Adjournment Debate.

Joyriding Offences.

I take this opportunity to welcome a major new report on car crime and joyriding, "The Nature and Impact of Joyriding in Priorswood", by Michael Rush, Paula Brudell and Aogan Mulcahy of the school of applied social science at UCD, which was prepared for the Priorswood taskforce on joyriding, of which I am former member. The report was launched at a well attended seminar at the Hilton Hotel in Clare Hall, Dublin 17, chaired by Pádraig White, the long time chairman of Coolock Development Council and outgoing chairman of the Northside Partnership. Many local residents attended, including young people, and agency and community leaders, including our local Garda inspector, Mr. Dónal Waters, and Dublin city area manager, Mr. Declan Wallace.

The report is commendable because it is based on the views, experiences and feelings of local residents and of some young people who participate in the activity, not just the views of an expert group coming to tell a local community how things are when they have no real idea what is happening on the ground.

In the past 20 years, the community in this and similar areas in my constituency have suffered greatly from the criminal behaviour where cars are either bought or stolen to be used for joyriding until they are destroyed. I raised this issue more than 30 times with the Taoiseach on the Order of Business in the 28th Dáil and brought two Bills into the House to make the Government face up to the legal problems caused by this activity.

The taskforce on joyriding was established in 1998 and covers the parish of Priorswood, which along with Belcamp and Darndale parishes makes up the north Coolock area. The report makes clear that the causes of joyriding are complex, particularly because this deviant and criminal behaviour has persisted for so long. The issues that emerge in the report show again that even in the current era, the area still experiences profound socioeconomic disadvantage. In the past it had unemployment rates of up to 80% and there is a major lack of educational and recreational facilities for young people. The design of estates facilitated joyriding and other criminal behaviour. I mentioned this on several occasions but a member of Fianna Fáil told me I was wasting Dáil time by raising this issue, a disgraceful comment on an attempt to give voice to a major problem that affects significant parts of Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

A positive development in this report is the analysis of the views of 26 young people ranging in age from 11 to 23 years, all of whom were proud of their area but who also noted that it still experiences serious disadvantage in terms of recreation and other facilities. The young people who were spoken to, one of whom addressed the report's launch, mentioned over and over the social context of joyriding, with young people acting as audiences for serious criminal behaviour.

It is also noteworthy that the views of senior residents of the estate were canvassed and that they raised the ongoing desperate situations in which many people found themselves as a result of harassment linked to car crime and other antisocial behaviour. Their children's educational attainment was often seriously damaged by the mayhem in the streets, mayhem that would not have been tolerated in most other areas. The cost is also mentioned, along with the danger of being present in an area where joyriding was taking place. My experience echoes that; I came across a scene where a child had just been killed and another seriously injured 15 years ago, which sparked my interest in this deviant behaviour.

The Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Health and Children should examine this report in detail and consider how its recommendations could be implemented. It is the fourth report on this phenomenon and it also refers to the new phenomenon of boy racers and dangerous driving. Yesterday my party leader spoke of a Marshall Plan for areas like Priorswood, which is precisely what the Government needs to do, as the Minister of State knows from his own constituency.

I am deputising for the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who regrets he cannot be here this evening.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter on the Adjournment and I am aware of his longstanding interest in this subject. I assure him the Tánaiste shares his concern and that of the public in general regarding serious car crime and associated anti-social behaviour, in particular so-called joyriding. It is generally a hard core of youths who engage in this activity, many of whom are known to the Garda. Unfortunately, there is a high degree of recidivism. The Garda continually monitors trends in car theft, with a view to identifying and targeting persistent offenders and policing areas which are unfortunately prone to suffer such activities. Persons serving sentences for persistent offences related to so-called joyriding are not granted early temporary release except in the most exceptional circumstances.

With these aims, the Garda Síochána operates special foot and mobile patrols, targeting specific areas in response to identified local requirements. All vehicles the subject of unauthorised takings are technically examined when recovered and known offenders are targeted for these offences. In each Garda division there is a traffic unit that targets incidents of joyriding and enforcement outside peak traffic hours.

The Garda and local authorities have made good progress in recent years with regard to estate management and are actively reducing the opportunities for joyriding. For example, physical changes, such as barriers, speed ramps, in-fill housing, raising of plinth walls and widening of footpaths are being used to reduce access to areas frequented by youths engaged in these activities. Gardaí are constantly liaising with community groups and a number of projects are operating which have proved invaluable in dealing with offenders.

