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 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 9 to 39, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 40 to 46, inclusive, answered orally.

School Staffing.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

47 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if extra language support teachers will be appointed to Tallaght schools in 2007; her views on the demand in that regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40123/06]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

152 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to meet the needs of schools in the Tallaght area that have a large number of non-English speaking pupils enrolled; her views on the particular challenges for schools in that regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40124/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 152 together.

In order to ensure that children whose first language is not English can succeed at school, my Department gives additional support to their schools which can take the form of financial assistance, additional teaching posts or portions of teacher posts.

The level of extra financial or teaching support provided to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible non-English speaking students enrolled.

Recent years have seen a significant rise in the number of language support posts being provided by my Department. In the current school year there are more than 1,100 such teachers in our schools, at a cost of €67 million. This compares with approximately 820 language support teachers last year and just 260 in the 2001/02 school year. Hence there has been more than a four-fold increase in language support posts over the past few years.

In addition to the full-time posts approved, grants towards the cost of employing part-time teachers are paid to primary schools with between 3 and 13 eligible non-national pupils. In the 2005/06 school year, 409 schools sought grant aid under this provision.

Between extra language support posts and grant aid, the level of support provided to schools to meet the needs of children whose first language is not English has increased dramatically in recent years. Nonetheless I am very conscious of the pressures on schools — such as those in Tallaght that the Deputy has brought to my attention — that have large numbers of non-English speaking children enrolled. I am determined to provide greater support for these schools.

To that end, provision has been made in the 2007 Estimates for an extra 200 language support teachers in 2007. A further 350 posts will be provided under the Towards 2016 partnership agreement between 2008 and 2009. These extra posts will allow the current cap of 2 teachers per school to be reformed.

While details as to the precise number of posts to be allocated at both levels in the current school year and the schools to which the posts will be allocated have yet to be finalised I can assure the Deputy that I will be anxious to ensure that the additional resources are properly targeted at those areas where they are most needed. A comprehensive strategy is currently being finalised which will ensure that the extra investment in this area is being used to the best effect, and that it is underpinned by the right support and training for teachers.

School Curriculum.

Shane McEntee

Question:

48 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of post-primary schools offering the full complement of science subjects to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40220/06]

The latest figures available to my Department show that in the 2005/06 school year the vast majority of schools were offering biology while a large proportion of schools offered the other science subjects.

The precise numbers are as follows:

691 schools offered biology, 554 offered physics, 550 offered chemistry, 193 offered Applied Mathematics, and 69 offered the joint Physics & Chemistry course.

As the Deputy will be aware, this Government has prioritised improvements in science education at all levels — from primary school science to advanced fourth level research.

Progress has been made in a wide range of areas in recent years:

A new science curriculum has been introduced at primary level supported by a resource grant in December 2004 of €1,000 per school plus €10 per pupil;

A revised and much more practically-focused syllabus in Junior Certificate Science was introduced in 2003 and examined for the first time in June 2006, its introduction was supported by €16 million in grants to schools;

Revised syllabi in Leaving Certificate Physics, Chemistry and Biology have also been introduced in the last five years and supported by comprehensive in-service programmes for teachers; and

Additional equipment grants have been provided to schools, while laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing school building programme.

The Government has also provided some €4 million for the Discover Science and Engineering Awareness Programme to ensure a co-ordinated approach to promoting interest in science. It is engaged in a range of innovative activities to not only improve interest in science among school children and the general public, but also to encourage young people to see science as a viable career option.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation sets out a range of measures to further strengthen science teaching and learning and improve the uptake of senior cycle Physics and Chemistry. These include ensuring that the project based hands-on investigative approach now in place at junior cycle is extended to senior cycle, that the appropriate type of assessment is used and that there is an emphasis on the inter-disciplinary nature of science in society.

Other aspects of the Plan include:

reviewing the implementation of the primary science curriculum to ensure its effectiveness in stimulating interest and awareness in science at a very young age;

strengthening teacher training in this area;

reforming maths and Leaving Certificate Physics and Chemistry curricula;

promotion of science initiatives in Transition Year; and

the provision of information and brochures on science opportunities and careers, linking effectively with school guidance services.

Taken together, the comprehensive set of measures provided for in the SSTI will build on the improvements made in recent years and ensure even greater support for science education.

John Deasy

Question:

49 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will allocate laboratory technicians to schools to support the teaching of science at second level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40193/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, significant improvements have been made in science education at second level in recent years.

A revised and much more practically-focused syllabus in Junior Certificate Science was introduced in 2003 and examined for the first time in June 2006, its introduction was supported by €16 million in grants to schools;

Revised syllabi in Leaving Certificate Physics, Chemistry and Biology have also been introduced in the last five years and supported by comprehensive in-service programmes for teachers; and

Additional equipment grants have been provided to schools, while laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing school building programme.

The Government has also provided some €4 million for the Discover Science and Engineering Awareness Programme to ensure a co-ordinated approach to promoting interest in science. It is engaged in a range of innovative activities to not only improve interest in science among school children and the general public, but also to encourage young people to see science as a viable career option.

Increased emphasis on science at second level has of course been supported by the introduction of a new science curriculum for primary schools. This aims at stimulating interest and awareness in science at a very young age and taps into children's natural fascination with the world around them.

The Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation sets out a range of measures to further strengthen science teaching and learning and improve the uptake of senior cycle Physics and Chemistry. These include ensuring that the project based hands-on investigative approach now in place at junior cycle is extended to senior cycle, that the appropriate type of assessment is used and that there is an emphasis on the inter-disciplinary nature of science in society.

Other aspects of the Plan include:

reviewing the implementation of the primary science curriculum;

strengthening teacher training in this area;

reforming the Maths and Leaving Certificate Physics and Chemistry curricula; and

the provision of information and brochures on science opportunities and careers, linking effectively with school guidance services.

Taken together, the comprehensive set of measures provided for in the SSTI will build on the improvements made in recent years and ensure even greater support for science education.

As I have explained on previous occasions, I am not convinced of the value of providing laboratory assistants for schools. As the Deputy will be aware, lab assistants have not been a universal feature of support for second level science teaching in other countries. There is no doubt that provision of assistants in this area would lead to demands for similar assistance across other areas of the curriculum where there is a strong practical component. So as I have said, I remain to be convinced of the necessity for them. Nonetheless, I will keep the position under review.

Site Acquisitions.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

50 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will direct the building unit of her Department, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, to change the policy of reserving land for educational purposes to a policy of purchasing land for educational purposes in areas of rapid development, in order that sites for schools can be bought at reasonable prices and in time to provide places for children in these areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40165/06]

I should explain for the benefit of the House that traditionally, responsibility for acquiring school sites rested with patron bodies. In 1999 the then Minister took the decision that the Department would purchase sites for new schools where patron bodies were unable or unwilling for whatever reason to do so.

However, the option remains for a Patron Body to purchase a school site if it wishes to have ownership of the property.

The difficulties attaching to site acquisition, regardless of who the purchaser is, or when the site is being bought, cannot be underestimated even where sites are reserved. The willingness of a land owner to actually sell the land is the first critical issue — cost is the other. The House will appreciate that the Department is obliged at all times to achieve value for taxpayers' money. Nonetheless, I want to assure the House that we are moving ahead to acquire urgently needed sites.

In terms of the investment being made available by this Government for site acquisition as part of the Schools Building and Modernisation Programme, I am sure the Deputy will be pleased to know that funding for school buildings has increased dramatically in recent years. We are providing €500 million for the building programme this year, compared with just over €92 million in 1997.

While investment has increased five-fold, we are naturally still concerned to make the right decisions regarding what expenditure should be prioritised for the current year. In this context, substantial expenditure is of course required to meet the building costs of projects that have already been undertaken or are needed immediately. Within the building programme, the highest priority is given to accommodation needed to meet extra demand in rapidly developing areas.

Important changes have been made in recent years to speed up the time in which projects can be completed. These include innovations in the delivery of school buildings such as Generic Repeat Designs and the use of the Design and Build model. In recent years, the Department has also adopted a policy of devolving much greater authority to local school management boards to manage and deliver smaller building projects, which frees up Department staff to concentrate on the larger scale projects.

A number of sources of information are used to plan for the correct level of school accommodation. One of the most important sources is the local authority area development planning process. Apart from this, a substantial amount of the time and resources are dedicated to on-going contacts with the local authorities, especially in Dublin and within the Dublin Commuter belt, to monitor housing development and to establish the timescale for the delivery of extra school accommodation. I am anxious for local authorities to use both the powers that they have through the planning process and the resources at their disposal to assist my Department in meeting the demand for schools in their areas.

For example, by zoning areas as Strategic Development Zones (SDZ), local authorities can ensure that sites are reserved for schools and also that the schools must be developed in line with the housing and other developments. I would like to see more local authorities use the SDZ option for major developments.

Another way in which local authorities can work with my Department is in the development of school provision in tandem with the development of community facilities. This enhanced co-operation has the effect of minimising the Department's land requirements and thus reducing site costs while at the same time providing local communities with new schools with enhanced facilities. This model will be used in Fingal to deliver approximately 20 schools in the coming years. The Council will acquire the sites in return for which the design of the schools will be varied to meet community needs.

The range of enhanced combination facilities can include large sports halls, stage and dressing rooms, community meeting rooms, all-weather pitches and playgrounds. These additional facilities, which will be over and above the Department's standard specifications for schools, will be available not only to the school during normal school hours but also to the local community in the evenings, at weekends and during school holidays. Again, I would like to see this approach replicated throughout the country.

These examples serve to illustrate both the extent of the work being carried out with local authorities and the importance which the Department attaches to relationships with them. I have made my views with regard to the need for more local authorities to play a proactive role in relation to school sites known to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. Members of this House can of course also assist this goal at local level by encouraging their representatives on local authorities to ensure that their Council does all they can to assist in the provision of schools in their area.

School Curriculum.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

51 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of single sex girls schools offering the subject music to both junior and leaving certificate respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40186/06]

Simon Coveney

Question:

64 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of single sex boys schools offering the subject music to both junior and leaving certificate respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40185/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 64 together.

The latest information available to my Department on the number of schools offering music relates to the 2005/06 school year. Some 501 second-level schools offered music in junior cycle in 2005/06. Of these, 67 are single sex boys schools, 148 are single-sex girls schools, and 286 are mixed-sex schools. Some 449 second-level schools offered music in senior cycle in 2005/06. Of these, 52 are single sex boys schools, 141 are single-sex girls schools, and 256 are mixed-sex schools.

The Deputy will be aware that the decision as to which subjects to offer is made at the level of the individual school, subject to compliance with my Department's regulations concerning provision of the core curriculum. Demand will of course depend on the number of students that want to take other subject options.

In relation to take-up at school level, I can inform the Deputy that nearly 10,000 students sat the Junior Cert Music exam in 2006, while nearly 5,000 students sat Leaving Cert Music.

The Leaving Certificate syllabus in Music was revised for first examination in 1999. To ensure the satisfactory implementation of this syllabus, a comprehensive two-year programme of in-career development for teachers of Music was put in place. Further courses for teachers are provided on an ongoing basis. The assessment structure allows students to specialise in the component of the course best suited to their interests and ability. The broad range of performance options available to students has increased accessibility to the subject and allows for students of diverse music backgrounds to participate in the subject.

I see an important role for music as part of a broad curriculum that enables all students to develop to their full potential and realise their own individual talents. Of course, many students who do not take music as an examination subject nonetheless enjoy taking part in school musicals or singing in the school choir. Others will enjoy music provision through schools of music operated by the VECs which are allocated teaching hours by my Department.

I assure the Deputy of the Government's commitment to promoting participation in music for our young people.

Educational Disadvantage.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

52 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of agencies funded by her Department working in the area of educational disadvantage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40187/06]

A key focus of the Government's education policy is to prioritise investment in favour of those most at risk and to optimise access, participation and outcomes at every level of the system for disadvantaged groups.

The wide variety of measures in place for tackling educational disadvantage and social exclusion reflect these concerns. These measures range from pre-school interventions, supports for tackling children's literacy problems, reduced pupil-teacher ratios, increased capitation grants and measures to tackle early school leaving and strengthen ties between the school, the family and the community. In addition, there are interventions in support of youth to facilitate access to third-level and to provide "second chance education" for young people and adults.

The total provision for educational inclusion programmes in the 2007 Abridged Estimates is nearly €730 million across all levels of education. This represents an increase of nearly €95 million on the comparable 2006 figure. The 2007 provision includes additional funding for the implementation of measures under the DEIS action plan at pre-school, primary and second-level, additional funding for further education programmes and an increase in provision for third level student support schemes including the full year cost of the 22% increase in the top-up grant.

My focus in addressing educational disadvantage is to concentrate resources on front-line services and supports for those most in need. In this respect, the agencies working in the education sector have a key role in promoting equality of access, participation and progression.

A broad range of agencies would have a role in that respect from the early education sector right through primary and second level to further and higher education and the youth sector. These include the following:

The Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education;

FETAC;

HETAC;

The HEA; The National Centre for Guidance in Education;

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment;

The National Council for Special Education;

NEPS;

The National Educational Welfare Board;

The National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education;

The NQAI; and

The Vocational Education Committees.

In addition, my Department also funds a range of support services, NGOs and other organisations working in the area of educational disadvantage. All these agencies have a vital role to play in the Government's multi-faceted strategy to tackle socio-economic disadvantage at every level of our education system.

Psychological Service.

Tom Hayes

Question:

53 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of secondary schools covered by the services offered by the National Educational Psychological Service; the target she has set with regard to improving this number over the coming six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40215/06]

John Perry

Question:

54 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools covered by the services offered by the National Educational Psychological Service; the target she has set with regard to improving this number over the coming six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40214/06]

John Deasy

Question:

80 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools that do not have access to the National Educational Psychological Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40216/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 54, 80 together.

All primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the NEPS or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are available on my Department's website.

Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly.

Details of this process and the conditions that apply to the scheme are available on my Department's Website. The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance. In the 10 months to the end of October 2006, nearly €1.2 million was spent on in region of 3,500 SCPA assessments.

The NEPS service is locally based and regionally organised with a small national Head Office. Currently, the NEPS service is now available to approximately 1,604 primary schools (representing approximately 60% of pupils) and approximately 586 post-primary schools (representing 78% of students). This number includes 46 schools in the City and County of Dublin Vocational Schemes, which have their own psychological service.

In common with many other psychological services, NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention in consultation with their assigned NEPS psychologist. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment. This system allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

The introduction of the General Allocation Model for primary schools last year, supported by the provision of over 600 extra resource teachers, means that children with high incidence special needs now longer have to wait for an individual assessment before they can get access to extra support.

Since the establishment of NEPS, the number of psychologists in the service has increased from 43 to 127 at present (including 4 psychologists currently seconded to the National Behavioural Support Service). In the last recruitment round, regional panels were used to allow my Department give greater priority in filling vacancies to areas with the greatest need.

In addition to the 127 psychologists currently in NEPS, a further 6 are in the process of being recruited. On top of this, the 17% increase in funding for the service provided in the 2007 Estimates, will allow some further expansion in the number of psychologists next year. The actual number of extra staff will be determined shortly.

To conclude, since this Government established NEPS, we have trebled the number of psychologists in the service. We have also funded in the region of 3,500 private assessments so far this year. We are committed to expanding the coverage of the service even further, are recruiting extra staff at present and plan to hire more in 2007.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Denis Naughten

Question:

55 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she is taking to reduce class sizes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39915/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, there are now no fewer than 4,000 extra primary teachers, compared with 2002. Furthermore, there are nearly 7,000 more primary teachers than there were in 1997.

The average class size in our primary schools is now 24. With the unprecedented increases in support staff, there is now one teacher for every 17 primary school children — down from one for 22. Children who need extra help are getting more support than ever before. I am sure the Deputy will be pleased to know that in the 05/06 school year, the average class size in Roscommon was just under 21 — significantly below the national average.

I am sure the Deputy will also be happy to hear that the number of children in large classes nationally has been significantly reduced. When this Government first came into office, there were more than 52,000 children in classes of 35 and over — five times the number who there were in the last school year. There were also more than 1,900 children in classes of 40 and over — compared to just over 200 in 05/06.

While I appreciate the need to make further progress in reducing class size, it should be acknowledged just how much has been achieved.

In recent years, priority has rightly been given to providing extra support for children with special needs, those from disadvantaged areas and those who need help with their English.

Special education provision in particular has undergone a level of expansion the extent of which nobody could have predicted a few years ago — and this was only right. If we had put all 4,000 of the teachers hired since 2002 into classroom teaching, our average class size would be a lot smaller than it is now, but we would have done a great disservice to those children who need extra help the most. I am sure the Deputy would accept that we have taken the right approach.

Now that children with special needs are finally getting the support they deserve, we are providing extra teachers this year and next specifically to reduce class sizes, through a reduction in the mainstream staffing schedule.

This has meant that, whereas all primary schools were staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the 05/06 school year, in the current school year there is a general rule of at least one teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next year, we are committed to hiring even more extra teachers in order to reduce this to a general rule of at least one teacher for every 27 children.

We also acted this year to specifically address the needs of growing schools by making it easier to qualify for a developing school post. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned for the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06. This change specifically addressed the needs of schools which are seeing large increases in their enrolments year on year.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled but we are determined to go even further and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes.

I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Educational Disadvantage.

Michael Noonan

Question:

56 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools to receive funding under the DEIS scheme; when such funding will come on stream; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40206/06]

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

DEIS is designed to ensure that the schools serving the most disadvantaged communities benefit from the maximum level of support available. Schools which have not qualified for inclusion in DEIS, and which are receiving additional resources under pre-existing schemes for addressing disadvantage, can be assured that they will continue to get support to enable them to maintain services for their disadvantaged pupils.

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

Grants amounting to approximately €7.7 million due to the 670 Primary schools which are participating in the DEIS Initiative were lodged to their schools' bank accounts on 17 November 2006. This is in addition to payments totalling €1 million which issued to those schools in June 2006.

In respect of the 203 Post Primary schools participating in the initiative and 80 Post Primary Schools receiving grants under pre-existing schemes, approximately €1.5 million will have been paid by the end of the current financial year of a total allocation in the order of €4.7 million. The balance of this allocation will be paid in the course of the 2006/2007 school year. Also on 17 November 2006, approximately another 1,900 primary schools received some €4.1 million of grant assistance to assist them with their respective levels of dispersed disadvantage.

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

Psychological Service.

David Stanton

Question:

57 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if an evaluation or review of the National Educational Psychological Service has been undertaken or is planned; if so the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40178/06]

Ongoing evaluation is seen as an intrinsic aspect of a quality schools' psychological service. Within NEPS, the strategy for evaluation includes a number of elements including self-review by psychologists of their work using a range of instruments.

Business Planning process applies to NEPS as to all areas of the Department and at individual level the Performance Management and Development System is also embedded within the management practices of NEPS. This Government has prioritised the development of a high quality psychological service.

Since the establishment of NEPS, the number of psychologists in the service has increased from 43 to 127 at present (including 4 psychologists currently seconded to the National Behavioural Support Service). In the last recruitment round, regional panels were used to allow my Department give greater priority in filling vacancies to areas with the greatest need.

In addition to the 127 psychologists currently in NEPS, a further 6 are in the process of being recruited. On top of this, the 17% increase in funding for the service provided in the 2007 Estimates will allow some further expansion in the number of psychologists next year.

Given the very significant investment being provided for NEPS and the Government's plans to extend the service in 2007, we are naturally anxious to ensure that the service is working well.

A significant independent client/customer survey evaluation is planned for 2007, the results of which it is anticipated will be available next Autumn. The purpose of the school survey is to assess the attitude of school authorities to the service provided by NEPS. The principal variables to be assessed will include access to the service, partnership with service users and service delivery. Feedback form this survey will inform and enhance future service delivery.

Special Educational Needs.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

58 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to an application by a group (details supplied) for her Department to establish a dedicated school in County Mayo to help to create a future for children in Mayo with autistic spectrum disorders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40109/06]

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

175 Special Classes for children with autism, attached to special and mainstream schools, 6 of which are located in the Mayo area;

5 special Classes for children with Asperger's Syndrome;

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

12 Stand Alone facilities providing an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) specific methodology on a pilot basis; and

Approval has also been given for the establishment of a further two such facilities.

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

An application was recently received from the group in question to participate in the pilot scheme which has facilitated the establishment of the ABA-specific autism units nationwide. My officials requested that the names and the psychological assessments of the children proposing to attend the centre should be forwarded to the Department in order to progress the application further. My Department is currently awaiting this information.

Multi-Denominational Schools.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

59 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that, of the 23 new schools established under the patronage of Educate Together since 2000, only one has a permanent building; if she will address this problem for the children and staff of these schools; if she will also address for the future the issue of new schools having to open and spend many years in unsuitable temporary accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40163/06]

School building projects are selected for inclusion in the School Building and Modernisation Programme on the basis of priority of need using published criteria.

A significant number of new multi-denominational schools are established in rapidly developing areas. All infrastructural projects in these areas, regardless of ethos, are assigned a band 1 priority status under the criteria.

Innovations in the delivery of school buildings such as Generic Repeat Designs and the use of the Design and Build model ensure that new school buildings are being delivered in these areas in the fastest time-frame possible.

This Government is delivering on its commitment to provide modern facilities in schools and has progressively increased funding in recent years with an aggregate total of over €2 billion alone between 2000 and 2005 and a commitment to invest a further €3b up to 2010. This is the largest investment programme in the history of the State.

The Department has never underestimated the scale of the task and the level of capital funding and other resources required to both rectify decades of under investment in school infrastructure and to meet newly emerging needs in the face of a huge expansion in our population base and the rapid expansion in teacher numbers. It has no desire to see any school in less than adequate accommodation and it will continue to tackle this issue in a structured and targeted fashion.

Physical Education Facilities.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

60 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will reintroduce the grant scheme for both primary and secondary schools to provide sports and physical equipment to reduce dependency on funding from commercial food sources. [39913/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that earlier this month I announced a special €6.5m package for primary schools to renew PE equipment.

This special PE funding package of €6.5 million was issued last week to all 3,200 primary schools. Under the package, every school received €2,000 towards the cost of replacing and upgrading PE equipment in their school.

This grant was issued, as a once-off measure, and will mean that schools can replace older equipment such as goalposts, PE mats, benches etc. The modern equipment which can be purchased will help facilitate PE and sporting activities in schools, which everyone recognises is a very important aspect of school life.

This funding package is being made as part of this Government's continued commitment to modernise facilities in schools throughout the country. I expect to announce a PE equipment grant for post-primary schools in the coming months.

In addition, since 2000 my Department has provided in excess of €5.5m in grant-aid to all primary schools to facilitate the provision of coaching or mentoring in connection with physical education or to purchase resource materials associated with the provision of physical education. The question of restoring this grant will be kept under review as part of the normal Estimates process in the coming years.

I would, however, point out that schools may use their general capitation funding to support the implementation of curricula including Physical Education. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant at primary level has been increased from €57.14 per pupil to €145.58 with effect from 1st January, 2006. From 1st January next the standard per capita grant will be increased by a further €18 per pupil bringing the overall capitation grant per pupil at primary level to €163.58. This will represent an increase of 186% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997.

Second level schools have also benefited from substantial increases in funding for their day-to-day costs. The standard capitation grant of €266 per pupil in 2003 now stands at €298 per pupil and the support services grant for secondary schools has been increased from €127 per pupil in 2003 to €159 per pupil in 2006.

From 1 January next the standard per capita grant will be increased by a further €18 to €316 per pupil. In addition, for voluntary secondary schools the support services grant will be increased by €30 per student, which includes a further equalisation measure, to €189 per pupil. This aggregate increase of €48 per pupil will bring the cumulative increase in the per capita and support services grants for voluntary schools since 2003 to €112 per pupil.

School Transport.

Billy Timmins

Question:

61 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science if all children at primary and secondary level using the school transport service have their own seat and seatbelt; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40219/06]

All of the 2,500 post-primary school transport services are on a one-for-one seating basis and it is expected that all of the primary school services will also be on a similar seating basis by the end of December, 2006.

In addition, the Bus Éireann school bus fleet have been fitted with seat belts and over 97% of the private contractors buses are also fitted with seat belts. Bus Éireann have advised that December 2006 remains the target date for all vehicles operating on school transport services to be fitted with approved seat belts. This is in accordance with the package of measures to enhance the safety of school transport operations announced by Minister Hanafin and myself in July 2005.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

62 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school buses in which seat belts have been fitted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40218/06]

All of the Bus Éireann school bus fleet have been fitted with seat belts and over 97% of the private contractors buses are also fitted with seat belts. Bus Éireann have advised that December 2006 remains the target date for all vehicles operating on school transport services to be fitted with approved seat belts.

Psychological Service.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

63 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of extra educational psychologists who will be appointed in the context of the recently published Government Estimates 2007; the locations where they will be deployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40167/06]

All primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the NEPS or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA), full details of which are available on my Department's website.

Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly.

Details of this process and the conditions that apply to the scheme are available on my Department's Website. The prioritisation of urgent cases for assessment is a matter for the school principal in the first instance. In the 10 months to the end of October 2006, nearly €1.2 million was spent on in region of 3,500 SCPA assessments.

The NEPS service is locally based and regionally organised with a small national Head Office. Currently, the NEPS service is now available to approximately 1,604 primary schools (representing approximately 60% of pupils) and approximately 586 post-primary schools (representing 78% of students). This number includes 46 schools in the City and County of Dublin Vocational Schemes, which have their own psychological service.

In common with many other psychological services, NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention in consultation with their assigned NEPS psychologist. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment. This system allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

The introduction of the General Allocation Model for primary schools last year, supported by the provision of over 600 extra resource teachers, means that children with high incidence special needs no longer have to wait for an individual assessment before they can get access to extra support.

Since the establishment of NEPS, the number of psychologists in the service has increased from 43 to 127 at present (including 4 psychologists currently seconded to the National Behavioural Support Service). In the last recruitment round, regional panels were used to allow my Department give greater priority in filling vacancies to areas with the greatest need.

In addition to the 127 psychologists currently in NEPS, a further 6 are in the process of being recruited. On top of this, the 17% increase in funding for the service provided in the 2007 Estimates, will allow some further expansion in the number of psychologists next year. The actual number of extra staff will be determined shortly.

To conclude, since this Government established NEPS, we have trebled the number of psychologists in the service. We have also funded in the region of 3,500 private assessments so far this year.

We are committed to expanding the coverage of the service even further, are recruiting extra staff at present and plan to hire more in 2007.

Question No. 64 answered with QuestionNo. 51.

Schools Building Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

65 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to accelerate the school building programme with a view to meeting accommodation needs on time, at both primary and second level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40177/06]

This Government has accelerated the school building programme with record levels of investment and the streamlining of delivery systems. School building projects are prioritised in accordance with published criteria and those in rapidly developing areas are assigned the highest priority.

Innovations in the delivery of school buildings such as Generic Repeat Designs and the use of the Design and Build model ensure that new school buildings are delivered in the fastest time-frame possible. In recent years, my Department has also adopted a policy of devolving much greater authority to local school management boards to manage and deliver smaller building projects, thereby freeing my Department to concentrate on the larger scale projects. To put it in context in terms of pupil numbers, if we take new primary schools recently completed, under construction or approved to progress to construction, we are delivering over 15,000 new permanent pupil places, almost 70% of these in the Leinster area. This figure relates to new schools only and does not include an additional 8,750 school places being delivered under the permanent accommodation scheme.

This Government is determined to ensure that every child is educated in a suitable and comfortable environment. Since 1997, great advances have been made in transforming school accommodation throughout the country, through an investment of €3 billion. This has funded over 7,800 individual school projects in the last seven years alone.

While the challenge before us in reversing decades of under-investment in school buildings and in responding to emerging needs in new population areas is great, nonetheless we are making huge progress in upgrading existing school infrastructure and providing new school accommodation at both first and second level.

The demand for additional accommodation in schools has risen significantly over the last number of years mainly due to the rapid expansion in teacher numbers particularly in the area of special needs, the growth in the school-going population in rapidly developing areas and the demands to cater for diversity through the recognition of new Gaelscoileanna and Educate Together schools.

This year alone, over €500 million is being invested in schools infrastructure and this is funding the delivery of over 1,300 building projects. This compares with just over €90 million provided for school buildings in 1997.

Under the 2006 Budget, €3.9 billion is being provided over the five years 2006-2010 for capital projects at all levels of the education sector from primary to third level. This is proof of this Government's continuing commitment to educational infrastructure and will allow my Department to continue to take a pro-active approach in meeting school accommodation needs throughout the country.

Library Grants.

Martin Ferris

Question:

66 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will make representations to the Department of Finance to adequately increase the allocation for library grants which have only improved slightly in the Estimates 2007. [40200/06]

It is a matter for each Local Authority to provide a library service for primary schools in its area. While my Department has no involvement in the actual operation of this service, it does make a grant available to each Local Authority on an annual basis to enable Local Authority Librarians select, purchase, and deliver books to the primary schools in its area. The grant is based on the number of pupils enrolled in primary schools in each Local Authority area.

The provision in respect of the Library Grant was increased substantially in 2005 — from €1.5 million in 2004 to €2.026 million in 2005, an increase of 35%. The grant was increased further to €2.07million in the current year and provision has been made for expenditure of €2.107 million in 2007.

The question of increasing the provision in the future will be considered in the context of available resources and priorities within the education sector.

Standardised Testing.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

67 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in the introduction of standardised testing at primary level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40244/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

163 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the years at which standardised testing will be introduced during the primary level cycle; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40245/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 163 together.

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

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has recommended to me that the practice of standardised testing which is currently well established in primary schools should be built upon and that all pupils should be tested in literacy and numeracy at the end of first or beginning of second class and at the end of fourth or beginning of fifth class.

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

In that context, the NCCA is preparing guidelines which will assist schools in developing and implementing a policy on assessment practice in classrooms and on reporting to parents. The guidelines will also provide teachers with information on what to assess in individual subjects of the Primary School Curriculum and how to use assessment information to plan for children's future learning in that subject. These will be available to schools in 2007.

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

My Department is making ongoing progress in exploring potential implementation models, including dates, for the introduction of the requirement in schools.

Another key consideration is how the in-service needs of teachers with regard to standardised testing can best be met.

My intention is that we will proceed carefully but as quickly as possible to ensure that the recommendations proposed by the NCCA are implemented in a way that has positive benefits for children, parents, teachers and the system as a whole.

Departmental Funding.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

68 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of money granted in 2006 to fee paying schools under the summer works programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40152/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

131 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of money granted under the school building programme to fee paying schools to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40153/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 131 together.

There are 59 fee-charging second level schools in the country; of which 1 is Jewish, 21 Protestant, 2 inter-denominational and the balance Catholic.

Applications for funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2006 were approved in respect of 15 fee-charging schools at a cost expected to be €1.395m. This is 1.78% of the total estimated cost of the Scheme for 2006 which is €78m.

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to all categories of capital grant-aid granted to fee-charging schools under the 2006 School Building and Modernisation Programme is not readily available in my Department. The Deputy will appreciate that my Department may provide capital grant-aid to recognised schools under a variety of headings in addition to the Summer Works Scheme e.g., building grants and associated Design Team fees, emergency works, furniture and equipment, remediation programmes, etc.

School building projects, whether for fee-charging schools or schools in the free education scheme, are selected for inclusion in the School Building and Modernisation Programme on the basis of priority of need using published criteria. Considerations of State support for minority religions has been an important factor in the provision of funding for such schools, given that much of the fee-paying sector has traditionally been made up of Protestant schools and those with a minority religious ethos.

The amount of capital funding given to fee-paying schools has been extremely small in recent years. For example, in the period 1999-2004, the total amount of capital funding given to fee-paying schools represented just 1.6% of total second level capital expenditure.

School Facilities.

John Gormley

Question:

69 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the procedures in place to ensure that facilities provided at public private partnership schools are available to the community free of charge or at an affordable price; if such stipulations have been put into all schools built to date; if such stipulations will be inserted in contracts for the proposed second level school at Adamstown; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40227/06]

Under the terms of the Project Agreement for the School Bundle Pilot PPP project each school retains an ‘availability bank' of hours which it may utilise outside the normal school core opening hours (8.00 am to 5:30 pm). The cost of providing the school buildings and services for these hours is included in the contract structure therefore additional costs do not accrue to the school. The availability hours are used by the schools for tutorials, parent teacher meetings and similar school activities, however the hours may also be allocated by the schools for community use. There is no restriction on this other than the time must be within the availability bank hours and the correct notification periods set out in the project agreement are adhered too. The allocation of the availability bank hours is entirely at the discretion of the school.

