering process will commence shortly. It is expected that works will commence on site early next year and that the building will be completed mid 2008.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

259 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons on the minimum wage who are estimated to be paying income tax in 2006. [36664/06]

The current minimum wage is €7.65 per hour. On an annualised basis, this is equivalent to €15,515 assuming a 39 hour working week. The present entry point to income tax under the PAYE system is €15,600 per annum for a single person under 65. The position is, therefore, that no employee who benefits from entitlement to the employee (PAYE) tax credit in addition to the basic personal tax credit will be subjected to income tax in 2006. However, a small number of persons with income at or below the current minimum wage annualised who do not have entitlement to the employee tax credit are likely to be liable for a small amount of income tax in 2006. This group comprises, in the main, proprietary directors.

Richard Bruton

Question:

260 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the cost of exempting persons on the minimum wage from income tax in 2007. [36665/06]

The current minimum wage is €7.65 per hour. In Budget 2006, I increased the combined value of the employee credit and the basic personal credit to a level which ensures that a single PAYE person earning the minimum wage in its annualised form pays no tax. The matter of a new minimum wage rate which might apply in 2007 is currently before the Labour Court. Therefore, it is not possible at this point to give an estimate of the cost as requested by the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

261 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the cost of achieving the target in 2007 that only 20% of persons in the income tax net would pay tax at the 42% rate; and the value of the standard rate cut-off point which would then apply for single, one parent, married one earner, and married two earner families. [36666/06]

It is estimated that of the 2.16 million taxpayers on the tax record, just under 36% are exempt from tax as low earners, 32% have their tax computed at a marginal rate of 20% and just under 32% have a computed marginal rate of 42%. If one looks, however, at effective tax rates actually paid by taxpayers, there are many who are nominally liable at the higher rate of tax but who effectively pay tax at no more than they would at the standard rate of tax. It is estimated that, allowing for this effect, the latest data indicate that for 2006 about 80% of income earners pay tax at no more than the standard rate. Put another way, tax credits fully offset the 42% liability in the case of all but about 20% of income earners. For 2007, allowing for wages growth and before any Budget day changes, it is estimated that around 77% of income earners would actually pay tax at no more than the 20% rate. The cost of bridging the remaining 3% gap will vary depending on the extent to which bands and credits are increased in value. As the Deputy will be aware, it has been the practice of successive Ministers for Finance not to comment on what may or may not be contained in upcoming Budgets and I do not intend to depart from this approach on this occasion.

The following figures show the progress in reducing tax paid in effective terms in the last ten years:

Average combined rate of income tax, PRSI and levies (married one-earner family with two children)

Wage rate

1997

Post-Budget 2006

%

%

67% of Average Industrial Wage

7.8

2.8

Average Industrial Wage

20.3

7.7

150% of Average Industrial Wage

24.4

16.8

Richard Bruton

Question:

262 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of income tax payers paying at the 20% and the 42% rate and the number exempt or on marginal relief in 2006 according to the latest estimates; and if he will provide the same information in respect of 2007 on a pre-budget basis. [36667/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the most up-to-date estimates of the information requested by the Deputy are as follows:

Numbers of income earners on income tax record

Year

Exempt

Marginal Relief

Tax computed at 20 per cent

Tax computed at 42 per cent

Total

2006

776,100

18,800

681,900

683,700

2,160,500

(Pre-Budget)

748,600

22,500

675,400

768,200

2,214,700

Many income earners pay no tax at all; many pay tax at a standard rate but pay a much lower average rate because of the application of credits. And for many taxpayers who are, strictly speaking, liable for tax at the higher rate on part of their income, the amount of their liability at the higher rate is fully offset by their tax credits. In fact, tax credits fully offset the 42% liability in the case of all but about 20% of all income earners. Effectively, therefore, many of the "top rate" taxpayers actually pay at an average rate of 20% or less.

Tax Collection.

Willie Penrose

Question:

263 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if he will take steps to address the issues raised in correspondence of 4 July 2006 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36680/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they do not have any record of receipt of the letter of 4 July 2006, a copy of which was supplied with the question. I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners that rent relief claims, in accordance with section 473, of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, were received in Sligo District for the person in question on 14 February 2006. The rent relief claims related to the tax years 2002 to 2005 inclusive and, on the basis of the information furnished in the letter accompanying the claims, it was understood that tax relief at source for home loan interest had been granted. Since simultaneous claims for rent relief and home loan interest cannot be allowed, a letter in response to the claims was issued on 24 February 2006 advising the person that the rent relief claims would not be allowed.

On a review of the position it has emerged that the person in question has not received, and may not have claimed, tax relief in respect of home loan interest. Accordingly, Sligo District is arranging to contact the person in question to clarify the position as to what, if any, tax relief is due in respect of home loan interest or rent paid.

Budget Submissions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

264 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his views on the pre-budget submission of an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36724/06]

I have received a pre-Budget submission from the organisation concerned. Its contents will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill. As Deputies are aware it would not be appropriate for me to comment in advance of the Budget on possible Budget decisions.

Child Care Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

265 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of funding available under the equal opportunities child care programme over the past three years; the number benefiting from these programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36095/06]

As the Deputy is aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Child care Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and the National Child care Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which are being implemented by the Office of the Minister for Children. The EOCP is a seven year development programme which aims to increase the availability and quality of child care to support parents in employment, education and training. The total funding of €499.3 million available under the Programme is now committed, of which €361.3 million has been committed since 1 January 2003.

It is expected that the funding committed under the Programme will, when fully drawn down, lead to the creation of some 41,000 new child care places, of which 31,750 were already in place by end June 2006. The Programme is also supporting 24,600 existing child care places.

John Perry

Question:

266 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the funding allocated to a club (details supplied) in County Sligo is increased, as it has been operating for the past number of years, is located in a CLÁR disadvantage area and is dependant on financial assistance to allow it to continue with its programme for development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36166/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Child care Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and the National Child care Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which are being implemented by the Office of the Minister for Children.

I understand from enquiries I have made that the Group in question has submitted a request for a review of the decision on their application for further staffing grant assistance under the EOCP. This request was forwarded to Pobal, which is engaged to carry out detailed assessments of all applications under the EOCP. Following the review of the application, a recommendation will be made to the Programme Appraisal Committee, prior to a decision being made by the Secretary General of this Department. The Group in question will be informed of the outcome of the assessment in due course.

Health Levy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

267 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children her latest forecast for the 2006 outturn for the health levy. [36357/06]

The Revised Estimates Volume for 2006 provides for Appropriations-in-Aid of €1.203 billion in respect of health contributions. The latest available forecast suggests that the outturn will be €1.243 billion giving a surplus of €40 million.

