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 4, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 5 lapsed.
Questions Nos. 6 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Stadium Projects.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

11 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road following the stadium’s closure at the end of 2006; when the demolition of the old stadium and construction of the new stadium will begin; if the planning process is resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5559/07]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

22 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the provision of the new stadium at Lansdowne Road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5707/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 22 together.

The planning process for the Lansdowne Road Stadium redevelopment is still in train. To reiterate the position, in July last year, Dublin City Council granted planning permission for the project, subject to a number of conditions. This led to a number of appeals against the granting of planning permission by local residents. An Bord Pleanála held an Oral hearing in December last and its decision is expected shortly.

Subject to a favourable outcome to the planning process, it is envisaged that construction will get underway immediately. There is an estimated construction period of 29 months and I am optimistic that by 2010, we will have a second major stadium for field sports in the city of Dublin at Lansdowne Road.

Martin Ferris

Question:

12 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on whether the GAA will be requested to extend the opening of Croke Park beyond 2007 in view of the delay to the development of Lansdowne Road. [5541/07]

The question of the GAA continuing with its policy of accommodating rugby and soccer in Croke Park is one for the GAA alone to decide and it has always been my policy not to interfere in this matter. I have at no stage sought to tell the Association what approach it should take on the question of access to Croke Park.

However, like most other sports loving people in the country, I was delighted and proud to see the first staging of an international rugby match at the fine stadium at Croke Park last Sunday. Furthermore, I look forward to further great entertainment when the remaining rugby international and the soccer fixtures take place there this year.

In January 2004, the Government agreed to provide funding to the joint IRFU/FAI project for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road Stadium as a 50,000-capacity all-seater stadium. The planning and design stage of the project got underway and in July 2006, Dublin City Council granted planning permission for the project. As you know, the matter was appealed to An Bord Pleanála and an Oral hearing took place in December. The planning process must run its course and the Lansdowne Road Stadium Redevelopment Company is awaiting the outcome of an adjudication by An Bord Pleanála on appeals against the granting of planning approval for the project by Dublin City Council. However, I am optimistic that by 2010, we will have a second splendid major stadium for field sports in the city of Dublin, at Lansdowne Road.

Given that Lansdowne Road will be out of commission for a period of time, the three sporting organisations involved, that is the IRFU, the FAI and the GAA, entered into discussions to provide an alternative venue for rugby and soccer during this time. Agreement was reached about the use of Croke Park in 2007 and I understand that the three parties have now commenced discussions for the use of Croke Park in 2008 and the GAA will make its decision regarding 2008 at a meeting this weekend. I look forward, with confidence to these negotiations being concluded in the same spirit that made possible the sporting occasion of great cultural and historical significance that was exhibited in Croke Park on Sunday last.

Question No. 13 answered with QuestionNo. 8.

National Development Plan.

Jack Wall

Question:

14 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will comment on the money allocated for projects under his Department and under the National Development Plan 2007 to 2013; the projects that will be prioritised under the plan; if this money is distinct from that allocated under the normal Estimates procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5542/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that under the new National Development Plan, covering the period 2007 to 2013, almost €2.7 billion has been allocated for a range of programmes and projects in the Arts, Culture, Sport and Tourism areas within the remit of my Department, made up of €904 million under the Cultural Sub-Programme, €991 million under the Sport Sub-Programme and €800 million which has been allocated to the Tourism Development Programme.

My Department will have responsibility for the expenditure of this funding either directly or through bodies under the aegis of my Department such as the Arts Council, the Irish Sports Council and Fáilte Ireland. Accordingly all the funding will be allocated through the Vote of my Department in the context of the annual Estimates process, with the exception of some funding for capital projects in the National Cultural Institutions which will be allocated through the Vote of the Office of Public Works.

Full details on the funding available from my Department and the bodies operating under its aegis, and the investment priorities together with indicative financial allocations for the next seven years, are set out in a number of press releases issued on the announcement of the new NDP. These can be accessed on my Department's website www.arts-sport-tourism.gov.ie.