It is open to any individual or group to obtain use of the school facilities directly from the Operating Company. This would fall outside of the availability bank hours and would there for be subject to economic costs. In addition the school authorities have the right to veto any proposed use which would be contrary to the ethos of the school.

It is intended that similar provisions will be included in future projects under my Departments current PPP Programme.

Third Level Education.

Séamus Pattison

Question:

70 Mr. Pattison asked the Minister for Education and Science the details of the right to higher and further education for non-EU nationals here who have not attained nationalisation or citizenship, including the families of people on work permits; if there are circumstances in which they can avail themselves of free tuition fees of EU fees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40174/06]

Under the terms of my Department's Free Fees Initiative the Exchequer meets the tuition fees of eligible students. The main conditions are that students must (a) be first-time undergraduates; (b) hold E.U. nationality or official refugee status; and (c) have been ordinarily resident in an E.U. Member State for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course. Eligibility is determined at date of entry to the course of study.

The non-EU spouse and dependent children of an EU migrant worker resident in the State may also be considered for free fees once they meet the other criteria of the scheme.

The third level institutions are autonomous bodies and, as such, may determine the level of fees to be charged in any cases where the Free Fees Initiative does not apply.

With regard to PLC courses, the following categories of students are entitled to free access to such courses:

EU nationals;

persons who have refugee status in Ireland;

persons in the State as the spouse of an EU national, where the EU national has moved from one country to another within the EU to work;

persons (including their spouse and children) who have been granted leave to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds;

persons who have permission to remain in the State as the parents of a child born in Ireland; and

applicants for asylum who have been granted permission to work under the terms of a government decision of 26 July 1999.

Asylum seekers who do not have an entitlement to work are entitled to free access to adult literacy, English language and mother culture supports only.

Irish Language.

Mary Upton

Question:

71 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to be able to make changes to the examination of Irish to place more emphasis on the spoken language; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40159/06]

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is a statutory body set up under the Education Act 1998 to advise the Minister for Education and Science on curriculum and assessment matters.

I have requested the NCCA to focus on increasing the attractiveness of Irish to all learners throughout the junior and senior cycle and on strengthening students' communicative skills, particularly their oral fluency and I have asked them to prioritise this work.

A document on Curriculum Provision in Irish in Post-Primary Education has been prepared for internal consultation within the Council. It has not yet been approved by the Council or presented to me as advice by the NCCA.

Until such time as I receive the advice of the NCCA, I am not in a position to indicate when I will be able to make changes to the examination of Irish.

Schools Building Projects.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

72 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the arrangements in place, in view of the need for a local contribution or ongoing local contributions towards the capital cost of school buildings and that many of these are located in areas where new community and social facilities must also be provided for from local fundraising between her Department and other Government Departments, to assess the ability of new communities to provide for both; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39899/06]

Most new schools in developing areas are provided on sites purchased by my Department. In such cases there is no local contribution required. In relation to refurbishments and extensions to existing school buildings the full cost is typically paid for by my Department except for a local contribution of up to €31,500 or up to €12,500 for disadvantaged or special schools.

My Department's primary remit is to ensure that there are sufficient pupil places available to accommodate the demand. However, the School Planning Section of my Department is working proactively with local authorities to explore the possibility of the development of school provision in tandem with the development of community facilities. This enhanced co-operation has the effect of minimising the Department's land requirements and thus reducing site costs while at the same time providing local communities with new schools with enhanced facilities.

My Department recently entered into a partnership approach with Fingal County Council to ensure that new schools can be provided to match the rapid pace of housing development in that area while at the same time providing important facilities for the community.

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the school planning projections of the Department, Fingal County Council will identify and acquire appropriate sites where schools with enhanced sporting, community and arts facilities will be built to the benefit of both the school and the wider community. It is hoped that this agreement will help to fast-track the delivery of schools and community facilities throughout Fingal.

A further example is in the case of the Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) at Adamstown, Lucan where the Department is working closely with South Dublin County Council and the developers to produce an integrated solution to education and community facilities that matches the delivery of new housing. Under the SDZ arrangements there is a requirement that schools are in position ahead of or in line with demand, and I think that this is an approach that should be adopted by other planning authorities in relation to major new housing schemes.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

73 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school building projects assessed as being of Band One priority awaiting progression by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40238/06]

This Government is determined to ensure that every child is educated in a suitable and comfortable environment. Since 1997, great advances have been made in transforming school accommodation throughout the country, through an investment of €3 billion. This has funded over 7,800 individual school projects in the last seven years alone.

This year we are spending €500 million on school buildings, compared to just over €90 million in 1997.

Under the 2006 Budget €3.9 billion is being provided over the five years 2006-2010 for capital projects at all levels of the education sector from primary to third level.

While the challenge before us in reversing decades of under-investment in school buildings and in responding to emerging needs in new population areas is great, nonetheless we are making huge progress.

The level of work being done under the School Building Programme is at an all-time high. While increased investment has been a central reason for this, the introduction of new schemes and changes in how projects are managed have also made a major difference.

Almost 800 were approved for Summer Works projects this year. This innovative scheme, which allows schools to get small projects done over the Summer holidays, did not exist when we came into office and schools were waiting for very many years for improvements such as rewiring, or new roofs or windows. Now when the school gates close for the Summer, the builders move in and the students come back to an improved environment just a few short months later.

To reduce red tape and allow projects to move faster, responsibility for smaller projects has been devolved to school level. Standard designs have also been developed for 8 and 16 classroom schools to facilitate speedier delivery of projects and save on design fees.

Improvements have also been made in forward-planning through greater co-operation with local authorities and the publication of Area Development Plans.

In relation to the school building projects awaiting progression, the Deputy will be aware that the number of projects and their individual classifications can vary according to the stage of assessment and their progression through the building programme.

At present, my Department has in the region of 1,300 applications for building works on the main building programme. These applications can range from extensions and refurbishments to applications for new schools on new sites. Their status can range from applications recently received in the Department to projects at various stages of architectural planning.

These projects are assessed and prioritised in accordance with the prioritisation criteria agreed with the Education Partners. In this regard, it should be noted that a project's banding, or classification, can be subject to reassessment having regard to demographic developments in the area served by the school and also, for example, if on foot of a technical examination of the school it was found that the proposed project put forward by the school was not an appropriate design solution to meet the accommodation requirements.

In addition to the projects above, there are also approximately 400 applications under the Small Schools Initiative and the Permanent Accommodation Scheme — many of these may also have applied under the main programme. These applications are currently being assessed with a view to an announcement being made shortly. In addition, 1,300 applications for the Summer Works Scheme 2007 are also currently being evaluated.

The €3.9 billion envelope provided for education capital in the 2006 budget means that huge progress will continue to be made on school buildings in the coming years. This year alone over 1,300 building projects will be delivered.

Schools of Podiatry.

Denis Naughten

Question:

74 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science when the decision was taken by her Department to locate the proposed school of podiatry in a university; the reason an institute of technology was deemed unsuitable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39914/06]

Meetings are continuing at an official level between my Department, the Department of Health and Children, the Higher Education Authority and the Health Service Executive in relation to a proposed School of Podiatry. Pending the finalisation of these discussions it is not possible to advise when a call for proposals to establish the School will issue. No decisions have been taken on the location of the proposed School of Podiatry.

School Management.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

75 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department’s computer system cannot deal with recording half or quarter days for teachers. [40203/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

116 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is satisfied with her Department’s computer system in relation to recording teacher absences; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40196/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 116 together.

The computer system for the payment of teachers employed in Secondary and Community/Comprehensive schools record teacher absences in accordance with the existing leave rules as agreed between the managerial authorities, teacher unions and my Department.

The issue of leave arrangements for absence periods of less than a day has been raised with my Department and initial discussions have been held on the matter.

Capitation Grants.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

76 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of the capitation charge for third level education; the increases in the third level capitation charge for each year since 2002 to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40195/06]

The student charge is levied by third level institutions to defray the costs of examinations, registration and students services. All students who are eligible for means tested student support grant have the student charge paid on their behalf by the Local Authorities or the Vocational Education Committees, in addition to any maintenance grant and tuition fee grant they are entitled to.

The student charge is paid by the students on an academic year basis. The level of the charge for each year since 2002 is as follows:

Year

2002/2003

670

2003/2004

670

2004/2005

750

2005/2006

775

2006/2007

800

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

77 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the situation in which approximately half the amount is spent per primary pupil per year than per third level pupil per year. [40198/06]

Each sector in the education system has specific funding requirements which derive from the length, complexity and nature of the education/training courses being provided.

My aim is to ensure that all sectors have adequate resources, including financial resources, to enable schools and colleges to effectively deliver quality education and training programmes.

The Deputy will be pleased to know that overall provision for primary education has increased dramatically in recent years — from circa €1.9 billion in 2002 to almost €2.9 billion in 2006. The 2007 Estimate provides nearly €3.2 billion for primary education — this represents a 70% increase since 2002. The corresponding increases between 2002 and 2007 for the second and third level sectors are 54% and 40% respectively.

The Deputy will be aware that staffing levels in our primary schools have improved dramatically in recent years, with 4,000 extra primary teachers put in place since 2002. Particular attention has also been paid to improving funding to primary schools to meet their day-to-day running costs.

Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant at primary level was increased from €57.14 per pupil to €145.58 with effect from 1st January, 2006. From 1st January next the standard per capita grant will be increased by a further €18 per pupil bringing the overall capitation grant per pupil at primary level to €163.58. This represents an increase of 186% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997. In addition, the already enhanced rates of capitation grant payable in respect of pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes in ordinary primary schools are being significantly increased. Depending on the particular category of special need involved, increases in this area range from 30% to 53% with an increase of 96% applying to the physical disability category. The latest increases in the level of capitation grant are a clear demonstration of my commitment to improve the financial position of schools in the primary sector.

Schools Refurbishment.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

78 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of investment to be allocated by her Department in 2007 towards the refurbishment of science buildings and facilities at second level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40192/06]

As indicated in the recently published Abridged Estimates Volume for 2007, it is intended to allocate a sum of €544m towards the Schools' Building and Modernisation Programme. This sum includes €10m under the Schools' ICT Programme.

At this stage it is not possible to give specific details of how this funding will be disbursed.

School Curriculum.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

79 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will expand junior certificate science participation to 100%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40184/06]

In accordance with the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, the approved course for Junior Certificate students in second level schools must include Irish, English, Mathematics, Social Personal and Health Education, Civic Social and Political Education and at least 3 other examination subjects. While Science is an optional subject for the Junior Certificate some 86% of students already study the subject. I have no plans to make science a compulsory subject. Curricular choice is important in ensuring that young people are offered a balanced range of subjects in keeping with their interests and abilities.

My Department is fully committed to strengthening the quality of science teaching and learning, promoting increased scientific literacy and encouraging more students to choose science subjects.

The revised Junior Certificate Science syllabus which was examined for the first time in 2006 aims to make the subject more relevant to student's needs in the twenty-first century and to provide the students with a richer educational experience.

It is intended as part of the recently published Strategy for Science and Innovation 2006 to 2013 to build on this in the approach to science subjects in the senior cycle, ensuring a continuum in the emphasis on project based hands-on investigative approaches and assessment of these as part of the overall examinations, allied with the embedding of key skills, a more applied focus and an emphasis on the inter-disciplinary nature of science in society forms part of the approach.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 53.

Educational Planning.

Jack Wall

Question:

81 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of new post-primary schools that will be needed in County Kildare to cater for the estimated population growth over the next 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40149/06]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

130 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of new primary schools that will be needed in County Kildare to cater for estimated population growth over the next 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40147/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 130 together.

In relation to forward planning in areas of rapid growth, the process of assessing the need for new or additional educational facilities at primary or post-primary level in any given area entails consideration of all relevant factors, including enrolment and demographic trends, housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet the demand for places. Liaison with existing schools is also an important part of the process, as the school authorities would usually alert the Department where, in their view, the need for additional accommodation is anticipated. In this way, every effort is made to ensure that there is adequate existing provision, or that timely arrangements are made to extend capacity or provide new infrastructure where necessary.

Over and above the statutory consultation provisions in relation to local authority draft area development plans, the Department has in recent years worked to strengthen contacts with local authorities to enable informed decisions to be made in planning future educational provision. On top of this, the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects, which were revised following consultation with the Education Partners, targets school projects in rapidly developing areas by assigning them a band 1 rating which is the highest priority possible. Innovations in the delivery of school buildings such as Generic Repeat Designs and use of the Design and Build model ensure that new school buildings are delivered in the fastest timeframe possible. This is clear evidence of the Department's commitment to ensuring that the needs of rapidly developing areas are met as quickly as possible.

School Planning Section is also working proactively with some local authorities on the possibility of the development of school provision in tandem with the development of community facilities.

In addition the Department has introduced a new school planning model involving published area development plans. One of the areas assessed is the N4/M4 corridor which includes Leixlip, Celbridge, Maynooth and Kilcock. The purpose of this new approach to school planning is to ensure that, in future, the provision of school infrastructure will be decided only after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, parents, trustees, sponsors of prospective new schools and all interested parties from a locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process. Arising from this process, an individual plan will set out the blueprint for the future of educational provision in an area, which will be the touchstone against which all decisions in relation to capital investment will be made for the next decade.

In all developing areas in Kildare, the Department continually monitors the demand for primary and post-primary education and takes a decision to purchase reserved sites and construct new schools as the need is determined.

School Discipline.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

82 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science when the full recommendations of the Task Force on Student Behaviour will be implemented. [40221/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

122 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of the €2 million allocated in Budget 2006 to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Student Behaviour that has been spent; what it was spent on; her proposals for the money allocated in Estimates 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40145/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 122 together.

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

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

Since their appointment, the team has been working on a number of key issues:

1. The development of a Draft National Framework for Behaviour Improvement.

2. The development of models of good practice for systems in schools which assist with and impact on classroom and whole school behaviour.

3. On-going training for the NBSS team.

4. Research into and communication with behaviour support systems in other jurisdictions.

The NBSS has commenced its engagement with schools and a series of information seminars have been organised throughout the country. Subsequently intensive work will begin with a smaller number of schools most in need of this intervention.

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

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

It terms of expenditure, funding has been provided to cover the costs of the NBSS recruitment process, staff training and development, staff salaries, establishment of an NBSS Office, development of an NBSS website and the information seminars with schools. At this stage, it is anticipated that the €2 million allocated in 2006 toward the implementation of the Task Force's recommendations will be fully expended by the end of the current financial year.

I wish to draw the attention of the Deputies to my announcement in the context of the 2007 Estimates, that I am providing €8million to support the work of the NBSS, in helping schools promote positive student behaviour at second level.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Liam Twomey

Question:

83 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children in primary classes of 20 to 24 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40212/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

91 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children in primary classes of 35 to 39 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40209/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

109 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children in primary classes of 25 to 29 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40207/06]

John Perry

Question:

115 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children in primary classes of 30 to 34 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40208/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

140 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children in primary classes of 1 to 19 children inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40217/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 91, 109, 115 and 140 together.

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

The most recent figures available in my Department are for the 2005/2006 school year in which there were 62,691 children in primary classes of 0-19, 105,797 children in classes of 20 to 24, 162,365 children in classes of 25 to 29, 101,223 children in classes of 30 to 34, and 9,684 children in primary classes of 35 to 39.

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

As the Deputies will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. At the beginning of the current school year there are no less than 4,000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

Children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas are getting more support than ever before to help them to make the most of their time at school.

Indeed, with the thousands of extra primary teachers hired by this Government, recent years have seen the largest expansion in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Furthermore, the Government is committed to providing even more primary teachers next year to reduce class sizes.

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

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

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled but we are determined to go even further and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes.

I assure the Deputies that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Education Schemes.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

84 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the fact that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has to subsidise schools to rent books to children whose families cannot afford to pay for the books they are required to have for the basic school curriculum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40164/06]

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

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

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

A total of €5,350,000 — an increase of €1,350,000 (33.75%) on the allocation for the 2005/06 school year — was allocated in respect of the school books scheme in the 2006/2007 school year. Of this amount €4,775,253 was paid to primary schools operating loan/rental schemes. The allocation for 2006/2007 included an amount of €0.5m which was made available under the School Books Grant Scheme to primary schools in the School Support Programme (SSP) under DEIS.

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

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

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

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

Educational Planning.

Seán Ryan

Question:

85 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of new primary schools in Louth Meath that will be needed to cater for estimated population growth over the next 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40148/06]

In relation to forward planning in areas of rapid growth, the process of assessing the need for new or additional educational facilities at primary or post-primary level in any given area entails consideration of all relevant factors, including enrolment and demographic trends, housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet the demand for places. Liaison with existing schools is also an important part of the process, as the school authorities would usually alert the Department where, in their view, the need for additional accommodation is anticipated. In this way, every effort is made to ensure that there is adequate existing provision, or that timely arrangements are made to extend capacity or provide new infrastructure where necessary.

Over and above the statutory consultation provisions in relation to local authority draft area development plans, the Department has in recent years worked to strengthen contacts with local authorities to enable informed decisions to be made in planning future educational provision.

On top of this, the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects, which were revised following consultation with the Education Partners, targets school projects in rapidly developing areas by assigning them a band 1 rating which is the highest priority possible. Innovations in the delivery of school buildings such as Generic Repeat Designs and use of the Design and Build model ensure that new school buildings are delivered in the fastest timeframe possible. This is clear evidence of the Department's commitment to ensuring that the needs of rapidly developing areas are met as quickly as possible.

School Planning Section is also working proactively with some local authorities on the possibility of the development of school provision in tandem with the development of community facilities.

In addition the Department has introduced a new school planning model involving published area development plans. One of the areas assessed is East Meath/North Dublin/South Louth area and the Department's Plan for this area is currently being revised in the School Planning Section of the Department to take into account the preliminary Census figures published recently and is expected to be published shortly. The purpose of this new approach to school planning is to ensure that, in future, the provision of school infrastructure will be decided only after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, parents, trustees, sponsors of prospective new schools and all interested parties from a locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process. Arising from this process, an individual plan will set out the blueprint for the future of educational provision in an area, which will be the touchstone against which all decisions in relation to capital investment will be made for the next decade.

In all developing areas in Louth and Meath, the Department continually monitors the demand for primary and post-primary education and takes a decision to purchase reserved sites and construct new schools as the need is determined.

Third Level Education.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

86 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science her response to Barriers to Access to Further and Higher Education for Non-EU Nationals Resident in Ireland published by Pobal in October 2006; if she proposes to introduce changes to address the findings of the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40161/06]

I welcome the Pobal report which was published last month. This report makes a number recommendations for overall government policy, the work of individual government departments, including the Department of Education and Science, state agencies and higher and further education institutions.

The achievement of a more inclusive and intercultural approach across a range of state services, including further and higher education provision, is an essential part of our development as a modern society and economy. Many of the barriers identified in this report are being addressed through the National Action Plan Against Racism 2005-2008. A departmental steering committee has been established to co-ordinate the Department's response to the education of newcomers. I will arrange for the Pobal report to be brought to the attention of the steering committee and for the findings of it to be considered as part of its work.

The Pobal report is also helpful with the work of the HEA, National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education which, in collaboration with the National Consultative Committee on Inter-Culturalism and Racism (NCCRI), hopes to make significant progress in 2007 on the advancement of intercultural strategies for access to higher education in Ireland. This will include collaboration with key stakeholders, including Pobal and representatives of higher education institutions, on the development of current policy and practice. This work will be presented and discussed at a conference to be held later in 2007.

A recurrent theme in the Pobal report is the need for better data. I understand that preliminary findings from this year's census will be available by the middle of next year and that these will also be considered at the conference in 2007. The information emerging from the 2006 census will, for the first time, allow for the co-relation of data on nationality, ethnic background, age, social class, location and level of educational attainment. This analysis, as well as the tracking of admission and participation of under-represented groups at all levels of the education system, will be key to advising the focus of future policy and funding.

Another recommendation of the report is the need for clear information on entitlements to financial support for potential and actual students from ethnic minorities. Following the 2005 review of access funding, the National Office are in the final stages of developing a co-ordinated information strategy which will assist students and their families in navigating existing financial supports available to them in further and higher education. This work includes the development of a new website and accompanying financial information that is being developed for new entrants to further and higher education.

Site Acquisitions.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

87 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the latest situation regarding the provision of a suitable new site for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; if she will shortly request South Dublin County Council to initiate procedures to compulsorily purchase land at agricultural prices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40229/06]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) who acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions generally, has been asked to source a suitable site for this school. The OPW have advised my Department that the requirement for a site has been advertised and that a technical assessment of the sites on offer has been completed. The matter is now with their Valuation Unit. In due course a report on the OPW's findings will be provided to my Department.

The outcome of this process will determine the need or otherwise to involve South Dublin County Council in the site purchase.

Schools Building Projects.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

88 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools listed on her Department’s school building programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40236/06]

In addition to the projects from the 2004 and 2005 School building and Modernisation programmes in the construction stage I announced over 1,200 projects to progress under the 2006 programme. These included projects to progress through various stages of architectural design, tender and construction and projects approved under the devolved schemes. A further 400 projects were approved for funding this year under my Department's emergency works programme.

Over 1,300 building projects will be carried out under my Department's Capital Programme this year alone. This is in addition to over 6,500 projects delivered following on a record investment of over €2 billion in educational infrastructure in the period 2000 to 2005.

I am confident that the allocation from Government of €3.9 billion in capital funding for the education sector over the next 5 years will enable my Department to continue to take a proactive approach in modernising school accommodation throughout the country.

To put it in the context of pupil numbers, if we take new primary schools recently completed, under construction or just now going to construction, we are delivering over 15,000 new pupil places. This figure relates to new schools only and does not include an additional 8,750 school places being delivered under the permanent accommodation scheme. The next tranche of projects currently in the pipeline and due to go to construction during 2007 will deliver a further 9,500 pupil places in new school buildings and a further 5,500 pupil places in existing schools. In addition, the programme of modernisation in existing schools continues apace and will eventually encompass all schools.

Physical Education Facilities.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

89 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will introduce a grant to assist schools with the cost of taking children to public swimming pools as part of the physical education curriculum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40157/06]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

144 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of time allocated to physical education for each child at primary level per day; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40234/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

151 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of time allocated to physical education for each student at post-primary level per day; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40235/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 144 and 151 together.

Physical Education is one of seven curriculum areas within the revised Primary School Curriculum (1999). A minimum of one hour of physical education per week is recommended for all primary school pupils.

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

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

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

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

I have no plans to introduce a specific grant for swimming classes. Where schools decide to provide pupils with swimming classes in school time, they are expected to fund them from resources already available to them. In this regard, I recently announced that the capitation grant for primary and second level schools will be increased by €18 per pupil next year. My Department will also be issuing a special PE equipment grant of €2,000 per school in the coming weeks, as a once-off measure, to all 3,200 primary schools to enable them improve their PE facilities.

Schools Building Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

90 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school building projects assessed as being of Band Four priority awaiting progression by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40241/06]

This Government is determined to ensure that every child is educated in a suitable and comfortable environment. Since 1997, great advances have been made in transforming school accommodation throughout the country, through

an investment of €3 billion. This has funded over 7,800 individual school projects in the last seven years alone.

This year we are spending €500 million on school buildings, compared to just over €90 million in 1997. Under the 2006 Budget €3.9 billion is being provided over the five years 2006-2010 for capital projects at all levels of the education sector from primary to third level.

While the challenge before us in reversing decades of under-investment in school buildings and in responding to emerging needs in new population areas is great, nonetheless we are making huge progress.

The level of work being done under the School Building Programme is at an all-time high. While increased investment has been a central reason for this, the introduction of new schemes and changes in how projects are managed have also made a major difference.

Almost 800 were approved for Summer Works projects this year. This innovative scheme, which allows schools to get small projects done over the Summer holidays, did not exist when we came into office and schools were waiting for very many years for improvements such as rewiring, or new roofs or windows. Now when the school gates close for the Summer, the builders move in and the students come back to an improved environment just a few short months later.

To reduce red tape and allow projects to move faster, responsibility for smaller projects has been devolved to school level. Standard designs have also been developed for 8 and 16 classroom schools to facilitate speedier delivery of projects and save on design fees.

Improvements have also been made in forward-planning through greater co-operation with local authorities and the publication of Area Development Plans.

In relation to the school building projects awaiting progression, the Deputy will be aware that the number of projects and their individual classifications can vary according to the stage of assessment and their progression through the building programme.

At present, my Department has in the region of 1,300 applications for building works on the main building programme. These applications can range from extensions and refurbishments to applications for new schools on new sites. Their status can range from applications recently received in the Department to projects at various stages of architectural planning. These projects are assessed and prioritised in accordance with the prioritisation criteria agreed with the Education Partners. In this regard, it should be noted that a project's banding, or classification, can be subject to reassessment having regard to demographic developments in the area served by the school and also, for example, if on foot of a technical examination of the school it was found that the proposed project put forward by the school was not an appropriate design solution to meet the accommodation requirements. In addition to the projects above, there are also approximately 400 applications under the Small Schools Initiative and the Permanent Accommodation Scheme — many of these may also have applied under the main programme. These applications are currently being assessed with a view to an announcement being made shortly. In addition, 1,300 applications for the Summer Works Scheme 2007 are also currently being evaluated.

The €3.9 billion envelope provided for education capital in the 2006 budget means that huge progress will continue to be made on school buildings in the coming years. This year alone over 1,300 building projects will be delivered.

Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Educational Planning.

Seán Ryan

Question:

92 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the Area Development Plan for north Dublin, south Louth and east Meath is only due to commence in December 2006 in view of the fact that the need for such a plan was identified in 2004 and the specific and urgent need for a new school in Laytown was pointed out in that year also; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40146/06]

The Plan for Education Provision in East Meath/North Dublin/South Louth area is currently being revised in the School Planning Section of the Department to take into account the preliminary Census figures published recently.

In relation to Laytown, Co. Meath, the Department acknowledged the need for a new primary school in this area and as a result Scoil Oilibhéir Naofa was established with provisional recognition in 2005/06.

Special Educational Needs.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

93 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will continue to pay home tuition grants to parents of children with autism who wish to use those grants to provide an ABA educational programme for their children delivered by persons with ABA, rather than education qualifications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40135/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

444 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if autistic children in receipt of Department funded home tuition will have to discontinue home tuition from their current provider in order to employ a Department recognised trained primary school teacher from January 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40290/06]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

461 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will publish the qualification guidelines for those supporting home tuition grants for children with autism; the consultation that has been done prior to drafting the guidelines; the way it is anticipated that it will impact on parents seeking such support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40410/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93, 444 and 461 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the home tuition scheme provides funding to parents to provide education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the scheme itself has not changed. However, on review of a number of applications for home tuition, details concerning the qualifications of some of the proposed tuition providers gave rise to concern. As home tuition takes place outside of the normal school framework, the Deputy will appreciate the need to ensure that tuition providers are appropriately qualified to give education to the children concerned. The usual requirement is a fully qualified teacher. However, other qualifications are acceptable depending on the individual needs of the child. In this context a review of qualifications is underway in consultation with my Department's inspectorate.

Nominated tuition providers with qualifications other than teaching qualifications have been accepted for the first school term this year to allow time to establish the suitability of the range of qualifications submitted. I understand that officials in my Department expect to be in contact with all parents concerned next week who will be informed of the decision which will result in approval for subsequent terms of the nominated tuition provider or direction to recruit a tuition provider with suitable qualifications. It is important to stress that the allocation of tuition hours under the scheme is not at issue in the context of the review of qualifications in this regard.

School Curriculum.

David Stanton

Question:

94 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is satisfied that all second level students at junior cycle level have the opportunity to carry out experiments as part of the junior certificate science curriculum; if she is further satisfied that practical science experiments are being carried out in science rooms and laboratories; if she is satisfied that all schools have the necessary resources to enable such experiments to be carried out in a safe and effective manner; her views on the importance or otherwise of science experiments being carried out by students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40179/06]

Student practical work has been a major feature of science syllabi at both junior and senior cycle levels for many years and science teachers have long experience of conducting practical work with their students. Until 2006, practical work was assessed only through the medium of written papers in the Certificate examinations.

The revised Junior Certificate Science syllabus which was examined for the first time in 2006 aims to make the subject more relevant to students' needs in the twenty-first century and to provide the students with a richer educational experience. In this regard, a second assessment component was introduced to allow students to obtain recognition for the practical work they have carried out in the laboratory. In all, 35% of the marks in the final examination are available for this work.

The introduction of the revised Junior Certificate science syllabus has been supported by a comprehensive in-career development programme for teachers. This has focused on supporting teachers in providing students with an appropriate experience of practical work. In this context, due regard was given to health and safety issues where appropriate. In addition, the Department has provided substantial equipment grants to schools. All schools in the Free Education Scheme were provided with a grant of €3,500 for each junior science laboratory and those which had not had a major capital upgrading since 1995 were invited to apply for an enhanced grant on the basis of their identified needs. In total, some €16 million was made available to schools in 2004 for the purchase of equipment and the refurbishment of school laboratories to facilitate the introduction of the revised syllabus.

The Inspectorate of my Department is currently implementing a comprehensive programme of evaluation in schools. This programme is designed to identify and affirm good practice while constructively identifying areas for improvement in the implementation of the curriculum. In the case of the sciences, the provision of appropriate practical activities for students is one aspect of the evaluation process. The Inspectorate will publish a composite report on the teaching and learning of Science in the junior cycle early in 2007.

My Department is fully committed to strengthening the quality of science teaching and learning, promoting increased scientific literacy and encouraging more students to choose science subjects. Progress in these areas is a vitally important part of our national strategy to support competitiveness and employment.

Subject Evaluations.

Paul McGrath

Question:

95 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of subject evaluations which are planned to be undertaken by her Department in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40250/06]

Planning for subject inspections in post-primary schools in 2007 is underway at present and will be finalised within a few weeks. It is expected that the number of subject inspections to be undertaken in 2007 will exceed the 660 planned for 2006.

Adult Education.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

96 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science when the full recommendations of the McIver report will be implemented. [40231/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

126 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if the €48 million required to implement the recommendations of the McIver Report on Further Education will be provided by the Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40170/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 126 together.

Government commitment to the PLC sector, by reference to the resources applied in teachers' pay, non-pay running costs, student support and certification costs, is very significant. We have increased the number of PLC places by 60% since 1996/97. Indeed, the number of PLC places approved for 2005/2006 is up by more than 1,600 on the 2004/05 level. The number of approved places in the sector now stands at 30,188. We also extended the provision of maintenance grants to PLC students with effect from September 1998. There were nearly 8,000 PLC grant holders in 2005 and they received some €23 million in direct support. Tuition fees for PLC courses are also waived. PLC students are included in the calculation of non-pay budgets issued to schools in respect of running costs. A supplementary non-pay grant towards running costs specifically for PLC schools is also payable. This amounted to €5.5 million in 2005.

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

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

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

The level of resources for the PLC sector will be determined in the light of resources generally and the implications for other areas of education. The scope for rationalisation of provision, will also be examined having due regard to ensuring appropriate provision, on a geographic basis and the necessary critical mass for delivery of a quality education service. I want to invest in educational opportunity for learners in Further Education by providing the necessary system supports that will allow the sector as a whole to fulfil its important potential.

Whole School Evaluations.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

97 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of whole school evaluations that will be completed by the end of 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40247/06]

In 2006 the Inspectorate planned to conduct a total of 285 whole-school evaluations (WSE) in primary and post-primary schools. This comprised 228 WSEs at primary level and 57 WSEs at post-primary level. A further 22 evaluations were conducted in other centres for education including Youth Encounter Project schools, Youthreach Centres and Senior Traveller Training Centres.

By the end of 2006 the evaluation phase of WSE will have been completed in all of the above. 160 of the WSE reports will have been issued to the schools or centres by the end of December 2006. The remainder will issue to schools or centres and be published on the Department's website in early 2007 in accordance with the agreed timeframe for the publication of reports.

School Curriculum.

Richard Bruton

Question:

98 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of girls taking higher level physics at leaving certificate level for each of the past 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40188/06]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

117 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of girls taking higher level chemistry at leaving certificate level for each of the past 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40190/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

146 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of girls taking higher level biology at leaving certificate level for each of the past 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40189/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98, 117 and 146 together.