Health Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

268 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she intends to take to deal with the deficit in facilities to deal with domestic violence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36368/06]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

269 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she allocated a specific sum of money in 2006 to clear the backlog of applications for aids and appliances for people with disabilities; the amount of money allocated; the amount spent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36708/06]

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.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

270 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on including orthodontic treatment under the terms of the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36089/06]

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

Denis Naughten

Question:

271 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason her Department has not introduced hearing screening for all newborn babies; her plans to introduce such a programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36107/06]

The report of the Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening Group commissioned by the former Health Boards was received in my Department earlier this year and is being assessed. My Department is also in discussion with the Health Service Executive in relation to its implementation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

272 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress she has made in view of the attendance in May 2006 of thousands of people from Donegal at a rally in support of a group (details supplied) in Letterkenny to address the demands of the group and the people of Donegal. [36109/06]

I am fully committed to the development of high quality and quality assured cancer care for all patients regardless of geography. Outcomes for patients is what drives our policy and investment in cancer care. This objective is shared by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and is reflected in the Executive's National Service Plan, 2006. There has been significant investment in cancer care in the North West since 1997. Additional medical Consultants have been appointed in the region in key areas of cancer care, including medical oncology, surgery, histopathology, haematology and palliative care. Over twenty cancer care nurse specialists have been appointed.

Last June the HSE concluded its review of options for the future provision of breast care services for Donegal. The HSE decided to develop breast care services within a framework that merges the Specialist Breast Care Unit at University College Hospital Galway (UCHG) with that at Letterkenny General Hospital (LGH). The HSE intends to appoint a permanent breast surgeon who will be primarily based at LGH with sessions at UCHG.

I have met with representatives of BreastCheck and they are fully aware of my wish to have a quality assured programme rolled out to the remaining regions in the country as quickly as possible. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of next year for the commencement of roll out to the Western and Southern regions will be met.

Last May I officially opened an 11 bed oncology ward at LGH. The development is supported by an oncology day case area, breast care suite and a clean air pharmaceutical preparation room. The provision of a 30 bed modular short stay ward at LGH has been announced and this project will be funded from the A & E initiative monies. A new purpose built Emergency Department and 12 bay Medical Assessment Unit is currently in design stage. The capital plan announced by the HSE includes provision for additional ward space over the proposed new Emergency Department. This has been incorporated into the overall Emergency Department project.

At the last meeting of the British-Irish Inter Governmental Council on 24 October 2006, it was announced that agreement has been reached for the referral of about 50 radiation oncology patients annually from Donegal to Belfast City Hospital. It has also been agreed that the number will be increased if there is sufficient demand from patients in Donegal. The first referral clinic is scheduled to take place tomorrow.

The HSE is committed to supporting the travel needs of patients in Donegal referred to BCH. and currently provides a range of transport services for patients who require radiation oncology treatment. At the request of my Department, the HSE is to examine existing transport arrangements and develop a national integrated plan for the delivery of dedicated transport services for radiation oncology patients.

Question No. 273 withdrawn.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

274 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to funding and housing schemes for disabled people and for quality projects on the northside for people with a physical disability. [36111/06]

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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

275 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take regarding the Meals On Wheels service in Marino; and if she will give them the maximum support and advice. [36114/06]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

276 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide proper office space and facilities for the home help service in Marino. [36115/06]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

277 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to reports that unregistered doctors and dentists are advertising their services in migrant newspapers and ethnic shops and that some members of these communities have suffered ill health effects as a result of availing of these services; the steps she intends taking to alert immigrant communities to the dangers of this practice, to put a stop to it and to ensure that proper health care services are available and accessible to members of these communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36117/06]

I have not been made aware of reports that unregistered doctors and dentists are advertising their services in migrant newspapers and ethnic shops.

The Medical Council is the independent authority charged with primary responsibility for the registration and regulation of medical practitioners in the State. The function of the Medical Council is to protect the public through implementing appropriate controls on the medical profession. The Dental Council is the independent authority with the same responsibilities regarding dental practitioners.

Doctors practising medicine in Ireland should be registered with the Medical Council and dentists with the Dental Council. I strongly advise persons who receive the services of a medical or dental practitioner to check that he or she is appropriately registered with the Medical or Dental Council.

The new Medical Practitioners Bill will include a provision which will make it an offence for a doctor to practise medicine while not registered with the Medical Council. The HSE is currently developing a National Intercultural Strategy: Addressing the Health and Support Needs of Persons from Ethnic Minorities. This strategy, consistent with the requirements contained in the National Action Plan against Racism, will build on the good practice already reflected throughout the country in ensuring a responsive, culturally sensitive approach to service provision to the unique healthcare and support needs of asylum seekers, refugees, migrant workers, travellers and other members of minority ethnic communities.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

278 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is not receiving additional personal assistant hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36118/06]

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.

Tony Gregory

Question:

279 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 who has a medical card but was obliged to pay to attend a consultant will be reimbursed for the cost involved. [36146/06]

Where a patient opts to see a consultant in a private capacity the fee charged is a private contractual arrangement between the patient and the consultant. Neither my Department nor the Health Service Executive has any responsibility for the reimbursement of such fees.

Community Care.

Liz McManus

Question:

280 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the wider welfare remit that is part of the role of the community welfare officer, she will reconsider the decision to transfer the operation of the community welfare service from the Health Service Executive to the Department of Social and Family Affairs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36154/06]

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

The wider welfare role undertaken by Community Welfare Officers (CWOs) includes information provision, advocacy and referral to services provided not just by the HSE but also by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, local authorities, FÁS, MABS, Community Information Centres and a range of other bodies. It is not necessary for CWOs to be employed by the HSE in order to carry out this wider welfare role as the role is broader than liaising with for example, personal social services professionals on behalf of clients. It also extends to other Government services to combat social exclusion such as employment and training opportunities.

Agencies other than the HSE also have a welfare role and work with statutory and non-statutory bodies where appropriate to promote participation and social inclusion. Transferring the Community Welfare Service to the Department of Social and Family Affairs will maximise CWOs' wider welfare role by enhancing their ability to provide an effective service to their customers both in terms of their immediate income needs and their wider welfare while working with their colleagues in the Department of Social and Family Affairs and in other bodies.

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

An interdepartmental group was subsequently established to examine this issue. The Group's report (Core Functions of the Health Service Report) was submitted to, and accepted by, the Government in February 2006. Among other recommendations, the Group considered that income support and maintenance schemes administered by the HSE, together with associated resources, should be transferred to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. I should also mention that this approach had been advocated previously in the Report of the Commission on Social Welfare in 1986 and in the Review of Supplementary Welfare Allowances by the Combat Poverty Agency in 1991.

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

Health Repayment Scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

281 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36175/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

282 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36176/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

295 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for refund of money under the national repayment scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [36258/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281, 282 and 295 together.

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

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

283 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36177/06]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

284 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding refurbishment of St. Ita’s Hospital, Portrane, County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36195/06]

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 Sherlock

Question:

285 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the committee set up to undertake a review of acute health services in the Health Service Executive southern area, will be chaired by a professor already the subject of an investigation by the Higher Education Authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36207/06]

As part of the ongoing Health Reform Programme, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has conducted a number of reviews and analyses of key areas of service provision.