Among these are a number of Garda youth diversion projects, which are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative seeking to divert young persons from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social and criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By so doing, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhance the relations between the Garda and the community. Funding has been provided by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for the Woodale Garda youth diversion project in the Darndale and Priorswood area.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005, which is the most significant item of legislation affecting the Garda Síochána since the force was established, provides for the establishment of a range of new bodies. Among these are joint policing committees. The fundamental idea behind the committees is that the policing of our society, and the communities which make it up, cannot take place in a vacuum where the Garda itself decides how policing is to be carried out, without any input of views from society and communities.

It is democratically desirable that the community makes such an input and in addition it is desirable that policing in our increasingly complex and diverse society requires such an input to be more effective. These committees provide a forum in which both sides can consult, discuss and make recommendations on matters affecting the policing of the local authority area. Central to this would of course be discussion of anti-social behaviour.

The joint policing committee has to be established in accordance with guidelines issued by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, after consulting the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The guidelines were issued in June. As a result of the number of local authorities in the State, the Tánaiste was of the view that it would be desirable to start by setting up a number of pilot committees and consequently 22 were set up. These include committees for the Dublin City Council area and Fingal.

The guidelines make special provision for the city council area. As a result of the size of the area, in addition to the joint policing committee, they provide for the establishment of five local sub-committees, corresponding to the city's local areas. In addition to members representative of elected members and the Garda Síochána, local officials and representatives of the voluntary and community sector can also attend. The Dublin committee and sub-committees have started their work.

As the Deputy has indicated, the Priorswood task force on joyriding was established in 1998 and is the only one of its kind in Ireland. Funding of €127,000 was made available by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for pilot implementation of its anti-joyriding strategy during the two-year period 2002 to 2003. This represented 75% of the total costs, with the balance coming from the then northern area health board, now the HSE. The task force's strategy involved developing joint initiatives with local agencies and the community to prevent young people from joyriding, engaging with joyriders, including those in custody, developing alternatives in education, training and leisure and developing appropriate models of family support.

The Minister has been informed by the Garda authorities that members of the Garda community policing unit have been part of the task force since 1998, which in conjunction with Dublin City Council and other local statutory community bodies has reduced the instances of joyriding by 25%.

I understand the report on the nature and impact of joyriding in Priorswood was not submitted to the Tánaiste's Department, but that a copy has very recently been obtained. The report notes a reduction in joyriding using various measurements, and this is welcomed. A key recommendation of the report referred to by the Deputy is that the joyriding issue be considered within a concerted approach by local government and local development agencies and the RAPID programme. This should be done within a wider context of developing local anti-poverty and social inclusion measures. There is no doubt this type of crime is a complex problem which, while requiring significant inputs from the criminal justice system, can only be tackled to lasting effect through a multi-faceted and multi-agency response involving the community and relevant statutory bodies.

The report is being considered in the Tánaiste's Department and I understand it is also being considered by other Departments which will have an input into the response to its recommendations. In addition, the report is being examined by senior Garda management in the Dublin metropolitan region.

Cancer Screening Programme.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this very important matter. A serious problem has arisen in my constituency regarding cervical smear cytology. Cervical smear tests are recommended for all women aged between 20 and 65. As the national smear testing programme has not yet been rolled out to counties such as Kerry, many GPs do their own screening on a voluntary basis. The majority of GPs have been sending smears to the laboratory at the Royal College of Surgeons unit in Beaumont Hospital for the past nine years or so, where they get a very professional service, with results returned after a waiting time of six to eight weeks.

On Wednesday last, GPs received correspondence from the RCSI lab, advising that it could no longer accept smears, with immediate effect. No explanation was given, I understand. Apparently, the only alternative is to send the smears to Cork University Hospital. However, the staff in CUH are under considerable pressure and are just about coping with their current workload. They are still opening smears they received last April. Besides that, they do not accept liquid-based smears from GPs, a method used by most GPs and predominantly across Europe.

Cork University Hospital only accepts smears taken using wooden spatulas, with the sample being placed on a slide manually by the GP. As a result of the backlog of work in CUH, the staff are under so much pressure that they have not yet adopted technology to analyse liquid-based smears.