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, including organising the holding of examinations and issuing the results of examinations. In view of this, I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael Ring

Question:

99 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will present her proposed changes to Section 29 of the Education Act 1998; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40210/06]

A new Bill, the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is in the final stages of drafting with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel at present. The Bill will give effect to the Task Force recommendations and set out criteria to be taken into account in the section 29 appeal process. These will include consideration of the right of the individual student to an inclusive education as well as the right of the general body of students and the whole school community to the maintenance of a school and classroom environment which is conducive to learning. It is hoped that the Bill will be submitted to the Government for approval in December and will be published shortly thereafter.

Teaching Profession.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

100 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has examined research by a person (details supplied) in Trinity College carried out for her Department which found that males are deterred from applying for primary teaching for a number of reasons including fear of accusations of abuse, the level of Irish required and the status of the job; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40131/06]

Since the 1970s there has been a significant and continuous decline in the number of males entering the teaching profession, particularly at primary level. The Primary Education Committee was established in October, 2003 in order to examine a range of issues in relation to males entering primary teaching, and to make recommendations on short-term and long-term strategies to increase the numbers in this regard.

During the course of its work, the Committee drew on the professional insight of key experts in the area as well as drawing on a number of relevant research studies. As part of this process, the Committee commissioned the research on male and female teachers' attitudes to primary teaching to which the deputy refers. In developing its recommendations, this research was given full consideration by the Committee.

In November, 2005 I launched the final report of the Primary Education Committee, "Males into Primary Teaching". One of the key recommendations in the Committee's report is that a promotion campaign, which would encourage more males to enter primary teaching, should be undertaken. This campaign commenced in January, 2006 and is ongoing. All other recommendations contained in the report have also received consideration within my Department, and the level of males entering primary teaching will continue to be closely monitored.

Youthreach Programme.

Joe Costello

Question:

101 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of extra Youthreach places she will provide over the next year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40134/06]

The Youthreach Programme is an Inter-Departmental initiative which provides two years integrated education, training and work experience to young people aged 15-20 years who are at least six months in the labour market and who have left school early without any qualifications or vocational training.

The programme funded by my Department is delivered in out of school centres and is managed by Vocational Education Committees (VECs). There are a total of ninety Youthreach Centres managed by the VEC sector throughout the country. Overall, there are about 6,500 places available nationally at present, 3,250 of which are in the VEC sector and the remainder in Community Training Centres under the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Basic skills training, practical work training and general education are features of the programme, and the application of new technology is integrated into all aspects of programme content. The programme provides a strong emphasis on personal development, on the core skills of literacy/ numeracy, communications and IT, along with a choice of vocational options such as Catering, Hairdressing, Computers, Woodwork, Photography, Video, Sports, Art and Craft and a work experience programme. Expenditure on the programme in 2005 was nearly €47 million. In addition my Department provides funding to VEC's annually to assist towards the childcare expenses of participants in Youthreach.

The Social Partnership Agreement 2006-2015 — Towards 2016 provides a commitment to increase places on the Youthreach programme by 1,000 places by the end of 2009. I was delighted to be able to announce in the Estimates for 2007, that funding is being made available to begin working towards that target. 400 places out of the total 1,000 will be made available in 2007.

Physical Education Facilities.

Phil Hogan

Question:

102 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools with an indoor sports hall or similar facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40233/06]

The Deputy can be assured that My Department fully recognises the key role of physical exercise within the school environment and continues to respond to the need to improve PE facilities for all pupils attending primary schools. My Department's planning guidelines for new schools include, where appropriate for PE Halls, general purpose rooms and outdoor hard play areas such as basketball courts.

Such provision is typically included in the accommodation brief for large-scale school building projects. Between 2000 and 2005 a total of 355 large-scale projects were delivered in primary schools by my Department as part of an overall investment of €2 billion in modernising primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country. In addition, my Department has also sanctioned a further 119 such projects in primary schools for progression to tender and construction.

This year alone €506m is being invested in schools infrastructure and this is funding the delivery of over 1,300 building projects. Building on the record investment in recent years the Government is providing €3.9 billion in capital funding for the education sector over the next 5 years. This is proof of its continuing commitment to educational infrastructure and will allow my Department to adopt a multi-annual framework to the provision of modern facilities in school buildings including general purpose and sports facilities.

Psychological Service.

Enda Kenny

Question:

103 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of psychologists who will be employed to work with specialist behaviour classes at second level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40211/06]

At the core of the recommendations of the Task Force on Student Behaviour was the establishment of a Behaviour Support Team. The purpose of this Team was envisaged as helping identify problems of student behaviour in second-level schools, leading to the development of strategies to resolve these problems and to facilitate the implementation of these strategies in practice.

When launching the Report of the Task Force on Student Behaviour, I indicated my agreement to the establishment of this Behaviour Support Team which I regarded as a priority for my Department. Since then, and over a short time-scale, a National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) has been established which is based in Navan Education Centre. A multi-disciplinary professional team has been recruited and appointed to the NBSS which consists of a National Co-ordinator, four Assistant National Co-ordinators, eight Regional Development Officers and twenty part-time Associates. In addition, a senior psychologist and three psychologists have been assigned to the team. A full-time administrator is based in Navan Education Centre.

Since their appointment, the team has been working on a number of key issues:

1. The development of a Draft National Framework for Behaviour Improvement.

2. The development of models of good practice for systems in schools which assist with and impact on classroom and whole school behaviour.

3. On-going training for the NBSS team.

4. Research into and communication with behaviour support systems in other jurisdictions.

The NBSS has just commenced its engagement with schools and a series of information seminars have been organised throughout the country.

Third Level Education.

Liz McManus

Question:

104 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the procedure set up by the governing body of UCC to investigate allegations made in relation to certain matters; the reason that person was appointed by UCC rather than by herself, as provided for in the Universities Act 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40169/06]

The Higher Education Authority is the statutory body which advises my Department on the full range of policy issues relating to higher education and research. On foot of various representations which I received regarding management at University College Cork, I asked the Higher Education Authority for a report on the issues raised. The Chief Executive and representatives of the HEA met the Chair and representatives of the Governing Body of UCC on 24th October 2006, to discuss the issues and how they may be addressed.

Following these consultations the HEA announced that a person who is external to, and independent of UCC, is to be appointed by the Governing Body of UCC to review allegations not already inquired into by the Governing Body. This person is appointed by the Governing Body on foot of its powers and not under the sections of the Universities Act 1997 dealing with the appointment of a Visitor. The Governing Body of UCC, in agreement with the HEA have, on 13th November 2006, appointed Mr. John Malone as the independent person. Mr. Malone was, until 2004, Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture and Food.

In the case of allegations which have been, or are being, inquired into by the Governing Body, the independent person will review the Governing Body's process. The independent person will report to the Governing Body, stating if there is substance in any allegations and he can make recommendations for remedial action and/or a further process of examination if considered appropriate. An interim report is expected by 12 December 2006. The Governing Body will then report to the HEA who will advise me of any action they consider appropriate.

Whole School Evaluations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

105 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of whole school evaluations in which content has been disputed to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40251/06]

A teacher (or the board of a school) who disputes the process of an inspection or the content of an inspection report affecting the teacher or the school may request the Chief Inspector to conduct a review in accordance with procedures established under Section 13 (9) of the Education Act.

Since the commencement of 2006 a review has been sought in relation to one whole-school evaluation under the terms of the "Procedure for Review of Inspections on Schools and Teachers under Section 13 (9) of the Education Act 1998". This review is currently underway.

Schools Building Projects.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

106 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of money expended to date in 2006 under the school building programme; the percentage that represents of the total amount allocated for 2006; if that includes roll-over money from 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40154/06]

€506m was allocated to my School Building and Modernisation Programme for 2006. Over €440m has been expended to date, this amounts to 87% of the allocation. I anticipate that the budget will be fully spent by year end as was the case in 2005. As a result of a record investment in school infrastructure of over €2 billion from 2000 to 2005 over 6500 projects have been delivered in this period. A further 1300 projects will be delivered in 2006.

The infrastructural investment needs in schools will continue into the future. However, I am confident that the allocation from Government of €3.9 billion in capital funding for the education sector over the next 5 years will enable my Department to continue to take a pro-active approach in modernising school accommodation throughout the country.

School Meals Programme.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

107 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of breakfast clubs, operated by charities, community groups or other groups, which are supported by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40242/06]

The majority of the 412 schools participating in the School Completion Programme in 2006 operate breakfast clubs or other meal provision, in accordance with the Nutritional Guidelines issued by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

In addition to the funding provided through the School Completion Programme, the provision of school meals is primarily funded by the School Meals Programme, administered by my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, and involving both an urban scheme operated by local authorities and a local projects scheme.

Educational research has shown that good nutrition improves concentration levels of students and that students from low-income families are less likely to have access to an adequate diet. The social aspect of breakfast clubs cannot be overestimated and access to such clubs are offered on a whole class/whole school basis to encourage integration of children and young people giving them an opportunity to mix and relax before classes commence.

Breakfast clubs provide a caring and supportive environment where young people can engage with their peers and discuss things in a social setting. They also provide an opportunity to help them with homework, providing pencils, copybooks and other materials to avoid possible disruption later in the classroom. Parents are also encouraged to become involved in running breakfast clubs, many of which are also supported by charitable agencies which bring with them expertise such as family support.

The School Meals Programme aims to supplement the nutritional intake of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to allow them to fulfil their potential within the educational system and also to reduce the risk of early school leaving. In 2006, it is estimated that 69,903 children benefited in 1,008 schools under the local projects scheme and the urban scheme provided support for more than 386 primary schools, with 55,000 pupils. In 2006, the Department of Social and Family Affairs has provided funding of about €10.4 million for the programme — an increase of nearly 27% on the 2005 provision of €8.2 million.

My Department has been working in close co-operation with the Department of Social and Family Affairs to ensure that the resources available for school meals are used to best effect and to further expand school meals provision in schools serving disadvantaged communities. Each of the 873 schools participating in the new School Support Programme, under DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the new Action Plan for Educational Inclusion, will have access to the School Meals Programme.

In addition, it is proposed that under the Dormant Accounts Fund a once-off start-up grant will be provided to schools commencing participation in the School Meals Scheme to provide suitable facilities and purchase equipment. The provision of breakfast clubs will continue to be a priority for the Government in tackling educational disadvantage.

School Curriculum.

Phil Hogan

Question:

108 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools which offer music to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40181/06]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

137 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that offer the physics and chemistry course to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40182/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

138 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that offer art to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40183/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108, 137 and 138 together.

The Deputies will be aware that the curriculum offered to students attending a post-primary school is a matter for the authorities of the schools concerned subject to meeting the Departments regulations concerning provision of the core curriculum. My Department publishes data on the number of schools offering each subject in its annual Statistical Report. Although the report for the 2005/06 school year is still in preparation, I can provide the following provisional information to the Deputies.

449 schools offer Music as a subject to Leaving Certificate level. 69 schools offer Physics and Chemistry as a subject to Leaving Certificate level. 384 schools offer Art (with Design option) as a subject to Leaving Certificate level. 358 schools offer Art (with Craftwork option) as a subject to Leaving Certificate level.

Question No. 109 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Education Welfare Service.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

110 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of information required under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 from parents who wish to exercise their Constitutional right to educate their children at home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40137/06]

Article 42.2 of the Constitution confers a constitutional right on parents to provide for the religious, moral, intellectual, social and physical education of children in their own homes or in private schools or in schools established or recognised by the State.

The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 provides a major reformulation of the law in regard to all matters connected with school attendance and children's welfare in education. It provided for the establishment of a National Educational Welfare Board, a core function of which is to ensure that each child ‘‘attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education". Under section 14 of the Education (Welfare) Act, the NEWB is required to maintain a register of children receiving education in places other than a recognised school and this would extend to situations where parents are educating their children at home.

A Working Group of the Inspectorate of my Department has drawn up Guidelines for the Assessment of Education in Places Other Than Recognised Schools. A key aspect of the Education (Welfare) Act is that children receiving education in places other than recognised schools must be registered with the National Educational Welfare Board. Parents who choose to have their child educated in a place other than a recognised school must register with the Board, and the Board in turn must be satisfied that the child is receiving ‘‘a certain minimum education.''

A certain minimum education should:

be suited to the age, ability, aptitude and personality of the child;

be responsive to the child's individual needs, should take cognisance of the areas of learning that are of interest to the child, and should ensure that his/her personal potential is enhanced and not suppressed;

address the immediate and prospective needs of the child, in the context of the cultural, economic and social environment;

provide a reasonably balanced range of learning experiences, so that no one aspect of the child's learning is emphasised to the exclusion of others;

develop the personal and social skills of the child and prepare him/her for the responsibilities of citizenship;

contribute to the moral development of the child;

ensure the development of basic skills (as outlined below) so as to prepare the child to participate in society and everyday life; and

provide opportunities for the child to develop his/her intellectual capacities and understanding.

A parent must apply to the NEWB to have his or her child registered and the application must be made in writing and set out the place where the child is receiving the education and must comply with requirements that may be set out in any Regulations made by the Minister for Education and Science or that may be developed by the NEWB with the Minister's approval at any time.

The act provides that, initially, the National Educational Welfare Board will carry out, in consultation with the parent who made the application, an assessment of:

(a) the education that is being provided, or that it is proposed will be provided, to the child;

(b) the materials used, or that it is proposed will be used, in the provision of such education; and

(c) the time spent, or that is proposed will be spent, in the provision of such education.

The purpose of this assessment is to determine whether the child is receiving, or will receive, a certain minimum education.

Our Constitution recognises the family as the primary educator of the child and defines duties and responsibilities for parents and the State in the education of children. Drawing on these provisions, on legislation, and on case law, the Guidelines for the Assessment of Education in Places Other Than Recognised Schools provide a working definition of ‘‘a certain minimum education'' and guidance on how this may be assessed, given best educational practice and the nature of educational provision in the home and other settings.

Schools Building Projects.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

111 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school building projects assessed as being of Band Two priority awaiting progression by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40239/06]

This Government is determined to ensure that every child is educated in a suitable and comfortable environment. Since 1997, great advances have been made in transforming school accommodation throughout the country, through an investment of €3 billion. This has funded over 7,800 individual school projects in the last seven years alone. This year we are spending €500 million on school buildings, compared to just over €90 million in 1997. Under the 2006 Budget €3.9 billion is being provided over the five years 2006-2010 for capital projects at all levels of the education sector from primary to third level.

While the challenge before us in reversing decades of under-investment in school buildings and in responding to emerging needs in new population areas is great, nonetheless we are making huge progress. The level of work being done under the School Building Programme is at an all-time high. While increased investment has been a central reason for this, the introduction of new schemes and changes in how projects are managed have also made a major difference.

Almost 800 were approved for Summer Works projects this year. This innovative scheme, which allows schools to get small projects done over the Summer holidays, did not exist when we came into office and schools were waiting for very many years for improvements such as rewiring, or new roofs or windows. Now when the school gates close for the Summer, the builders move in and the students come back to an improved environment just a few short months later.

To reduce red tape and allow projects to move faster, responsibility for smaller projects has been devolved to school level. Standard designs have also been developed for 8 and 16 classroom schools to facilitate speedier delivery of projects and save on design fees. Improvements have also been made in forward-planning through greater cooperation with local authorities and the publication of Area Development Plans.

In relation to the school building projects awaiting progression, the Deputy will be aware that the number of projects and their individual classifications can vary according to the stage of assessment and their progression though the building programme. At present, my Department has in the region of 1,300 applications for building works on the main building programme. These applications can range from extensions and refurbishments to applications for new schools on new sites. Their status can range from applications recently received in the Department to projects at various stages of architectural planning.

These projects are assessed and prioritised in accordance with the prioritisation criteria agreed with the Education Partners. In this regard, it should be noted that a project's banding, or classification, can be subject to reassessment having regard to demographic developments in the area served by the school and also, for example, if on foot of a technical examination of the school it was found that the proposed project put forward by the school was not an appropriate design solution to meet the accommodation requirements.

In addition to the projects above, there are also approximately 400 applications under the Small Schools Initiative and the Permanent Accommodation Scheme — many of these may also have applied under the main programme. These applications are currently being assessed with a view to an announcement being made shortly. In addition, 1,300 applications for the Summer Works Scheme 2007 are also currently being evaluated. The €3.9 billion envelope provided for education capital in the 2006 budget means that huge progress will continue to be made on school buildings in the coming years. This year alone over 1,300 building projects will be delivered.

Vocational Education Committees.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

112 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received applications from Vocational Educational Committees apart from County Clare to establish primary schools under their patronage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40172/06]

The applications from County Clare VEC referred to by the Deputy relate to notices of intent lodged by that VEC for consideration by the New Schools Advisory Committee (NSAC) under the NSAC process. I expect that NSAC will report on all the applications made to it in the normal time-frame and will make recommendations to me for consideration in the new year.

The Department has received proposals from County Dublin Vocational Education Committee in relation to the patronage of primary schools that will be co-located on a shared campus basis with planned post-primary schools that will be under the patronage of the VEC in rapidly developing areas. These proposals are currently being considered by the Department.

Education Welfare Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

113 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if in her view the recently announced Estimate 2007 allocation for the National Education Welfare Board will be sufficient to enable the NEWB to carry out its statutory obligations to ensure that every child attends school regularly, or otherwise receives an education or participates in training. [40199/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

159 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to resource the Education Welfare Board sufficiently to allow them to fulfil the function of tracking young people who drop out of school early; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40168/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

160 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of extra education welfare officers who will be appointed in the context of the recently published Government Estimates 2007; the locations where they will be deployed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40166/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113, 159 and 160 together.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that my Department's Estimates for 2007 include a provision of €9.8 million for the National Educational Welfare Board. This represents an increase of 20% on the 2006 allocation and of 50% on the 2004 level.

This substantial increase in funding is a clear indication of this Government's commitment to prioritise investment in favour of those most at risk. Through increased investment and improved services we are determined to optimise access, participation and educational outcomes at every level of the system for disadvantaged groups. The increase in funding for the Board will allow it to expand its services further and increase to staffing.

Since we formally launched the Board in December 2003, the number of staff has increased to 94. The Board operates through 5 regional teams, with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. A service is provided from 26 locations nationwide. Staff are deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. In addition, the Board follows up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education. Educational Welfare Officers monitor school attendance and work to improve it. They also help parents that are experiencing a difficulty with getting a school place for their child.

Since January 2004, 20,000 cases involving students with reported school attendance difficulties have been resolved by the Board. The NEWB has also written to every family with children of school going age advising them of their rights and responsibilities in relation to education and school attendance and where they can get help.

The first national data on school attendance has also been collected and is being used to inform the Board's work. In relation to the effectiveness of the service, it is encouraging to note research findings that attendance at school in the areas where EWOs are working intensively improved in 2004/05 compared with the previous year.

The Board is currently working on guidelines for schools on developing attendance strategies and the prevention of student absenteeism. Work is also advanced on guidelines for codes of behaviour. So, while the NEWB was set up just three years ago, a lot has already been achieved by the service and the Government is committed to strengthening its role even further.

It should, however, be remembered that the Board is just one aspect of the comprehensive framework that this Government has put in place to improve school attendance and encourage more young people to finish school. In this regard, extra supports targeted at young people in disadvantaged areas include both educational initiatives such as intensive literacy programmes and services such as breakfast clubs and homework clubs.

In fact, in addition to the NEWB, there are currently some 490 staff within the education sector with a role in school attendance. Home School Community Liaison Coordinators, in working with parents, promote school attendance and its importance for success in school. School attendance is a central objective of School Completion Programme with attendance tracking a core feature and one of its preventative strategies. Access to these services is being increased under the new Action Plan for tackling educational disadvantage, DEIS.

My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources and significant scope exists for integrated working between these personnel and Educational Welfare Officers. Consequently work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for all agencies and services to work together in collaboration and to ensure that optimum use is made of the resources deployed including NEWB resources. It is anticipated that the outcome of this work will continue to inform my Department on the staffing requirement for the NEWB into the future.

School Staffing.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

114 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress she expects to make in the 2006-2007 school year to fulfil the commitment in the Programme for Government in relation to children under nine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40155/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, there are now no less than 4,000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. Furthermore, there are nearly 7,000 more primary teachers than there were in 1997. This represents the largest increase in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc.

In recent years, priority has rightly been given to providing extra support for children with special needs, those from disadvantaged areas and those that need help with their English. Special education provision in particular has undergone a level of expansion the extent of which nobody could have predicted a few years ago, and this was only right. If we had put all 4,000 of the teachers hired since 2002 into classroom teaching, our average class size would be a lot smaller than it is now, but we would have done a great disservice to those children who need extra help the most. I am sure the Deputy would accept that we have taken the right approach.

Now that children with special needs are finally getting the support they deserve, we are providing extra teachers this year and next specifically to reduce class sizes, through a reduction in the mainstream staffing schedule. This has meant that, whereas all primary schools were staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the 05/06 school year, in the current school year there is a general rule of at least one teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next year, we are committed to hiring even more extra teachers in order to reduce this to a general rule of at least one teacher for every 27 children.

We also acted this year to specifically address the needs of growing schools by making it easier to qualify for a developing school post. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned for the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06. This change specifically addressed the needs of schools which are seeing large increases in their enrolments year on year.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled but we are determined to go even further, and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes.

I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 83.
Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 117 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Educational Planning.

Joan Burton

Question:

118 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of new primary schools that will be needed in west Dublin to cater for the estimated population growth over the next 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40150/06]

In relation to forward planning in areas of rapid growth, the process of assessing the need for new or additional educational facilities at primary or post-primary level in any given area entails consideration of all relevant factors, including enrolment and demographic trends, housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet the demand for places. Liaison with existing schools is also an important part of the process, as the school authorities would usually alert the Department where, in their view, the need for additional accommodation is anticipated. In this way, every effort is made to ensure that there is adequate existing provision, or that timely arrangements are made to extend capacity or provide new infrastructure where necessary.

Over and above the statutory consultation provisions in relation to local authority draft area development plans, the Department has in recent years worked to strengthen contacts with local authorities to enable informed decisions to be made in planning future educational provision.

On top of this, the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects, which were revised following consultation with the Education Partners, targets school projects in rapidly developing areas by assigning them a band 1 rating which is the highest priority possible. Innovations in the delivery of school buildings such as Generic Repeat Designs and use of the Design and Build model ensure that new school buildings are delivered in the fastest timeframe possible. This is clear evidence of the Department's commitment to ensuring that the needs of rapidly developing areas are met as quickly as possible.

School Planning Section is also working proactively with some local authorities on the possibility of the development of school provision in tandem with the development of community facilities. A practical output from this approach is an innovative partnership with Fingal County Council. Under the terms of the agreement and based on the Department's school planning projections, Fingal County Council will identify and acquire appropriate sites where schools with enhanced sporting, community and arts facilities will be built to the benefit of both the school and the wider community. In practice, the Local Authority will identify the sites when adopting their Local Area Plans. The Council will go on to acquire sufficient land as recommended by the Department on which an appropriate sized school or schools for that local area can then be built. In an area such as west Dublin, the Department continually monitors the demand for primary education and takes a decision to purchase reserved sites and construct new schools as the need is determined.

Educational Projects.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

119 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will progress the development of a primary pupil database; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40243/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

153 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has changed her mind in developing a primary pupils database to monitor and address the number of pupils failing to make the transition from primary to secondary level. [40201/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 153 together.

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

School Staffing.

Seán Crowe

Question:

120 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will implement the recommendation from the Teachers’ Union of Ireland to ensure an additional staff member for every 28 international students. [40197/06]

In order to ensure that children whose first language is not English can succeed at school, my Department gives additional support to their schools which can take the form of financial assistance, additional teaching posts or portions of teacher posts. The level of extra financial or teaching support provided to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible non-English speaking students enrolled.

Recent years have seen a significant rise in the number of language support posts being provided by my Department. In the current school year there are more than 1,100 such teachers in our schools, at a cost of €67 million. This compares with approximately 820 language support teachers last year and just 260 in the 2001/02 school year. Hence there has been more than a four-fold increase in language support posts over the past few years. In addition to the fulltime posts approved, grants towards the cost of employing part-time teachers are paid to primary schools with between 3 and 13 eligible non-national pupils. In the 2005/06 school year, 409 schools sought grant aid under this provision.

Between extra language support posts and grant aid, the level of support provided to schools to meet the needs of children whose first language is not English has increased dramatically in recent years. Nonetheless I am very conscious of the pressures on schools that have large numbers of non-English speaking children enrolled. I am determined to provide greater support for these schools.

To that end, provision has been made in the 2007 Estimates for an extra 200 language support teachers in 2007. A further 350 posts will be provided under the Towards 2016 partnership agreement between 2008 and 2009. These extra posts will allow the current cap of 2 teachers per school to be reformed.

While details as to the precise number of posts to be allocated at both levels in the current school year and the schools to which the posts will be allocated have yet to be finalised I can assure the Deputy that I will be anxious to ensure that the additional resources are properly targeted at those areas where they are most needed.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

121 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of money granted annually by the State to fee paying schools by way of teachers’ salaries and other supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40151/06]

The total annual amount paid in respect of fee-charging secondary schools is some €96 million. Of this sum approximately €87 million relates to salaries and allowances of teachers. The balance includes the Protestant Block Grant and funding towards support services such as secretarial and caretaking services and miscellaneous grants.

The payment of teachers salaries is part of a complex scheme of funding for fee-charging schools, which has traditionally sought to balance considerations of equity, pragmatism and State support for minority religions. Teachers in fee-charging schools, irrespective of the denominational ethos of the school, are paid by the State. This may well reflect a long standing pragmatism that the State would be required to provide teachers for the pupils in question were they located within the free education scheme.

There are 55 fee-charging second level schools in the country, of which 21 are Protestant. The latter schools receive funding by way of the Protestant Block Grant, which has its origins in the desire of the State to enable students of the Protestant persuasion to attend schools, which reflect their denominational ethos. The Block Grant includes payments in respect of capitation and these schools also qualify for payment of such grants as the transition year support grant and secretarial and caretaking grants. Fee-charging schools not embraced by the Protestant Block Grant do not qualify for payment of capitation or related supports.

I have no plans, at this stage, to withdraw State support for the payment of teachers in fee-charging schools. This support has been a long standing feature of our education system and one continued by successive Governments.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 82.

Schools Buildings Projects.

Richard Bruton

Question:

123 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school building projects assessed as being of Band Three priority awaiting progression by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40240/06]

This Government is determined to ensure that every child is educated in a suitable and comfortable environment. Since 1997, great advances have been made in transforming school accommodation throughout the country, through an investment of €3 billion. This has funded over 7,800 individual school projects in the last seven years alone. This year we are spending €500 million on school buildings, compared to just over €90 million in 1997.

Under the 2006 Budget €3.9 billion is being provided over the five years 2006-2010 for capital projects at all levels of the education sector from primary to third level. While the challenge before us in reversing decades of under-investment in school buildings and in responding to emerging needs in new population areas is great, nonetheless we are making huge progress.

The level of work being done under the School Building Programme is at an all-time high. While increased investment has been a central reason for this, the introduction of new schemes and changes in how projects are managed have also made a major difference.

Almost 800 were approved for Summer Works projects this year. This innovative scheme, which allows schools to get small projects done over the Summer holidays, did not exist when we came into office and schools were waiting for very many years for improvements such as rewiring, or new roofs or windows. Now when the school gates close for the Summer, the builders move in and the students come back to an improved environment just a few short months later.

To reduce red tape and allow projects to move faster, responsibility for smaller projects has been devolved to school level. Standard designs have also been developed for 8 and 16 classroom schools to facilitate speedier delivery of projects and save on design fees. Improvements have also been made in forward-planning through greater cooperation with local authorities and the publication of Area Development Plans.

In relation to the school building projects awaiting progression, the Deputy will be aware that the number of projects and their individual classifications can vary according to the stage of assessment and their progression though the building programme. At present, my Department has in the region of 1,300 applications for building works on the main building programme. These applications can range from extensions and refurbishments to applications for new schools on new sites. Their status can range from applications recently received in the Department to projects at various stages of architectural planning.

These projects are assessed and prioritised in accordance with the prioritisation criteria agreed with the Education Partners. In this regard, it should be noted that a project's banding, or classification, can be subject to reassessment having regard to demographic developments in the area served by the school and also, for example, if on foot of a technical examination of the school it was found that the proposed project put forward by the school was not an appropriate design solution to meet the accommodation requirements.

In addition to the projects above, there are also approximately 400 applications under the Small Schools Initiative and the Permanent Accommodation Scheme — many of these may also have applied under the main programme. These applications are currently being assessed with a view to an announcement being made shortly. In addition, 1,300 applications for the Summer Works Scheme 2007 are also currently being evaluated. The €3.9 billion envelope provided for education capital in the 2006 budget means that huge progress will continue to be made on school buildings in the coming years. This year alone over 1,300 building projects will be delivered.

Irish Language.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

124 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on draft proposals from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment on reform of the Irish exam at leaving certificate level; the implications for the language that arise from these proposals; the input of her Department into the proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37004/06]

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is a statutory body set up under the Education Act 1998 to advise the Minister for Education and Science on curriculum and assessment matters. While a document on Curriculum Provision in Irish in Post-Primary Education has been prepared for internal consultation within the Council, it has not yet been approved by the Council or presented to me as advice by the NCCA.

I have requested the NCCA to focus on increasing the attractiveness of Irish to all learners throughout the junior and senior cycle and on strengthening students' communicative skills, particularly their oral fluency.

Vocational Education Committees.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

125 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has made a decision on the application of County Clare Vocational Educational Committee to become the patron body to two primary schools in the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40171/06]

The application from the VEC to become a patron in respect of two primary schools is under consideration in my Department and a decision will be notified to the VEC in due course.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 96.

Youth Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

127 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education and Science the process of the National Youth Work Advisory Committee recommendation for the establishment of a youth work development unit; the terms of reference, resourcing and so on; his views on other such specialised units; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39917/06]

The National Youth Work Development Plan 2003-2007, which was prepared by the National Youth Work Advisory Committee (NYWAC) following an extensive consultation process, sets out four broad goals and proposes 50 actions to achieve these goals. These actions include the establishment of a Development Unit at national level to coordinate, manage and carry out research and to develop guidelines for best practice in youth work and assist youth work organisations to implement same. This initiative will be a key element in the development of youth work and is central to implementation of some 18 of the other actions proposed in the Plan.

Having considered the options for the establishment of the Unit proposed by the NYWAC, I approved the establishment of the Unit on a pilot basis within the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM). Discussions between my Department and the NUIM are ongoing on a number of matters including the drawing up a Memorandum of Agreement between my Department and the NUIM, the establishment of a Management Committee to oversee the management of the Unit, appropriate resourcing of the Unit (both human and financial) etc. The advice of other interest groups is also being considered. Terms of reference for the Unit will be developed by my Department in consultation with the relevant youth work interests. There is provision in the 2007 estimates to further develop this unit. In my view, this new Unit, in line with other such specialised units, has the potential to contribute significantly to the development of appropriate policies and initiatives that address the educational needs of our young people.

Special Educational Needs.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

128 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 577 of 24 October 2006 and a personal reply from her on 14 November 2006, if progress has been made in relation to this case. [40202/06]

My Department provides a range of supports to second level schools to enable them cater for students with special educational needs. The supports in question include remedial and resource teaching support, special needs assistant support and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment.

There are currently approximately 1,854 whole time equivalent additional teachers in place to support pupils with special educational needs at second level. This compares to the approximately 200 teachers that were in place in 1998 for such pupils. In addition, there are approximately 1,365 whole time equivalent special needs assistants (SNAs) in our second level schools.

The general allocation model at primary level is based on the premise that all primary schools have children with learning support or high incidence special educational needs. Early intervention support at primary ensures that many children do not need additional support at second level.

The precise model of provision made available at second level will depend on the assessed needs of the pupils involved. Some students are capable of attending ordinary classes on an integrated basis with additional teacher and/or special needs assistant support. In other cases, placement in special dedicated classes or units attached to the school may be more appropriate response. Such special classes operate at significantly reduced pupil teacher ratios. Students attached to these special classes may be facilitated in attending ordinary subject classes on an integrated basis wherever possible.

Second level pupils with dyslexia are normally integrated into ordinary classes. In such situations they may receive additional tutorial support from the remedial/learning support teacher, guidance counsellor and subject teachers. All second level schools in the free education /block grant schemes have an entitlement to an ex-quota teacher allocation in respect of remedial /learning support teaching and guidance provision. There are currently a total of 534 wholetime equivalent remedial/learning support teachers and 684 wholetime equivalent guidance teachers in place at second level.

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

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has been established as an independent statutory body with responsibilities as set out in the National Council for Special Education Act, 2005. With effect from 1 January 2005, the NCSE through local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) is responsible for processing resource applications for children with special educational needs. Where a pupil with special educational needs enrols in a post primary school, it is open to the school to apply to the local SENO for additional teaching support and/or special needs assistant support for the pupil.