As may be seen from the press releases there are a number of major infrastructural projects which will be funded under the new NDP in the areas of Arts, Culture, Sport and Tourism. These include a new National Concert Hall on the Earlsfort Terrace site, the new Abbey Theatre, redevelopment of the Wexford Theatre Royal, major projects at the National Museum and National Library, the development of a state-of-the-art Sports Campus at Abbotstown, the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road Stadium and the National Conference Centre.

The development of some of these projects is already under way and work will commence as soon as possible on others. The objective is to have them completed within the lifetime of the NPD but specific completion dates are not yet available.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

15 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the progress made in carrying out a national audit of sports facilities and services. [5663/07]

Shane McEntee

Question:

25 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the audit of sport and recreation facilities here will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5709/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 25 together.

As I have previously informed the House, the nationwide audit of sports facilities has commenced and is being carried out in stages to help speed up the availability of information. The first phase is being carried out within my Department and will establish a record of national and regional sports facilities.

As the House is aware, the work currently being undertaken is a data gathering exercise in conjunction with the main sporting bodies and local authorities to identify the facilities for inclusion in this phase. My Department has compiled a list of in excess of one hundred sports facilities of national or regional significance. Many of these have been funded under the Sports Capital Programme since 1999 and a considerable bank of information already exists, although some of this information is not up to date and therefore an updating of data is being undertaken. Furthermore, details of facilities at third level educational institutions and swimming pools have also been included on this inventory. Further engagement with the main sporting bodies, local authorities, facility owners and managers is being undertaken so that a comprehensive database on the range and nature of sporting facilities at national and regional level can be completed.

The Programme for Government sets out a commitment to put in place a national sports facility strategy that will identify gaps in facility provision and set out an approach to fill these gaps. It is anticipated that the Strategy will be completed within a six-month period.

By ascertaining and mapping what is already in place at a national and regional level, an important part of developing a strategic approach to future facility provision will be put in place, as well as establishing the level of need that exists in the sports sector and helping to determine future priorities. As stated previously, the enormity of completing the complete audit of sports facilities should not be underestimated and, given the experience of other countries, is likely to take a number of years to complete.

National Theatre.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

16 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the international design competition for the proposed new national theatre announced by him on 7 September 2006 has been completed; if a winning design has been selected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5711/07]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

21 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the situation in regard to the redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin’s docklands; the number of designs that have been submitted in the international competition for the new theatre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5551/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 21 together.

I wish to refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 4 earlier today.

Greyhound Racing Industry.

Mary Upton

Question:

17 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to a recent warning from a veterinary inspector with the Department of Agriculture and Food that there is increasing evidence of illegally imported animal remedies for greyhounds and racehorses that are not authorised for use here; if he has had discussions with the Department of Agriculture and Food regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5558/07]

The Deputy will be aware that animal welfare and the area of illegally imported animal remedies for greyhounds and racehorses is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for Agriculture and Food. Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon are the statutory bodies responsible for the horse and greyhound racing industries respectively including integrity management and anti-doping controls. However, officials of my Department have been in contact with the Department of Agriculture and Food, Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon in relation to the particular issue raised by the Deputy.

The position is that Bord na gCon met yesterday with officials from the Department of Agriculture and Food in relation to this issue and the Board plans to issue a statement and educational brief to the greyhound public to ensure they understand all aspects of the legal status and use of unlicensed products. I recently announced the establishment of an independent Control and Appeals Committee, in line with the recommendations of the Dalton Report, to adjudicate on all integrity-related cases arising in the greyhound industry. In Horse Racing, the Turf Club is responsible for the testing of racehorses both in and out of competition.

Tourism Industry.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

18 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the status of the tourism policy review group and the tourism action plan implementation group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5705/07]

The Report of the Tourism Policy Review Group, New Horizons for Irish Tourism: An Agenda for Action, was published in September 2003. I appointed the Tourism Action Plan Implementation Group for a two-year period to oversee implementation of the Action Plan set out in the Report. That Plan contained 76 recommended actions to help Irish tourism meet the ambitious targets set for the sector in the Report, namely, 10 million visitors per annum and €6 billion in foreign revenue by 2012.