Cervical cytology is a labour-intensive job. It involves highly-trained cytologists analysing a smear through a microscope for a considerable length of time. Even if the CUH lab was equipped to do liquid smear tests, it just could not double its output overnight if all the GPs now using the RCSI had to be accommodated.

The GPs must send their patients' smears to an accredited lab which can process liquid-based smears and report on them within three months at most. They are reluctant to return to the old method of taking smears using wooden spatulas as the liquid-based method is accepted as being superior. Besides that, they are not prepared to wait seven months for the result of a smear test as this could be fatal for the patient.

The vast majority of GP smears are carried out on GMS patients. The GPs do not get paid for this work, not even for the special delivery postage. The concern of the GPs is not driven by money, but it is rather a genuine concern for the patients' health. Early diagnosis and medical intervention in many cases is the difference between the life and death of a woman with cervical cancer. Deaths are preventable and it would be a tragedy if GPs had to stop doing smear tests because they had no place to send them for analysis.

I call on the Minister, through the Minister of State, to make direct contact with Professor Brendan Drumm of the Health Service Executive to request him to make immediate provision so that Kerry GPs can have access to a modern accredited lab which can accept liquid-based smears. I am sure the Minister of State will accept that the women of Kerry, and those living in other parts of the country who depend on the RCSI unit at Beaumont Hospital, deserve this service at least.

I am taking this Adjournment debate on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. The laboratory of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland at Beaumont Hospital has decided not to continue with the testing of cervical smears referred by general practitioners in the southern and north-eastern areas. Approximately 60 practices are affected.

This laboratory is private and contracted by the HSE to conduct liquid-based testing on cervical smears sent in by general practitioners. On 9 November 2006, the HSE wrote to general practitioners in Kerry affected by the decision asking them to refer cervical smears to Cork University Hospital instead of to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. General practitioners were asked to implement this change with immediate effect. These are transitional arrangements necessary to ensure that general practitioners are aware of the designated laboratories for the testing of cervical smears taken at their practices.

The director of the Irish cervical screening programme is to meet representatives of Cork University Hospital again next week. The aim of the meeting is to deal with any issues the hospital may have in covering the additional workload involved. The objective of the HSE is to improve on an ongoing basis the turnaround time for receipt of cervical test results. The programme has provided training to laboratory staff at Cork University Hospital to conduct liquid-based testing. This test is more costly than conventional testing, is more accurate and tests can be conducted more quickly. It is more efficient as it results in fewer repeat smears. This means that significantly fewer women will be asked to have a repeat test.

The executive is concerned about the unacceptable turnaround time for conventional smears in the southern area. It has decided to refer smears to two private laboratories, one of which is in the United Kingdom. Contract approval was signed earlier this week following a competitive tendering process. Arrangements are now being made to refer samples to the two laboratories. The HSE expects to have test results available commencing next month.

The issue raised by the Deputy is also relevant to cervical screening generally. The Minister wishes to see the Irish cervical screening programme rolled out nationally as soon as possible, based on an affordable model and in line with international best practice. Significant preparatory work is well under way involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register. An additional €1.3 million was made available to the HSE in 2006 to prepare for the roll out.

The Minister will shortly establish a national cancer screening service to amalgamate BreastCheck and the ICSP, to deliver both programmes on a national basis. This will maximise the expertise in both programmes, ensure improved efficiency and develop a single governance model for cancer screening. The plan is to have cervical screening managed as a national call-recall programme via effective governance structures that provide overall leadership and direction, in terms of quality assurance, accountability and value for money. All elements of the programme, call-recall, smear taking, laboratories and treatment services must be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated service.

The Minister will request the service to ensure that the laboratory elements will be delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner that ensures high quality and good turnaround time for results.

Job Losses.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing Deputy Finneran and I to raise the matter of the proposed closure by Glanbia of its canning facility at Rooskey, County Roscommon. The House will be aware that the Rooskey plant was destroyed by fire some years ago and the only part of the premises that avoided the fire was the cannery which continued to operate until the recent proposal by Glanbia to close it.

This is a completely retrograde step in view of the fact that this facility had an offer for a management buy-out some six months ago but which has been rejected by the board of Glanbia. This management buy-out would have managed to save the jobs of the 85 people who are employed there.