In accordance with the terms of circular letter M 10/94, pupils with dyslexia may also, depending on an educational assessment, meet the criteria for exemption from the learning of the Irish Language on the grounds of having a learning disability. Depending on the degree of the condition, they may also be eligible for special arrangements in the Certificate Examinations.

Medical Education.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

129 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to decide on the location for post-graduate medical education; the number of places that will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40132/06]

Joe Costello

Question:

145 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science the provision that will be made for free or subsidised tuition for persons who wish to apply for a place in the proposed post-graduate medical school who can not afford a fee-paying course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40133/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 145 together.

On the 1 February 2006 the Minister for Health and Children and I published the report of the Fottrell Working Group on Undergraduate Medical Education and Training. As part of these reforms I am increasing the annual number of undergraduate places for Irish and EU students from 305 to 485. I am also introducing a separate graduate entry stream which will provide 240 additional places per annum. These increases, which will be phased in over a five year period, will increase the annual number of medical places from 305 to 725.

The Higher Education Authority has recently issued a competitive call for proposals to provide the new graduate entry programme, with a view to additional places being provided on this programme from 2007. It has been decided that graduate entry will be open to graduates of honours bachelor degrees. The provision of a graduate entry stream is an important development in reducing pressures on aspiring medical students who until now have effectively had one chance of entry, based on their Leaving Certificate performance. This will allow students to make a decision to enter medicine at a more mature age and should result in a more diverse range of entrants into the profession. No decisions have been made on the level of tuition fees for the graduate programme as this will form part of the overall outcome of the competitive call for proposals.

Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 81.
Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Proposed Legislation.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

132 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science when the Student Support Bill will be published; the pre-consultation that has taken place with students and representative bodies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40222/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

142 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science when the Student Support Bill will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40160/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 142 together.

The Deputies will be aware that, in accordance with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, I plan to introduce a single unified scheme of maintenance grants for students in higher education. This will, I believe, provide for a more coherent administration system which will facilitate consistency of application, improved client accessibility and ensure the timely delivery of grants to those who need them most. This is part of my overall plan to introduce service improvements in the administration of the student grant schemes. These will include guaranteed timeframes for the earlier payment of grants, an independent appeals procedure and more efficient arrangements for handling applications and making payments.

To effect these administrative and service improvements requires the introduction of a new statutory basis for the scheme to replace the existing arrangements which involve a mix of statutory and non-statutory administrative schemes. Accordingly, the Government has approved the drafting of a new Student Support Bill which will place all student support schemes on a statutory footing for the first time, including providing for the designation of an appropriate awarding authority and for the general basis on which grants will be awarded to eligible students.

Work on the Bill is at an advanced stage and I hope to be in a position to publish the Bill in early 2007. My Department has, as I have indicated previously, engaged in substantial consultations with the key stakeholders, including students in order to map the most logical and effective arrangements for the future structure and administration of the student support schemes. This process of consultation is on-going. Implementation of the Bill when enacted, will take place in consultation with the relevant stakeholders to ensure an orderly transition and minimise disruption to students.

Special Educational Needs.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

133 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will extend remedial programmes aimed at improving literacy for boys to the area of maths for girls schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39900/06]

The Deputy will be aware that, in September 2005 my Department introduced a new system of teacher allocation to all mainstream primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, that is, pupils with borderline mild and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability, including those with difficulties in maths.

It is a matter for the individual school to use its professional judgement to identify pupils with high incidence special education and learning support needs that will receive this support and to use the resources available to the school to intervene at the appropriate level with such pupils. My Department issued a comprehensive circular, SP ED 02/05 to schools which provides guidelines on the manner in which they should use the resources that have been allocated to them to best effect. The circular contains advice on how best to meet the needs of pupils with difficulties in either reading or mathematics, irrespective of gender. It is anticipated that a review of the general allocation model will be undertaken after three years of operation and I have no plans to alter the system in advance of the review.

Subject Evaluations.

Michael Noonan

Question:

134 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of subject evaluations which will be completed by the end of 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40248/06]

In 2006 the Inspectorate planned to conduct a total of 660 subject inspections in post-primary schools. This comprised 428 stand-alone subject inspections and 232 subject inspections as part of whole-school evaluations. By the end of 2006 the evaluation phase of the subject inspection process will have been completed in all of the 660 subject inspections planned. 389 of these subject inspections will have been issued to schools by the end of December 2006. The remainder will issue to schools and be published on the Department's website in early 2007 in accordance with the agreed timeframe for the publication of subject inspection reports.

Schools Building Projects.

John Curran

Question:

135 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps her Department is taking to progress the school building projects in the Lucan area. [40125/06]

There are currently 5 post-primary and 11 primary schools in the general Lucan area. The position regarding major school building projects in the area is as follows:

St Marys Primary School, Woodview — The proposed extension project for this school is to provide additional accommodation to cater for 24 classrooms plus ancillary accommodation. The project is at an early stage of architectural planning. The schools Design Team has been instructed to prepare a stage 1, 2 submission (site suitability/sketch scheme).

Adamstown Community College — This is a Design and Build new school project to cater for 1,000 pupils. A stage 3 report has been reviewed by my Department's technical team and their comments sent to the developer. When these comments are addressed and a response received, my officials will evaluate the documentation.

St Josephs College, Lucan — The proposed refurbishment project for this school is at an early stage of architectural planning. The project was approved to proceed to stage 3 (Dev sketch scheme) in October 2006. When the complete stage 3 submission is received in my Department, my Officials will arrange a meeting with the School's Design Team in order to evaluate the documentation.

Adamstown Primary School — Construction has recently commenced on 2 sixteen classroom schools one is scheduled to be ready for September 2007 and the other for late 2007.

Gaelscoil Naomh Pádraig — Construction was recently completed on 8 classrooms plus ancillary accommodation to bring this school up to a sixteen classroom school

Scoil Mhuire — A revised stage 3 for the construction of 3 classrooms plus some ancillary accommodation plus upgrading of the M & E is awaited. When this extension is completed the school will have 24 classrooms.

Building projects for Coláiste Cois Life and Balgaddy Senior Primary school were recently completed.

I recently gave the ahead to start architectural planning for building and modernisation works at Lucan Community School, Balgaddy Junior School, St. Thomas N.S. and Scoil Áine N.S.

My Department monitors the school needs of the Lucan area on a regular basis and will continue to do so in order that any newly emerging needs can be addressed as expeditiously as possible.

It is evident from the above that my Department has and is continuing to make a major investment in school infrastructure in the Lucan area. This has been facilitated by a record investment by the Government of over €2 billion in school infrastructure in the period from 2000 to 2005, which enabled my Department to deliver over 6500 projects nationally in that period. An additional 1,300 building projects will be carried out under my Department's Capital Programme this year alone.

The infrastructural investment needs in schools will continue into the future. However, I am confident that the allocation from Government of €3.9 billion in capital funding for the education sector over the next 5 years will enable my Department to continue to take a pro-active approach in modernising existing schools and providing additional accommodation where required throughout the country.

School Accommodation.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

136 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science the cost to her Department of buying and leasing prefabs in the 2005 to 2006 school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40136/06]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the total amount of money spent on buying and leasing prefabs in the 2005 to 2006 school year is not available in the format requested by the Deputy. Records are maintained on a financial year basis as distinct from a school year as sought by the Deputy. Details in relation to the cost of providing temporary accommodation (including the provision of prefabs) for 2005 to end of October 2006 is outlined in the following table.

As the Deputy will see from the following table the spend on temporary accommodation represents a very small fraction of the overall yearly spend on school buildings. The demand for additional accommodation in schools has risen significantly over the last number of years mainly due to the rapid expansion in teacher numbers particularly in the area of special needs, the growth in the school-going population in rapidly developing areas and the demands to cater for diversity through the recognition of new Gaelscoileanna and Educate Together schools. The provision of rented accommodation provides an immediate solution to a deficit of school accommodation, and is often the only available option where extra accommodation is needed at short notice.

Year

Total Capital Expenditure at Primary & Post Primary Level

Expenditure on Temporary Accommodation

Temporary Accomodation as a % of total Capital Expenditure

Expenditure on Rental of temporary school premises (including prefab classrooms)

Rental of temporary school premises (including prefab classrooms) as a % of total Capital Expenditure

€m

€m

%

€m

%

2005

501.26

6.47

1.29

15.70

3.13

**2006

361.36

2.55

0.71

19.00

5.26

**2006 figures to end of October.
Questions Nos. 137 and 138 answered with Question No. 108.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

139 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of people who have applied to the Residential Institutions Redress Board; the estimated cost of paying all of the awards under the board’s remit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40175/06]

The Residential Institutions Redress Board was established under statute in 2002 to provide financial redress to victims of child abuse in residential institutions in order to assist them in their recovery and enhance the quality of the remainder of their lives. The Board received 14,541 applications by the 15th of December, 2005, the closing date for receipt of applications. My Department has included a contingency provision of up to €1.3 billion for the total liability potentially arising from the scheme in the notes to the 2005 Appropriation Accounts. This was based on the total number of applications to the Board, a cumulative average award of €76,000 at end 2005 and estimated legal and administrative costs of approximately 20% of awards.

The final cost of the scheme must be viewed in the context of the Government apology to the victims of abuse and the very substantial costs that would have been incurred in any event if no such scheme had been established and if cases had been processed in the normal manner through the courts.

Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she proposes to take to address the issue of class sizes throughout Dublin, throughout Leinster and throughout the rest of country with a view to bringing the process into line with the best known practice elsewhere; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40176/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, there are now no less than 4,000 extra teachers in our primary schools, compared with 2002. Furthermore, there are nearly 7,000 more primary teachers than there were in 1997. This represents the largest increase in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. The average class size in our primary schools is 24 and there is now one teacher for 17 pupils at primary level, including resource teachers etc. The number of children in large classes has been significantly reduced. When this Government first came into office, there were more than 52,000 children in classes of 35 and over — five times the number that there were in the last school year. There were also more than 1,900 children in classes of 40 and over — compared to just over 200 in 05/06.

While I appreciate the need to make further progress in reducing class size, it should be acknowledged just how much has been achieved. In recent years, priority has rightly been given to providing extra support for children with special needs, those from disadvantaged areas and those that need help with their English. Special education provision in particular has undergone a level of expansion the extent of which nobody could have predicted a few years ago — and this was only right. If we had put all 4,000 of the teachers hired since 2002 into classroom teaching, our average class size would be a lot smaller than it is now. But we would have done a great disservice to those children who need extra help the most. I am sure the Deputy would accept that we have taken the right approach.

Now that children with special needs are finally getting the support they deserve, we are providing extra teachers this year and next specifically to reduce class sizes, through a reduction in the mainstream staffing schedule. This has meant that, whereas all primary schools were staffed on a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the 05/06 school year, in the current school year there is a general rule of at least one teacher for every 28 children. Of course, schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than that — with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on — but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children in the school. Next year, we are committed to hiring even more extra teachers in order to reduce this to a general rule of at least one teacher for every 27 children.

We also acted this year to specifically address the needs of growing schools by making it easier to qualify for a developing school post. Over 280 such posts were sanctioned for the 2006/07 school year, compared to 170 in 2005/06. This change specifically addressed the needs of schools which are seeing large increases in their enrolments year on year. The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled but we are determined to go even further, and so the 2007 Estimates include provision for another 800 primary teachers. About 500 of these will be classroom teachers, which includes our commitment to reduce class sizes. I assure the Deputy that we will continue to prioritise further improvements in school staffing going forward. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 132.

Inservice Training.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

143 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of hours in the higher diploma in teaching spent on conflict resolution; and if she has satisfied herself with this amount. [40204/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

149 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of teachers receiving in-service conflict resolution training. [40205/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 149 together.

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Higher Diploma programmes for post-primary teacher training provide the necessary skills to mitigate and resolve conflict as it occurs in the classroom and school setting. Conflict resolution is integral to all aspects of the education programme which aims to support teachers as developers and builders of a learning environment in the classroom setting and in the school as a learning community. Specific lectures on conflict resolution are included in the Higher Diploma programmes. However, the subject has many overlaps with other aspects of the programme and it is addressed specifically in areas such as classroom management, practical workshops, tutorials which, on average, amounts to 42 hours. The issue of conflict resolution also forms part of the teaching practice element of the programme.

My Department continues to support teachers in schools to address conflict in a changing school environment as part of the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) Programme at Junior Certificate level. The support is provided by a dedicated team of seconded teachers and approximately 2,500 teachers have attended SPHE in-service over the past 6 years. The SPHE curriculum is mandatory in all primary schools and post-primary schools up to Junior Certificate Level in which substance use is one of 10 modules taught. During 2005/2006, over 900 post-primary teachers attended in-service programmes at their local Education Centre where conflict resolution was a component.

In addition, my Department provides a range of support to Principals and Deputy Principals in the area of conflict management as part of the Leadership Development in Schools, the School Development Planning Initiative and the Special Education Support Service. I recently established the National Behavioural Support Service (NBSS) which will address issues relating to student behaviour in post-primary schools, including training in conflict resolution techniques. At Primary level, my Department provides continuing professional development support through the Primary Curriculum Support Programme which deals with the revised Primary Curriculum. As part of its remit, support is provided to teachers on conflict resolution in the context of training in the areas of classroom management and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE).

Continuous professional development is also provided on conflict resolution in the context of training provided by a number of Support Services working with all primary schools: School Leadership Development, School Development Planning Service and the Special Education Support Service. Furthermore, over 5,300 primary teachers attended in-service programmes at their local Education Centre where conflict resolution was a component during 2005/2006.

Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 89.
Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 129.
Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Literacy Levels.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

147 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science the way she proposes to improve the literacy level of prisoners both in adult and juvenile detention centres; if monitoring is done on improvements to literacy levels of people when they are in prison; her views on whether improved literacy would reduce recidivism and assist prisoners to get employment when they are released; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40156/06]

Young people in the children detention schools attend school and receive tuition in curricular areas, including literacy, in keeping with their needs and age. These schools are monitored by my Department's inspectorate and, like all schools, are subject to Whole School Evaluation. The monitoring of individual student progress is a matter for the teaching staff of each school. Arising from a review of youth justice provisions, the Government last year approved a package of measures designed to restructure and streamline the delivery of the State's services in this area. As part of this package, my Department is drawing up an education strategy in order to ensure a continuum of education and training opportunities for young people in children detention schools, special care units and high support units.

The strategy will deal with the education and training provision for such young people before, during and after any periods in special care or detention. It will reflect the key role played by education in shaping the lives of these young people and encourage them to assume a positive role in society. Work on the preparation of the strategy is underway.

The Deputy should note that literacy in adult detention centres is a matter for the Irish Prison Service and arrangements are being made for that Service to respond directly to the Deputy in that regard.

School Curriculum.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

148 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the introduction of information and communications technology as a subject for the junior certificate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40191/06]

I have no plans to introduce information and communications technology (ICT) as a discrete subject for the junior certificate. Recent thinking on ICT in schools is that the best way to learn ICT skills is to apply them in a meaningful context. Based on this, the focus in Ireland is on developing and promoting the use of ICT as a tool for teaching and learning across the curriculum.

Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 143.

Radon Gas Levels.

Damien English

Question:

150 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools which have not been tested for radon; the names of these schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40213/06]

My Department commenced a Radon Remediation Programme in 1998 when it commissioned the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to conduct a survey of radon levels in all primary and post primary schools. The programme initially involved surveying radon levels in schools and subsequently carrying out mitigation works where appropriate. The programme is 100% funded by my Department and has cost approximately €6m to date.

All schools have been advised of the programme and where excess radon levels are located, funding is provided for the mitigation works. Follow-up monitoring also takes place to ensure that the remediation action has been successful.

The remaining handful of schools who have not agreed to participate in the radon surveys are regularly advised of the need to do so. Radon barriers are included in the design of all new school building projects.

Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 89.
Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 47.
Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 119.

Internet Access.

Ivor Callely

Question:

154 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures in place for young people in order to promote appropriate use of information and communications technology particularly the use of the internet; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39916/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Schools Broadband Programme provides broadband internet access to Primary and Post Primary schools and includes Content Filtering as an integral part of the service. The Content Filtering service is designed to control the level of access from schools, via the broadband network, to the wider internet. It does this by categorising websites under various categories and providing content filtering ‘options' to schools which allow or block a combination of these website categories. Based on information and advice provided by the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE), the schools themselves decide on which content filtering option is most appropriate to school needs and confirm this to the NCTE. This option is then set up for the school. Currently two options have been implemented for schools. However, this may change based on the feedback from schools and responding to schools requirements.

The Content Filtering service also implements a white list and blacklist policy. Websites which are categorised as appropriate for all schools are placed on a white list. In contrast, websites which are categorised as non-appropriate for all schools are placed on a black list. No school is connected to the internet via the schools broadband network unless it has confirmed in writing: a) an Internet Acceptable Usage Policy in place and b) its Content Filtering option to the NCTE. Content Filtering is a technology based service that assists in the management of websites for schools. Along with education / awareness and supervision it forms the basis of implementing a safe environment for pupils in schools.

The National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) actively provides support and guidelines to schools regarding the use of the Information and Communication Technologies. Through its internet safety initiative the NCTE launched Webwise.ie, which creates awareness about new technologies and possible risks associated with their use by young people. The site provides tools and information to empower users on how to avoid or deal with these risks; in particular the advice given is technology independent reducing the number of messages a student needs to remember. In addition, the Internet Advisory Board is working in this area.

The NCTE has also published guidelines in relation to other information and communications technologies. For example, ‘ICT Planning and Advice for Schools' highlights the educational potential of mobile phones and a copy of this pack was distributed to all schools and is available online athttp://advicesheets.ncte.ie/ mobilephones/. It refers to the management of mobile phone use by students as an important issue and must be incorporated into the school’s ICT Plan and Acceptable Use Policy.

Multi-Denominational Schools.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

155 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Educate Together can no longer assist groups of parents in certain parts of the country who wish to establish schools with a multi-denominational ethos due to the fact that they are not sufficiently funded; if she will increase the funding to Educate Together in order that they can continue to fulfil this function of assisting groups of parents to assert their Constitutional right; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40129/06]

A special once-off grant of €40,000 was paid to Educate Together in 2005 bringing their total grant in that year to over €81,000. In 2006 the funding provided to Educate Together was increased almost threefold to €120,000.

In making their case for funding to me Educate Together also raised the issue for support for newly establishing schools. To support such schools I introduced a new grant of €10,000 payable in two instalments of €5,000 for the Boards of Management of newly establishing schools in respect of training of the Boards of Management and staff of those schools in their initial years.

This grant is in addition to the existing start-up grant of €6,348.69 which has been available to all new primary schools, including Educate Together schools, which began operating from 1st September, 2000 onwards.

With regard to training of school boards of management generally, it is open to the School Management Bodies to apply to my Department for funding for this purpose.

My Department has supported the establishment of a significant number of new multi-denominational schools in recent years. Of the 34 new schools granted provisional recognition in the past four years alone, 14 are multi-denominational.

Many multi-denominational primary schools are established in areas of rapidly expanding population growth. School Building projects in these areas are assigned a Band 1 rating under the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects. This is the highest band rating possible which results in the delivery of permanent accommodation in the shortest timeframe achievable. Pending the delivery of new school buildings, the Department contributes 95% towards the cost of renting of temporary accommodation for schools with permanent recognition. The local contribution for a school in such circumstances is capped at €3,175 per annum.

To underpin the establishment of new schools, my Department has made a number of changes in recent years which have assisted patron bodies in the provision of accommodation. One of these changes, which was strongly welcomed by the patron body for multi-denominational schools, was the abolition of the local contribution to the building costs for state-owned school buildings, which had cost up to €63,000 per school. Other innovations include the development of the design and build model to provide permanent accommodation much faster.

Standard/generic designs have also been developed by the Building Unit of my Department for 8 and 16 classroom schools. It is expected that use of these designs, wherever possible, will yield substantial savings in terms of design team fees as well as reducing the time taken to bring new school projects to completion.

I am satisfied that the range of measures now in place, including the almost threefold increase in their grant, provides a comprehensive response to the request made for additional support for Educate Together and their schools.

State Examinations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

156 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the changes she will introduce in the leaving certificate examination; if she proposes to hold some parts of the examination prior to June; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40158/06]

A range of components in the Leaving Certificate examinations already take place prior to June. For example, coursework in Home Economics Scientific and Social is required to be completed by November. The Engineering project is required to be completed in March, and the oral examinations are completed in April, in addition to the LCVP Link Modules portfolio, the practical coursework elements of Religion, History and Geography, Agricultural Science, and Agricultural Economics, elective coursework in Home Economics, the practical component of Music and the Construction Studies Project. The practical examination in Engineering, Construction, Art and the elective in composing in Music take place in May as well as the written examination for the LCVOP Link Modules.

The Leaving Certificate Applied programme also provides for completion of assessment components throughout the cycle.

I am acutely aware of the importance of ensuring a spread of assessment points, and of the need to move away from the heavy demand placed on students in the June terminal examinations. I asked the State Examinations Commission to discuss this issue with the partners in education to see how it might best be addressed.

School Insurance.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

157 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the action she will take to assist schools with the escalating cost of insurance; if her Department will consider a centralised system of insurance for schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40173/06]

Responsibility for arranging insurance cover, including the specific requirements of insurance cover for school property and against public liability is a matter for the managerial authorities of primary and post-primary schools and would fall to be met from the capitation funding which schools receive from my Department.

My Department provides funding to schools by way of per capita grants, which affords schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils.

There have been significant improvements in the level of funding provided to primary and post-primary schools. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant at primary level was increased from €57.14 per pupil to €145.58 with effect from 1st January, 2006. From 1st January next the standard per capita grant will be increased by a further €18 per pupil bringing the overall capitation grant per pupil at primary level to €163.58. This will represent an increase of 186% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997.

In addition, the already enhanced rates of capitation grant payable in respect of certain categories of special needs pupils enrolled in special schools and special classes in ordinary national schools are being substantially increased with effect from 1st January 2007. There have been significant improvements in recent years in the level of funding for voluntary secondary schools also. In addition to the €12 per pupil increase in 2006 in the standard per capita grant that now stands at €298 per pupil, voluntary secondary schools have benefited additionally by the increase of €14 per pupil in 2006 in the support services grant bringing the overall grant to €159 per pupil.

In addition to the increases in the standard per capita grant rates outlined above, the per capita grant at post-primary level will also be increased by €18 per pupil bringing the overall capitation grant for post-primary pupils to €316. The support services grant will also be increased by a further €30 for voluntary secondary schools, which includes a further equalisation measure, to €189 per pupil. For such schools this cumulative increase of €48 per pupil will bring the aggregate grant to over €500 per pupil from 1 January next. These grants are in addition to the per capita funding of up to €40,000 per school that is also provided by my Department to secondary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services.

For a secondary school with 500 pupils, this will bring annual grants towards general expenses and support service to over €290,000. Schools are afforded considerable flexibility in the use of resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. These significant increases in the funding of primary and post primary schools are a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools.

Whole School Evaluations.

Dan Neville

Question:

158 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of whole school evaluations which are planned to take place during 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40249/06]

Planning for whole-school evaluations (WSE) in 2007 in primary schools, post-primary schools and centres for education is underway at present, and will be finalised within a few weeks. It is expected that over 300 WSEs will be conducted during 2007. This will include approximately 230 WSEs at primary level, 60 WSEs in post-primary schools and 15 WSEs in other centres for education.

Questions Nos. 159 and 160 answered with Question No. 113.

Legal Actions.

Tom Hayes

Question:

161 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of legal actions her Department is currently engaged in; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40194/06]

There are approximately 270 cases before the Courts which involve the Department as a Defendant or Respondent. They include litigation relating to Primary Schools, Community and Comprehensive Schools, Children Detention Schools, Special Needs, school non-attendance, school transport, litigation arising from industrial relations actions, contractual disputes and a diverse range of matters.

This figure does not include childhood abuse cases relating to industrial and reformatory schools and residential Institutions, which number approximately 695 live cases. These are being dealt with primarily by the Residential Institutions Redress Board. However, it is not possible to indicate what percentage of these cases will reach a hearing, as a large number of cases are discontinued following the acceptance by the plaintiffs of awards made by the Redress Board.

School Enrolments.

Joan Burton

Question:

162 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures taken by her Department to ensure that all schools comply with their own enrolment policies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40130/06]

The compulsory school starting age in a National School is 6 years of age and Rule 64 (1) of the Rules for National Schools provides that a child must be at least 4 years of age before she/he may be enrolled in a National School. Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000.

Where a Board of Management refuses to enrol a student in a school, the parent of the student or, where the student has reached 18 years of age, the student himself or herself, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act to appeal that decision to my Department. A committee is established to hear the appeal with hearings conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases appeals must be dealt with within 30 days. Where appropriate, my Department may give whatever directions to the Board of Management that are considered necessary to remedy the matter complained of. The existence of an appeals procedure serves to ensure that schools abide by their enrolment policies.

Details on appealing decisions on enrolment under section 29 of the Education Act are available on my Department's website atwww.education.ie.

Question No. 163 answered with QuestionNo. 67.

Bullying in Schools.

Jack Wall

Question:

164 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science her response to More than a Phase, a resource guide for the inclusion of young lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender learners, published by Pobal in October 2006; if she will address the need to ensure that schools, colleges and teachers are addressing the needs of these students effectively and inclusively, and that they are protected from bullying; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40162/06]

Regarding implementation of the resource guide in question by organisations in the youth sector, the position is that publication of the resource is to be welcomed and it complements existing resources available in this sector under the National Youth Health Programme operated by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI).

In relation to schools, the Deputy will be aware that every school is required to have in place a policy which includes specific measures to deal with bullying behaviour. This policy should be developed within the framework of an overall school Code of Behaviour and Discipline. Such a code, properly devised and implemented, can be the most influential measure in countering bullying behaviour in schools.

In view of the increasing demands which have been placed on schools as a result of statutory obligations and the requirement for policies in a range of areas, my Department has been working to ensure greater availability of guidelines and template policies to assist schools. In August of this year, I announced the publication on my Department's website of policy templates for post-primary schools in five key areas, including anti-bullying, as part of our ongoing efforts in this regard. The template documents are not prescriptive, but rather highlight possible approaches and potential material for inclusion in school policies.

The anti-bullying policy template is based primarily on the key document Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour, 1993. However, it does take account of more recent legislative and regulatory changes, and reference is also made to issues of contemporary concern such as the need to tackle text bullying, cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is at present developing guidelines for schools on Codes of Behaviour, as provided for under section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. Once the NEWB Guidelines are in place, my Department will commence the process of revising and updating its own Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour. The issue of homophobic bullying will be further addressed in this context and resources such as the Pobal Guide will help to inform this review process.

Office of the Attorney General.

Bernard Allen

Question:

165 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to the position arising from the 2006 Assistant Parliamentary Council Competition Grade 2 where only three Irish lawyers out of 40 were declared qualified despite the fact that they were sanctioned for the filling of six vacancies. [39908/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

166 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach the statutes since 2003 which have been drafted by foreign contract drafters. [39909/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

167 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to staffing issues in the drafting section of the Attorney General’s Office due to the presence of a high number of foreign contract drafters and, as a result of these temporary appointments, Irish drafters are not receiving the drafting experience and the opportunity to involve themselves in the important preparation of Bills. [39910/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

168 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to the lack of promotional opportunities for entry level drafters in the Attorney General’s Office and that there has been only one promotional examination since 2001. [39911/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

169 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach his views on the fact that Ireland is the only country where foreign contract drafters prepare the national legislation of the country. [39912/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 to 169, inclusive, together.

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Written Questions No. 132 to 136 from Deputy Rabbitte on 5 July 2006, Written Question No. 221 from Deputy Gormley on 27 September and Written Questions Nos. 177 and 178 from Deputy Sargent on 14 November. It is not the practice of the Office to identify the drafters of individual Acts of the Oireachtas. Many drafting projects are undertaken by more than one drafter.

Permanent members of staff in the Office are assigned drafting projects commensurate with their experience. Taking account of the demands of the Government Legislation Programme and the requirement to draft complex Bills urgently, every effort is made to assign a variety of drafting projects to all drafters. There was a promotion to Assistant Parliamentary Counsel I in September 2003. The position about further promotions is regularly reviewed. Promotions are based on merit as is the case across the civil service. Potential candidates have to meet the required standards to be promoted. The practice of engaging drafters on contract began in the early 1980s. All Contract Drafters engaged by the Office have significant drafting experience in common-law jurisdictions similar to our own. In the past, all have previously held senior drafting positions including former heads of office of the UK Office of Parliamentary Counsel, the Canadian Federal Drafting Office and the Office of the Scottish Parliamentary Counsel. The use of these drafters enables the Office to meet the demands of the Government's Legislation Programme while ensuring that the newer drafters receive extensive training. Newer drafters work with more senior colleagues, including contract staff, and thus receive in-depth and wide ranging experience. Indeed, without the assistance of the contract staff the more experienced permanent drafters would find it impossible to train newer staff without having to decrease their involvement in the preparation of legislation.

In engaging contract drafters, the Office has, in accordance with agreed procedures, informed the relevant Union which represents permanent drafters of its intentions to do so in each case. I should emphasise that the engagement of contract drafters does not impact on the experience opportunities available to permanent drafters to gain appropriate drafting experience.

In many common law jurisdictions, there are non-indigenous drafters preparing legislation. Indeed, the head of the drafting office in the State of Victoria in Australia is a native of Northern Ireland who commenced his drafting career in the Office of the Legislative Counsel in Belfast. Also, some of the permanent members of staff of the OPC have worked in other jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands.

Death Statistics.

Tony Gregory

Question:

170 Mr. Gregory asked the Taoiseach if the number of death certificates of persons who died in nursing homes in what was the Eastern Health Board region which contains a reference to decubitus ulcers can be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39989/06]

Mortality statistics are classified by the Underlying Cause of Death. The Underlying Cause of Death is defined as a) ‘the disease or injury which initiated the train of events leading directly to death', or b) ‘the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury'. Deaths are coded according to the Ninth Revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death (I.C.D. 9). Thus, numbers of deaths where decubitus ulcers were the Underlying Cause of Death can readily be produced.

However, data on diseases which were referred to on the death certificate but which were not the Underlying Cause of Death are not retained on CSO systems. To produce statistics retrospectively on numbers of death certificates containing a reference to decubitus ulcers would involve manually re-examining each death certificate. The Central Statistics Office currently retains death certificates from 2002 to date. Death certificates prior to 2002 are held by the General Register Office.

Statistics on the place of death are produced on the basis of a textual description of the place of death which is subsequently coded within the CSO according to the following classification:

1. Hospital

2. Local Health Board Institutions

3. Private Homes

4. Rotunda, Holles Street and Coombe

5. Homes for the Aged, Community Care, and Hospices

6. Mental Hospital

7. Domiciliary

8. Elsewhere.

There is no specific category within the classification for Nursing Homes. Some will be included in category ‘1. Local Health Board Institutions', ‘4. Private Homes' and ‘6. Homes for the Aged, Community Care and Hospices'. Thus, numbers of deaths in nursing homes cannot currently be produced without a manual re-examination of the death certificate. However even a re-examination of the death certificate may not facilitate the identification of all nursing homes as the quality and level of information provided in the textual description may not be adequate to meet this requirement. In addition an exhaustive list of nursing homes would be required to aid the coding process.

Note also that where a nursing home resident dies in a hospital, the place of death recorded will be the hospital. The residence of the deceased could potentially indicate whether or not the individual was being cared for in a nursing home prior to death. However no information on the length of stay in the hospital is available and therefore it would not be possible to identify if the decubitus ulcers occurred in the nursing home or in the hospital.

Garda Vetting Services.

John Gormley

Question:

171 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time it takes for police clearance for the employment by the Health Service Executive of a special needs assistant in the Ashbourne, County Meath area; the reason there is so much red tape and lack of co-ordination between the various agencies involved in securing this service; if he will acknowledge that this vital service needs to be streamlined to suit the needs of the people trying to access it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40139/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the processing time within the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) in respect of valid applications for Garda vetting received from the Health Service Executive (HSE) is four weeks. Any further time frame involved in the filling of posts for which vetting is required is solely a matter for the recruiting organisations, which are aware of this Garda processing time and have been advised to factor it into the recruitment and selection procedures.

I do not accept the contention that there is ‘red tape' and a lack of co-ordination in inter-agency co-operation in the vetting process.