The review of acute hospital services in HSE South is critical to defining the strategic context for acute hospitals in the region. This review will identify an overall model of acute hospital services for HSE South and will particularly focus in on the best configuration of acute hospital services in Cork and Kerry.

The HSE has put in place a Steering Group to provide oversight of the review process. An external consultancy will be commissioned to prepare an independent report. The Steering Group has assigned a Project Group, chaired by the President of University College Cork, to monitor project direction and progress and to facilitate communication between the external consultancy and the HSE. Members of the project group will support the appointed consultants, ensure timely provision of supporting information and data and facilitate access to appropriate stakeholders where necessary.

The HSE considers that the members of the Project Group bring a wide range of relevant experience to this review and looks forward to the outcome of the review process.

Peter Power

Question:

286 Mr. P. Power asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in the opening of three purpose built residential units (details supplied) in County Limerick, despite the fact that the units were built at a cost of over €1 million three years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36210/06]

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:

287 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. [36216/06]

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 the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

288 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for delays in the issue of pathology reports to coroners, which in turn is causing long delays with the issue of death certificates to bereaved families. [36217/06]

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.

Children in Care.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

289 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to bring the standard of care in the majority of high support units for young people with emotional and behavioural problems to the required level, in view of the 2005 Annual Report of the Social Services Inspectorate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36219/06]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

290 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the 2005 Annual Report of the Social Services Inspectorate which identified widespread inequities in the treatment of children in care; the action she proposes to take to correct this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36220/06]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

291 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the criteria used in the determination of care placements of children in residential centres and in foster care, in view of the 2005 Annual Report of the Social Services Inspectorate; her plans to eliminate the inequities in the care experience highlighted by the inspectorate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36221/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289 to 291, inclusive, together.

I welcome the publication of the 5th Annual Report of the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) which is comprehensive and provides an important overview of the services provided to children in residential care.

The emphasis of the Child Care Act, 1991 is on supporting children and families in their own communities having regard to the principle that it is generally in the best interests of the child to be brought up in his or her own family. However, children are taken into the care of the Health Service Executive or placed voluntarily in care due to a range of family circumstances and the Health Service Executive has a statutory responsibility to provide appropriate services for these children. Children are placed in foster care or relative care, or in residential care, by the Health Service Executive, in accordance with the Child Care Regulations, 1995, which set out the requirements to be complied with by the HSE when placing children in care.

Foster care is the main form of alternative care for children who cannot, for a number of reasons, be looked after in their own home. My Department and the Health Service Executive have placed considerable emphasis on the further development and strengthening of the foster care service for children in need of alternative care. However, foster care placements may not always meet the specific needs of individual children and it may therefore be necessary to place these children in residential care.

Children's residential centres include community based centres which are small centres based in local communities, high support units which are open units offering more intensive levels of care for children with assessed difficulties and special care units which are secure residential facilities for young people aged between 12 and 17 years who are detained under court order for their own safety and welfare. The criteria used in the determination of care placements is a matter for the Health Service Executive, whose staff work directly with the children and their families. I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to this matter.

Having completed a full round of inspections of approximately 90 statutory children's residential centres in 2004, the SSI were able to focus inspection resources in 2005 on selected areas with a view to improving outcomes for services that were identified as experiencing specific challenges. This helps to explain why this report has more critical findings than perhaps other reports have had. The SSI focused on two themed inspections. The emergence of the Health Service Executive (HSE) as a national body facilitated a national themed inspection of the management of behaviour in high support units (HSU's). A cluster inspection of children's residential centres in the former South Western Area Health Board (SWAHB) was also conducted after a number of previous inspections had given rise to concerns about the quality of care provided in this former health board area. The SSI also conducted its annual inspection of the two Special Care Units, focusing on the standards that had been the subject of concern in previous inspections.

The focus of the inspections of the HSU's was on their capacity to manage the behaviour of the young people safely and well. A total of 56 children were accommodated in the units at the time of inspection. The inspections identified the factors which contribute to young people's behaviours being well managed. These include good management, a clear statement of purpose and function, an agreed model of care that is understood by the care staff team, a good standard of primary care and last but not least, respect for the rights of the young people. While many of the units were providing a good standard of care, inspectors identified a number of areas where improvements were required and made a number of recommendations in this regard. The SSI will be monitoring the implementation of these recommendations.

The cluster inspection of children's residential centres in the former SWAHB was conducted between September 2005 and January 2006. As the report states, a cluster inspection facilitates the identification of common issues that may be best addressed at a regional or national level. Between them, the thirteen centres inspected accommodated 43 children at the time of inspection. Arising from the inspections, recommendations were made in relation to the services' review process, the purpose and function of centres, policies and procedures, management and staffing, monitoring, care practices, children's rights, care planning, planning for aftercare, and accommodation. The report acknowledges that the former SWAHB had the second largest concentration of children's residential centres in the country and did not have the management resources of areas with fewer centres or better community resources. It is inequities such as this that the HSE, with its national remit can address. Indeed the report acknowledges the significant progress made by this region since the inspection in addressing the deficiencies highlighted.

I am pleased to say that in relation to the two special care units in the country, the SSI conducted their annual inspection in 2005 and found that both were meeting the standards. In fact the report states that the children in both units spoke highly of the care they received and the relationships between the staff and children were described as warm and respectful.

Whilst there have been clear improvements over the last few years areas of concern still remain and I in no way want to minimise the seriousness of these issues. However, it is only when we openly acknowledge the problems that exist that we can begin to work to find solutions to these problems. Many of the more serious difficulties clearly stemmed from inequities in the services and as I have already stated the move away from regional health boards to the establishment of the HSE with its national remit for services is key to addressing such inequities. It must also be remembered that the Report deals with inspections that were conducted last year and the SSI have already been back to the centres on follow up visits. Some of the centres have since been closed by the HSE and recommendations have been implemented by the HSE in relation to others. The SSI will continue to monitor the implementation of the recommendations and I am confident that with the ongoing cooperation of the HSE the services provided for the children in these centres can be brought into line with the required standards.

Hospital Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

292 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people waiting for hip replacements at Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36222/06]

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 (case) investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy

Pat Breen

Question:

293 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 346 of 10 October 2006 and 179 of 25 October 2006, if she, and not the Health Service Executive’s parliamentary affairs division, has a responsibility to make a funding decision on the submissions made to her by the HSE regarding the additional funding required to operate a CT scanner unit at Ennis General Hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the lack of funding is impeding the project’s progress; the decision she will make on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36231/06]

As indicated in my responses to the previous questions mentioned by the Deputy, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects in the health sector, including the provision of a CT scanner at Ennis General Hospital.

The HSE has recently informed my Department that the Mid West Hospitals Trust has agreed to provide funds towards the installation of a CT Scanner at Ennis General Hospital. In the light of this, the Hospital has been given approval by the HSE to purchase a six slice CT scanner. The HSE is currently considering the revenue requirement for the new scanner.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

294 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if the budgetary allocation for sheltered housing services has been dispersed in 2006 to the Health Service Executive regions; the amount of the allocations to each region; the amount drawn down by each region to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36257/06]

I take it the question refers to the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly. This Scheme is administered by the Health Service Executive on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage & 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.