The Implementation Group reported to me, in March 2006, that 63 of the 76 recommended actions made in the New Horizons Report, had either been implemented or good progress had been made in relation to them. The Group highlighted the areas where good progress had been made including:

The National Conference Centre,

Increases in air access

Promoting the development of e-commerce within the tourism sector.

It also pointed to a number of areas where progress had been less satisfactory. These included

loss of competitiveness,

the need for innovation and product development,

variations in performance between urban and rural areas,

the visitor experience at Dublin Airport and

VAT deductibility on conference business.

In May 2006 I appointed the Tourism Strategy Implementation Group for a period of two years as a successor group and, in particular, to advise on implementation of the outstanding recommended actions of the New Horizons Report. The Tourism Strategy Implementation Group — which has met on a number of occasions — will be working with the tourism industry and public sector bodies to address a number of key areas, in particular, competitiveness, productivity and skills, sustainability, regional spread and product development. In line with the objective of bringing the tourism industry together with policy makers to identify the key issues which need to be addressed, the Group intends holding a Tourism Forum in April of this year to which representatives of the sector will be invited.

Proposed Legislation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

19 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the legislation being drafted to implement the key recommendations made in the Dalton report; when the legislation will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5560/07]

On 1 February 2006, I appointed Mr. Tim Dalton, former Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality, and Law Reform, to carry out an independent assessment concerning corporate governance and related matters affecting Bord na gCon. Mr. Dalton delivered his Report on 5 April 2006.

On 4 July 2006, the Government approved specific actions to be taken in line with the recommendations of the Dalton Report. These included:

the drafting of legislation, as a matter of urgency, to implement key recommendations made in the Dalton Report relating to the tenure of the Chairman and the Board of Bord na gCon, to increase the size of the Board from seven to nine members, and to arrange for the reconstitution of the Board along these lines as soon as circumstances permit;

an examination of the options for the establishment of a Doping Control Committee as an agency independent of Bord na gCon;

the immediate publication of the Report;

a root and branch review of the Greyhound Industry Acts 1958-1993 with a view to bringing legislation dealing with the greyhound industry into line with best current practice.

The Report has already been published. The former Chair has resigned and I have appointed a new Chair, Mr. Dick O'Sullivan, and another new member in succession to an outgoing member. In January of this year, the Board of Bord na gCon appointed a new Chief Executive. The Bord na gCon (Amendment) Bill, needed to give effect to the changes necessary regarding the tenure of the Chair, and the size and composition of the Board of Bord na gCon, is currently listed on the Government Legislation Programme for Spring Session 2007.

In relation to the establishment of an independent Doping Control Committee, while Mr Dalton concluded that greyhound racing is by and large a clean sport and that infringements are quite low and falling, it was decided that new arrangements would not be delayed until the relevant legislative changes were made, but would be implemented now by the Board, using its existing powers. The legislative amendments will, when enacted, confirm this new system and make it mandatory.

Accordingly, on 10 January 2007, Bord na gCon announced the establishment of an Independent Control Committee and an Independent Appeals Committee, in accordance with the provisions of existing legislation. The Control Committee will consist of five independent persons including a qualified solicitor/barrister and a veterinarian. The overall level of testing and scale of sanctions for offences will be set by the Board of Bord na gCon while the action or sanction to be take in any particular case will be a matter entirely for the Control Committee.

The Board has also established and appointed a separate independent Control Appeals Committee consisting of three independent persons, including a qualified solicitor/barrister and two veterinarians. The Control Appeals Committee will be responsible for hearing any appeals rising from decisions of the Control Committee. A more wide-ranging and fundamental review of the Greyhound Industry Acts is also being undertaken and I will revert to Government with the results of that exercise in due course.