Since the decentralisation of the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) in Thurles in November 2005, a significant streamlining of procedures to process vetting applications has occurred, and these have resulted in an improved service being provided to client organisations, including the HSE. I understand that there is ongoing, close co-operation between the GCVU and the HSE in processing vetting applications and that both bodies are committed to maintaining close links on the issue.

Legislative Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

172 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation regarding the issue of rogue estate agents and the role of the ombudsman; and if there are plans for new legislation on this issue. [40336/06]

I can inform the Deputy that the auctioneering profession is currently regulated under the Auctioneers and House Agents Acts 1947 to 1973. Following from the recommendations of the Auctioneering/ Estate Agency Review Group, work is underway on new legislation, the Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill, which will modernise the regulatory framework in this area and extend it to management agents. Pending enactment of this new legislation, I have put in place an Implementation Group for the National Property Services Regulatory Authority and charged it with making arrangements for the early establishment of the Authority and its structures.

Missing Persons.

Richard Bruton

Question:

173 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has considered to possibility of introducing an all-Ireland helpline for missing persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39955/06]

In relation to the specific matter raised by the Deputy, there are no current plans to proceed along the lines proposed. As I have stated in the past, the Government is committed to developing North/South co-operation across a full spectrum of areas and we will continue to promote closer cooperation between the two jurisdictions wherever it will prove beneficial to the people of this island.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are high levels of cooperation between UK and Irish police forces in relation to the investigation of missing persons in both jurisdictions. Media outlets, print, radio and television are used to highlight cases involving missing persons, as appropriate. All cases of persons reported missing in suspicious circumstances are subject to ongoing review and investigation. The services of other external agencies such as Interpol and Europol are also available to assist in the investigation.

The missing children website,www.missingkids.ie is a joint initiative between the Garda Síochána and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. This website enables the Garda Síochána to circulate instantaneously and internationally written details and high quality photographs of children reported missing to other police forces.

Registration of Title.

Dan Neville

Question:

174 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when registration of title (details supplied) will be completed by the Land Registry Office. [40011/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority was established as and from 4 November, 2006. The Property Registration Authority replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

In order to be of assistance I forwarded the Deputy's registration query to the Authority for his attention and direct reply. I understand that a reply has already issued. I would also like to refer the Deputy to my letter of 26 May, 2006 to members of the Oireachtas regarding a new service for T.D.s and Senators concerning the current status of applications of this type. As outlined in my letter, the service was introduced, inter alia, to provide a speedier and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions.

Rural Policing Initiative.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

175 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the rural community policing initiative (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40016/06]

I wish to advise the Deputy that I have asked the Commissioner for an update on the matter referred to and I will forward it to the Deputy in due course.

Juvenile Offenders.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

176 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if towns (details supplied) in County Donegal will be considered for the expansion for youth diversion scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40017/06]

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 the 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. I have also secured an increase in funding to €9.8 million for 2007.

It is my intention to ensure that 100 projects will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. In the first phase of this expansion, ten new projects were established this year and they are located in Birr, Blanchardstown, Carlow, Castlebar, Cavan, Clondalkin, Limerick, Tallaght and Tralee (two projects). I have recently announced my approval to establish a further ten projects in the second phase of the expansion programme. These projects will be located in Ballyogan, Dublin 18, Carrick-on-Suir, Castleisland, Celbridge, Kilrush, Listowel, Mallow, New Ross, Tipperary Town and Tuam.

The Garda Commissioner brings forward proposals for the establishment of new Garda Youth Diversion Projects. The locations for establishing new Garda Youth Diversion Projects are selected on the basis of factors including an increase in the level of juvenile crime in the area and the number of young people referred to the Juvenile Diversion Programme. Two proposals have been received by the Garda Commissioner to establish additional Garda Youth Diversion Projects in the area referred to by the Deputy and I am informed that these proposals are being considered in the context of the further expansion of the programme in 2007 and in light of the funding available.

Visa Applications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

177 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the holiday visa application of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40020/06]

The application referred to by the deputy was received in the Dublin Visa Office on 15th November, 2006. A decision in respect of the application in question will be made in the coming weeks.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

178 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be given on the appeal of the rejection of a visa for a person (details supplied); the reason the visa application was rejected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40046/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Dublin Visa Office on 23rd October, 2006. The decision of the Visa Officer to refuse this application was taken on 8th November, 2006.

The application was refused on the grounds that it is not general policy to permit any person, whether related or not, to join or visit any persons who have been granted residency in the State under the Irish Born Child 2005 (IBC 05) scheme. The applicant failed to demonstrate any compelling grounds as to why an exception to this policy should be made. The application was also refused on the grounds of previous visa refusal.

The decision was appealed on 17th November, 2006. Following a re-examination of the case, the decision to refuse was upheld on 21st November, 2006. As each applicant is entitled to one appeal only, no further review in this matter can be granted; however it is open to the applicant to make a fresh application.

Road Traffic Offences.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

179 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of summonses issued and convictions obtained in relation to the illegal use of Kennelsfort Road, Palmerstown in regard to the three tonne limit in the period from July 2006 to date in 2006. [40048/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that in the period from 1 July to 22 November 2006 there were 8 summonses and 10 fixed charge penalty notices issued in respect of breaches of the three tonne limit on Kennelsfort Road, Palmerstown. During this period there were thirty convictions in relation to the breach of the three tonne limit at this location. It will be appreciated that proceedings are not necessarily commenced and concluded in the same year.

Garda Strength.

Michael Collins

Question:

180 Mr. Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of full time Gardaí stationed in Kilfinane, County Limerick; and his plans to augment this in view of pending retirements. [40060/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 on Thursday 16 November, 2006, following the attestation of 299 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) 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 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 the personnel strength of Kilfinane Garda Station as at 27 November, 2006 was 1 Garda. Local Garda Management report that a decision on a replacement Garda at Kilfinane Garda Station would be made should the member currently serving there indicate an intention to retire.

Kilfinane forms part of the Limerick Division. The personnel strength of the Limerick Division as at 31 December, 1997 was 423 (all ranks). The personnel strength of the Limerick Division as at 27 November, 2006 was 529 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 106 (or 25%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Michael Collins

Question:

181 Mr. Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí stationed in each of the Garda districts in the Limerick Division; and the trend in numbers over the past five years. [40061/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 on Thursday, 16 November, 2006, following the attestation of 299 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) 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 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 each Garda District in the Limerick Division as at 31 December 1997, 2001-2005, inclusively, and as at 23 November 2006 was as set out in the following table:

District

1997

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

23/11/06

Askeaton

41

43

43

40

42

41

41

Bruff

40

39

39

40

39

41

42

Henry Street

204

232

236

246

258

251

285

Newcastle West

42

45

43

44

45

46

49

Roxboro Road

96

102

99

102

98

105

112

Total

423

461

460

472

482

484

529

This represents an increase of 106 (or 25%) in the number of Garda personnel allocated to the Limerick Division during the period outlined in the table. The Limerick 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.

I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Question No. 182 withdrawn.

Crime Prevention.

Seán Haughey

Question:

183 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures being taken by the Garda to deal with serious disturbances involving youth in an area (details supplied) in Dublin 17 following a suicide by a person from this locality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40069/06]

I am informed that Gardaí from Coolock Garda District are responsible for patrolling the area concerned. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that following the death of a young person from the locality a group of other youths assembled at a shrine in the vicinity of the area referred to. After a while they began drinking and causing a nuisance to the local residents. Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Acts 1994 and 2003, Gardaí attached to the local Community Policing Unit moved the group on from where they had gathered during which one local youth was arrested for causing a disturbance. There have been no further related incidents.

The Garda Policing Plan currently in place is designed to addressinter alia the prevention of anti-social and public disorder offences, the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy is and will continue to be central to the delivery of a policing service to the area in question.

Residency Permits.

John McGuinness

Question:

184 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application to his Department for permission to remain in the State made on 30 September 2005 and acknowledged on 11 October 2005 for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has been finalised; the status of the application; when a decision is expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40088/06]

The application made by the person in question for permission to remain in the State has not yet been finalised. A request for further documentation has been issued and it is expected that a decision will be made on receipt of the requested information.

Crime Levels.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

185 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for Clonakilty Garda district for the years 2000 to 2005 respectively; and if he will give consideration to establishing a further Garda presence in the area. [40114/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

187 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for Bantry Garda district for the years 2000 to 2005 respectively; and if he will give consideration to establishing a further Garda presence in the area. [40116/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

188 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for Bandon Garda district for the years 2000 to 2005 respectively; and if he will give consideration to establishing a further Garda presence in the area. [40117/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185, 187 and 188 together.

Headline crime statistics for the years 2000 to 2005 for the Garda Division of Cork West, which includes the Garda Districts of Bandon, Clonakilty, Bantry are contained in the relevant Garda Annual Reports. These reports are available in the Oireachtas Library. I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 on Thursday 16 November, 2006, following the attestation of 299 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) 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 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 of the Cork West Division as at 31 December 1997 and 28 November, 2006 was 223 and 263, respectively, representing an increase of 40 (or 18%) in the number of Garda personnel allocated to the Division during that period.

I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Witness Security Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

186 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Garda Review commenced and was completed in relation to the witness security programme; if he proposes to take steps by way of external review; and his proposals to provide a statutory basis for the programme. [40115/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the review of the Witness Security Programme was commenced in 2003 and was substantively completed in 2005. However, a number of policy matters arising from the review remain under consideration by Garda management. As the final product of internal Garda considerations is not yet available, it would be premature of me to comment upon possible avenues of further progress.

Questions Nos. 187 and 188 answered with Question No. 185.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Seamus Healy

Question:

189 Mr. Healy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the installation of closed circuit television cameras in Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary Town and Cashel, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40127/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that no applications for a Garda CCTV system has been received from Cashel, Carrick-on-Suir or Tipperary. All applications for Garda CCTV systems must be made formally through the local Garda Divisional Officer to the Advisory Committee. As the Deputy is aware, Clonmel is one 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, listed alphabetically: Athlone, Carlow, Castlebar, Clonmel, Drogheda, Dungarvan, Ennis, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Mullingar, Portlaoise, Sligo, Tallaght and Waterford.

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 Clonmel. 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.

The Garda authorities are currently evaluating tenders for the installation of three Garda CCTV Systems in Ballyfermot, Clondalkin and Tullamore. These systems will use wireless CCTV technology which will allow CCTV cameras to be redeployed as necessary to meet changing policing requirements. Contractors will be required to complete the deployment of these CCTV systems before the end of March 2007. Further such projects are under consideration by the Garda Commissioner as part of the process of outsourcing Garda CCTV systems. Clonmel will be considered together with the remainder of the Garda CCTV Programme.

I also wish to inform the Deputy that Stage 1 grants of up to €5,000 have been allocated to the following applicants under the Community Based CCTV Scheme.

Clonmel RAPID Crime Prevention, Safety & Security Task Group

RAPID Safety & Security Task Group, Carrick-on-Suir.

It is intended to invite a new round of proposals under the Community Based CCTV Scheme in the near future. It is open to any organisation from the areas referred to by the Deputy to submit an application for grant aid of up to €100,000 under the Scheme.

Visa Applications.

John Perry

Question:

190 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a decision has been made on holiday visas for persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40142/06]

The applications referred to by the Deputy were received in the Dublin Visa Office on 7 November 2006. The decision of the Visa Officer to refuse the applications was taken on 21 November 2006. It is open to the applicants to appeal the decisions. Comprehensive guidelines on making an appeal can be found on my Department's website (www.justice.ie). All appeals must be made within two months of the initial refusal decision.

John Perry

Question:

191 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to a parliamentary question on behalf of a person (details supplied) for a tourist visa, if his attention has been drawn to the circumstances outlined in correspondence; if he will address the issues raised in items one, two and three; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40309/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Dublin Visa Office on 4 October 2006. The decision of the Visa Officer to refuse this application was taken on 8 November 2006. The application was refused on the grounds that certain documents provided were not translated, the finances provided were deemed insufficient or incomplete and the obligations of the applicant to return to his home country were not shown.

With reference to the correspondence referred to by the Deputy, comprehensive guidelines on making a visa application are available on my Department's website (www.justice.ie). The website states that “All documents submitted must be in English. Where they are in any other language, the original document should be submitted, along with a notarised translation of same. Failure to provide translated documents will lead to your application being refused”. It further states “A detailed bank statement, showing sufficient funds, and covering the immediate 6 month period prior to submitting a visa application should be submitted”.

Applicants are also requested to provide "Evidence of your obligations to return to your country of permanent residence". The Visa Officer noted that she was unable to confirm the obligation to return home as documents provided were not translated. It is open to the applicant to appeal the decision. Appeals must be received within two months of the decision to refuse the application.

Crime Levels.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

192 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the wide discrepancy between the level of crime reported or collated by the Garda Síochána and the actual incidents of serious crime as experienced by residents in parts of Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40314/06]

All incidents reported to the Garda Síochána are recorded and investigated. I am assured that the Garda Síochána urges all members of the public to report any matters of a criminal nature for investigation by them. The problems of unreported and unrecorded crime are well documented in the international criminological literature, and are in no way unique to this country. Furthermore, the introduction of PULSE has improved the accuracy and comprehensiveness of Garda statistics — for example, the system demands that incidents now have to be recorded before particular actions can be taken.

In relation to the crime situation in the Moyross and Southill area of Limerick City, I am informed by the Garda authorities that a number of serious criminal incidents which have occurred in the Moyross and Southill areas of Limerick City have been the subject and focus of much media attention both locally and nationally. The Garda authorities in Limerick have an excellent record in the investigation of serious crime. A significant effort has been made by local Garda management to address the ongoing serious crime situations that have developed in these areas during the past few months and additional resources have been deployed to perform additional patrols in both the Moyross and Southill areas to target criminality in certain areas of Limerick City.

Garda initiatives are continually being planned to target the activities of criminal elements in the City, these initiatives have shown considerable success. As a result of these initiatives 70 firearms and ammunition seizures have taken place and quantities of drugs (cocaine, heroin, cannabis resin, ecstasy) have been recovered. I am assured that the Garda authorities will continue to deliver a quality policing service in targeting those involved in criminal activity.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

193 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will explain what is meant by the qualification that Garda statistics as given are provisional, operational and liable to change in view of the fact that the PULSE system was to record all crimes as reported; the way the statistics given are gathered and collated; and the factors that would impact on those statistics that would make them liable to change. [40315/06]

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. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the term ‘provisional, operational and liable to change' is used to explain that the statistics being provided are based on very recently recorded data. Key variables may not have taken place at the time information is being provided to the Garda Síochána but may commence before the end of the accounting period. This could include incidents subsequently detected, or where directions to charge or otherwise are received from the Law Officers and where proceedings may commence or be finalised resulting in conviction or otherwise.

Furthermore, a criminal offence may be reclassified in the course of an investigation, for example, an incident which is recorded as murder may be reclassified as manslaughter during the course of an investigation as the body of relevant evidence comes to light or following receipt of the Law Officer's directions.

Prison Staff.

Joe Costello

Question:

194 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to the statement on page 10 of the Inspector of Prisons Annual Report for 2003 to 2004, published in April 2005 regarding travel all around the world by senior officials in the Prison Service; the foreign travel that took place; the purpose of such travel; the findings of the travel group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40316/06]

It has not been possible to respond fully to the Deputy's question in the time available. I will endeavour to provide a comprehensive response to the Deputy as quickly as possible.

Registration of Title.

Joe Costello

Question:

195 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for relocating the Registry of Deeds Office from Henrietta Street; if he has received submissions from interested parties regarding the future use of the premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40317/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, in August of this year I published a report commissioned by my Department from PA Consultants which examined the suitability of the Registry of Deeds building in Henrietta Street as a home for the important records in its care. An opportunity was provided for interested parties to make submissions on the report and views were expressed by a small number of parties, all of which will feed into my Department's future consideration of this issue.

Domestic Violence.

David Stanton

Question:

196 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the consultants that have been engaged by his Department to undertake an evaluation of the pilot project on domestic violence intervention in the Bray and Dún Laoghaire areas over a three year period from 2003 to 2005; if this evaluation has been completed; the action he has taken or intends to take as a result of the evaluation; the funding his Department has provided to the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency to date; the way this funding was used; his further plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40318/06]

The contract for the evaluation of the pilot project referred to by the Deputy was awarded to a firm of consultants, Farrell Grant Sparks (FGS), at the end of 2005 and the consultants completed their work earlier this year.

My Department provided grant assistance to the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency (NDVIA), a registered charity and non-governmental organisation, initially for a period of one year in 2003 and gave the group two further extensions over the period 2004 to 2005 inclusive, as the work proposed by the NDVIA under the pilot initiative had not been completed.

The project aimed to develop closer co-ordination in the delivery of services on domestic violence, on a pilot basis in the Dún Laoghaire and Bray areas. The NDVIA pursued work separately with the Garda; the Courts Service; the Probation and Welfare Service; and the Health Services Executive local services in relation to appropriate responses and methodologies for supporting the victims of domestic violence and also actively promoted the co-ordination of the responses among all the relevant services in the pilot area.

The FGS evaluation reported that some useful work was undertaken by the NDVIA in the pilot programme, although, despite the extensions, the full programme of work had not been completed by the end of the pilot period.

My Department reviewed the Evaluator's report and agreed to provide additional funding to the NDVIA during 2006, so that the NDVIA could complete the unfinished tasks in the pilot project and write up all the processes involved, so that they might be considered for implementation in other areas if the final outcomes are deemed appropriate. The NDVIA has now undertaken to complete the pilot project by the end of January, 2007.

Overall grant funding of €530,024 has been provided to the NDVIA to date. When this pilot project is fully completed, my Department will be in a position to further consider the final outcomes of the project and the findings of the FGS evaluation and to make informed decisions on its role in this area in the future.

Coroners Service.

Denis Naughten

Question:

197 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he can issue a direction to coroners under the Coroners Act 1962; his plans to review such a provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40319/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Coroners are quasi-judicial authorities charged with the independent investigation of death. I am not clear from the Deputy's question as to what type of direction he is referring to. I would, however, refer him to my recent response to questions number 93 and 148 of 7 November 2006 (35573/06) which addressed the role of the Coroners in the specific context of MRSA related deaths and which also set out the current position with respect to the forthcoming Coroners Bill.

Residency Permits.

Finian McGrath

Question:

198 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the case of a person (details supplied); and the reason for the delay in resolving this issue. [40320/06]

I understand that the Immigration Division of my Department has been in contact with the person concerned, informing her of the decision regarding her application for permission to remain in the State.

Remembrance Commission.

Finian McGrath

Question:

199 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will ensure that a person (details supplied) is given the maximum support to deal with their injuries. [40321/06]

The Scheme of Acknowledgement, Remembrance and Assistance to Victims in this Jurisdiction of the Conflict in Northern Ireland is administered by the Remembrance Commission. All applications for payments are assessed in accordance with the criteria set out in the Scheme. The person referred to by the Deputy has received payments for medical expenses incurred to date and has, in addition, received the exceptional payment for medical expenses provided for under the Scheme.

I have been informed that the Commission will continue to meet this person's medical expenses, in so far as they relate to the injuries received in the conflict, as they arise under the terms of the Scheme and will sympathetically consider all applications from him. I also understand that the correspondence referred to by the Deputy is being dealt with by the Commission.

Visa Applications.

Damien English

Question:

200 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria that a person (details supplied) must meet in order to qualify for a visa to visit Ireland in view of a previous application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40342/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the New Delhi Visa Office on 14 September 2006. The decision of the Visa Officer to refuse this application was taken on 18 September 2006. The application was refused on the grounds that the applicant had shown no clear link to the reference in Ireland. Also, the deciding Visa Officer was not satisfied that the applicant would observe the conditions of the visa.

The decision was appealed on 10 October 2006. Following a re-examination of the case, the decision to refuse was upheld on 21 October 2006. As each applicant is entitled to one appeal only, no further review in this matter can be granted; however it is open to the applicant to make a fresh application. Comprehensive guidelines on making a visa application are available on my Department's website.

Residency Permits.

Damien English

Question:

201 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for long term residency will be decided on for a person (details supplied) that was submitted in June 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40343/06]

An application for long term residence from the person referred to by the Deputy was received on the 30 June 2006. The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. I understand that applications received in May 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Ministerial Travel.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

202 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount and type of fuel used by each Government Minister’s car for the last year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40344/06]

As the Deputy is aware, Ministerial State cars are placed at the disposal of Government Ministers pursuant to a long standing arrangement. Factors such as fuel efficiency and safety are taken into account in making purchases for the Ministerial Fleet. I have been further informed that all cars in the Ministerial Fleet are petrol driven models (with the exception of the Lexus GS 450H vehicles which are powered by petrol and electricity). Details of the amount of fuel used by each Government Minister's car are not available.

Residency Permits.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

203 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for long term residency stamp 4 by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; when a decision on the application is expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40353/06]

An application for long term residence from the person referred to by the Deputy was received on the 20 June 2006. The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants.

Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. I understand that applications received in May, 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Garda Deployment.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

204 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the projected future policing needs of a village (details supplied) in County Tipperary in the context of recent and future house building developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40364/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 on Thursday 16 November 2006, following the attestation of 299 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) 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 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 the personnel strength of Ardfinnan Garda Station as at 27 November, 2006 was one. Ardfinnan forms part of the Cahir District. The personnel strength of Cahir District as at 31 December 1997 was 38 (all ranks). The personnel strength of Cahir District as at 27 November 2006 was 52 (all ranks). This represents an increase of 14 (or 36.84%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

Resources are augmented from within the Division/District as required. Local Garda Management report that the area is also patrolled by the District Detective Unit and the Divisional Traffic Unit. I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Crime Prevention.

Tony Gregory

Question:

205 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is funding available through his Department for small grants for local neighbourhood watch groups; the way such funding may be applied for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40379/06]

Neighbourhood Watch was established in 1985 as a crime prevention measure for urban areas. There are approximately 2,600 Neighbourhood Watch schemes in operation throughout the country. Since its establishment, the Garda authorities have sought to encourage the active participation of the public in Neighbourhood Watch by encouraging and supporting communities to establish and maintain such initiatives. The Garda Síochána has been a strategic partner in driving and supporting Neighbourhood Watch through its Community Relations Section and local Garda management and has deployed Crime Prevention Officers and Liaison Gardaí to assist schemes.

In relation to the provision of funding for Neighbourhood Watch organisations, I am strongly of the view that voluntary community organisations have, through their support for and work with the Garda Síochána, an important role to play in crime prevention and the promotion of community safety. I very much support the work being carried out by Neighbourhood Watch and Community Alert schemes throughout the country.

The Garda authorities are finalising a high level review of Neighbourhood Watch which involved consultation with all the relevant stakeholders. Following completion of the review, a strategy for the future development of Neighbourhood Watch will provide a blueprint for its future development in the context of which the issue of funding for the groups will be addressed.

Garda Operations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

206 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress achieved by Operation Anvil to date in Dublin; the other areas around the country where it is in operation; and the progress made outside of Dublin. [40389/06]

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 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.

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 following tables show the successes of Operation Anvil up to 19 November, 2006.

Table 1: Operation Anvil in the Dublin Metropolitan Region up to 19 November 2006

Number

Arrests

Murder

56

Burglary

1,701

Robbery offences

796

Serious assaults

796

Theft from shops*

584

Theft from MPV*

66

Theft other*

129

Total Arrests

4,128

Searches

Drugs

19,390

Thefts

1,872

Firearms

1,291

Total Searches

22,553

Seizures

Firearms

549

Section 41 (Road Traffic Act)

7,779

Total Seizures

8,328

Number of Checkpoints Performed

41,871

Value of property recovered

13,990,197

* Figures commenced from 25 September 2006.

Table 2: Operation Anvil outside the Dublin Metropolitan Region up to 1 November 2006

Number

Arrests

2,595

Firearms seized

238

Visa Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

207 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision is expected in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow, in relation to their visa application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40390/06]

The applications referred to by the Deputy were received in the Dublin Visa Office on 23 October 2006. The decision of the Visa Officer to refuse the applications was taken on 15 November 2006. It is open to the applicants to appeal the decision. Comprehensive guidelines on making an appeal can be found on my Department's website (www.justice.ie). All appeals must be submitted within two months of the initial refusal decision.

Residency Permits.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

208 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a US citizen (details supplied) holding a US passport, who is married to an Irish person and resident in Ireland for the past 26 years and was returning to Ireland after a visit to the US was stopped by immigration in Shannon and told they should not be remaining in Ireland indefinitely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40398/06]

The person in question is a non-EU national and therefore requires the permission of the Minister to remain in the State as stated in Section 5 of the Immigration Act 2004. It should be noted that there is no automatic entitlement to residency in the State on the basis of marriage to an Irish national. However, I do consider applications which are made in writing to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department for permission to remain in the State on this separate basis. There is no record that the person in question ever made an application for residency in the State on this basis or received an endorsement in her passport to show that she had been granted permission to remain in the State.

It is also a further requirement under section 9 of the above mentioned Act that all non-EU nationals must register their presence in the State with the Garda National Immigration Bureau and receive a Certificate of Registration as evidence of that registration. Prior to the enactment of the 2004 Immigration Act the person concerned was not required to register her presence in the State but is now required to fulfil that obligation. For the record, the person in question is not currently registered and is not in possession of a Certificate of Registration as required by the Act.

When the person concerned was stopped by the Immigration Officers in Shannon she would have been advised that she was not in compliance with her legal obligations to register and have permission to remain in the State. The person in question should now regularise her status in the State by making an application for residency to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department.

Prison Building Programme.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

209 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has deferred the development of a project (details supplied) and if he will confirm if he has sought the assistance of the Office of Public Works to secure an alternative site. [40399/06]

I have always made clear that I am open to examining any viable site offered for the proposed new Cork Prison. In that context, I can confirm that my Department and the Irish Prison Service are currently exploring,on a without prejudice basis, the option of an alternative site at Kilworth.

Drugs in Prisons.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

210 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the standard operating procedure that takes place when a prison visitor is found to be smuggling in drugs during a visit, including the steps that are taken by prison officers in such an event; if a record of the incident is filed; if the Gardaí are contacted; the possible punitive sanctions faced by the visitor in question; and what the Prison Service does with the drugs confiscated. [40419/06]

Visitors found passing contraband are generally banned from visiting our prisons, either indefinitely, or for a specified period of time. The visit is immediately terminated and the visitor removed from the area. Gardaí may be called with a view to prosecuting the persons concerned. In such instances, retrieved substances are handed over to Gardaí and any resulting sanctions are a matter for the courts. The prisoner concerned is searched as a standard operational procedure. In addition, the prisoner may be placed on a disciplinary report for a breach of the Prison Rules.

Retrieval of prohibited substances such as drugs (or suspected drugs) is recorded under the generic description of "prohibited articles/substances" and not classified separately. As the seizure of such substances may arise from different situations, records are maintained in different sources, for example, a prisoner disciplinary report on his/her file, an incident log, or in the visiting area records. The Deputy will be aware, however, that the exact nature of any contraband intercepted can only be established following chemical analysis.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

211 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the range of possible punitive sanctions faced by a prisoner found to be in possession of illegal drugs. [40421/06]

The authority to impose punishments for breaches of prison discipline, such as the possession of illegal drugs, is covered by Rule 69 (1) of the Rules for Government of Prisons, 1947. This rule allows Prison Governors to order a prisoner's punishment by any one or more of the following: (1) Close confinement for any period not exceeding three days (2) Forfeiture of remission of sentence for a period not exceeding 14 days, (3) Suspension of any privileges for a period not exceeding two months.

In cases where prisoners are found with quantities of drugs the Gardaí may be called with a view to prosecuting the person concerned. In such instances, retrieved substances are handed over to Gardaí and any resulting sanctions are a matter for the courts. As the Deputy will be aware, I have provided extensive provisions in Part 3 of the Prisons Bill, 2006 dealing with Prison Discipline. The Bill is currently before the Seanad.

Residency Permits.

John McGuinness

Question:

212 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for long-term residency in the State in the name of a person (details supplied); and if he will expedite a positive response to the application. [40422/06]

An application for long term residence from the person referred to by the Deputy was received on the 14 August 2006. The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. I understand that applications received in May, 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Human Trafficking.

Denis Naughten

Question:

213 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will introduce legislation to criminalise the trafficking in persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40458/06]

Legislation creating an offence of trafficking in persons for the specific purpose of sexual or labour exploitation is contained in the draft Criminal Justice (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill which has been approved by Government and is currently being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. This Bill will comply with the EU Framework Decision on combating trafficking in persons for the purpose of their sexual and labour exploitation and will also fulfil the criminal law requirements of two other international trafficking instruments, the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which supplements the UN Convention against transnational organised crime and the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings. However, the Bill will be more comprehensive than only dealing with trafficking issues; it will also provide greater protection to vulnerable persons against sexual abuse and generally keep our legislation in that respect up to date. In that it will,inter alia, provide for compliance with a second EU Framework Decision negotiated after the trafficking instrument, that is, the Framework Decision combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

Denis Naughten

Question:

214 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will sign the UN protocol on Trafficking and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40459/06]

The Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 created an offence of trafficking persons under 17 years of age into, through or out of the State for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The maximum sentence on conviction is life imprisonment. Under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, it is an offence to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into Ireland of a person who is reasonably believed to be an illegal immigrant or a person who intends to claim asylum. In this case the maximum prison sentence is 10 years.

Legislation creating an offence of trafficking in persons for the specific purpose of sexual or labour exploitation is contained in the draft Criminal Justice (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill. This Bill will comply with the EU Framework Decision on combating trafficking in persons for the purpose of their sexual and labour exploitation and will also fully comply with the criminal law requirements of the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which supplements the UN Convention against transnational organised crime and the Council of Europe Convention against trafficking in human beings. The proposals contained in the Bill have been approved by Government and are currently being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

More generally, Ireland's position as regards the Convention on Trafficking is under consideration at present. It is important to separate the issues of how Ireland deals with victims of trafficking from that of signature of the various international instruments in this area. The current Irish immigration system allows the authorities to deal with the victims of trafficking in a sympathetic and pragmatic way. Our non-participation to date in the international instruments referred to is not having a negative impact on victims who come to notice here. Any necessary assistance is provided to victims by the services of the State.

Joyriding Offences.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

215 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing problem of joyriding and boy racing on Pearse Street, Sallynoggin, County Dublin; the steps he has taken to address these problems; the steps he will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40539/06]

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

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management is not aware of any specific problem with serious car crime and associated anti-social behaviour, in particular so-called joy-riding in the location mentioned, but will take all necessary actions if such problems arise.

Domestic Violence.

David Stanton

Question:

216 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reasons the Garda Síochána did not record domestic violence incidents in the past two years; if his attention was drawn or he gave his consent to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40600/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all criminal incidents reported to them are recorded. Incidents may be recorded on the crime recording system PULSE on the basis of the criminal offence they disclose, which may range from homicide to minor assault, whether related to domestic violence or otherwise. I understand that instructions relating to the recording of incidents involving domestic violence were issued by the Garda authorities earlier this year and the operation of this policy will be continually monitored.

Statistics relating to the number of breaches of Court Orders issued under domestic violence legislation have been published in the Garda Annual Report since 2004. The legislation governing the exemption does not allow for the financial or individual circumstances of the owner in question to be taken into account. Similarly, as the daughter does not appear to be a dependent relative her use of the property would not be taken into account. The Deputy should contact the Revenue Commissioners if he would like more specific information on the extent to which the exemption would apply to the homeowner in question.

Residency Permits.

Michael Ring

Question:

217 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive acknowledgement of their application to his Department; the average processing time of such applications; and when they can expect a decision. [40601/06]

The person concerned submitted a permanent residence application on FORM EU 3. Form EU 3 clearly states ‘‘This form is to be completed by each family member of a European Union citizen who is not a national of a member State and who has been resident in the State for more than five years.'' These applications are considered under the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Person) Regulations 2006.

The person who is the subject of the Deputy's enquiry availed of the provisions of the scheme announced by my Department — IBC 05 — on the 15 January 2005 regarding the parents of children born to non-EEA national parents and born in Ireland before the 1 January, 2005. He was granted permission to remain for a two year period up to 26 April, 2007 on that basis — i.e. parent of Irish born citizen child.

He is therefore not a person who can avail of the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Person) Regulations 2006 as his original residence application was not considered and granted under any EU Regulation or Directive.

The person concerned has been informed accordingly and he has also been informed that information on how to apply for further permission to remain in respect of persons who availed of the IBC-05 Scheme will be announced in the near future.