I ask the Minister of State to ask Glanbia to reconsider the position with regard to the proposed closure and to re-examine the possibility of the management buy-out. I hope that in doing so Glanbia would realise that it has now benefited to the tune of €30 million as a result of the insurance claim it received in respect of the fire at the plant. This money has not been invested in the Rooskey community or in the community served by the plant prior to the fire. There is an onus on Glanbia to ensure that it considers the management buy-out and reconsider it or else decide to ask Enterprise Ireland to take over the business and see what can be done to market the site and allow the jobs in Rooskey to be retained.

I join with my colleague, Deputy Ellis, in raising this matter on the Adjournment.

I refer to the loss of the remaining 85 jobs and the disgraceful treatment handed down to the village of Rooskey and its people by the Glanbia company which has already pocketed some €30 million of an insurance claim following a fire in the factory in 2002, with the loss of more than 400 jobs. The ultimate insult is the refusal of a management buy-out which would have protected the remaining 85 jobs.

This is a disgrace and a severe blow to the area, to the people of Roscommon and south Leitrim. I am outraged that the management of the canning facility at Rooskey and the Glanbia company have decided to close the facility in the new year, despite a recent attempt at a buy-out which has the support of a Dutch family company and which would have provided an outlet for the products in Europe. A buy-out was lined up and support was established for the facility. I do not understand how they could do this to the people of Roscommon and Leitrim considering the job losses they have already experienced at the facility.

I call on the Government to put pressure on Glanbia to reopen the discussions between the buy-out company and Glanbia. I ask that all the State agencies become involved to ensure that this facility which is the last canning facility in the country, is maintained. If they are not prepared to entertain this on their own site, I ask that they stay in business or allow the business to continue until the middle of 2007 so that the county manager of County Roscommon, with the State agencies, can provide an alternative site to save these jobs and perhaps provide increased jobs in that area. Canning is not an industry that we will ever see in Ireland again if this facility in Rooskey is closed down. Glanbia owes more to the people of County Roscommon and County Leitrim than it is currently providing. The Government should put strong pressure on the company. My colleague and I are speaking here on behalf of the people of the area. We are expressing the widely held view in that area that this company has walked away and pocketed a significant sum of money without giving any positive response to the local people. It has a chance to do so now and my colleague and I are calling for that to be done.

I thank the Deputies for raising these matters.

While responsibility for the food sector rests with the Minister for Agriculture and Food, I was very disappointed to hear about the situation at the company in question. I am very conscious of the effects that the job losses will have on the workers concerned and their families, as well as on the local community in the surrounding area. This is very disturbing news for the workers employed in this meat canning plant who now face losing their jobs. I wish to assure all those concerned that the State agencies under the remit of my Department will provide every support they can. The priority will be to secure alternative employment for those involved at the earliest opportunity. The role of FÁS, the industrial training agency, will be of particular importance in providing support and assistance to the workers facing redundancy.

The Glanbia plant in Rooskey, County Roscommon, was established in 1972 when a canning plant was set up alongside a pork slaughtering plant. As a result of a fire at the plant in May 2002, the boning and slaughtering activities were terminated. Consistent with the sectoral strategy for pork at that time, Glanbia rationalised its slaughtering operations and consolidated that activity into two sites, Roscrea and Edenderry. This consolidation of facilities was driven by a need to achieve international competitiveness in the pork sector where over 50% of the output of the pork division of Glanbia is exported.

The cannery operation survived on the Rooskey site and employed 85 people. While exports to third countries were a big part of the business in the early 1990s, the current business is involved primarily in exporting to the UK as well as supplying the domestic market. Products include a range of canned products such as hams, corned beef, pies and ready-made meals.

The performance of this business declined in 2005, when a long-standing contract to supply canned pork products was lost. This resulted in the loss of 1,500 tonnes of sales volume per week, forcing the company to put most of the work force on a three-day week. The overall canned meat market is in decline as a result of changing consumer preferences and a greater emphasis on fresh and chilled products. In recognising the declining market segment for canned meat products, Enterprise Ireland has been working with Glanbia Rooskey to stimulate new product development to replace products in decline. Over the past two years, a significant amount of effort was put in to replace that business and Enterprise Ireland, under its research and development grant aid scheme supported a number of potential new product development projects. Regrettably, there was no positive outcome from these initiatives.