Question No. 20 answered with QuestionNo. 8.
Question No. 21 answered with QuestionNo. 16.
Question No. 22 answered with QuestionNo. 11.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

23 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if restrictions were placed on the number of swimming pool projects per county in the current swimming pool programme for which applications closed on 31 July 2000; if so, the limits and if there were exceptions; if, in view of the fact that some of the projects applied for in 2000 are either under construction or have not commenced, it is appropriate to have such a time lag between the conclusion of one scheme and the commencement of the next; the consideration he is giving to the areas that would have increased dramatically since 2000 with no opportunity to apply for such a facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5539/07]

The Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which is administered by my Department, is essentially driven by the requirements of local authorities for public swimming facilities. No restrictions were placed on the submission of applications by local authorities prior to the closing date of 31st July, 2000 under the current round. An application for a replacement pool was accepted from Monaghan County Council after the closing date as the only swimming pool in the county closed for health and safety reasons thus leaving the county without a public pool.

Since 2000, the priority has been to support the 57 swimming pool projects within the existing programme. 23 pool projects have been completed and opened. 16 pool projects are under construction or about to start construction and 18 other pool projects are at various stages of the process — 5 at tender stage; 7 are at contract document stage and 6 are at preliminary report stage. Expenditure under the programme has increased significantly since 2000, although annual drawdown varies according to the level of grant claims submitted by the local authorities in any one year — €7.36m in 2000, €8.12m in 2001, €3.88m in 2002, €9.00m in 2003, €17.59m in 2004, €14.10m in 2005, and €22.77m in 2006 — giving a total of €82.82m over the past 7 years. An amount of €25m is provided for 2007 in my Department's multi-annual capital programme.

In terms of assessment, projects are considered on a case-by-case basis and consideration is given to such issues as to whether the area is classified as disadvantaged, the number and geographical spread of projects within and between counties, the viability of the project, particularly in relation to operational and maintenance issues, overall funding package for the project, technical details and the Department's annual estimates provision for the Programme.

My Department is now completing an Expenditure Review of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme. The Review is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date and what changes, if any, are required to ensure its effective and efficient delivery. The Review is currently being finalised and it is my intention to publish it as soon as possible. Following consideration of the recommendations in the review it is my intention to launch a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme. When the Programme is re-opened, it will be open to all local authorities to submit applications under the terms that will apply.

Access to Cultural Institutions.

Ivor Callely

Question:

24 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the national cultural institutions such as the National Gallery, the National Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Concert Hall and so on are disabled friendly; the measures in place for people with varying levels of disabilities, hearing, vision and mobility impairment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5538/07]

The implementation of Government policy in regard to the provision of universal access to their National Collections is a responsibility of the Boards of the National Cultural Institutions. The position in relation to universal access to the collections held by these Institutions is as follows.

Irish Museum of Modern Art: The Museum's Lecture Theatre has a Loop system installed for the hard of hearing.

Crawford Art Gallery, Cork: The Gallery provides guided tours for groups and individuals who have limited vision and hearing, Provision is also being made within the Gallery's 2007 budget for the provision of an acoustic-guide service.

Chester Beatty Library: The Library provides information leaflets in Braille and an audio-visual tour of the collection for the hard of hearing.

The National Archives of Ireland: The National Archives has established a website that exceeds the standard required for compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

National Concert Hall: Public areas in the Concert Hall are specifically designed so that people with disabilities may orientate themselves and move around safely. The National Concert Hall's website complies with Web Accessibility Initiative standards.

The National Concert Hall's auditorium is equipped with a Loop system which provides sound enhancement for the hard of hearing.

National Gallery of Ireland: The Gallery provides wheelchairs and portable stools for members of the public with mobility impairments. The Gallery is also equipped with a Loop system. The Gallery provides, on request, tours for people with impaired sight and mobility impairments. Tactile picture sets and accompanying audio-guides are also available for people with sight impairments.

National Library of Ireland: The Library can provide a wheelchair on request for visitors to the Library's exhibition areas and a number of microfilm reading machines suitable for use by disabled readers.

National Museum of Ireland: Wheelchairs are available at both the Museum's Collins Barracks and Turlough Park, Castlebar sites. The Museum has audio visual facilities which may be of assistance to persons with a visual or hearing impairment.

The provision and maintenance of the building infrastructure of the National Cultural Institutions is the statutory responsibility of the Office of Public Works.

Question No. 25 answered with QuestionNo. 15.