Child Care Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

218 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a private child care creche provider who has received grant assistance to set up has to cease due to lack of demand and over concentration of providers in an area has to run their business at a loss for the remainder of their contract; if this grant assistance will have to be returned in full if the creche ceases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40682/06]

This is a matter for my Colleague the Minister for Health and Children, who, I understand will be replying to the Deputy's query today.

Disabled Drivers.

Michael Ring

Question:

219 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if help is available to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo to provide suitable transport which would be adapted to take their wheelchair. [39927/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a person who qualifies for a Primary Medical Certificate issued by the Senior Area Medical Officer of their local HSE may avail of tax relief (VRT and VAT) on a vehicle under the Disabled Drivers and the Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. There are separate arrangements for a Disabled Driver and a Disabled Passenger. The maximum relief for a driver is €9,525 and a passenger €15,875. Inclusion in the scheme also entitles the person to exemption of Road Tax on the vehicle and refund of excise duty on fuel (petrol, diesel or LPG) up to a maximum of 2728 litres in any twelve-month period. The person (details supplied) is already claiming under this scheme as a passenger. All the relevant details are contained in the Explanatory Leaflet VRT 7, which is available on the Revenue Website atwww.revenue.ie.

Garda Stations.

Enda Kenny

Question:

220 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance when a new Garda station will be provided at Ballyvary, Castlebar, County Mayo; if his attention has been drawn to the dilapidated condition of the existing premises; his views on whether this building is unsuitable for the conduct of official Garda business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40571/06]

The present Garda station premises at Ballyvary, Co. Mayo requires a replacement. A sketch scheme for a new station will be completed at the end of this year. Following approval by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Authorities, a planning consultation under the Part 9 process will be initiated. It is expected that a contract for the construction of the new station will be placed in the Summer of 2007. The new building will be completed in early 2008.

Pension Provisions.

David Stanton

Question:

221 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the changes that have been agreed with the social partners regarding public service pensions; when these changes will come into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39921/06]

In "Towards 2016", the social partners agreed that work should continue on outstanding public service pension reform issues. These issues form part of a programme of actual and proposed changes over recent years which is largely based on the recommendations in 2000 of the Commission on Public Service Pensions, which were accepted in principle by Government.

As indicated in my reply to Question number 32965/06 from Deputy Ivor Callely on 17 October 2006, this reform process has already accomplished substantial change in public service pension provision in Ireland. In this context the major cost saving measure has been the implementation, via the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, of the Commission recommendation to raise the general minimum pension age of new entrants to the public service from 60 to 65 years.

In September 2004, following discussions with ICTU, it was announced that Government had ratified an agreed approach to the remaining Commission recommendations. The key feature of the Government decision was the immediate authorisation for implementation of the following six Commission recommendations directed at modernising pension provision:

1. Introduction of cost-neutral early retirement: A facility to allow public servants to retire early (from age 50/55, as appropriate) with immediate payment of pension and lump sum, actuarially reduced to reflect the earlier payment.

2. Revised integration formula: New method of integrating social insurance and public service pensions to boost retirement income of lower-paid staff.

3. Integration "pro rata": A more favourable integration method ("pro rata" integration as opposed to "full" integration) to be used in calculating the pension entitlements of part-time public servants.

4. Notional added years: Existing schemes to be replaced for new entrants by a single "transitional" scheme (to be reviewed in 2015), the main impact of the change being to reduce gross awards from 10 to 5 years.

5. Compound interest rate: The rate on pension-related repayments such as marriage gratuity to be cut from 6% to 4%.

6. Reckoning of allowances for pension purposes: Calculation to be based on "the best three consecutive years in the ten years preceding retirement" instead of being restricted to the last three years of service only.

Five of these six reforms have already taken effect, having been implemented by means of Department of Finance circulars issued in 2005. It is hoped that the outstanding item, the reckoning of allowances for pension purposes, will also be implemented shortly by way of a Department of Finance circular. The September 2004 Government announcement also provided that other Commission recommendations would be considered further. In particular it identified the following two issues for active consideration:

1. Changes to Spouses' and Children's Schemes: The proposed Commission changes include the extension of benefits to non-spousal partners. The feasibility of implementing the changes is currently being examined by a management/union Working Group, whose work is at an advanced stage.

2. SPEARS: The Commission recommended the introduction of SPEARS; a single AVC-type pensions savings scheme for the entire public service. This is the subject of ongoing management-union discussion.

In "Towards 2016" theses two areas are specifically noted as being priority issues.

Social Finance Initiative.

Joan Burton

Question:

222 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the social finance fund; if it requires legislation; the amount of funding allocated to it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39963/06]

The Government has agreed that the Social Finance Initiative announced in Budget 2006 will be implemented through the establishment of a not-for-profit company to act as a wholesale supplier of social finance. The seed capital funding committed by the banking community to the implementation of the Initiative is €25 million. The social finance company will be established on a non-statutory basis under Company Law. The Memorandum and Articles of Association of the company are currently being finalised and it is intended that the social finance company will be incorporated and commence its operations early in 2007.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

223 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the clawback provisions in respect of stamp duty; the number of occasions the clawback has been exercised; the number of properties in relation to same; the amount of stamp duty involved; the reason for the clawback being applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39964/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that between 4 April 2006 and 22 November 2006 there were 392 instances where various stamp duty reliefs which had been granted were clawed back. The total yield from the clawbacks amounted to €3,227,791. Generally each clawback referred to only one property.

The clawbacks were in respect of 4 reliefs as follows:

Young Trained Farmer relief, Section 81 of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. There were 11 cases amounting to €63,946 clawed back. The relief is given to persons who at the date of execution of the deed have attained certain agricultural and educational standards or who subsequently attain such standards. This relief was clawed back as the lands or part of the lands the subject of the relief were disposed of within 5 years from the date of execution of the instrument without the proceeds from the disposal being used in acquiring other lands within a period of one year of the date of the disposal. The relief is in the form of a zero rate of stamp duty.

New dwelling-house/apartment with floor-area certificate, Section 91 of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. There were 266 cases amounting to €2,351,348 clawed back. This relief is granted where the property has a floor area of less than 125 square metres, is occupied by the purchaser or by some person in right of the purchaser and is clawed back if the purchaser is in receipt of rent from the dwelling-house/apartment other than rent received under the rent-a-room scheme within 5 years of the date of execution of the deed. The relief is in the form of a zero rate of stamp duty.

New dwelling-house/apartment with no floor area certificate, Section 92 of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. There were 43 cases amounting to €366,815 clawed back. The relief is granted where the property has a floor area of greater than 125 square metres, is occupied by the purchaser or by some person in right of the purchaser and is clawed back if the purchaser is in receipt of any rent from the dwelling-house/apartment other than rent received under the rent-a-room scheme within 5 years of the date of execution of the deed. The relief is applied by charging duty only on the value of the site or one quarter of the total value of the site plus building agreement, less VAT, whichever figure is the greater or on one quarter of the total consideration, less VAT where a completed house is being purchased.

First time purchaser relief, Section 92B of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. There were 72 cases amounting to €445,682 clawed back. This relief is granted where the purchaser or purchasers at the date of execution of the deed had not individually or jointly with any other person or persons previously purchased another dwelling-house or apartment or part of another dwelling-house or apartment. The relief is granted to owner occupiers or where the property is occupied by some person in right of the purchaser and is clawed back if the purchaser is in receipt of any rent from the dwelling-house/apartment other than rent under the rent-a-room scheme within 5 years of the date of execution of the deed.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

224 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) can elect to have the subsidies assessed for tax over the three years, that is 2006, 2007 and 2008 when they are submitting accounts for year ended 31 March 2006 in order to satisfy their 2006 tax return; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40008/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 29 of the Finance Act, 2005 made provision to allow farmers to elect to have certain farm subsidy payments, otherwise taxable in 2005, spread over the three years 2005, 2006 and 2007 for income tax purposes. The provision applied to individuals engaged in the trade of farming in the tax year 2005 who were in receipt of payments in 2005 under both the new EU Single Payment Scheme and the terminated FEOGA Schemes. It provided that a farmer could opt not to have the payments received in 2005 under the terminated FEOGA scheme taxed in full in that year but rather spread for tax purposes over the years 2005, 2006 and 2007. The provision applies only to the year of assessment 2005.

In most cases, receipts of the year 2005 were taxable in that year. However, some farmers because of their choice of accounts year, are taxable in 2006 on certain amounts received in 2005. There is no three year spread available to those farmers. The person referred to by the Deputy seems, on the basis of the details supplied, to be such a farmer and to be outside the scope of the scheme.

The scheme was specifically tailored to alleviate the position of those who would otherwise have to pay tax on both Single Farm Payments and FEOGA payments in the tax year 2005. The person referred to by the Deputy has an accounts year ending in March. The accounts year April 2004 to March 2005 would, therefore, form the basis for taxation in the tax year 2005. As both Single Farm Payments and FEOGA payments were not made in this accounts year (Single Farm Payments were not made until late 2005), the Finance Act 2005 measure does not apply to the person in question because that person was not subject to tax in the first place on both payments in the tax year 2005. On the basis of the information supplied, payments were made to the person in question in late, 2005 and, consequently, these were taxable in 2006, rather than 2005.

Disabled Drivers.

Richard Bruton

Question:

225 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has received the submission on behalf of an association (details supplied) seeking modifications in the medical criteria for disabled drivers tax relief; and his plans to introduce changes in this scheme or to hold public hearings on the study which he had conducted on the scheme. [40031/06]

I have received a submission on behalf of the Association in question and the contents will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget. However I would like to explain to the Deputy the background to the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme.

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit.

The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get the Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions:

(a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

(b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

(c) be without both hands or without both arms;

(d) be without one or both legs;

(e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

(f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

The Senior Medical Officer (SMO) for the relevant Health Service Executive area makes a professional clinical determination as to whether an individual applicant satisfies the medical criteria. An unsuccessful applicant can appeal the decision of the SMO to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, which makes a new clinical determination in respect of the individual.

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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

226 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if persons (details supplied) in County Wexford are being jointly assessed for tax; if they are in receipt of the correct tax credits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40036/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that current information on record on behalf of the taxpayers is not in accordance with the information provided in the details supplied with the question. In order to clarify matters, the Wexford Revenue District will make direct contact with the taxpayers and amend records and relevant tax credits as appropriate.

Seán Haughey

Question:

227 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if the sale of a family home which was rented out from 2002 to 2004, but which was used as a family home before and after these dates, is liable for capital gains tax; if the fact that the owner is a lone parent in financial difficulties and that their daughter slept in the house between 2002 and 2004, would make a difference in determining liability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40068/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is an exemption from capital gains tax on gains made by an individual on the disposal of his/her dwelling house together with land occupied as its gardens or grounds up to an area of one acre.

Full exemption applies where the dwelling house has been occupied by the individual as his/her principal private residence throughout his/her period of ownership. Where the house is not so occupied during the whole period of ownership, the proportion of the gain applicable to the period of occupation is exempt. This proportion is the same proportion as the length of the period of owner-occupation (inclusive of the last 12 months of ownership in any event) bears to the length of the period of ownership. The exemption is restricted, however, where there is a sale of development land.

Periods spent in employment abroad and periods of absence due to the situation of an individual's place of employment may be treated as periods of occupation of the residence. The exemption may also apply where the house has been the sole residence of a dependent relative.

The legislation governing the exemption does not allow for the financial or individual circumstances of the owner in question to be taken into account. Similarly, as the daughter does not appear to be a dependent relative her use of the property would not be taken into account. The Deputy should contact the Revenue Commissioners if he would like more specific information on the extent to which the exemption would apply to the homeowner in question.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

228 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the decentralisation of sections of his Department to Athy; if accommodation has been secured in Athy; when the proposed decentralisation will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40104/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Office of Public Works are currently assessing a number of possibilities for a permanent accommodation solution for the Revenue staff, who will be decentralising to Athy. They are also engaged in the evaluation of a number of accommodation proposals for an advance group of Revenue staff. It is hoped that this evaluation will be completed shortly and allow for the advance group to decentralise in mid 2007. The latest Decentralisation Implementation Group Report of September 2006 specifies an indicative timeframe of mid 2009 for the completion of a building in Athy for the decentralised Revenue Office.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

229 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance his views on proposals to lower or remove VAT on condoms. [40119/06]

The standard VAT rate of 21% applies to condoms. Under EU VAT law, with which Irish law must comply, it is not possible to introduce new zero rates of VAT, as we can only retain the zero rating that was in existence on 1 January 1991. Therefore it would not be possible to apply the zero rate of VAT to condoms. However, Member States are permitted to apply the reduced VAT rate to goods or services listed in Annex H of the EU Sixth VAT Directive. In Ireland the reduced VAT rate is 13.5%. Certain pharmaceutical products including condoms are included in Annex H. It would therefore be possible to apply the reduced rate of VAT to condoms. In any event, if there was a reduction in the rate of VAT applying to condoms, I am not convinced, given the mark ups in the sector, that any rate reduction would necessarily be fully reflected in retail prices for condoms.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

230 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary has received their full entitlement under the SSIA account scheme as they feel they should have received more. [40337/06]

The return on the investment made by the person concerned is a matter between that person and the relevant financial institution. There are internal dispute resolution procedures in financial institutions, and in the event that these do not lead to a resolution, the services of the Financial Services Ombudsman may be called upon, in appropriate case.

Tax Code.

Michael Noonan

Question:

231 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Finance if the Health Service Executive is required to pay VAT on home help services which they provide; if so, the rate of VAT that applies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40366/06]

The position is that home care services provided directly by the Health Service Executive (HSE) do not generally come within the scope of VAT, as public bodies are not regarded as taxable persons. This means that the HSE do not charge VAT on the services they provide and the HSE cannot recover VAT incurred on their input costs.

Under EU law private suppliers of home care services must charge VAT at the appropriate rate of up to 21% depending on the service provided. My Department is examining in consultation with the Department of Health and Children the scope within the relevant EU Directives to exempt the provision of such services from VAT in the future.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

232 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if he will arrange to have a farm tax profile issued in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who submitted their details to the Revenue Commissioners three months ago and who requires this farm profile in respect of their daughter’s higher education grant application. [40397/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Notice of Assessment for 2005 issued to the taxpayer on 22 November 2006. This is sufficient to enable him apply for a Higher Education Grant in respect of his daughter. Farm Profile forms are now obsolete and all farm income is returned on Form 11.

Decentralisation Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

233 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff decentralising to Dungarvan that are included in the over 2,100 staff who have already been reassigned to decentralising posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40425/06]

The following gives the position in relation to Dungarvan. I understand my colleague the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government will answer in respect of his own areas of responsibility. The figure of 2,100 is the number of assignments to decentralising posts reported to the Central Decentralisation Unit up to end August 2006.

While this figure does not contain any staff assigned to decentralise with OSI to Dungarvan, I am informed by Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) that 16 staff of the OSI have chosen to decentralise to Dungarvan with the OSI and that as part of the OSI's ongoing recruitment processes, a further 54 staff have been recruited since the initial decentralisation announcement on the basis that they will decentralise to Dungarvan. Forty-five staff from other Department/Agencies have also applied on CAF to move to Dungarvan.

Flood Relief.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

234 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the works that are to be carried out in the Waterford constituency in 2007 under the flood relief programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40426/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

235 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the works to be carried out in 2007 under the flood relief programme to relieve the regular chronic flooding on the Waterford Tramore Road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40427/06]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 234 and 235 together.

The estimated cost of the Tramore Road element of the proposed Waterford City Flood Relief Scheme was found to exceed the anticipated benefits resulting from the works. In the circumstances it was not possible to include this element in the works which it is currently proposed to carry out. It is anticipated that the first phase of the proposed Flood Relief Scheme will be commenced towards the end of 2007.

Decentralisation Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

236 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the provision of accommodation for decentralisation to Waterford and Dungarvan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40428/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works are at an advanced stage in negotiations for the acquisition of a site in Waterford City. It is expected that the site will accommodate staff of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government together with the Courts Service and the Probation and Welfare Services. The Office of Public Works (OPW) is commencing the formulation of detailed briefs of accommodation requirements with the organisations concerned.

A site has been acquired by the Commissioners of Public Works for the proposed decentralisation of Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) to Dungarvan. The OPW is proceeding with the procurement stage of this project and is currently in discussions with OSI with a view to finalising a detailed brief of accommodation requirements. Expressions of Interest from developers were received on 20th November 2006. These are being evaluated and tenders for construction at this location, on a design/build basis, will be invited at the earliest possible date following agreement on the brief being reached with OSI.

Pat Breen

Question:

237 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance when Revenue Commissioners staff will take up their position in Kilrush under the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40500/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Office of Public Works has agreed terms for a suitable premises in Kilrush for the Revenue staff due to decentralise. The lease is currently being finalised by the Chief State Solicitor and the Commissioners of Public Works are in negotiations for a fit-out of the premises. On the basis that matters proceed according to plan, the Decentralisation Implementation Group's indicative timescale of the first quarter of 2007 for the availability of a decentralised office in Kilrush will be achieved.

Health Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

238 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the weekly cost to the State for keeping a young person in care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40463/06]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

239 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive have not responded to a previously placed question (details supplied), in view of the urgent circumstances in this case. [39926/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 22nd November 2006 in relation to Question No. 324.

Health Service Compensation Scheme.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

240 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the committee that was set up to advise on no fault insurance regarding persons with cerebral palsy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39950/06]

The work of the Advisory Group established to examine the feasibility of introducing a no fault compensation scheme for infants who suffer brain damage at, or close to, the time of their birth came to a halt in 2004. This occurred when hospital consultants withdrew from participation in Ministerial committees in protest at the inclusion of personal injury claims against them in the Clinical Indemnity Scheme in February 2004. In May of this year I asked the chairman of the Advisory Group, Dr. Peter McKenna, to reconvene the group with a view to producing a report. I understand that a draft report is at an advanced state of preparation and I hope to receive it in early 2007.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

241 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons for Beaumont Hospital not being able to provide physiotherapy services to patients other than to those within the Beaumont catchment area; and the action she will take to relieve this burden on the patient population. [39954/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

242 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff employed in the child care section in County Mayo within the Health Service Executive; the comparison figures for each of the past five years; the number of staff members employed as inspectors and pre-school services officers; and the number of inspections they carry out on an annual basis including repeat inspections. [39959/06]

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

The Health Service Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

243 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Health Service Executive management has not made a decision on the person who will take on clinical accountability for the cases of a doctor (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the number of children on this list; the length of time each has been waiting; the reason some have been told that the wait may be a further 18 months; if an effort has been made to identify the most serious cases with a view to having each one dealt with as a priority case and seen by the appropriate qualified person immediately; if those most in need will be referred to a private clinic where costs will be met by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39968/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

244 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the shortfall between Ireland’s need for rheumatology services and the services currently provided. [39982/06]

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

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

Health Service Contracts.

David Stanton

Question:

245 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the contract cleaning companies employed to clean the respective hospitals under the auspices of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39996/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medicinal Products.

Michael Ring

Question:

246 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will include certain drugs (details supplied) on the medical card list, in view of the fact that the drugs are not currently available here; and if there is a way this medication will be made available here. [39997/06]

There is a common list of reimbursable medicines for the General Medical Services and Drug Payment schemes. This list is reviewed and amended monthly, as new products become available and deletions are notified. For an item to be included on the list, it must comply with published criteria, including authorisation status as appropriate, price and, in certain cases the intended use of the product. In addition, the product should ordinarily be supplied to the public only by medical prescription and should not be advertised or promoted to the public.

Any application by a supplier to have Myolastan or Epsipam included on the common list will be considered in the usual way. People who experience undue financial hardship in obtaining any particular product should contact the local area office of the Health Service Executive.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Question:

247 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the projected outturn for 2006, and the forecast revenue in 2007 from the health levy. [40002/06]

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. The forecast revenue in 2007 from the health levy is €1,280 billion. This figure will be revised in the REV in light of the 2006 outturn.

Hospital Charges.

Richard Bruton

Question:

248 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the projected outturn for 2006 and the forecast revenue in 2007 from private charges levied by public hospitals. [40003/06]

Funding for all health services has been provided as part of the Executive's overall vote for health and personal social services in 2006. In the case raised by the Deputy, the allocation of resources and the income stream within that is a matter for the Executive to be determined within the overall priorities for particular services set out by me in the Budget. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

249 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the projected expenditure for 2006 and the forecast expenditure in 2007 on medications distinguishing that spent under the drugs refund scheme under the GMS and by hospitals and other public care institutions. [40004/06]

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

Vaccination Programme.

Mary Upton

Question:

250 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of doses of Tamiflu and Relenza and the number and type of face masks the Government has stockpiled for use in the event of an outbreak of avian related human flu. [40005/06]

An emergency supply of over 45,000 treatment packs of the antiviral drug Tamiflu was purchased in 2004. A further 1 million treatment packs of Tamiflu, have now been stockpiled as part of our pandemic preparedness strategy. This quantity is sufficient to treat 25% of the population and is in line with international trends. We have also stockpiled 63kg of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (oseltamivir phosphate powder). This will allow for treatment of approximately 60,000 children aged between 1 and 5 years of age.

We are also stockpiling 706,000 courses of the other suitable antiviral drug, Relenza. This is sufficient to cover 20% of the population over the age of seven. This antiviral can be used in the event of resistance developing to the first line drug, Tamiflu, and will also provide cover if the clinical attack rate is higher than 25%. This stockpile will be complete by September 2007; the first 70,000 courses have been delivered.

The Influenza Pandemic Expert Group is finalising advice on infection control, with reference to recommendations from the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Surgical masks will be recommended for use by health care workers for close patient contact (e.g. within 3 feet). The Health Service Executive is now making arrangements to stockpile masks and other necessary personal protective equipment for health care workers.

Home Help Service.

Enda Kenny

Question:

251 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to vet home helps; her plans to introduce a system of training, regulation or supervision of home helps; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40006/06]

At present Home Helps employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) are subject to Garda vetting. The HSE is currently reviewing all aspects of its Garda vetting requirements. The National Garda Vetting Unit is also in the process of extending Garda vetting to other areas in the voluntary sector on a phased basis.

The HSE recognises and acknowledges the important services provided by personnel working throughout the home help service nationally and is committed to reviewing the existing models of services provided with a view to establishing a standardised high quality service that will benefit both clientele and staff. In order to give effect to this commitment a High Level Group, comprising of representatives from the Health Service Executive (HSE), IMPACT and SIPTU was established in March 2006. The High Level Group continues to work towards agreeing a single model of service delivery that will provide a standardised and high quality home help service.

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

252 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for a hip replacement operation at Tallaght Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40010/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

James Breen

Question:

253 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the youngest age that a child can be assessed by an orthodontist within the health service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40029/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

254 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the qualifications needed to become a pre-school services officer or inspector within the Health Service Executive; if a knowledge of montessori is a pre-requisite for such a position; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40043/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Antibiotic Use.

John Gormley

Question:

255 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in introducing a public education campaign on antibiotic use, which was recommended in the 2001 strategy for control of antimicrobial resistance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40044/06]

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

Hospital Closures.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

256 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin is being closed; if it is intended to use the land for social or health purposes or to sell it off to the highest bidder; the hospital to which the services currently provided at St. Luke’s will be transferred; the date on which St. Luke’s will stop providing services to the public; if she will reconsider the decision to close this facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40049/06]

The decision to transfer St. Luke's Hospital was taken by the Government in the context of its consideration of the National Plan for Radiation Oncology Services. The decision is based on expert advice and is designed to ensure that radiation oncology, one element of cancer care, is integrated with all other aspects of care, including surgery and medical oncology. This is in line with best international practice.

I am convinced that this model will provide better patient centred treatment with improved quality of service and outcome for patients. The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting the Government's decision in relation to the development of radiation oncology. A transfer on similar lines took place earlier this year in Northern Ireland when radiation oncology services transferred to Belfast City Hospital, a major academic teaching hospital.

In progressing the transfer, I will build on the expertise and ethos of St. Luke's. I have ensured that experts at St. Luke's are centrally involved in the planning and delivery of the National Plan. The plan consists of large centres in Dublin (at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals), Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital. Medical and scientific experts from the hospital are involved in developing the output specifications for the delivery of new radiation oncology services nationally. The Chief Executive at St. Luke's will lead the management team of the new facility at St. James's. I also appointed the Chairman of St. Luke's to chair a National Radiation Oncology Oversight Group to advise me on progress on the implementation of the plan.

The tender has recently been awarded for two additional and two replacement 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. 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.

Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

257 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children further to the failure of the Health Service Executive to respond to this Deputy’s previous question, the amount being spent on security; the location where an external security company is involved; when the first contract was entered into; and the cost of each contract on an annual basis since January 2005 to date in 2006. [40057/06]

The Deputy's question of November 1st 2006 requires the compilation of detailed information from a number of different sources on a national basis. My Department has been informed by the Health Service Executive that the collation of this information is currently being coordinated by its Parliamentary Affairs Division and that a reply will issue to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

258 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 and arrange for the payment of nursing home subvention sought. [40063/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

259 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a complaint made by a senior member of staff at a centre (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has been investigated by the Health Service Executive; if the investigation was carried out by staff of the HSE or by an independent investigator; if the outcome of the investigation has been discussed with the person who made the complaint; if the issues raised have been resolved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40087/06]

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.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

260 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the implementation of the sectoral plans in her Department as part of the Disability Act 2005; if she envisages delays in the roll-out of the timetable set out in her announcement in July 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40094/06]

My Department is working in close collaboration with the Health Service Executive, the Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education in order to ensure that all aspects of the Health Sectoral Plan will be met in accordance with the timeframes outlined in the Plan. Delays are not anticipated in the roll-out of the timetable as announced at the launch of the Sectoral Plans.

Departmental Funding.

Denis Naughten

Question:

261 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide additional capital and current funding to the West of Ireland Alzheimer Foundation to meet the demands being placed on it due to the lack of support from the Health Service Executive for dementia patients in the West of Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40101/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Accommodation.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

262 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds for the elderly in public nursing homes in County Galway in the years 1995 to 2005, inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40106/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to provide the information requested by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the information collated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Richard Bruton

Question:

263 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the lengthy delays in making appointments for needed eye testing in the Mater Hospital; and if she will request that the Health Service Executive conduct an assessment of the waiting times and the options for overcoming these delays. [40112/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John Perry

Question:

264 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo and have the decision on their medical card appeal rescinded in view of their circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40140/06]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child-care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed with the Health Service Executive a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

265 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason no response issued from the Health Service Executive in relation to a previous question (details supplied); and when a full reply will issue in this regard. [40298/06]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a reply to the Deputy on the 23rd November 2006 in relation to Question No. 107.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Joe Costello

Question:

266 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children her policy on independent living for people who have a disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40299/06]

Quality and Fairness — A Health System for You outlines the Department of Health and Children's commitment to the provision of "the right care in the right place at the right time". In line with this commitment, my Department will ensure that appropriate resources are provided for health, social and personal services to people with disabilities based on an individual assessed need as legislated for in the Disability Act 2005.

These needs may include independent living needs such as Home Support and Personal Assistance services. In the context of the Multi Annual Investment Package an additional 1.5 million hours of Home Support and Personal Assistance services will be provided in the period 2005-09.

The Sectoral Plan produced by my Department under the Disability Act provides for the exchange of information between Health Service Executive and public bodies (including housing authorities) for the purpose of assisting a person with disabilities in applying personal services. Furthermore, the Department of Health and Children and HSE will participate in the development of a National Housing Strategy for people with disabilities. This will assist in the development of appropriate housing to address the independent living needs of people with disabilities.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Joe Costello

Question:

267 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if the new Children’s Hospital will be built on a site at the Mater Hospital; if paediatric services will continue in Crumlin, Tallaght and James St. hospitals after the construction of the new Children’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40300/06]

A review of tertiary paediatric services carried out by McKinsey & Co on behalf of the Health Service Executive recommended the establishment of a single tertiary paediatric hospital in Dublin, co-located with a leading adult academic hospital. Subsequently, a joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Task Group was established to advise on the optimum location of the proposed new hospital.

The Task Group's report was submitted to the Board of the HSE on 1st June last, and its recommendation that the new paediatric hospital be developed as an independent hospital on a site to be made available by the Mater Hospital was endorsed by the Board. At its meeting on 8th June, the Government also strongly endorsed the recommendation.

A joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Transition Group has been established to advance the development of the new hospital on the Mater site. Among the key items being addressed are the definition of a high level framework brief for the new hospital and the determination of the scope and location of the urgent care centres required to support the new hospital. The Transition Group will have consultations with relevant stakeholders. The Joint Transition Group is in the process of contracting external assistance in relation to the development of a high level framework brief for the new hospital, including operational policies for the proposed urgent care centres.

To date no decision has been taken in relation to the range of services to be provided at the National Children's Hospital at Tallaght in the context of the development of the national paediatric hospital and the associated urgent care centres. Services at Our Lady's Children's Hospital are to transfer to the new hospital. St James's Hospital is an adult teaching hospital which currently treats a small number of children on an exceptional basis. The framework brief will help to inform decisions in relation to the full range of services to be provided at the new hospital.

Ambulance Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

268 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the strength of the ambulance service in Dublin City and County; if this is sufficient in the event of a major accident or emergency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40301/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

269 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children when the blood testing or phlebotomy unit (details supplied) will be reinstated at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40302/06]

The position in relation to the curtailment of phlebotomy services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, was outlined to the Deputy on the Adjournment of the Dáil on 21st November. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the issue raised by the Deputy updated and a reply issued directly to him.

Departmental Funding.

Willie Penrose

Question:

270 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of funding that has been given to the Osteoporosis Society; if increased funding is being made available or if there has been a reduction in the funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40303/06]

The Irish Osteoporosis Society (IOS) received funding from the Health Service Executive of €130,000 in 2005. The IOS sought further funding of €128,000 during 2006. Following a series of meetings and checking of documentation, the HSE provided this amount to the IOS on the 22nd of September 2006.

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that the IOS has not formally applied for further funding but have indicated they wish to. Representatives from the Population Health Directorate are scheduled to meet with the IOS today to discuss funding.

Hospital Staff.

Willie Penrose

Question:

271 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps taken to put in place a replacement cardiologist at Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40304/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

272 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 87 of 1 November 2007 if she will clarify where surgical staff will be based under the new structures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40305/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

273 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when the third consultant physician at the County Hospital Roscommon will be appointed on a permanent basis; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40306/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

274 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the video fluoroscopy facility in the Children’s Hospital Crumlin is out of order; the length of time that it is out of operation; when the facility will be made available to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40307/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Liz McManus

Question:

275 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will comment on the upcoming closure of the creche in the Coombe Women’s hospital; the reasons for this closure; her views on whether the two months notice of the closure given to parents of the children in the creche is unacceptable short notice; if she will ensure that at least six months' notice will be given to parents to find new care for their children; the steps she is taking to aid these parents of children in this creche to find alternative care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40338/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

276 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for the nursing home subvention in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40339/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

277 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a contract given by the Health Service Executive to a company (details supplied) to operate a dialysis service in Kilkenny has not commenced in view of the fact that the project was to commence on 4 September 2006; the location for this project; if planning permission has been granted to the company; when the service will commence; if work undertaken by the HSE at Kilcreene Hospital, Kilkenny was to facilitate this company and the project in the interim; the cost of these works; if a second location is being examined; if the HSE is involved in further costs at this location; if she will insist on putting the patient first and allow a further number of patients to be treated at the Wellstone Clinic where a service agreement is already in place with the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40340/06]

This year an additional €8 million was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the development of renal services, including dialysis, throughout the country. The Estimates for 2007 which were published recently include additional funding of €4m for the HSE to continue the development of renal services including dialysis.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

278 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of occupational therapists servicing the area of Dublin mid west and Dublin as a whole; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40354/06]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

279 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is intended to restore the free cervical cancer screening unit in a health centre (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40355/06]

A cervical screening service at the public health centre referred to by the Deputy has ceased for clinical governance reasons. However, a nurse led cervical testing clinic is provided by the Coombe Women's Hospital, without charge, one evening per week. Women do not require a GP referral to avail of this service.

The national roll-out of the Irish Cervical Screening Programme (ICSP) will commence next year. Significant preparatory work is well underway involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register. 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. Additional revenue funding of €5 million has been allocated in 2007 for the roll-out of the Programme.