This year, Glanbia undertook a strategic review of its activities at the Rooskey plant. During the review process, an approach was made by two of the existing management team who were interested in purchasing the business. While Enterprise Ireland held discussions with the potential new owners and actively encouraged Glanbia to do business if possible, I am informed that the interested parties were unable to develop a viable business plan that could show any growth opportunities for the cannery market. As a result, Glanbia was not prepared to proceed with the management buy-out. Enterprise Ireland understands that Glanbia feels that it has exhausted all possibilities regarding a management buy-out and, as a result, it announced the closure of the Rooskey plant on 14 November 2006, with the loss of 85 jobs.

There are currently ten IDA Ireland-supported companies in County Roscommon employing approximately 900 people. Enterprise Ireland has 78 client companies in the county, employing approximately 1,950 people. Under the Government's decentralisation programme, the Land Registry part of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will be relocating to Roscommon. This will see 230 jobs moving to the town.

The most recent live register figures for County Roscommon show a figure of 1,224 for October 2006, down from 1,264 in the previous month. The industrial development agencies will be making every effort to secure new investment and job opportunities in Roscommon. There are already a number of important groups and committees working to develop the business infrastructure in County Roscommon. These include the board and economic group of Roscommon County Development Board and the board and evaluation committee of Roscommon County Enterprise Board. The efforts of the development agencies, together with local interests, will be very important in the future and I am confident they will continue to bring sustainable employment to the area. I will take account of the points raised by Deputies Ellis and Finneran and will raise them with the Minister, Deputy Martin.

Terrorism Threat.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for affording me the opportunity to raise this important subject. Comments allegedly made by Omar Bakri Muhammad, a Muslim cleric, activist and publisher, were yesterday put into the public domain by the BBC. In an on-line debate, Muhammad was asked if Dublin Airport should be a target for a terrorist attack as American troops transited through the facility on the way to Iraq. He responded by saying, "Hit the target and hit it very hard".

It is symptomatic of the lack of priority given to the threat of international terrorism by the Government that the people have learned of this statement through the media channels of another European state. Our intelligence services receive a tiny amount of funding and are completely under-equipped in terms of monitoring even a fraction of the terrorism-related activity on the Internet. It is beyond time for the Government to realise that, in certain quarters, Ireland is viewed as a reasonable target for terrorist attack. As a matter of priority, we now need to put in place the structures to cope with this threat effectively, both in terms of protecting those living in the State from terrorism and ensuring that Ireland cannot be used as a staging post for an attack on another country.

While the invasion of Iraq is often quoted as justification for terrorism, we should remember that the 11 September 2001 attacks occurred before this military action took place. It is clear that a hard-line extremist element has developed which will use every tool at its disposal to radicalise predominately young men to carry out terrorist atrocities. This was, for example, the case with the London bombings in July 2005.

I do not believe that the Government has treated threats of Islamic terrorism with the importance they deserve. We cannot wait until there is an attack on Irish soil or, more likely, that Ireland is used as a base for an attack on neighbouring countries before action is taken. The Government pays scant regard to the importance of emergency planning. I have frequently called for the work of the task force on emergency planning to be underpinned through legislation and for the creation of a single emergency planning body which would report to the Taoiseach. This is in line with a recommendation from the emergency planning society made to Government in 2003, yet this recommendation has never been acted on.

Ireland's emergency response is split between a large number of Departments, State agencies and sub-groups. Emergency incidents have been simulated but we have no real information about these exercises or their findings. Even basic and common sense steps to improve security at our airports have not been progressed. Irish airports lack sniffer dogs to check for explosives. There is no visible, armed presence at our airports to act as a deterrent and to be in place to respond quickly in an emergency. Additionally, Ireland has no air marshal training programme. Given all this, it is not surprising that a survey conducted earlier this year found that 70% of the population did not believe Ireland was well-prepared to cope with a serious emergency.

This year, attacks which would have killed thousands of people engaged in transatlantic travel, including Irish citizens among their number, were foiled. However, even with these developments, the Government seems not to have realised that the tactics of international terrorists have changed. The focus now is on the body count and on attacks which maximise the loss of civilian life and strike terror into the population. The civilians in question — their nationality, political allegiance or religion — are of little importance. Look, for example, at those killed in London in July 2005. The dead represented every section of the multicultural society that exists in that city — people of all colours, religions and ethnic backgrounds.