Question No. 295 answered with QuestionNo. 281.

Departmental Properties.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

296 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the name and location of every vacant building under her Department’s ownership or control; the security arrangements in place in respect of each property; the cost of such security arrangements in respect of each property in the period 1 October 2005 to 30 September 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36305/06]

The Office of Public Works is responsible for the provision of office accommodation for staff in my Department. However, there are no vacant buildings under my Department's control or ownership.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

297 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to reduce to an acceptable level the waiting period for appointments for patients referred to the dermatology department at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36359/06]

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.

Richard Bruton

Question:

298 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a recommendation that long-term illness cover for medication should be extended to conditions like asthma, where the use of medication stabilises the condition and prevents the need for more expensive hospital intervention; if such a change fits in with her attempt to move the health system towards a more preventative model; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36360/06]

Under the 1970 Health Act, the Health Service Executive may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition, through the Long Term Illness Scheme (LTI). The LTI does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments. The conditions are: mental handicap, mental illness (for people under 16 only), phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. There are currently no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions.

Products which are necessary for the management of the specified illness are available to LTI patients. Other products are available according to the patient's eligibility.

People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family.

Non-medical card holders and people whose illness is not covered by the LTI can use the Drug Payment Scheme, which protects against excessive medicines costs. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month, or approximately €20 per week, towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

Departmental Staff.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

299 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of the administration and management staff of the Health Service Executive in a full year compared to the last full year when the services were managed by the health boards; the number of administrative and management staff in the HSE compared to when the health boards were administering the service; the number of the former chief executive officers of the health boards currently in the employment of the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36381/06]

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

Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

300 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the matter that children with autism at a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow are being denied a service. [36386/06]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

301 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 as a matter of priority. [36394/06]

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:

302 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are charges for services for people with an intellectual disability (details supplied); and if she will clarify the matter. [36395/06]

I take it the question refers to the charging of people with intellectual disabilities in long stay care.

The charging for long stay care under the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005 is being implemented by way of the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005. These Regulations were signed on 14 June 2005 and reinstated charges for in-patient services and provided for the levying of a charge in respect of the maintenance of persons in receipt of in-patient services. The Regulations were prepared following extensive consultation with the HSE and others.

Section 53 of the Health Act, 1970, (as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005) provides, inter alia, for the levying of a charge where in-patient services have been provided for a period of not less than 30 days or for periods aggregating not less than 30 days within the previous 12 months.

In this regard, charging of patients in long-term care commenced on 14 July 2005, which was after the expiration of 30 days after the Regulations were signed.

The Regulations, in keeping with Section 53 of the Health Act, 1970, as amended, have provided for two different classes of persons on whom charges can be levied.

Class 1

Class 1 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser.

Class 2

Class 2 refers to people in receipt of in-patient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24 hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90, or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

These regulations provide for the maximum charge to be levied on either class of person. The HSE has the power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of "undue hardship". Under Section 1 (b) of the Health (Amendment) Act, 2005, the HSE can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure in relation to themselves or their dependants, if any.

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

John Cregan

Question:

303 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the present rates of subvention payable are under review; if she will address the issue of varying rates of subvention being made payable in different Health Service Executive areas and confirm that a house valued at less than €300,000, rural and outside Dublin, is exempt when assessment is being carried out of a applicant’s means in respect of subvention qualification. [36406/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993 provide for the payment of subvention for private nursing home care for applicants who qualify on both medical and means grounds. General rules for the assessment of means in respect of an application for nursing home subvention are set out in the Second Schedule of the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993, as amended by the Nursing Homes (Subvention)(Amendment) Regulations 2005.

There are currently three rates of subvention payable, i.e. €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum and these rates apply in all parts of the country.

Under the Regulations, when considering an application for subvention, the Health Service Executive carries out a means test which takes into account the means (including assets) of the applicant and his or her spouse/cohabiting partner, where appropriate. The HSE may impute an income of 5% of the estimated market value of the principal residence of an applicant for subvention, regardless of market value, unless the residence is occupied by a spouse or son or daughter aged less than twenty one years or in full time education or in receipt of certain social welfare pension/allowances and generally does so unless there are exceptional circumstances. The Regulations provide that the HSE may refuse to pay a subvention if the value of the applicant's principal residence is in excess of €500,000 (where the residence is located in the Dublin area) or €300,000 (where the residence is located outside the Dublin area) and the applicant has an income of at least €9,000 per annum.

The HSE has discretion to pay more than the maximum rate of subvention relative to an individual's level of dependency in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted. The application of these provisions in an individual case is a matter for the HSE in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention, subject to the provisions of the Health Act, 2004. The average rate of subvention paid by the HSE generally exceeds the current approved basic rates. The supports paid by the HSE vary from person to person and region to region, depending on nursing home fees for example.

Additional funding of €20 million was provided for the administration of the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme in 2006. The additional €20 million is to support more basic nursing home subventions and reduce waiting lists for enhanced subventions: it is also to bring more consistency to subventions support throughout the country.

The Health (Nursing Homes)(Amendment) Bill 2006 is designed to ensure that the existing subvention scheme for private nursing home care is grounded in primary legislation and to help the HSE to implement the scheme on a standardised basis across the country. It was prepared on a "no policy change" basis. In addition, national guidelines on nursing home subvention are currently being developed by the HSE to ensure an even and equitable application of the regulations nationally.

The Government is currently considering new policy on Long Term Care and several principles underlying this were agreed with the social partners in "Towards 2016". These principles include, for example, that there should be one standardised national needs assessment for older people needing care. The use of community and home-based care should be maximised. Sheltered housing options will be encouraged. Where residential care is required, it should be quality care and there should be appropriate and equitable levels of co-payment by care recipients based on a national standardised financial assessment. The level of support for residential care should be indifferent as to whether that care is in a public or private facility. The financial model to support any new arrangements must also be financially sustainable.

The Department is currently drawing up proposals for the Government's consideration based on the principles in "Towards 2016".

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

304 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when services will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36407/06]

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

Departmental Transport.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

305 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if vehicles used by her Department use fuel from a particular fuel supplier; if so, the name of that supplier; if departmental staff are issued with fuel cards in connection with their duties; if so, the person who is the supplier of this service; and the amount it cost her Department in the past five years. [36421/06]

There are no vehicles used by my Department.

Alcohol Abuse.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

306 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 354 of 24 October 2006, the membership of the implementation group established to monitor implementation of the recommendations of the working group on alcohol misuse; the way the members were chosen; and when the group will meet. [36444/06]

The Working Group on Alcohol established under the Special Initiative on Tackling Alcohol Misuse in Sustaining Progress presented its report to the Minister for Health and Children earlier this year. The Report recommends actions on the part of a number of Government Departments as well as other key stakeholders. Each of the agencies on the group has a role to play in the implementation of one or more of the recommendations.