Sports Funding.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

26 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will clarify the details of the recent round of funding for sports facilities at the University of Limerick and Grove Island Leisure Centre in the city; the facilities this money will be used to provide; if the funding is specifically directed towards helping athletes prepare for the 2012 London Olympics; if further rounds of funding are planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5553/07]

Joe Costello

Question:

30 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the development of the list of sporting facilities that could be used by visiting athletes in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics; if he will set a date for the fast tracking of the facilities that are required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5544/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 30 together.

With London 2012 fast approaching, athletes and teams from other countries may consider using Ireland as a base to prepare and train in the years prior to the Olympic Games. Ireland possesses the advantages of having the same climatic conditions and being in the same time zone as London, as well as being within an hour by air travel. Furthermore, this country will avoid most of the media hype that one often finds in the host country.

In order to ensure that Ireland benefits from the proximity of the Games, I established a Task Force in August 2006 comprising high level representatives from the sporting, business, tourism and cultural sectors. This group will work to ensure that Ireland is an attractive training base for Olympic athletes leading up to 2012 and that Ireland also benefits from the tourism, business and cultural opportunities arising from the hosting of the Olympic and Paralympics Games in London.

If Ireland is to be attractive to potential participating athletes, access to high quality sporting and ancillary facilities must be available. In this regard, my Department has undertaken a London 2012 sports infrastructural audit of facilities that might be suitable to develop to meet the training needs of overseas teams preparing for 2012. Department officials have been in touch with National Governing Bodies of Sport and third level institutions in order to establish the type, range and suitability of the sports facilities available for this purpose.

What is currently being undertaken therefore is a data gathering exercise to gauge the level of facilities Ireland has to offer to potential visiting athletes. This audit process will be completed shortly in line with the standards set out by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG). We will then have a clearer picture of the facilities likely to be attractive to participating athletes in the build-up to London 2012 and my Department will then examine whether investment may be required to bring these facilities up to the required standard. Any expenditure on facilities will be aimed not only at attracting teams but primarily at ensuring a lasting legacy for Irish athletes and communities.

In December last, I announced sports capital funding allocations totalling €14.33 million to 27 organisations throughout the country towards the development of a number of key strategic national and regional sports facilities as well as funding to enhance the quality and range of equipment available to a number of national governing bodies to assist in increasing participation in those sports. These allocations were in addition to the €75 million allocated to 797 projects under the 2007 sports capital programme.

The funding announced in December last included allocations of €1 million to both Limerick City Council's Grove Island Sports and Leisure Centre and to the development of University of Limerick's Sports Campus.

The allocation of €1 million to the Grove Island centre was one of three such grants (the others being to Letterkenny and to Tallaght) to assist with the costs of providing major municipal, multisport centres attached to Local Authority swimming pools. The provision of this funding was aimed at enhancing and expanding the range of and quality of local and regional clubs, groups and individuals to participate in a variety of sports and physical recreation activities.

As part of the Local Authority swimming pool programme, €3.8m has been awarded to Limerick City Council towards the development of a swimming pool at Grove Island.

The University of Limerick has an admirable track record in attracting international calibre sports people to train on the existing campus facilities and I am confident that the additional facilities planned for the campus in respect of which I allocated a grant of €1m in 2006 will play an important part in helping athletes prepare for future international competitions including the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Arts Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

27 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he, independently, will offer grant aid to community based groups involved in musical or theatrical productions thereby encouraging the promotion and development of the arts at local level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5721/07]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

29 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the development of community arts facilities forms part of his development strategy for the sector; the initiatives he is considering; the way such initiatives will be funded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5540/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent of the discussions he has had with persons involved in the promotion of the arts at local level with a view to establishing local theatres to accommodate the needs of various musical and dramatic societies or groups who have continuously put on shows at local level but who have very often difficulty with accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5932/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27, 29 and 111 together.

The Arts Council is the principal agency through which State funding is channelled to the arts. Under the Arts Act, 2003, the general functions of the Council include the following:

to stimulate public interest in the arts;

to promote knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts;

to assist in improving standards in the arts.

My Department has no function in deciding on the extent of Arts Council funding for particular projects or locations. Indeed, the Arts Act, 2003, underpins the Council's independence in this context. I am delighted to have secured €80m in funding in 2007 for the Arts Council.