Omar Bakri Muhammad highlighted the practice of targeting people indiscriminately when he said: "We don't make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents." The protection of civilians is the highest responsibility that any Government can hold. It is high time this responsibility is taken seriously. We can do this by establishing a single body, as they have in Britain, responsible for national emergency planning. This body would be under the control of the Taoiseach. We must also invest resources in our intelligence services. Currently, €800,000 is allocated to the intelligence services while we spend €3 million on the removal of graffiti. We must establish an intelligence body comprising all those that have something to bring to it. This would include the Garda, the military and the Customs and Excise service. I ask the Minister to examine the possibility of establishing such a body.

I am replying on behalf of the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea. I thank Deputy Timmins for raising this matter.

In the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001, the Government moved quickly and decisively to respond to the international security position. Government structures were put in place to support emergency planning in Ireland and to improve co-ordination across the various existing national emergency plans. The Government task force on emergency planning was established in 2001 and is the top-level structure which gives policy and direction and co-ordinates and oversees the emergency planning activities of all Departments and public authorities. It promotes the best possible use of resources and compatibility across different planning requirements.

The Government task force on emergency planning is chaired by the Minister for Defence. It includes Ministers, senior departmental officials, senior officers of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, and officials of other key public authorities which have a lead or support role in Government emergency planning. There have been 49 meetings of the task force to date. Each meeting of the Government task force has, as a standing agenda item, an assessment of the current security threat, which is provided by the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces. The current advice available suggests that the terrorist threat to Ireland is low. The figures supplied by Deputy Timmins are not accurate. They do not take account of the considerable salaries and overheads involved in engaging intelligence and security service personnel in the Garda and the Defence Forces.

The State's response to any security alert is primarily a matter for the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I can confirm that the Garda Síochána, acting as our national security service, maintains an up-to-date assessment of the national threat to the State from international terrorist groups through analysis gathered from domestic and international sources. These threat assessments are furnished to the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and to the Government at regular intervals. I can also confirm that the Garda Síochána has developed excellent lines of communication and co-operation with police forces and security services in the European Union and further afield. This ongoing sharing of intelligence enables a rapid operational response to be put in place where circumstances so warrant.

One of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power, meaning in practice to assist the Garda Síochána when requested. The various components of the Defence Forces are active in this regard, providing such assistance as is appropriate in specific circumstances. Emergency plans and procedures are updated as necessary. Such additional equipment as is needed is acquired on the basis of identified priorities. Training and preparation for such events is also provided for in the Defence Forces annual training plan.

The most important defence against any attack is, of course, vigilance, detection and prevention by the security forces. All the necessary resources of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces are deployed to this end. The total expended on military intelligence is not separately compiled, and it is not considered appropriate to disclose such information.

The European Union's counter-terrorism efforts are centred around implementation of the EU strategy and action plan on counter-terrorism, which also includes a strategy and action plan on radicalisation and recruitment in respect of extremist groups. Ireland, at both ministerial and official level, including in particular the Garda Síochána acting as our national security service, actively contributes to the implementation of these strategies and plans.

The Minister for Defence, as chairman of the Government task force on emergency planning, presents an annual report to the Government on emergency planning issues. This report provides a summary of the main emergency planning issues that have arisen during the year and provides an analysis of each Department's progress across a range of emergency planning areas.

The office of emergency planning was established following a Government decision in October 2001 as a joint civil-military office within the Department of Defence. The office provides a key support role to the Government task force on emergency planning. It is responsible for the co-ordination and oversight of emergency planning. The office works with Departments and other key public authorities to ensure the best possible use of resources and compatibility across different emergency planning requirements and to oversee Government emergency planning in general.

In 2006, as part of its oversight role, the office of emergency planning met with 14 Government Departments. Each of these Departments has assured the office that it is addressing its emergency planning responsibilities and has the appropriate plans and response arrangements in place to address large-scale emergencies. At all times the lead responsibility for specific emergency planning functions remains with the relevant Government Departments. When an emergency occurs, the appropriate emergency plan is set into operation with the relevant Department taking the lead in its implementation. The approach continues to be that such responses must be characterised by effective management of all aspects of emergency planning and by a high level of public confidence in all the response arrangements. The Minister for Defence is satisfied that the current legislative and funding arrangements are adequate to meet our emergency planning needs. However, the position is being kept under constant review.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.35 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 16 November 2006.