The following Government Departments and agencies have been asked to send representatives to the first meeting of the Implementation Group which will take place on Tuesday 7th November, 2006:

Department of Health and Children

Department of Transport

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Department of Education and Science

Department of the Taoiseach

Road Safety Authority

Irish Business Employers Confederation

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Health Service Executive

Irish Sports Council

National Youth Health Programme

National Youth Council

Macra Na Feirme

An Garda Síochána

Health and Safety Authority

The Chairperson of the Implementation Group is Mr Peter Cassells.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

307 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to eliminate the discrimination against elderly people in the west of Ireland who are in nursing homes and cannot get the enhanced subvention while similar patients on the east coast can receive the enhanced subvention; if she will make a statement on the discrimination against elderly people in the west of Ireland. [36454/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993 provide for the payment of subvention for private nursing home care for applicants who qualify on both medical and means grounds. General rules for the assessment of means in respect of an application for nursing home subvention are set out in the Second Schedule of the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993, as amended by the 2005 Regulations.

There are currently three rates of subvention payable, i.e. €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum and these rates apply in all parts of the country.

The HSE has discretion to pay more than the maximum rate of subvention relative to an individual's level of dependency in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted. The application of these provisions in an individual case is a matter for the HSE in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention, subject to the provisions of the Health Act, 2004. The average rate of subvention paid by the HSE generally exceeds the current approved basic rates. The supports paid by the HSE vary from person to person and region to region, depending on nursing home fees for example.

Additional funding of €20 million was provided for the administration of the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme in 2006. The additional €20 million is to support more basic nursing home subventions and reduce waiting lists for enhanced subventions: it is also to bring more consistency to subventions support throughout the country.

The Health (Nursing Homes)(Amendment) Bill 2006 is designed to ensure that the existing subvention scheme for private nursing home care is grounded in primary legislation and to help the HSE to implement the scheme on a standardised basis across the country. In addition, national guidelines on nursing home subvention are currently being developed by the HSE to ensure an even and equitable application of the regulations nationally.

The Government is currently considering new policy on Long Term Care and several principles underlying this were agreed with the social partners in "Towards 2016". These principles include, for example, that there should be one standardised national needs assessment for older people needing care. The use of community and home-based care should be maximised. Sheltered housing options will be encouraged. Where residential care is required, it should be quality care and there should be appropriate and equitable levels of co-payment by care recipients based on a national standardised financial assessment. The level of support for residential care should be indifferent as to whether that care is in a public or private facility. The financial model to support any new arrangements must also be financially sustainable.

The Department is currently drawing up proposals as agreed with the social partners in "Towards 2016".

Pharmacy Regulations.

Phil Hogan

Question:

308 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to further restrict the availability of analgesics through non-pharmacy outlets; the extent to which the need to balance consumer public health issues alongside customer choice and availability of these everyday medicines should be considered in the context of future measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36479/06]

The Irish Medicines Board is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of medicinal products in Ireland. The Board, in co-operation with its European Union counterparts, keeps the status of all medicinal products under review and any issues arising are examined and appropriate regulatory action taken if required.

The availability of analgesics is determined by the controls present in the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003, as amended. There are no plans at present to further restrict the availability of analgesics in non pharmacy outlets. In determining the prescription status of any medicinal product, a wide range of issues are taken into consideration. While consumer choice is an important element of this process, the health and safety of the public is the key concern which must be addressed in any decision concerning the availability of a medicinal product. As stated above, the Irish Medicines Board is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of medicinal products in Ireland. The Board works closely with my Department in order to address any issues arising from the availability of medicinal products.

Smoking Ban.

Phil Hogan

Question:

309 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is proposed to commence the remaining parts of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2003 regarding restrictions on the sale and display of tobacco products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36480/06]

Consideration is being given at present to issues arising in regard to the commencement of further provisions of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts 2002 and 2004; however, it should be noted that significant elements of this legislation — primarily relating to point of sale advertising and the requirement to keep tobacco products in a closed container — are being challenged by the tobacco industry.

Child Care Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

310 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children her views with regard to having the grant level increased in response to submissions made to her at a meeting (details supplied). [36482/06]

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.

As I recently advised the Deputy, the Group in question has been provisionally approved capital funding of €1.4 million under the EOCP in respect of a proposal to develop a childcare facility. This funding is approved subject to the Group concluding a satisfactory contractual agreement with Pobal, which is engaged to administer the grants on behalf of the Office of the Minister for Children.

Following my meeting with the Group in June 2006 to discuss the amount of capital funding provisionally approved in line with the programme criteria, I understand from enquiries I have made that revised plans for the proposal have been submitted by the Group to Pobal and that discussions are continuing with a view to bringing the project to contract. However I understand that, to date, the Group has not submitted a formal request for further EOCP funding of their capital project.

Health Services.

John Dennehy

Question:

311 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the Health Service Executive decision to close local health facilities such as that at Shanbally, County Cork; if this is in conflict in any way with the published programme to bring health services into the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36527/06]

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

Paudge Connolly

Question:

312 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for further investment and improvement in primary care teams in County Cavan and County Monaghan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36528/06]

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.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

313 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients currently awaiting orthopaedic appointments, the consultant, the rheumatology patient ration, the number of patients on waiting lists for neurology, urology, ophthalmology and plastic surgery consultation at Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36529/06]

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 (case) investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Liam Twomey

Question:

314 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of acute hospital beds, both public and private, in each of the hospitals, for each of the years 1997 to 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36530/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is being collated and I will forward it to the Deputy within the next few days.

General Practitioner Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

315 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to enhance out of hours doctor on call to the North Monaghan area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36545/06]

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

Infectious Diseases.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

316 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to appoint a national director to implement a national strategy in relation to MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36552/06]

Infection prevention and control in health institutions is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE), as part of its overall responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to address the issue raised in the question and to reply directly to the Deputy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

317 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the numbers of patients awaiting cardiac surgery who have been treated under the National Treatment Purchase Fund in each year since it was introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36560/06]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) my Department has asked the Chief Executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Health Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

318 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent of neurosurgical service provision here; the locations and capacity involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36561/06]

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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

319 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients awaiting hip replacement surgery who have been treated under the National Treatment Purchase Fund in each year since it was introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36562/06]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) my Department has asked the Chief Executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

320 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she has taken to address concerns previously expressed by letter and parliamentary question in regard to the lack of funding that was causing Women’s Aid support groups to be unable to provide the services that they sought to provide for women in need of assistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36563/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

322 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that practically 50% of calls to the Women’s Aid phone line go unanswered due to the lack of funding to provide the necessary staff or costs of the group; her plans to redress the problems; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36565/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

323 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding allocated to the Women’s Aid support group in each of the past four years by her Department; the reason applications for increases in such funding have not been addressed; if she has discussed the matter with the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive in regard to increasing the funding available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36566/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 320, 322 and 323 together.