My Department provide capital grants directly for arts and culture infrastructure around the country. The main vehicle for such capital funding is the Arts & Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme (ACCESS), under which almost €43 million was provided to 40 arts and cultural facilities around the country. This scheme commenced in 2001. Many projects have been completed and the remainder are in the course of completion.

Applications under the second round of the ACCESS scheme are currently being assessed by an independent Selection Committee. The Committee expects to provide me with recommendations by March 2007 and I hope to make an announcement regarding the second round of the scheme shortly thereafter.

Funding of €81m in total is available under the ACCESS programme over the life of the National Development Plan, 2007 to 2013. The funding offered to applicants under the second round of ACCESS will ultimately be determined by the quality and scope of the projects currently being assessed.

In addition to ACCESS, almost €53m in capital has been awarded to other arts and cultural projects in 2004, 2005 and 2006. These projects, while not formally part of the ACCESS scheme, are managed in the same way as the ACCESS projects and the same policy objectives apply.

National Aquatic Centre.

Joan Burton

Question:

28 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the full check and assessment of the entire facility at the National Aquatic Centre is complete; the outcome of this assessment; if an upgrade or repair work is required at the centre; the timescale for such work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5545/07]

Under the National Sports Campus Development Act 2006 and the subsequent establishment of the National Sports Campus Development Authority, effective from 1st January last, operational matters relating to the Sports Campus at Abbotstown are matters for the Authority by virtue of section 7(1) of that Act. The functions of the Authority as set out in the Act include the management, operation and maintenance of the sports campus and, in particular, the furnishing and equipping of the sports campus with such plant, machinery, equipment and apparatus as it considers appropriate.

As I have already indicated to the House, as a result of the decision of the Supreme Court on 14 November 2006, the National Aquatic Centre was returned to the possession of CSID on 1 December 2006. CSID has since been replaced by the National Sports Campus Development Authority. As part of the contingency planning for the repossession of the Centre, CSID had established a subsidiary company, CSID (Operations) Ltd to operate the Centre.

Immediately on repossession, a full health check of the National Aquatic Centre was instituted. This audit will cover all aspects of the facility including maintenance, mechanical and electrical, and water quality issues, and is also dealing with financial systems, human resources, marketing and sales.

In parallel with these elements, a comprehensive maintenance programme has been taking place, dealing with the building management system, cleaning, water treatment, lighting, windows, CCTV, telecoms, flumes and security. All of this work is ongoing at present. When it is completed, the NSCDA will be reporting to me on the outcome.

As I have said in this House on several occasions, there is a major challenge to restore the reputation of what is a fantastic facility and to ensuring that it is used to its fullest extent by both elite swimmers and those who just want to have a fun time at the National Aquatic Centre.

Question No. 29 answered with QuestionNo. 27.
Question No. 30 answered with QuestionNo. 26.
Question No. 31 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

National Conference Centre.

Shane McEntee

Question:

32 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the proposed national conference centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5708/07]

Willie Penrose

Question:

33 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the development of the national conference centre on Spencer Dock; if a date has been set for the construction of the centre to begin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5552/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 33 together.

As I have informed the House, most recently on 30 November, 2006, Spencer Dock International Conference Centre Consortium has been appointed Preferred Tenderer for the provision of a National Conference Centre in Dublin.

As the Deputies are aware, the Centre is being procured under a Public Private Partnership process under the auspices of the Office of Public Works — the Contracting Authority. During the Preferred Tenderer phase the Consortium is required to develop and provide the full range of project documents for review and approval by the Contracting Authority. The current expectation is that the contract will, subject to Government Decision, be awarded within the coming weeks. It is envisaged that site enabling and related works in preparation for construction would commence shortly thereafter and that the Centre would be operational some 40 months thereafter.

I am delighted that delivery of another major commitment in the Programme for Government may now be about to become a reality.

On the basis of consultations undertaken earlier by my Department and research reviewed, I am totally convinced of the need for a modern, dedicated National Conference Centre if Ireland is to realise its full potential in the hugely valuable international conference market. According to a number of independent estimates, the National Conference Centre, when fully operational, is expected to generate additional foreign revenue earnings of between €25m and €50m per year.