Hospital Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

280 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has received a request to fund a new dialysis unit for the Mid West Regional Hospital in view of the huge demands on the current unit which is inadequate to the needs in the area; if so, when a decision will be made on funding such a unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40363/06]

This year an additional €8m was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the development of renal services, including dialysis, throughout the country. The Estimates for 2007 which were published recently include additional funding of €4m for the HSE to continue the development of renal services including dialysis.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the provision of dialysis services in the Mid West.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

281 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a shower will be installed for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [40385/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the operation of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

282 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an occupational therapist’s report has been submitted in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in relation to the needs of their son and their application under the DPG scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40386/06]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

283 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the psychological treatment or analysis for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has been arranged by the Health Service Executive at the County Clinic, James Green, Kilkenny; the number of psychologists operating from the Kilkenny clinic on a five day week basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40387/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matters raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

284 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny can be referred for night sessions of dialysis to the Wellstone Clinic, Dublin Road, Kilkenny, thus removing the need for them to travel to Waterford for treatment; the way patients are selected for dialysis treatment at this centre; the number referred to date; her plans to expand this number; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40388/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

285 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a group (details supplied) who appealed a decision disallowing their staffing grant and applied for a capital grant under the national childcare investment programme as the refusal of this grant places serious pressure on the playgroup finances; if, in view of the circumstances this appeal can be granted, the staffing grant allowed, and the capital grant allocated to allow the group carry out their expansions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40412/06]

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, which are being implemented by the Office of the Minister for Children.

With regard to the application for staffing grant assistance under the EOCP and the capital application under the NCIP referred to in the question, I understand that both applications are under assessment. All applications undergo a thorough assessment to ensure they meet the criteria of the Programmes.

When the assessments are complete, the applications will be considered by the Programme Appraisal Committee before a decision is made regarding funding by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children.

The Group will be informed of the outcome in due course.

Home Help Service.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

286 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people being assisted in County Kildare under the home help scheme; the way the number of hours assistance they receive is determined; the number of categories of hours there are; the number of clients being assisted under each; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40413/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Mary Upton

Question:

287 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck will be available in an area (details supplied). [40462/06]

I am committed to ensuring that the BreastCheck service is rolled out to the remaining regions in the country as quickly as possible. I have approved additional revenue funding of €8 million for next year to meet the additional costs involved, bringing BreastCheck's revenue budget to €21.7m in 2007. I have also made available an additional €21m capital funding to BreastCheck for the construction of two new clinical units and five additional mobile units and state of the art digital equipment. I am pleased to advise the House that screening will commence in the South and West in the Spring of next year.

In relation to the roll out to specific counties, my Department has requested the Director of the Programme to respond directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Allowances.

John McGuinness

Question:

288 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for domiciliary care allowance in the name of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited and approved in view of the exceptional circumstances of the case. [40506/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

289 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide funding for private care in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will expedite a positive response to this case in view of the urgent need for intervention and care; if the referral from the public service as outlined in a letter will be acted upon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40507/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

290 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for housing aid for the elderly by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [40509/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the operation of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

James Breen

Question:

291 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 200 of 26 April 2005, when the Health Service Executive will meet with a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40516/06]

I understand that the particular question raised by the Deputy relates to the placement of the child in care under the Child Care Act 1991. While I do not propose to comment on the specific circumstances of the case, I wish to convey once again my deepest sympathy to the family of the child concerned.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. This includes responsibility for children taken into care. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy.

I understand that a meeting was scheduled to take place on 17th June 2005 at Swords Business Campus. However at the request of the person's legal representative this meeting did not proceed as he requested some time to familiarise himself with files and documents provided. The Local Health Office (LHO) North Dublin report that they have had no further communication from the person or their legal representative since. As always HSE staff from LHO North Dublin remain available to meet for discussion on any or all aspects of this case.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

292 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to secure an urgent appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath with an orthopaedic surgeon as this person is in urgent need of a hip replacement, and is suffering great pain and trauma; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40538/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

293 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people employed as inspectors in the child care service in County Mayo including their full title, qualifications, roles, location and so on; and the estimated number of children within the public and private childcare sector in the county. [40596/06]

The establishment of the Health Service Executive represented a fundamental move from the previously fragmented structure and organisation of the country's health and personal social services to a unitary system under the Executive. This ensured that one body would have responsibility for the management and delivery of services from the local to the national level, including data collection across its various areas of operation.

The information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

294 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an appointment for an assessment for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40597/06]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

295 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children if there will be added provision in her Departmental budget for a mental health awareness programme aimed at addressing the increasing problems faced by young people with regard to body image; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40598/06]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, entitled ‘A Vision for Change', was launched on 24th January 2006. This provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over the next 7 to 10 years. In 2006, a sum of €26.2 million has been allocated for the further development of our mental health services in line with ‘A Vision for Change'. This includes funding of €1.2 million for suicide prevention initiatives.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Eating Disorders.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

296 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children the initiatives for which she will provide funding which directly seek to address the growing problem of obesity here, particularly among young people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40599/06]

The National Taskforce on Obesity published a report in 2005 containing 93 recommendations to halt the rise in levels of overweight and obesity. The Taskforce recognises that a multi-sectoral approach is necessary, involving other state agencies and government departments and real engagement of the public and private sectors to implement all of the report's recommendations.

The HSE has the lead responsibility for implementing those recommendations of the National Taskforce on Obesity relevant to the health sector and has been allocated €3 million for this purpose. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

297 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will meet a group (details supplied) in County Kerry in relation to the lack of funding for the provision of SATU at Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40679/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

298 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the research carried out in an area when a community based child care unit is being set up; if her Department have an input into the research or if it is just carried out by the community provider; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40681/06]

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.

The NCIP aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality childcare supports and services, which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. The Programme has a budget of €575 million for the 5 year period 2006-2010, with a target to create 50,000 additional childcare places and with a greater focus on pre-school places for 3 to 4 year olds and school age childcare. The 50,000 new places will include 5,000 after school places and 10,000 pre-school education places aimed at 3 to 4 year olds.

All applications, including those by community based childcare groups as referred to in the question, submitted under these Programmes, undergo a thorough assessment to ensure they meet the criteria of the Programmes. In this regard, the officials in the Office of the Minister for Children are assisted in the day to day management of the programme by Pobal. In addition, the network of 33 City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) which were established under the EOCP assist the assessment process at local level. The programme criteria include the creation of new childcare places, value for money, the capacity of the Group to deliver on its proposal and whether duplication or displacement of existing services may occur. When a Group requests staffing grant assistance under the EOCP, a strong focus on disadvantage is also required in order for the proposal to receive such funding.

The role of the CCCs has been further enhanced under the NCIP 2006-2010 to enable greater flexibility and responsiveness to local needs, supported by the provision of additional funding for the implementation of their 2006 Action Plans and the recruitment of additional staff. This role involves, inter alia, the assessment of childcare needs across their City or County, and supporting the development of quality childcare in areas where there are service gaps. Under both Programmes, the CCCs play a key role in assessing each proposal for displacement or duplication. Applications considered likely to result in significant displacement or duplication are not recommended for funding.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

299 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children if a private child care crèche provider who has received grant assistance to set up has to cease due to lack of demand and over concentration of providers in an area has to run their business at a loss for the remainder of their contract; if this grant assistance will have to be returned in full if the crèche ceases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40683/06]

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.

All applications under the EOCP are forwarded to Pobal, which is engaged to carry out detailed assessments on behalf of my Office. Due consideration is given to each proposal in order to avoid duplication and displacement of other childcare services in the area, and if a significant risk of such duplication or displacement is likely to arise, the grant will not be awarded.

The City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) play a key role in this process. Under the NCIP, each proposal is submitted to the CCC, which are tasked with the development of quality childcare in their City or County.

Under both the EOCP and the NCIP, capital grants are available for the purchase, extension and for refurbishment of buildings, for the purpose of increasing the supply of quality childcare. If a grant recipient fails to meet the conditions attached to his or her contractual agreement with Pobal, a decommitment and recovery process commences where monies paid to the grant recipient are recouped. This process is agreed by the Programme Appraisal Committee, before a decision is made regarding the decommittal of funding by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children.

Contracts under the EOCP issued by Pobal to private childcare providers state, inter alia, that: The Provider agrees to operate the grant project for a minimum period until a date falling 2, 5, 7 (delete as appropriate) years from the date of last payment by Pobal of an instalment of the grant. The periods referred to are: 2 years in the case of a grant of €19,045 or less; 5 years in the case of a grant between €19,045-€36,821 and; 7 years in the case of a grant between €36,821 and €50,790 (€50,790 being the maximum grant available under the EOCP).

Each such case is examined on its merits and I cannot comment in advance on what would happen in an individual case.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

300 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the system in place for the allocation of grants to community child care centres in relation to location and potential consequences for overlapping with private child care crèches; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40685/06]

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.

The NCIP aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality childcare supports and services, which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. The Programme has a budget of €575 million for the 5 year period 2006-2010, with a target to create 50,000 additional childcare places and with a greater focus on pre-school places for 3 to year olds and school age childcare. The 50,000 new places will include 5,000 after school places and 10,000 pre-school education places aimed at 3 to 4 year olds.

All applications, including those by community based childcare groups as referred to in the question, submitted under these Programmes, undergo a thorough assessment to ensure they meet the criteria of the Programmes. Such criteria include the creation of new childcare places, value for money, the capacity of the Group to deliver on its proposal and whether duplication or displacement of existing services may occur. When a Group requests staffing grant assistance under the EOCP, a strong focus on disadvantage is also required in order for the proposal to receive such funding.

The City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) play a key role in the implementation of the NCIP 2006-2010, to enable greater flexibility and responsiveness to local needs. As a result, additional funding has been allocated for the implementation of their 2006 Supplementary Action Plans and the recruitment of additional staff to take account of the CCCs' expanded role under the NCIP. This role involves, inter alia, the assessment of childcare needs across their City or County, and supporting the development of quality childcare in areas where there are service gaps. Under both Programmes, the CCCs play a key role in assessing each proposal for displacement or duplication. Applications considered likely to result in significant displacement or duplication are not recommended for funding.

Aggregate Supplies.

Enda Kenny

Question:

301 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is satisfied that sufficient capacity exists to supply sufficient quantities of sand and gravel for major infrastructure development and construction development proposed over the next 20 years; if he will put an estimate on the scale of such resources available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40570/06]

Ireland is fortunate that it possesses considerable quantities not only of sand and gravel, but also of rock material that is suitable for the manufacture of aggregates. As a result it is at present self sufficient in aggregates reserves. However, the enormous increase in demand for aggregates in recent years for the construction sector has placed considerable pressure on existing sources of supply and related land banks.

Recent estimates suggest that 130 million tonnes of aggregates are used annually in Ireland which has one of the highest per-capita rates of consumption in Europe. No estimate exists of the scale of available aggregate resources nationally (whether of rock material or sand and gravel) and accordingly, it is not known whether sufficient resources exist to cover infrastructure and construction needs over the next 20 years and in areas where they are needed most.

The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), a division of my Department, has carried out Aggregate Potential Mapping (APM) in Counties Donegal, Meath and Wicklow to date. This mapping is intended to delineate areas with potential resources of aggregates for the information of planning authorities to ensure that potential sources are not sterilised inadvertently by competing land uses and to indicate the distribution of potential sources. It may be desirable to expand the area of coverage of such mapping in coming years. While it will not yield a precise estimate of resources it will provide guidance to planners in making critical land use decisions.

Inland Fisheries.

John Perry

Question:

302 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when a decision will be taken on the implementation of the Farrell Grant Sparks Report on Inland Fisheries; when he will take a decision on whether to scrap the report or implement it, particularly in view of the fact that he is opening new premises and announcing additional funding for said boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39920/06]

The Deputy will be aware that details of the Government's policy for the restructuring of the inland fisheries sector, which is based on the recommendations contained within the report by Farrell Grant Sparks following their review of the sector, were published in November last year.

On foot of the review the Government has decided that a fundamental restructuring of the sector is required. It considered that this reform would result in a better model for the State's role in the sector, better resource management, more and better involvement of stakeholders, better corporate governance and value for money. Under Government policy the sector is to be re-organised by subsuming the existing central and regional fisheries boards into a single national inland fisheries authority (NIFA) whose executive functions will be aligned on a regional basis with the river basin districts in line with the EU Water Framework Directive. Irrespective of the overall organisational structure there will still be a need for operations to be conducted on a regional basis with local offices.

Due to competing priorities for time in the Oireachtas's legislative calendar, however, it has not proved possible to introduce the legislation required to facilitate the establishment of the new authority this year. It has therefore been decided to use the additional time available to examine how the existing seventeen pieces of legislation governing the inland fisheries sector, which date back to 1959, can be modernised and consolidated into a single statute. Officials from the Department are working with management of the fisheries boards on this exercise and it is hoped to publish the new legislation in the latter half of 2007.

FGS Consulting has also recently been re-engaged by the Department to undertake Stage II of the review. This process will involve full, transparent and comprehensive consultations with all stakeholders during which the principles and structures to deliver the new model will be fleshed out. The findings of Stage II will inform the drafting of the legislation required to establish the new authority.

The funding referred to by the Deputy was announced in the context of the fisheries boards', or any successor agency's, enforcement and protection effort during the establishment of the new management regime for the wild salmon fishery.

Corporate Hospitality.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

303 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the receipt of hospitality by his Departmental staff from persons or corporations who have had dealings with his Department; the details of such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39974/06]

The rules governing receipt of corporate hospitality for Departmental staff are set out in the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour issued by the Standards in Public Office Commission.

Staff have been made aware of these provisions and are expected to adhere to them in the event of being offered hospitality and/or gifts.

Fishing Industry Development.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

304 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if it is the policy of his Department and the Northern Regional Fisheries Board, under the plans for the management and development of fisheries, to disenfranchise and exclude from consultation local angling associations as is the policy currently being pursued against the Rosses and Fintown anglers on the River Gweebarra. [39999/06]

I have been advised by the Northern Regional Fisheries Board that discussions with a view to promoting sustainable angling in Donegal have been ongoing with local interests for the last few years.

I understand that discussions take place based on river catchment areas with a view to reaching agreement with the recognised local angling clubs for each catchment. The management agreement provides for shared access for local and visiting anglers, allowing the fishery to be run on a sustainable basis into the future. Residents living within the catchment area cannot, I understand, be refused membership of the local club.

Discussions have commenced on this basis with the Gweebarra Fishing Club. I understand that neither the Fintown nor Rosses clubs has fishing rights within the Gweebarra catchment area.

Electricity Generation.

David Stanton

Question:

305 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if projections have been carried out into the demand for electricity over the next number of years; if so, the details of same; if he has satisfied himself that supply will be adequate to meet demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40022/06]

The economy and society overall require that energy supply meets the demands of Irish consumers and industry at all times. The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has broad statutory functions in relation to security of electricity supply in line with EU Directives. It is the duty of the CER to monitor the security of supply of electricity and to take such measures as it considers necessary to protect security of supply. In particular, the CER can host a competition to acquire the necessary generation or it can direct the Transmission System Operator, ESB or any licensed undertaking to put in place any arrangements that the CER considers necessary to protect security of supply.

EirGrid's statutory role, as the independent Transmission System Operator, is to deliver quality connection, transmission and market services to generators, suppliers and customers utilising the high voltage electricity system, and to put in place the grid infrastructure required to support the economy. In fulfilling this role, EirGrid is required to develop, maintain and operate a safe, secure, reliable, economical and efficient transmission system.

In co-operation with EirGrid, the CER carries out extensive ongoing monitoring to identify any factors affecting security of supply at an early stage so that any necessary measures can be taken.

Specifically, in discharge of its responsibilities, the TSO publishes an annual Generation Adequacy Report (GAR) which, inter alia, sets out estimates of the demand for electricity over a seven-year timeframe, the likely production capacity that will be in place to meet this demand, and assesses the consequences in terms of the overall supply-demand balance. In its most recent GAR published in December 2005 the TSO forecasts an average annual rate of growth of electricity demand up to 2012 of just under 4%.

In line with international norms, the generation system in Ireland is designed, planned and monitored such that it meets a standard which requires it to meet all reasonable demands for supply. This is designed to ensure that, in designing the system, the appropriate balance is met between protecting security of supply and the cost of building and running the system.

At my request, CER and EirGrid have been briefing me and my Department on a regular basis on the prognosis for winter 06/07 and generation adequacy in the medium term. The CER advises me that it is satisfied the generation system is currently adequate to meet demand, and provides a sufficient margin to meet the security standard. The CER has also advised that there is sufficient capacity and arrangements in place to provide for demand to be met in the short term.

The CER is taking measures to facilitate the development of the system such that it remains adequate to maintain that security standard. Security of supply will be enhanced in the longer term with the development of additional electric interconnection and the development of the Single Electricity, and the resulting all-island approach to security of supply.

With regard to existing generation capacity, the most recent advice to me from CER and EirGrid is that generation adequacy in terms of the supply-demand balance will be manageable up to 2009 provided however that projections by generation companies regarding performance and availability are met and that planned new generation capacity comes on stream to schedule. EirGrid will shortly publish its Generation Adequacy Review 2007-2013 which will set out its assessment of supply-demand over the period.

The Government is also concerned to ensure that adequate provision is also made to encourage the development of an electricity portfolio, which can support and complement the ambitious targets which we have now set for renewable growth. Decisions in this regard by the CER, EirGrid and the Government will be informed by the need to ensure capacity and competition in the generation sector while reflecting the overriding consideration of security of supply.

David Stanton

Question:

306 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his position regarding a proposed new power station to be constructed in Aghada in East Cork by the Electricity Supply Board; if and when he will give approval for the building of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40041/06]

Any decision to grant shareholder approval for ESB investment in a new power generation plant at Aghada would be conditional on agreement on a strategy to address the company's dominance and market power, particularly with regard to mid-merit price-setting plant. Any such approval would also be strictly contingent on compliance with all terms and conditions which would accompany the authorisation by the Commission for Energy Regulation.

Fisheries Protection.

Michael Ring

Question:

307 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the hardship fund for persons affected by the compulsory buy-out of drift net fishermen will apply to persons (details supplied) in County Mayo. [40283/06]

The Government has created a hardship fund for those affected by the compulsory cessation of indiscriminate mixed stock salmon fishing at sea realising that these proposals will entail hardship for commercial fishermen and vulnerable coastal communities. This fund will be available to all those subject to a compulsory closure of their current commercial fishery, namely the holders of drift net licences and some draft net licence holders.

The level of payments will be based on the average verifiable catch for each licence holder for the past 5 years (2001-2005). Each individual licence holder should receive 6 times his average catch multiplied by the average net income per salmon (which is estimated to be €23 per salmon). In all cases a payment equal to 6 times the current licence fee will be made to each licence holder.

The hardship fund will be managed on an administrative basis by BIM and the Regional Fisheries Boards and the licence holders referred to by the Deputy will be eligible to apply on the above basis.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

308 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason driftnet fishermen in NE England were given £70,000 a number of years ago in a buy-out in the interest of salmon conservation and £110,000 is reputed to have been offered to the ones remaining as a buy-out, whilst only approximately €2,000 is being offered to 850 driftnet fishermen here for a similar buy-out with €23 per salmon caught in the past five years with a quota reduction of 75% already operating, with no provision for the driftnet crew, or other option considered for them; if this is equitable in view of the effect on fishermen and their families in rural areas for the rest of their lives, with no option for satisfaction in the event of a resurgence in salmon stock; if he is considering any other options to help driftnet fishermen, their crews and families; the action he will take in view of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40381/06]

The Deputy is aware that the Government adopted the key recommendations of the report by the Independent Group established to examine the implications of fully aligning the management of the wild salmon fishery with the scientific advice in 2007 and beyond. The central recommendation of this report is the creation of a hardship fund for those affected by the compulsory cessation of indiscriminate mixed stock fishing at sea.

The Government's primary motivation in adopting the report is that of conservation of the wild salmon species, which has long been regarded as one of Ireland's most prized fish. It is vital to afford every protection to the remaining salmon stocks and to clearly prioritise conservation over catch. The current imperative must be to maintain stocks above conservation limits or at the very least halt the observed decline.

In their report the group commented that the level of hardship likely to be experienced would vary both in extent and scale. Taking all factors into account and based on available information, noting particularly that there is no legal obligation on the State to provide compensation in a situation where it is imposing management measures that are fundamentally in the public good, they proposed to provide a measure of relief to each individual in line with the level of hardship likely to be experienced. They recommended that this should be based on the recent catch history of the individual licence holder from 2001 to 2005.

The Government accepted the recommendation of the Independent Group and has determined the level of payment should be based on the average verifiable catch and on the average net income per salmon in the commercial fishery for the past five years; that is from 2001 to 2005. This income calculation was based, on the average price obtained per fish each year less the costs incurred by fishermen. Each individual licence holder who applies to the fund is set to receive six times their average catch multiplied by the average net income per salmon. An additional payment equal to 6 times the current licence fee will be made in all cases. In the case of drift-net fishermen, this latter equals a payment of €2,022. I believe this is a fair and reasonable allocation.

An additional fund of €5 million will be available for a community support scheme. The focus of this measure should primarily be those communities, including crew members, where drift-net fishing has been a well-established activity and where its withdrawal demonstrably impacts on their economic and social fabric, e.g. Gaeltacht areas. Those eligible under this scheme would include those formerly involved in the drift-netting sector, the processing sector or where a promoter proposes to employ a significant number of people formerly engaged in drift-netting.

The licensing regime in the northeast of England was quite different to that which applies in this jurisdiction. I understand that property rights may have attached to fishing licences in England, which is not the case here. I am not aware of what may be offered to those fishermen that remain in the fishery, now that the Habitats Directive has a bearing on the continuation of mixed stock fisheries in all EU member states.

Communications Masts.

Pat Carey

Question:

309 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if new research evidence has come to the attention of his Department regarding the effects on the local population of mobile telephone masts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40433/06]

I am guided in these matters by the advice from international expert bodies, such as the World Health Organisation and the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection. These bodies continually examine the totality of the scientific and medical evidence available so we have the most up to date and accurate information in regard to the potential health effects, if any, of electromagnetic fields.

The Government approved the establishment of an inter-Departmental committee on the health effects of electromagnetic fields in September 2005. The committee is chaired by my Department and will provide advice to the Government on the appropriate action to be taken on foot of recommendations contained in the report "Non-Ionising Radiation from mobile phones handsets and masts", published in June 2005 by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. This committee has overseen the establishment of an expert group on the health effects of electromagnetic fields, which has undertaken a thorough review of the latest scientific reports and will report to the inter-departmental committee on the current scientific consensus and science-based policy. The inter-Departmental committee expects to report to Government in the near future.

Aquaculture Development.

Enda Kenny

Question:

310 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if in respect of Parliamentary Question No. 416 of 21 November 2006 he will confirm that he has received a request for a meeting from licensed mussel holders in Killary Harbour; if he will accede to this request; the date on which this will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40530/06]

As I have stated previously, I would earnestly hope that any local issues are debated and resolved within the local Coordinated Local Aquaculture Management Systems (CLAMS) structure. The CLAMS process is the state's mechanism for dealing with issues at a local level and it certainly is not my desire to in any way interfere with the very valuable contribution it makes in Killary and elsewhere around the coast.

With regard to the specific question asked I can confirm I have received a number of representations in relation to this matter from members of the Oireachtas but I have not as of yet acceded to requests for a meeting. However, on foot of representations made by a constituent a number of months ago I have a long-standing commitment to meet with a mussel farmer on Wednesday 29th November.

Corporate Hospitality.

Joe Higgins

Question:

311 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has been given the name of a civil servant who is alleged to have accepted corporate hospitality during the World Cup 2006 from a party associated with the consortium which holds the licence to develop the Corrib gas field. [40537/06]

My Department has no record of any staff member availing of any such corporate hospitality as outlined in the Deputy's Question.

Aquaculture Development.

Enda Kenny

Question:

312 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in respect of Parliamentary Question No. 441 of 21 November 2006, he will confirm that An Bord Iascaigh Mhara are responsible to him in respect of moneys paid through his Department for the purpose of assisting individual CLAMS groups in their development proposals and that therefore in the case of best results in the case of Killary clams and in view of the diverse opinions being put forward, that the appointment of an independent mediator would be beneficial; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40563/06]

BIM is the Irish state agency established under the Sea Fisheries Act 1952 with responsibility for developing the Irish Sea fishing and Aquaculture industries. Under the 1952 Act, the Board of BIM is appointed by the Minister of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and is required to prepare financial statements and to ensure regularity of transactions. BIM receives a budget from the Department each year in accordance with agreed strategies and objectives and is required to produce an Annual Report, which is audited by the C&AG and laid before the Oireachtas.

BIM assists the various CLAMS groups around the country from time to time with very modest sums of money, although there is no fixed budget allocation in their Vote devoted exclusively for this purpose. It should be noted that all of the actions of the CLAMS groups that receive state monies are co-funded by the members themselves, either by contributions in kind or by actual cash contributions. In this context, some of the groups are exploring ways of becoming financially self sufficient through collectively growing aquaculture products, on a cooperative basis, and I am encouraging this approach as it engenders financial sustainability and a spirit of acting in the common good.

With regard to the Killary CLAMS group, BIM is making a financial contribution towards the employment of an expert independent chairman and I would urge all of the growers there to engage with the chairman and participate actively in the group so as to have their point of view made known.

Membership of the group is open at all times to anybody holding an aquaculture licence. The CLAMS process is the state's mechanism for dealing with issues at a local level.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

313 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in relation to technical staff in the Overseas Aid Section of his Department who have indicated that they do not wish to move to Limerick as part of the decentralisation process; if they will be allowed to remain in Dublin; the impact this will have on the different overseas aid sections if specialist staff opt to stay in Dublin while administrative staff of the same section and others move to Limerick; if an evaluation has been carried out of the expected negative impact of same on the Irish Aid programme; the cost of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39965/06]

There are three Principal Development Specialist posts at Irish Aid headquarters in Dublin. No Principal Development Specialists have applied to decentralise to Limerick.

There are twelve Senior Development Specialist posts at Irish Aid headquarters. Two originally applied to decentralise, but subsequently withdrew their applications.

Finally, there are nine Development Specialist posts at headquarters. Five Development specialists originally applied to decentralise to Limerick and subsequently withdrew their applications. At present four specialists, who commenced employment since the announcement of the decentralisation programme in December 2003, are scheduled to decentralise.

The development specialists perform a central role in the business of Irish Aid. The advice and support provided by them is an integral part of Irish Aid's operation. The specialists work alongside diplomatic and general service staff, in close contact and co-operation with each business unit within the Division. There are a number of issues to be worked out with regard to the technical and specialist posts which are scheduled to move to Limerick.

Discussions have been on-going at a very senior level with representatives of the specialists, with their union IMPACT and with the Department of Finance in order to resolve the outstanding issues.

The Department is aware that there are challenges associated with decentralisation. The Decentralisation Implementation Plan contained an assessment of the risks involved and described the measures being taken to mitigate those risks. In addition, risk assessment and mitigation is considered as a part of the Department's annual business planning. Each unit across the Department is required to consider how they will manage the risks facing them on the basis of the Department's agreed Risk Management Policy and Programme.

Undocumented Emigrants.

Michael Ring

Question:

314 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if discussions have taken place between the Government and the new administration in America in relation to the undocumented Irish living in the USA; the position regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40372/06]

As I stated in replies to Parliamentary Questions on 23 November, the Government attaches the highest priority to the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States. I continue to raise our concerns in all of my dealings with key figures in the US Administration and Legislature, including during a wide ranging discussion which I had with the new US Ambassador on 1st November.

In the period since the mid-term Congressional elections, I have written to a number of senior US legislators to congratulate them on the outcome of the elections. In doing so, I have taken the opportunity to emphasise again the Government's deep interest in the issue of the undocumented. Our Ambassador in Washington is also active in highlighting our concerns in his on-going contacts with the incoming Congressional leadership, as are officials of our Consulates across the United States.

I travelled to New York after the elections and discussed the prospects for immigration reform with a range of contacts there. I was happy to meet again with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR). ILIR is proving highly effective on Capitol Hill and beyond in communicating the Irish dimension to the undocumented issue and I have been happy to support it financially. This was the third in a series of meetings that I have had with ILIR since September and it provided a valuable opportunity to review the situation following the mid-term elections. I will be keeping in close contact with them in the period ahead.

I now look forward to a further intensification of the Government's efforts on behalf of the undocumented in the period ahead, in particular with key Members of the incoming Congress. Overall, my initial assessment is that the recent elections have given a boost to the prospects for reform, though the issue of comprehensive immigration reform remains difficult and divisive both in Congress and in the United States generally.

I should emphasise also that I very much welcome the continuing commitment of Senators Kennedy and McCain to the advancement of the comprehensive approach to immigration that they have long promoted and which the Government strongly supports. I also greatly appreciate the recent reiteration by President Bush of his on-going commitment to comprehensive reform in this area.

The Government's overriding objective continues to be to ensure that our undocumented citizens in the United States can regularise their status, travel freely to and from Ireland and ultimately secure a path to permanent residency. Despite all the difficulties and challenges, I look forward to further progress on this priority issue for the Government in the coming period.

Asbestosis Incidence.

Joe Costello

Question:

315 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the incidence of asbestosis among dockers at Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39925/06]

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 386 of 2006), which are enforced by the Health and Safety Authority, require that registered medical practitioners report any case of asbestosis or mesothelioma to the Health and Safety Authority, where he or she becomes aware of such a case. I am informed by the Health and Safety Authority that it has no data on the incidence of asbestosis amongst dockers at Dublin Port.

The Health and Safety Authority is working to ensure those persons who are at risk from existing asbestos materials in workplaces, or who work with such materials, know the best way to control and prevent exposure occurring. By improving compliance with best practices, the risk from asbestos fibres being released is controlled and prevented and any residual risk is then controlled and reduced.

County Enterprise Boards.

Michael Ring

Question:

316 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the funding allocated to Mayo County Enterprise Board in each of the years 2002 to 2005 and to date in 2006; and what this funding was spent on. [39958/06]

Mayo County Enterprise Board (CEB) was established nationally in October 1993. The function of the CEB is to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The role of the CEB is to deliver a series of support Programmes to underpin this function. Project promoters within any County may seek assistance from their local CEB and, subject to certain qualifying criteria, may receive either financial or non-financial assistance in the form of business training, mentoring etc. Priority is given to manufacturing and internationally traded services companies which, over time, could develop into strong export entities.

From 2002 to date in 2006 Mayo CEB has been allocated a total of €4,183,197 in exchequer funding to fund the range of financial and non-financial supports offered by Mayo CEB to its client base in addition of course to covering associated administration costs which are made up of payroll and non-pay costs such office overheads, travel costs, office accommodation etc.

The specific types of CEB assistance available to micro-enterprise is broken down between financial assistance such as grants for feasibility studies, employment grants and capital grants and non-financial assistance such as Programmes covering Business Management, Mentoring, E-commerce, Enterprise Education and Women in Business networks.

The precise information sought by the Deputy, broken down by year, is provided in tabular format below.

Exchequer Funding allocated to Mayo CEB

Year

2002

956,587

2003

829,496

2004

693,817

2005

800,116

2006 (to date)

903,181

Total

4,183,197

Industrial Disputes.

Joan Burton

Question:

317 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the situation regarding the provision of services through a FÁS firm (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to an ongoing dispute in relation to employment issues affecting a number of the staff including a transfer of undertakings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39987/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

321 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the failure of FÁS and its wholly owned subsidiary (details supplied) to honour a Labour Court recommendation; his views on a State agency seeking a derogation form the legal principles governing the Transfer of Undertakings Directive; and if he will take steps to ensure that FÁS complies with the said Labour Court recommendation. [40292/06]

I propose to Questions Nos. 317 and 321 together.

The Supported Employment Programme to which the deputy refers is delivered on behalf of FÁS by independent limited companies. These companies are not wholly owned subsidiaries of FÁS. FÁS provides funding for the delivery of the programme, which seeks to integrate persons with disabilities into the open labour market by providing job coaching and support on the job. FÁS is currently at an advanced stage of discussion with the company to determine how the funding available can be best utilised taking the Labour Court Recommendation into consideration. These discussions should shortly be concluded and I will advise the deputy of the outcome.

Work Permits.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

318 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the application fee for a work permit is refundable in the event that the work permit is approved but the employee fails to secure an entry visa from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. [40030/06]

The Work Permits Section of my Department has indicated that the fee for a work permit is a processing fee and in normal circumstances would not be refundable. However in circumstances such as that referred to by the Deputy a refund would be made on request from the applicant.

Departmental Properties.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

319 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the lease held on the site currently used by Enterprise Ireland at Merrion Hall, Dublin 4, will expire; the date on which the employees of Enterprise Ireland based at Merrion Hall are scheduled to cease occupation of these premises; the location to which they will transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40045/06]

The details of Enterprise Ireland's office leasing arrangements is an operational matter for Enterprise Ireland (EI), and not one in which I have a function.