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.

Medical Education.

Jack Wall

Question:

321 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) does not receive payment or remuneration when they are attending a paramedic course at the National Training School, Phoenix Park, Dublin; if the person is entitled to payment while completing the course or when they are involved in the hands-on training in ambulances, which are attached in this case to Loughlinstown Hospital; the criteria or guidelines particular to this course; her plans to review the financial implications for a person seeking to complete this course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36564/06]

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.

Questions Nos. 322 and 323 answered with Question No. 320.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

324 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if consideration can or will be given to continue cancer treatment services at St. Luke’s, Rathgar, Dublin as same are currently to be phased out and transferred to St. James’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36574/06]

The expertise and professional commitment of the staff at St. Luke's Hospital will continue to be an essential element in the development of cancer care. The decision to transfer this resource 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 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. I also recently announced the approval of two radiation oncology facilities at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals, comprising of two linear accelerators and associated treatment planning at each site, to be delivered in early 2009. These are key elements of the delivery of the National Plan.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

325 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36575/06]

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

326 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a full medical card will be issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36576/06]

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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

327 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons with medical cards on waiting lists for the provision of dentures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36709/06]

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

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

328 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will conduct an examination of denture provision in this State, including the teaching of dentistry and the manufacture of dentures, the price charged for dentures by dentists as against the lower fees charged by dental technicians; her views on the deregulation of dentistry with regard to denture provision and the call to allow technicians to provide denture services to all who need them, including medical card holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36710/06]

My Department is currently involved in a review of the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) which involves the examination of fees. Research has commenced in University College Cork to examine denture provision in Ireland. This research is ongoing. It includes the evaluation of training in making and providing dentures.

The preliminary report on the research being carried out by UCC will be available by the end of this year. The Review of the DTSS is being dealt with by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

329 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether deregulating the denture provision sector would result in savings for the State and the private citizen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36711/06]

The Dental Council is the statutory body established by the Oireachtas under the Dentists' Act 1985 that may, with the consent of the Minister, make a scheme for establishing classes of auxiliary dental workers. It is within the Dental Council's remit to consider a change in the method of provision of dentures. The question of any amendment to the current position is a matter for consideration by the Dental Council in the first instance.

My Department will give due consideration to any proposal received from the Dental Council in the matter.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

330 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who qualify by virtue of PRSI payments on waiting lists for dentures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36712/06]

The provision of dentures under PRSI is a matter for the Department of Social and Family Affairs. That Department will be in contact with the Deputy directly. A copy of the Deputy's question has been forwarded for attention there.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

331 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department is represented in current court proceedings regarding the deregulation of the denture supply service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36713/06]

I presume the question relates to the case determined in the High Court in 2003 concerning the practice of denturism. My Department is represented by the Chief State Solicitor's Office in the matter. As the case is now under appeal to the Supreme Court it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this time.

Cancer Incidence.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

332 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the observed number, the expected number, and standardised incidence ratio for all invasive cancers, excluding non-melanoma skin, diagnosed between 1994 and 2001 inclusive of each electoral division in Fingal. [36714/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

333 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the observed number, expected number, and standardised incidence ratio for all invasive cancers, excluding non-melanoma skin, diagnosed since 2001 to date in 2006 inclusive of each electoral division in Dublin city and Fingal. [36715/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

334 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the action that is being taken to identify the causes of the statistically significant high incidences of cancer in pockets of Dublin city and to identify the reason for the apparent disparity in rates between adjoining areas of very similar health and demographic profiles; the action being taken to identify causes in an area (details supplied); the funding provided by her Department for such research; the reports she has received on this matter; the locations where these are published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36716/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 to 334, inclusive, together.

Statistics in relation to cancer incidence are collated by the National Cancer Registry. My Department has asked the Director of the Registry to examine these matters and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Energy Conservation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

335 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of homes which received energy efficiency measures under Sustainable Energy Ireland’s low income housing programme from the commencement of the programme to date. [36102/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

337 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the average cost per household of energy efficiency measures delivered under Sustainable Energy Ireland’s low income housing programme. [36141/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 335 and 337 together.

The Warmer Homes Scheme, which is part of Sustainable Energy Ireland's Low Income Housing Programme, aims to improve the energy efficiency and comfort conditions of homes occupied by low-income households. The scheme provides funding to community-based organisations for the installation of energy efficiency measures including attic insulation, draught proofing, hot water cylinder insulation and cavity wall insulation (in some areas, and where technically appropriate), in homes in their respective localities. The scheme is intended to benefit those who need it most and the eligibility criteria vary from region to region, depending on the target group of the community organisation in question.

There are 15 community-based organisations that are approved for funding to complete homes in 2006. The service is available in Dublin, Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Westmeath, Roscommon, Cork, Kerry, Wexford, Cavan, Limerick and Leitrim.

To the end of October 2006, the number of homes addressed is 10,175. The total expended to end October is €5.24 million with the average cost per home at €515.30.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

336 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will direct Sustainable Energy Ireland to provide grant aid for small residential wind turbines in view of the goals set out in the recent Green Paper on sustainable energy. [36140/06]

The Government is committed to developing domestic scale renewable electricity and heat technologies. Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has undertaken work on Metering Options for Small Scale Renewable and CHP Electricity Generation. The study identified a number of areas which require further analysis including the ability of such processes to secure adequate payment for their exports, a review of connection standards and processes for smaller generators, and the implications of the Single Electricity Market for small-scale electricity generation.

These technical and administrative issues are currently being addressed, and my Department is working with the relevant agencies, including SEI, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), ESB Networks and the Electro-Technical Council of Ireland in this regard.

As part of the ongoing work to progress this area, the CER launched a public consultation in early October on arrangements for micro generation which deals with metering issues.

We are working to ensure that the appropriate administrative, technical and safety standards and practices are in place to underpin programmes for the widespread deployment of micro generation technologies. I am confident that appropriate solutions suited to the context of the Irish electricity grid and for non-grid connected technologies will be developed with a view to progressing this emerging sector.

Question No. 337 answered with QuestionNo. 335.

Departmental Properties.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

338 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the name and location of every vacant building under his Department’s ownership or control; the security arrangements in place in respect of each property; the cost of such security arrangements in respect of each property in the period 1 October 2005 to 30 September 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36297/06]

Only one building in my Department's property portfolio is currently vacant. This property is located at West Pier, Howth Fishery Harbour Centre. This property is within the Howth Fishery Harbour Centre complex and is managed as part of the overall management of the Fishery Harbour Centre. It is not considered necessary to have special security arrangements in place in respect of the individual property.

Telecommunications Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

339 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount spent to date on the e-commerce and communications infrastructure under the national development plan in both the Border midland western and south and east regions respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36310/06]

The total spent to the end of June 2006 under the e-Commerce and communication measures of the Border, Midlands and Western and Southern and Eastern regional operational programme is €99.6 million. The total expenditure under the programme is estimated to be €179.66 million.