Arts Education.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

34 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the work of the committee established to devise a strategy for closer links between education and the arts; when that committee will deliver its report; the make up of the committee; the terms of reference it has been working under; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5555/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which his Department is in contact with the Department of Education and Science with a view to promotion of the arts in primary and second level schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5934/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 113 together.

Government policy for the Arts is set out in the Programme for Government and elaborated further in my Department's Statement of Strategy. Having regard for the statutory functions of the Arts Council as set out in Section 9 of the Arts Act 2003, and in accordance with section 21 of that Act, a Special Committee was established to advise the Arts Council on how best to align the Council's strategies for the promotion and encouragement of the arts with the priorities of the formal education system. The Committee should deliver its advice to the Council by 1st May 2007.

The five person Committee is chaired by Ms Mary Nunan, Arts Council member. The other members are Mr. Jerome Morrissey, National Centre for Training in Technology, Mr. Pat MacSitric, Assistant Chief Inspector, Department of Education and Science, Mr. Derek West, former Principal, Newpark Comprehensive School and Chair of NAPD Arts & Culture Committee and Ms Orlaith McBride, Arts Council member.

Acknowledging the contribution that the Arts can make to a rounded and balanced educational experience, the Committee will have regard to:

(a) the wide range of demands on the school curriculum bearing in mind that responsibility for determining the content of the school curriculum rests with the Minister for Education and Science;

(b) the need to prioritise and cost its recommendations; these recommendations must have regard both to their resource implications for the Arts Council and also to the fact that the budgetary resources likely to be available over the next four years to the Minister for Education and Science for development of services in the education sector must be allocated to fund existing policy commitments;

(c) subject to (b) above, the identification of what additional sources of funding, if any, might be available to fund its recommendations; and

(d) the roles and partnerships that are appropriate for relevant State and other agencies and bodies in this context, including the Department of Education and Science, the Arts Council, Vocational Education Committees, and Local Authorities.

The focus of the Special Committee's advice is to be on making specific deliverable recommendations for implementation over three to five years.

Sports Funding.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

35 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the details of the Government offer to make €5 million available to the GAA to improve player welfare; if he has had discussions with the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5556/07]

I have had a number of meetings with both the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) and the GAA at which player welfare issues for inter-county players were discussed.

At these meetings and in subsequent letters to both the GPA and the GAA, I have set out the position of the Government on this issue. Firstly, it is entirely a matter for the GAA, as the Governing Body for Gaelic Games, to determine whether or not it wishes to embrace professionalism in any form. The Government has no wish to influence this decision in any way. However, the Government for reasons of sporting policy and priorities is not prepared to make public funds available to finance "pay for play".

It is a matter for the GAA in the first instance to determine how it will meet the cost of addressing player welfare needs. I remain disposed to allocate funding to support player welfare issues provided that a realistic, well-developed and costed proposal which would have the support of both the GAA and the GPA is put to me. An important consideration, however, would be that funding should not displace resources already being committed by the Association at national or County Board level to player welfare.

It would be premature to lock into particular financing mechanisms until agreement has been reached between the GAA and the GPA on arrangements to enhance player welfare and the additional costs arising for the GAA have been established.

I hope that the negotiations currently underway between the GAA and the GPA will reach a successful conclusion.

Art Collections.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

36 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will clarify the future plans for the art collection of the Great Southern Hotels that is entrusted to the care of the State; if further special exhibitions of this art are planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5546/07]

I have designated the Crawford Art Gallery Cork, which has recently become a national cultural institution under the aegis of my Department, as the home gallery of this Collection. The Collection is in the process of being transferred there from OPW, apart from five works, which are on loan to the Irish Embassy in Sofia. The Crawford Gallery is cooperating with other national institutions on short to medium term loans of some of the works in the Collection and it intends to curate a major exhibition of the Collection later this year.