However, I understand from Enterprise Ireland, that its lease on Merrion Hall will expire on October 31st 2008. It is estimated that all Enterprise Ireland staff will have ceased occupation of these premises in early 2008. The staff will transfer to the new Enterprise Ireland offices in East Point.

Industrial Disputes.

Joe Higgins

Question:

320 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way a company (details supplied) was able to plead inability to pay redundancy to its workers but was able to hive off its main asset, the site on which the company was situated. [40054/06]

Two hundred and fifty-five employees were paid their statutory redundancy lump sums by the employer concerned on being made redundant between 5th of July 2002 and 28th March 2003. Rebate amounting to approximately €1.3 million was paid to the company out of the Social Insurance Fund on foot of these claims.

During 2002, the Labour Court issued a recommendation and clarification aimed at resolving the dispute over ex-gratia redundancy terms at the company. In situations where the Labour Court operates as an industrial relations tribunal in trade disputes, its recommendations are not enforceable in law. In such cases, the Court hears both sides and then issues a recommendation setting out its opinion on the dispute and the terms on which it considers the dispute should be settled. I understand that in November 2002, the workers at the company voted on and accepted a revised package on severance pay which it was intended would be binding on both the company and the workers.

Question No. 321 answered with QuestionNo. 317.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

322 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to new practices of a State funded disability employment service (details supplied) whereby job coaches are no longer allowed to visit clients in their homes; his views on whether it is unreasonable and discriminatory to expect clients to come to the inaccessible offices of this service; if such a change in policy is contrary to the principles of the employment sectoral plan of his Department under the Disability Act 2005; and if he will take steps to ensure that this policy is reversed. [40293/06]

The project referred to by the Deputy is a voluntary agency administering a project aimed at assisting adults with disabilities access employment. The project is funded by FÁS as a sponsor organisation under the FÁS Supported Employment Programme for people with disabilities, and is based in Ballymun, Dublin. The FÁS Supported Employment Programme is an open labour market initiative that provides supports to disabled people, who traditionally have had difficulty getting into paid employment.

The service provided by the project is to assist ‘job ready' clients integrate back into the workplace. To qualify for the Supported Employment Programme, clients must be ready to take up work in the open labour market. This, therefore, would not necessitate job coaches making home visits and it has never been the practice to do so. Clients meet with job coaches in the Ballymun Centre, and from time-to-time in alternative locations around the city. There has been no change in policy in this regard.

As this is a sponsor organization contracted by FÁS under the Supported Employment Programme to provide services to people with disabilities, FÁS would like to be informed of any difficulties with regard to the accessibility of its offices to clients for this service.

National Minimum Wage.

Tony Gregory

Question:

323 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the minimum wage and the way it applies to persons under 18 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40378/06]

The current national minimum wage is €7.65 per hour.

In the national partnership agreement, Towards 2016, ICTU and IBEC agreed to make a joint recommendation to Government on a new minimum wage rate to be effective from 1 January, 2007. As no agreement was reached between ICTU and IBEC, ICTU has referred the matter to the Labour Court asking that the Court examine the national minimum wage and make a recommendation on the matter. The recommendation from the Labour Court is currently awaited.

Sub-minimum rates of the National Minimum Wage apply where an employee is:

Under age 18; or

In the first two years after the date of first employment over age 18; or

Undergoing a prescribed course of study or training.

In accordance with Section 14(b) of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, employees under the age of 18 are entitled to 70% of the national minimum wage. This percentage was recommended by the National Minimum Wage Commission to strike a balance between ensuring that young employees are not exploited and ensuring that the rate of pay does not encourage students to leave full-time education.

Job Creation.

John Cregan

Question:

324 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will impress upon Enterprise Ireland the importance of engaging in a meaningful way with a group (details supplied) to ensure that every effort is made to secure replacement jobs in west Limerick following substantial job losses in the chicken processing and poultry growing industry; and if he will encourage Shannon Development to continue their valuable dialogue with the group. [40423/06]

I am confident that the State Development agencies, in partnership with other key players, including the group in question, will strengthen their marketing and promotion efforts in the region and will continue to secure additional employment for the area particularly in view of the recent job losses in the local chicken processing and poultry growing industry. As regards the assets of the poultry company that closed recently, Enterprise Ireland will work with Shannon Development to assist the purchasers of the assets of the company to develop their businesses. So far, none of the assets have been sold, although it is expected that some sales will occur in the near future.

Shannon Development has had ongoing contact with the group in question in relation to a number of issues in particular, the recent job losses. Indeed, a meeting between the two regarding these and other pertinent issues was held on 1 November. I understand that both parties were pleased with the meeting and that the outcome was satisfactory from the point of view of all concerned.

Both the Government and the Industrial Development agencies recognise the need to create high volume employment opportunities in Co Limerick that will provide sustainable jobs. The most recent example of the attraction of Limerick as a location for new business was the decision by Northern Trust Corporation to create 300 high quality jobs in the financial services sector. Another example is Vistakon, which recently announced its intention to expand its Limerick operation and create some 120 jobs in high-end manufacturing.

There is general buoyancy in overall employment in Co. Limerick as evidenced by the most recent Live Register figures released by the Central Statistics Office. These show that for October, 2006, the Live Register figure for the County is 6,888 which is more than 4% down on the previous month's figure of 7,205.

Work Permits.

John McGuinness

Question:

325 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if an application for the renewal of a work permit in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be approved; if he will expedite the matter. [40424/06]

The Work Permits Section of my Department has informed me that the work permit has issued recently in this case.

Enterprise Supports.

Mary Upton

Question:

326 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the supports available to a person (details supplied) to progress the development of a new product; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40461/06]

My Department does not provide either direct funding or direct business advice to potential business start-ups nor does it have any role in the evaluation of business proposals. Support and assistance for small businesses in Ireland, both financial and non-financial, is delivered by a number of State bodies. These State bodies are the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs), Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development and FÁS, all of whom receive their funding from this Department and all of whom have an expertise in the area of business start-ups.

The County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) provide support to micro-enterprises with 10 employees or fewer. The function of the CEBs is to develop indigenous enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity at local level. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of feasibility, employment and capital grants or for non-financial support such as business advice and information, management development, training and mentoring.

All of the CEBs operate to the same criteria in relation to the assistance which they can offer i.e. they can support the establishment and/or the development of new and existing enterprises by individuals, firms and community groups provided that the projects, that should generally be in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector, have the capacity to achieve commercial viability and which over time may develop into strong exporting entities.

In order to qualify for Enterprise Ireland assistance client companies must be Irish owned, be a manufacturing or an internationally trading services enterprise or be an overseas company in the food, drink and timber sectors seeking assistance to locate in Ireland, must employ more than 10 people or be a high growth start-up according to criteria defined by the Board of Enterprise Ireland. In addition Enterprise Ireland must be satisfied that the company will;

produce products for sale primarily in world markets

produce products of an advanced technological nature for supply to internationally trading or skilled sub-supply firms within the State

produce products for sectors of the Irish market which are subject to international competition or is a service industry, as defined by relevant ministerial order.

The most appropriate course of action, therefore, would be for the project promoter to directly contact the CEB network to discuss the potential to further develop the initiative into a formal business proposition (www.enterpriseboards.ie). Depending on the potential size and investment package of the initiative the CEBs may advise the promoter that Enterprise Ireland (www.enterprise-ireland.com), which assists in the development of small to medium enterprises, may be better placed to assist the promoter.

In addition, the project promoter should also access the website (www.basis.ie) which provides general information on starting and developing a new business in Ireland. The aim of the BASIS (Business Access to State Information and Services) website is to provide information on all Irish Government services to business.

Industrial Development.

Billy Timmins

Question:

327 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of site visits to County Wicklow, with a breakdown by town, since 1 January 2005 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40503/06]

Billy Timmins

Question:

328 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of site visits to County Carlow, with a breakdown by town, since 1 January 2005 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40504/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 327 and 328 together.

Since 1 January 2005 there have been 12 site visits to Carlow, seven in 2005 and five in 2006 to date. There were no site visits to County Wicklow in 2005 and 2006.

Ultimately it is the investor who decides where to locate, including where to visit as a potential location. What they are indicating to IDA is that they are seeking an urban base, close to third level educational facilities, that provides infrastructure and services that are international in focus.

At the end of 2005 there were 12 IDA supported companies located in Wicklow, employing 2,444 people and 9 companies were located in Carlow, employing 717 people. IDA Ireland's strategy for both Wicklow and Carlow is to promote these locations as part of the overall East Region, where there is a readily available pool of skilled workers, a critical mass in population, a world-class access infrastructure in terms of roads, airport and telecoms, an excellent quality of life and easy access to third level education and research capabilities. In this regard the contributions of the Institute of Technology Carlow, and St. Patrick's College, are critical to ensuring that the region develop first class educational and research capabilities to support existing and new investment.

The Agency advise that there continues to be a good level of expansion activity from its existing industry base in Wicklow, especially in the pharmaceutical and medical technological sectors. The County's proximity to Dublin, together with the rail and road links combine to enhance its attractiveness in attracting overseas mobile investment and the level of new jobs created year on year is a testament to this. In October 2006 Servier Pharmaceuticals announced a 112 job expansion involving an investment of €69m to increase production of existing products and add 2 new products.

I am confident that the strategies being pursued by IDA Ireland is the best strategy in terms of delivering new greenfield or expansion projects for the people of Carlow and Wicklow.

Job Losses.

Billy Timmins

Question:

329 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of job losses in counties Wicklow and Carlow in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40505/06]

The attached tabular statement sets out the numbers of job gains and job losses in respect of full-time employment in companies assisted by the enterprise development agencies (Enterprise Ireland and IDA) in Counties Wicklow and Carlow for the years 2001 to 2005.

It is important to remember that job creation and job losses are a feature of economic development in all countries as various sectors expand and contract in response to market demand for goods and services, competitive forces, restructuring and technological change. The importance of gainful employment for society, however, means that efforts to create employment opportunities to replace those lost over time are an important objective of enterprise policy. Where job losses occur, the development agencies — Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, the County Enterprise Boards and FÁS — have adopted a coordinated approach in order to enhance and facilitate the future employment prospects of the workforce and to identify and support any individual who wishes to start their own business. In addition the enterprise agencies work closely with key local partners including Local Authorities, Chambers of Commerce, educational institutions etc to develop the local infrastructure and skills base to best effect.

The enterprise development agencies are committed to promoting Wicklow and Carlow as locations for investment, as well as supporting and developing businesses already present in these county. IDA Ireland continues to work with its existing base of companies with a view to supporting such companies with potential expansions and the agency also targets potential new investment projects in the International Services Sector and high value manufacturing activities. The proximity of both counties to Dublin together with a readily available pool of skilled workers and excellent quality of life combines to enhance their attractiveness in encouraging overseas mobile investment and the level of new jobs created year on year is a testament to this. Carlow's two third level colleges, the Institute of Technology Carlow and St. Patrick's College are critical to ensuring that Carlow and the region develop educational and research capabilities to support existing and new investment.

The continued commitment by IDA Ireland to Carlow is evidenced by the development of a Flagship Business and Technology Park on the Dublin road, an investment of almost €11.5m to date. A 17,600 sq ft Advance Office Building on the Technology Park with 100% expansion capability was completed in November 2005. IDA is actively marketing the building and park through our network of overseas offices.

There continues to be a good level of expansion activity from the existing industry base in Wicklow especially in the Pharmaceutical and Medical Technological sectors. In October 2006 Servier Pharmaceuticals announced 112 job (over 5 years) expansion with €69m investment to increase production of existing products and additional 2 new products. The County's key locations for promotion to potential overseas investors at present are IDA Arklow Business Park (c.80 acres) Greystones Business & Technology Park (75 acres) and IDA Bray Business Park (50 acres).

Enterprise Ireland activity, in terms of job creation, is focused on the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies, the creation of new jobs by supporting entrepreneurs to set up High Potential Start-Up Companies and also through enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level by supporting research in companies and third level institutions.

Full-Time Employment: Job Gains/Losses in Enterprise Agency Assisted Companies in Counties Wicklow and Carlow

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Totals

Wicklow

Losses

-901

-513

-760

-1,019

-1,889

-5,082

Gains

1,100

997

1,184

539

759

4,579

Net

199

484

424

-480

-1,130

-503

Carlow

Losses

-135

-341

-203

-479

-399

-1,557

Gains

217

186

182

177

162

924

Net

82

-155

-21

-302

-237

-633

Source: Forfás Business Information System.

John Cregan

Question:

330 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will intervene to encourage a group (details supplied) to engage with the Labour Relations Commission for the purpose of determining a reasonable redundancy package for the former employees of Castlemahon Foods, County Limerick and not have the matter referred to the Labour Relations Agency in Northern Ireland as suggested by the group. [40602/06]

As a result of trading difficulties in the poultry sector, in February 2005 Castlemahon Foods announced a restructuring plan which involved a reduction in staff numbers of 150 — down from 410 to 260. In May of that year, the company confirmed that workers at the company had accepted its redundancy offer by a large majority. Unfortunately, matters continued to decline into 2006 resulting in the company going into voluntary liquidation at the end of September with the loss of the remaining 260 jobs. Since it was liquidated by its parent company, the O'Kane Group of Northern Ireland, the workers received statutory redundancy only. The union has sought an enhanced package along the lines of three weeks pay per year of service, plus statutory.

I understand the Labour Relations Commission has agreed to facilitate talks between the O'Kane Group, the trade union and employee representatives regarding the claim for an enhanced redundancy package for the former employees of Castlemahon Foods and a meeting to this effect was held yesterday. The LRC will continue to remain in contact with the parties on the matter.

Pension Provisions.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

331 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there is a discriminatory distinction as regards exemptions from PRSI contributions in respect of contributions made for pension provisions as between workers who are on PAYE and those who are self employed; the basis for this discrimination; and his plans for dealing with same. [40418/06]

Social welfare legislation provides for payments made towards future pension provision by either an employed contributor in receipt of reckonable earnings, or a self-employed worker who is in receipt of reckonable emoluments and pays income tax through the PAYE system, to be exempted from liability for PRSI contributions.

With regard to self-employed contributors who are outside the PAYE system, there is no provision for payments made towards future pension provision to be exempted from liability for PRSI contributions.

A direct comparison between the assessment of self-employed contributors who pay their PRSI through the self-assessment system and those who pay PRSI Class S through the PAYE system is not sustainable. While each is liable for social insurance contributions at a rate of 3 per cent, the basis for the assessment differs. For the self-employed on self-assessment, there is provision for the deduction of capital allowances, a provision which is not available to Class S contributors on the PAYE system. As such, the question of discrimination against the self-employed in the provision of benefits does not arise.

In all, I consider that the arrangements outlined above are not discriminatory and that they represent a reasonable response to the social security requirements of self-employed workers generally.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joe Costello

Question:

332 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a rent subsidy is refused entirely when the landlord raises the rent above the prescribed level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39929/06]

Rent supplements are subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant for rent supplement may incur. The objective is to ensure that rent supplement is not paid in respect of overly expensive accommodation.

Rent supplement is not normally paid where the rent is in excess of the limits because the personal contribution to rent made by the tenant should not be such that their post rent income is less than the relevant SWA rate minus the minimum contribution to rent prescribed in legislation and, as a consequence, insufficient to meet their other daily needs after paying their rent.

Notwithstanding these limits, under existing arrangements the Health Service Executive may, in certain circumstances, exceed the rent levels as an exceptional measure, for example:

where there are special housing needs related to exceptional circumstances for example, disabled persons in specially-adapted accommodation or homeless persons.

where the tenant will be in a position to re-assume responsibility for his/her rent within a short period

where the person concerned is entitled to an income disregard AND has sufficient income to meet his or her basic needs after paying rent, taking into account the appropriate rate of rent supplement that is otherwise payable in the case.

This discretionary power ensures that individuals with particular needs can be accommodated within the scheme, it specifically protects against homelessness and it ensures that people have an adequate post-rent income.

In November 2002, when the Central Statistics Office Privately Owned Rent Index first showed evidence of continued reductions in rent levels, regulations were introduced to set the maximum amount of rent in respect of which a rent supplement is payable. These limits remained in place to the end of December 2003. Further Regulations introduced in December 2003 and prescribed the limits to be used between January 2004 and June 2005. The current rent limits cover the period July 2005 to 31st December 2006.

Despite recent increases in rent levels the Central Statistics Office Privately Owned Rent Index shows that rent levels for October 2006 were in line with those which applied in October 2002.

My Department is currently reviewing rent limits in order to develop proposals regarding what limits should apply from January 2007 onwards. The review is taking account of prevailing rent levels in the private rental sector generally, together with detailed input from the Health Service Executive on the market situation within each of its operational areas.

The review will also include consultation with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Private Residential Tenancies Board. In addition, a number of the voluntary agencies working in this area have made detailed submissions. This process will ensure that the new rent limits reflect realistic market conditions throughout the country, and that they will continue to enable the different categories of eligible tenant households to secure and retain suitable rented accommodation to meet their respective needs.

Tony Gregory

Question:

333 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in repaying back money on disability allowance due to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and when repayments will be made. [39983/06]

The person concerned applied for disability allowance on 21st February 2006. His case was considered by the Department's medical adviser who expressed the opinion that he was not medically qualified for the allowance. The person concerned appealed this decision and was subsequently found to be medically qualified. He was awarded disability allowance in August 2006, backdated to 22nd February 2006 and he received his first payment on 13 September 2006.

The person concerned had been in receipt of unemployment assistance up to 29th April 2006 and, accordingly, details of the amount of money paid to him during the overlapping period had to be ascertained. Due to an oversight there was a delay in establishing these details. They have now been established and an arrears cheque issued to the person concerned on Thursday 23rd November. The delay which occurred is regretted.

Seán Crowe

Question:

334 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that recipients of the deserted wife’s benefit have not been given an increase in their earnings threshold since 1992; and his plans to reform same. [39993/06]

An earnings limit was introduced for deserted wife's benefit in 1992. The limit, which applied only to new claims after August 1992, was set at €12, 697.38 a year (gross earnings). Where earnings are in excess of €12,697.38 a year, there may be entitlement to a reduced rate of payment of deserted wife's benefit, provided gross earnings do not exceed €17,776.33 a year.

Following the introduction of the one parent family payment in 1997, the deserted wives benefit scheme was discontinued with effect from January that year. Existing entitlements already acquired in August 1992, when the earnings limit was introduced for new claimants, and in 1997, when the one parent family payment scheme was introduced, have been preserved. The upper income ceiling applying to deserted wife's benefit of €17,776.33 (gross) in 1997 has not changed since then.

With over 80,000 parents with caring responsibilities receiving support under the one parent family payment, I was glad to be able to increase the earnings ceiling for the one parent family payment in this year's budget from €293 to €375 per week or €19,500 a year (gross earnings). Recipients of deserted wife's benefit with dependent children may transfer to the one parent family payment if it is beneficial for them to do so.

In March of this year, I launched a major Government discussion paper, "Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents" which addresses the difficulties faced by low income families and their children.

The report puts forward radical proposals for reform of the income support system for all parents on a low income. The report proposes the expanded availability and range of education and training opportunities for lone parents, the extension of the National Employment Action Plan to focus on lone parents, focused provision of child care, improved information services for lone parents and the introduction of a new Parental Allowance for low income families with young children.

A range of views has been expressed as this report is debated and I will give very serious consideration to all of them. Once I am convinced that we have reached conclusions that are equitable, with a fully workable implementation strategy, it is my intention to bring forward proposals for legislation. Any further changes to the deserted wife's benefit scheme will be examined in an overall budgetary context.

Michael Ring

Question:

335 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an unemployment assistance or jobseekers allowance appeal will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [39998/06]

The person concerned claimed jobseekers allowance on 19 October 2006. The Deciding Officer disallowed the claim on the grounds that the person was not genuinely seeking employment. He appealed against this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 25 October 2006. In accordance with the statutory requirements the relevant departmental papers and comments of my Department were sought. These are now to hand and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer for early consideration. The person concerned is currently in receipt of Supplementary Welfare Allowance. Under Social Welfare Legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Social Insurance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

336 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the projected outturn for 2006 and the forecast revenue in 2007 from social insurance, distinguishing net paid by employers, by employees and by the self-employed. [40001/06]

The projected outturn for social insurance contribution income in 2006 is €6,872 million. The corresponding forecast revenue in 2007, on a pre-Budget basis, is €7,470 million. The make-up of both years' figures, as between employers, employees and the self-employed, is as follows:

2006 Projected Pre-Budget

2007 Outturn Forecast

€ million

€ million

Employers

5,096

5,546

Employees

1,366

1,484

Self-employed

410

440

Totals

6,872

7,470

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seán Haughey

Question:

337 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will issue guidelines to the Health Service Executive which would allow community welfare officers pay an exceptional needs payment to applicants who require extra heating due to illness; the guidelines issued by him to date in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40070/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Under the terms of supplementary welfare allowance scheme, a recipient of a social welfare or Health Services Executive payment who has exceptional heating costs due to ill health, infirmity or a medical condition which he/she is unable to meet out of household income can apply to the local community welfare officer for a special heating supplement. In addition, legislation also provides for a single payment — known as an exceptional needs payment — to be made to help meet essential, once-off exceptional expenditure.

Provision for the payment of exceptional needs payments and special heating supplements is made in the primary legislation and regulations governing the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The legislative provisions allow the community welfare service to pay a heating supplement or an exceptional needs payment where they determine that such a payment is warranted on the basis of all the circumstances in a particular case. The community welfare service in all areas of the country deals with exceptional needs payments and heating supplements on a regular basis. Guidelines on these schemes are available on the Department's website. The guidelines for exceptional needs payments and heating supplements were last updated in June 2006.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

338 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the implementation of the sectoral plans in his Department as part of the Disability Act 2005; if he envisages delays in the roll-out of the timetable set out in his announcement in July 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40095/06]

Over the period of my Department's sectoral plan under the Disability Act, 2005 (2006/2009), my Department aims to deliver support to people with disabilities to help them achieve an appropriate level of independence by achieving their full potential through accessing further education, developing life skills and engaging in employment.

My Department will continue to provide appropriate levels of income to those who need it. Specific measures include improving the lowest rates of income support by increasing the lowest rates to €150 a week in 2002 terms by 2007 (in line with the commitment in the National Anti Poverty Strategy). The plan also provides for examining the incentive effects of disability payment levels, addressing benefit traps and employment disincentives within the structure of welfare disability schemes and examining the potential for extending, improving and rationalising schemes to better support people in their efforts to take up training opportunities and participate in employment.

Implementation of the sectoral plan is underway in my Department and I do not envisage delays in its implementation. Recent initiatives include, improvements in the earnings disregard, from June 2006, for people receiving Disability Allowance or Blind Pension and the abolition, in September 2006, of peak hour restrictions on the use of the Free Travel Pass. The result is that people with disabilities may now use their passes going to work or attending educational, rehabilitative and therapeutic courses that are, very often, central to improving their lifestyles. There have been significant improvements to Carers Allowance so that, for example, a couple can earn up to €580 a week and receive the maximum rate of carers allowance as well as free travel, the household benefits package and the respite care grant.

The Citizens Information Bill, 2006, which provides for the introduction of a Personal Advocacy Service for people with disabilities — a key priority in my Department's sectoral plan — is before Dail Eireann at present. Budget 2006 provided over €2 million to Comhairle for the development of advocacy services by the community and voluntary sector for people with disabilities and by the end of this year some 30 advocacy projects will be in place throughout the country. Earlier this month, I launched a report which sets out proposals for a new Sign Language Interpretation Service for some 5,000 people with hearing impairment to be rolled out by Comhairle in two phases commencing in 2007.

Work is on schedule in my Department in relation to other commitments in the plan including disability awareness training for front line staff and a comprehensive set of actions to ensure full accessibility for people with disabilities to the offices and the services provided by my Department. The implementation of the sectoral plan is a key priority in my Department's business and strategic planning processes over the next three years. Our objective is to ensure that people with disabilities receive high quality services that best support, recognise and encourage them in using and making a full contribution to society, in line with the Government's National Disability Strategy.

Pension Provisions.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

339 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if Irish emigrants abroad who are in receipt of an old age contributory or non-contributory pension from this jurisdiction receive the Christmas bonus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40143/06]

The Christmas bonus payment is paid to recipients of state pension (transition) and state pension (contributory) regardless of their country of residence. State pension (non-contributory) is not payable outside the State.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

340 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on extending the household benefits package to all pensioners, including those with family members living with them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40328/06]

The household benefits package, which comprises the electricity/gas allowance, telephone allowance and television licence schemes, is generally available to people living permanently in the State, aged 66 years or over, who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who satisfy a means test. The package is also available to carers and people with disabilities under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments. Widows and widowers aged 60 to 65 whose late spouses had been in receipt of the household benefits package retain that entitlement to ensure that households do not suffer a loss of entitlements following the death of a spouse.

People aged over 70 years of age can qualify for the household benefits package regardless of their income or household composition. Those aged under 70 must live alone or with certain excepted people in order to qualify. Excepted people for the purposes of the scheme include qualified adults, dependent children under age 18 or under age 22 if in full time education, people who are so incapacitated as to require constant care and attention for at least 12 months; people who would qualify for the allowance in their own right, people who are providing constant care and attention to any member of the household who is so incapacitated as to require constant care and attention for at least 12 months. A range of proposals have been made to extend the coverage of the household benefits package of schemes. These proposals are kept under review in the context of the objectives of the scheme, the achieving of maximum supports for those most in need of the entitlements, and budgetary resources.

Tony Gregory

Question:

341 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the increases to the fuel allowance implemented since Budget 2005; if an increase has been given in response to the price increases in gas and electricity; if the number of units of electricity is being increased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40377/06]

The aim of the fuel allowance scheme is to assist householders on long term social welfare or health service executive payments with meeting the cost of their heating needs during the winter season. Fuel allowance, which is paid for 29 weeks from end-September to mid-April represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. Some 274,000 people (151,000 with basic fuel allowance and 123,000 with smokeless fuel supplement) will benefit in 2006 at an estimated annual cost €125.1m.

A number of improvements have been made to the scheme in recent years including the easing of the means test and extending the duration of payment from 26 weeks to 29 weeks. Most recently, Budget 2006 provided for an increase in the rate of fuel allowance of €5.00 from €9.00 to €14.00 (€17.90 in designated smokeless areas).

I have also made provision for increases in the value of the household benefits package. I increased the value of the natural gas allowance to cover increased standing charges and the associated VAT as well as additional kilowatt hour usage in order to cover the 33.8 % increase in the cost of natural gas from October 1st. This means that the value of the natural gas allowance to a household has increased from €313.17 to €516.00 per year.

At present, the electricity allowance covers normal standing charges and up to 1,800 units of electricity. The allowance also covers the VAT applicable to these charges. In the light of the recent increase in electricity charges, the allowance will be increased to cover increased standing charges and the units will also increase from 1,800 to 2,400 with effect from January 2007. I am confident that these increases will be of major benefit to these recipients. Any further changes to the fuel allowance scheme or the household benefits package would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in the context of the Budget and in the light of the resources available for improvements in social welfare generally.

Richard Bruton

Question:

342 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost of increasing the income disregard for a carer’s spouse to €700; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40403/06]

Supporting and recognising carers in our society is and has been a priority of the Government since 1997. Over that period weekly payment rates to carers have been greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have been significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit and the respite care grant have been introduced and extended.

In line with other social assistance schemes, a means test is applied to the carer's allowance so as to ensure that limited resources are directed to those in greatest need. This means test has been eased significantly over the years. Following Budget 2006, since April, the earnings disregard for a couple has been set at €580 per week which is equivalent to gross average industrial earnings. This means that a couple with two children can earn up to €32,925 per annum and still receive the maximum rate of carer's allowance as well as free travel, the household benefits package and the respite care grant.

In accordance with the social partnership agreement, "Towards 2016 ", I am committed to expanding, subject to available resources, the income limits for carer's allowance and aiming to keep the level of the disregard in line with average industrial earnings. It is estimated that, at current rates of payment, increasing the earnings disregard for a couple to €700 per week would cost in the region of €10 million for a full year.

Enda Kenny

Question:

343 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of maternity benefit claims for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40415/06]

My Department received a total of 35,623 claims for maternity benefit in 2005. A total of 33,988 claims were put into payment during that year at a total cost of some €133.6 million.

Marine Accidents.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

344 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the collision at Galway Port involving a foreign tanker (details supplied) and that this ship had just completed pumping highly inflammable petroleum products into shore tanks; if his attention has been drawn further to the consequences that could have resulted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39930/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

345 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a collision at Galway Port involving a foreign flagged tanker (details supplied) and that this ship was transporting hazardous oil products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39931/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 344 and 345 together.

As I have previously advised the house the vessel mentioned, "M/T Orahope", was subjected to inspection by Port State Control Officers of this Department following the incident and the report of the inspection is published on the website of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control:www.parismou.org.

Rail Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

346 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the serious breakdown problems emerging with the new inter urban train fleet; the cost per new train; the overall cost of the extra Dublin-Cork fleet in the Transport 21 budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39948/06]

48 of the 67 new rail carriages purchased for the Dublin-Cork inter-city railway service have now entered service. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that the balance will enter service during December 2006 and that it intends to introduce hourly clock face departures on the route from 14 January 2007. I also understand that the testing and commissioning of the new fleet has gone well and that, apart from a problem that is being addressed in relation to ride quality, no other fleet wide issues or technical failures have occurred. I understand from Iarnród Éireann that, as part of its commissioning and in service testing of the new fleet, it discovered that the ride quality did not meet the specification due to problems with the air suspension. I am informed that this is currently being rectified by the suppliers at their expense and that it is not preventing the operation of the carriages. I understand that the final contract price will not exceed the overall approved cost for the 67 carriages of €117m.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

347 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of new trains put into operation by Irish Rail since 2002; the amount spent on such trains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39960/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

348 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of new carriages put into operation on the Irish Rail network since 2002; the cost of these carriages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39961/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 347 and 348 together.

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that the number of new trains and carriages that it has put into service since 2002 and that it has currently under order are as follows:

Type

Number

Cost

€m

DART Cars *

52

107.6

Commuter Railcars

116

179.0

Intercity Carriages

67

117.0

Intercity Railcars**

150

331.1

*A further 16 DART cars costing €21.6m were introduced to service at the end of 2001.

**scheduled for delivery beginning in 2007.

Rail Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

349 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the problems on the Sligo rail service including overcrowding, poor luggage capacity and a lack of catering services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39967/06]

The provision of services is an operational day-to-day matter for Iarnród Éireann. I am advised by the Company that in December 2005 the frequency of the service between Sligo and Dublin was increased from 3 to 5 trains per day in each direction. New commuter railcars were used as a temporary measure to facilitate this service frequency improvement. I understand that the extra services have been very successful in attracting additional business to rail and during 2006 the volume of passengers using the Sligo line from counties Sligo, Leitrim and Longford has increased by over 15%.

The issue of overcrowding is one of discomfort and inconvenience, rather than a safety concern and this view is in line with the consensus in the railway industry worldwide. In 2007 Iarnród Eireann will replace the commuter railcars on Sligo services with new Intercity railcars which will be very well equipped for journeys of this distance including high seating capacity, good luggage facilities and facilities for the operation of catering trolleys.

Road Safety.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

350 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce a road safety project in Inishowen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39984/06]

The introduction of a road safety project in the Inishowen area is a matter for the Road Safety Authority and Donegal County Council.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

351 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport when a position will be made available (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39985/06]

The appointment of a Road Safety Officer within Donegal County Council is a matter for that Council. I have no function in the matter.

Penalty Points System.

Michael Ring

Question:

352 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the number of penalty points issued in 2006; the number of people subsequently prosecuted in relation to the illegal use of fog lights; the number of people issued with penalty points or prosecuted in relation to the illegal use of a mobile telephone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40050/06]

A total of 64,196 penalty points have been issued to drivers for this year as at 31 October 2006. Penalty points for mobile phone offences were introduced on 1 September 2006. Penalty points for mobile phone offences were introduced on 1st September 2006. A driver who is detected committing a mobile phone offence has the option to pay a fixed charge of €60 within 28 days from date of issue by the Garda of the Fixed Charge Notice, or €90 if paid within the next 28 day period and incur 2 penalty points instead of being prosecuted in Court. Therefore, as of 31st October penalty points have not been issued in respect of this offence. The number of people prosecuted in relation to the illegal use of fog lights and for mobile phone offences is a matter for the Courts Service.

Traffic Management.