Expenditure under the programme will primarily be on the second phase of the Metropolitan Area Networks Programme and will accelerate rapidly through the remainder of 2006 and during 2007.

Seán Crowe

Question:

340 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the recent situation involving the removal of Smart services by Eircom will affect Smart Telecom’s involvement in the provision of broadband to schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36388/06]

Smart Telecom were allocated 1194 schools as part of the Schools Broadband Programme. A mixture of technologies were used, ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), Satellite and ULL (Unbundled Local Loop). 13 ULL schools lost service as result of eircom's disconnection of Smart recently. The remaining 1181 schools were not impacted by the disconnection. Orders for reconnections were submitted to Eircom and the 13 ULL schools have now been reconnected.

Departmental Transport.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

341 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if vehicles used by his Department use fuel from a particular fuel supplier; if so, the name of that supplier; if departmental staff are issued with fuel cards in connection with their duties; if so, the person who is the supplier of this service; and the amount it cost his Department in the past five years. [36413/06]

My Department has no contracted fuel supplier.

Fuel cards are issued to some officials from the Geological Survey of Ireland in respect of travel in official vehicles owned and operated by the Department. These fuel cards are supplied by Diesel Card Ireland. Usage of these fuel cards commenced in July 2006 and therefore, costs, as requested by the Deputy, for the previous five years are not available. Expenditure since July 2006 in respect of this contract is €5402.78, to date.

Communications Masts.

Joan Burton

Question:

342 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a phone mast was recently removed from a commercial building in Dublin 6W; the reason the same measure is not being taken in the case of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36462/06]

The siting of individual phone masts or antennae is a matter for the relevant local planning authority. I have no function in these matters.

Energy Resources.

Marian Harkin

Question:

343 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources further to Parliamentary Question No. 434 of 24 October 2006, if he will apply to the EU Commission for state aid before the end of 2006 which will see the loss of Objective 1 Status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36466/06]

I stated in my reply to the Deputy on 24 October 2006 that consideration of the proposal to bring gas to Sligo from the Mayo-Galway pipeline is insufficiently mature at this stage to be able to submit a definitive position on possible State Aids implications of any funding configuration to the EU Commission. In this regard, I am awaiting the outcome of the feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis commissioned by my Department. A recent update from the Consultants engaged on this work indicates that their report is likely to be finalised before end of January 2007.

Fishing Industry.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

344 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the status of Brandon Bay, County Kerry in relation to trawling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36542/06]

I am advised that there is a Bye-Law in the Statute Book from 1860 which prohibits trawling in this area. While the legal status of this bye-law needs to be confirmed I wish to advise the Deputy that the control authorities of the Department and the Naval Service monitor fishing in the area on an ongoing basis. To this end, I have been advised that there has been no evidence of trawling in Brandon Bay in recent times.

Departmental Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

345 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of officials in his Department dedicated to dealing with MLE, Digital, Hub, Interreg, NorthSouth, Demand, websites, interconnectivity, stats, MANS and the Dingle Project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36572/06]

There are currently nine officials and four contract staff working in the Communications Development Division, which has responsibility for the matters raised by the Deputy.

Telecommunications Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

346 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will announce and initiate the third call of the county and group broadband scheme. [36656/06]

The question of a third call of the county and group broadband scheme is currently being considered in the context of the options being developed to address the delivery of broadband nationwide.

Departmental Staff.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

347 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 266 of 6 December 2005 his Department is in a position to have the Labour Court recommendation of January 2001 implemented and thereby endeavour to have the gap between conditions, income and cost per person to the State and accountability of established, and long serving non-established staff of his Department serving at Irish missions abroad equitably narrowed. [36106/06]

Since my reply of 6 December 2005, the protections afforded by the Civil Service anti-harassment, sexual harassment and bullying policy, A Positive Working Environment, have been extended to all unestablished employees at diplomatic missions abroad. A Departmental circular to this effect was issued in late December 2005. It provides for:

formal and informal procedures for the handling of complaints of harassment, sexual harassment and bullying;

the possibility of mediation, where appropriate;

action where a complaint is upheld;

action where a complaint is not upheld;

and, review procedures where the complainant is not satisfied with the conduct or outcome of the investigation.

In addition to the above protections and procedures, a separate Departmental circular covering grievances in the workplace was issued in late December 2005. It provides a process for locally recruited employees at missions abroad to have work related grievances (other than pay and related matters) dealt with. The circular details full procedures for dealing with grievances in the workplace, including the possibility of mediation, and an appeal mechanism.

A disciplinary code for locally recruited employees at diplomatic missions abroad was also introduced in late December 2005. The purpose of the code is to ensure that all locally recruited members of staff at Irish missions abroad are dealt with in a fair and equitable manner in relation to disciplinary matters. The code provides a transparent disciplinary procedure, including an appeal mechanism.

The two circulars and disciplinary code referred to above were issued, in translation where appropriate, by Heads of Mission to all locally recruited employees at missions abroad in late December 2005. They were re-circulated to all missions abroad in September of this year.

As regards the Labour Court's expression of concern that no formal mechanism exists for locally recruited staff in Irish Missions abroad to pursue grievances with regard to pay, grade and related matters, the Department is close to completing a review of best practice among other EU Member States. Once this review is complete, the Department expects to be in a position to formulate a new procedure to address this issue.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

348 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has considered the proposal for targeted divestment in Sudan as a necessary measure for achieving long-term peace and security in Darfur. [36194/06]

This issue has recently been raised in a letter to me, which also spoke in very warm terms indeed of Ireland's advocacy on behalf of the people of Darfur, from the founder of the Sudan Divestment Campaign-Ireland.

My colleague, the Minister of State Conor Lenihan T.D., will meet with representatives of the Campaign on Thursday next, 9 November, and further meetings can be arranged with the Department, if desired. I will, of course, be happy to study any specific proposals which may be made by the Divestment Campaign.

Irish Prisoners Abroad.

John Gormley

Question:

349 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in the study being conducted by his Department into Irish prisoners abroad; the non-governmental organisations that have been consulted in its preparation; when he expects the study will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36213/06]

In October 2005, I appointed the former Minister of State, Chris Flood, to undertake a study into Irish prisoners serving sentences abroad. The terms of reference of the study are:

To identify the numbers of Irish people in prison overseas and the countries in which they are being held;

To examine the needs of Irish overseas prisoners; and

Based on this identification and estimate, to make recommendations for the future provision of services to overseas prisoners, taking into account the services available in comparable countries.

I understand that the study is at an advanced stage, and that a significant number of organisations have been consulted. I look forward to receiving the completed report in due course from Mr. Flood.

Human Rights Issues.

John Gormley

Question:

350 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he will be attending the hearings of the European Parliament’s temporary committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36214/06]

On 21 September 2006 I received an invitation from Carlos Coelho, Chairman of the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners, inviting me to attend one of the Temporary Committee's meetings.

In keeping with the Government's policy of full co-operation with the European Parliament in its investigation into this matter, I replied to Mr Coelho stating that I was very happy to accept his invitation. In my reply I also indicated my intention to appear before the end of November. It remains my expectation that I will do so, though I also drew the Committee's attention to the possible demands of the Northern Ireland situation during this month. Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the European Parliament remain in close contact on the matter.

I have repeatedly made clear the Government's total opposition to the practice of so-called extraordinary rendition and to any form of illegal detention of prisoners. I have also emphasised the Government's determination to continue our full co-operation with the investigations into these matters being conducted by both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.

The European Parliament hearings will provide the Government with another opportunity to reiterate our outright condemnation of such practices and to assure the European Parliament of our full support for the Temporary Committee's mandate.

John Gormley

Question:

351 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government’s position regarding the drafting and adoption of standards in the Council of Europe to reinforce human rights protection regarding the issues of alleged secret detention in Europe and extraordinary renditions from and through Europe; the deliberations the Committee of Ministers in the Council of Europe has had, or intends to have, on this issue of drafting new standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36215/06]

Following his receipt and analysis of the Member States' responses to his Article 52 questionnaire, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Terry Davis, has submitted a number of proposals to Member States on ways in which they should reinforce the protection of human rights.

The Secretary General's proposed measures include drawing up minimum standards to prevent human rights abuses by security services, in particular foreign security services active on the territory of a Council of Europe member state, mechanisms to enforce existing human rights obligations with respect to transiting aircraft, and a legal instrument permitting diplomatic immunity to be waived in cases of serious human rights violations.

The Secretary General sent these proposals to Member States on 4 July 2006. In early September, the Committee of Ministers took note of the Secretary General's proposals and agreed to resume consideration of them at one of its forthcoming meetings. Ireland has welcomed the Secretary General's initiative. It is our firm view that for the Secretary General's proposals to be effective, action will require to be taken on a Europe-wide basis.

Departmental Properties.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

352 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the name and location of every vacant building under his Department’s ownership or control; the security arrangements in place in respect of each property; the cost of such security arrangements in respect of each property in the period 1 October 2005 to 30 September 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36304/06]

There are no vacant buildings currently under my Department's control or ownership and no security costs in respect of the protection of such properties have arisen in the period specified.

Departmental Transport.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

353 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if vehicles used by his Department use fuel from a particular fuel supplier; if so, the name of that supplier; if departmental staff are issued with fuel cards in connection with their duties; if so, the person who is the supplier of this service; and the amount it cost his Department in the past five years. [36420/06]

My Department currently owns three vans which are used by service officers to perform routine deliveries in the Dublin area. Fuel for the vehicles is purchased from Shell branded filling stations using a "Topaz" fuel purchase card. These cards are not issued in the name of specific officers but are assigned to vehicles by reference to the registration number of the van. The Department is invoiced on a fortnightly basis by the supplier, Topaz Energy Limited.

There is no specific charge levied by Topaz Energy Limited for the fuel card service. The table shows a breakdown of expenditure on fuel for the vehicles in question by my Department from 2002 to date;

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

€1,436.49

€1,709.53

€2,447.82

€2,722.43

€2,598.77 (to date)

Most of the Department's Missions abroad also use official vehicles. However, fuel supplies for such vehicles are obtained locally and there is no centralised purchase arrangement with a particular supplier.

Human Rights Issues.

Pat Carey

Question:

354 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is in a position to assist with the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36551/06]

My Department is aware of the case the Deputy has raised through reports in the media. I understand that Mr. Jia has now moved on from Hong Kong to Thailand, where he is seeking asylum from a third country. No such request has been made of Ireland.

Through the bi-annual EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, the most recent round of which was held in Beijing on 19 October, the EU, expressing its concern at the high number of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists in prison, urged China not to harass or punish individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression in a peaceful manner. The Dialogue is the agreed formal framework through which the EU raises human rights issues and concerns with China. Equally, over a number of years, the EU has pressed the Chinese authorities to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which contains provisions on freedom of expression.

Ireland continues to raise its human rights concerns in its relations with China, where most recently the official visit to Ireland Chinese Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan in September afforded an opportunity for the Tánaiste to convey our concerns to the Vice-Premier bilaterally. For my part, I took the opportunity to raise human rights issues and concerns, including the importance we attach to freedom of speech and religion, when I met with Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr. Li Zhaoxing, during a visit to Beijing in May.

Sports Funding.

Finian McGrath

Question:

355 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if Special Olympics Ireland will be assisted with proper funding in 2006 and 2007. [36191/06]

The Irish Sports Council was set up as a statutory body in July 1999 with responsibility for the development of sport, increasing participation at all levels and raising standards. The provision in funding for the Irish Sports Council in the 2006 Estimates is €40.9 million, in comparison to just over €13 million in 2000.

The Sports Council provides funding to recognised National Governing Bodies (NGB) of sport including Special Olympics Ireland. NGBs are dealt with as autonomous organisations and grants are allocated under agreed funding conditions and with specific priorities in mind. The grant allocation process is run on an annual basis by the Sports Council, with NGBs submitting an application form covering their programmes for the coming year. I recognise the extensive benefits which accrue to persons with intellectual disabilities through the sporting and social activities provided by Special Olympics Ireland. Since 1999, Special Olympics Ireland has received over €4 million in funding from the Sports Council with grants of €596,473 in 2006. Special Olympics Ireland has made a submission to the Government on the development and funding of the Special Olympics Programme and this submission is being considered.

Departmental Properties.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

356 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the name and location of every vacant building under his Department’s ownership or control; the security arrangements in place in respect of each property; the cost of such security arrangements in respect of each property in the period 1 October 2005 to 30 September 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36296/06]

There are no vacant buildings currently under my Department's ownership or control.

Departmental Transport.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

357 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if vehicles used by his Department use fuel from a particular fuel supplier; if so, the name of that supplier; if departmental staff are issued with fuel cards in connection with their duties; if so, the person who is the supplier of this service; and the amount it cost his Department in the past five years. [36412/06]

My Department has no vehicles for use by staff.

Departmental Bodies.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

358 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to an article in a newspaper (details supplied) that states that the College of Arms in London has difficulties recognising Irish grants and confirmations of arms because of the questions regarding their legal validity; and that this may be causing embarrassing difficulties for certain individuals domiciled outside the State who received grants from the Chief Herald of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36538/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

359 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position of copyright in respect of arms granted by the Chief Herald of Ireland between 1 April 1943 and the coming into effect of S.I. No. 219/2005; Bord Leabharlann Náisiúnta Na hÉireann (Establishment Day) Order 2005 on 3 May 2005; if copyright was transferred to the grantee by virtue of the letters patent issued by the Chief Herald of Ireland during that period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36539/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

360 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm newspaper report (details supplied) that in or about June 2002 the Attorney General advised the Chief Herald of Ireland that he had no power to grant arms and that the genealogical office was in effect an illegal organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36540/06]