Tourism Promotion.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

37 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his plans for county tourism committees; if he will clarify the future role of these committees and if he is considering winding them up; if so, the timeframe he expects for them to cease their work; the structures that will be put in their place to promote and develop local tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5543/07]

As I have advised the House on a number of occasions last year, most recently on 30 November last, individual actions and measures relating to tourism promotion or development at regional or county level are day-to-day functions of the State Tourism Agencies.

There has been a major reform of Irish tourism structures in recent years with the setting up of Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland. Reform of the function, role and operational aspects of sub-national structures, as recommended by the Tourism Policy Review Group in its report "New Horizons for Irish Tourism — An Agenda for Action", was the final phase of that process.

In response to the recommendation in the New Horizons report, Fáilte Ireland commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to review regional tourism structures. That report recommended the establishment of Regional Tourism Development Boards to ensure a greater focus on the individual needs of each region at a national level and the subsuming of former Regional Tourism Authority management and staff into Fáilte Ireland.

The bodies known as County Tourism Committees were a substructure of the Regional Tourism Authorities. Last year, to facilitate the new regional structures and the establishment of the five new Regional Tourism Development Boards, the former Regional Tourism Authorities passed the necessary resolutions and the Boards of Directors resigned. Now that the Regional Tourism Authorities as companies no longer exist the former County Tourism Committees have lapsed.

Following the dissolution of the RTAs, I gave my consent to the establishment by Fáilte Ireland of five Regional Tourism Development Boards — in the South-East, the South-West, the West, the Midlands-East and the Northwest regions — and the delegation of certain functions to each of the Boards. The functions so delegated are:

directing the formulation and regular review of a comprehensive tourism development strategy for its region, to cover all key aspects of tourism development including the product, enterprise support, training, marketing, infrastructure and environmental management needs of tourism in that region;

drafting multi-annual work plans for its region to support the implementation of the region's development strategy for tourism;

submitting multi-annual plans to Fáilte Ireland for funding and other resources and securing funding, as appropriate, from within the region;

overseeing the implementation of the region's approved work plans and approving corrective action as appropriate;

reporting on outcomes achieved from implementing the region's tourism development strategy and issues arising from its implementation;

performing the role of advocate for tourism development in its region in accordance with national and regional policies and procedures; and

working closely with other bodies in the region to support the development of tourism in the region.

I appreciate that a significant amount of energy and activity exists at county level with many tourism enterprises, and the local authorities, often identifying, in the first instance, with the county structure. I understand, however, that the experience with regard to the former County Tourism Committees was mixed and inconsistent. I also understand that they performed with varying degrees of effectiveness. In this regard, I expect that the regional strategies, which are being drawn up by the Regional Tourism Development Boards, will seek to harness and build on the county dynamic within the overall regional framework.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

38 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the degree to which he intends or expects to offer funding to local community, sporting or recreational groups who provide facilities of a sporting, cultural or recreational nature for the youth at local level, thereby meeting an ever growing need in developing areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5722/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which he will assist directly with grant aid to promote sporting, recreational or youth clubs in urban and rural areas which currently require such facilities but lack the necessary finances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5926/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of applications received in 2007 from the various art, sports and recreational groups here; the extent to which he expects to meet such requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5931/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 106 and 110 together.

The sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations who cater for people of all ages at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications for funding under the 2007 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on October 15th and 16th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was November 24th 2006 and a total of 1,531 applications were received. All applications received before the deadline are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme.

In the course of these assessments, additional points are given to applications from areas of disadvantage, as designated by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCRGA), namely RAPID, CLÁR and Local Drugs Task Forces. Applicants from these designated areas also only have to provide evidence of 20% local funding as against 30% for applicants from non-disadvantaged areas. Successful sports capital programme applicants from CLÁR and RAPID areas may be eligible for top-up grants from DCRGA. Indeed, over €5 million in additional grants was provisionally allocated by DCRGA to applicants from these designated disadvantaged areas in 2006.

I intend to announce the provisional grant allocations for the 2007 sports capital programme as soon as possible after the ongoing assessment process has been completed.

My Department's ACCESS scheme provides capital grants for arts and culture infrastructure around the country, much of which is community based initiatives.

155 applications for funding were received under ACCESS II 2007 to 2009 and an independent selection committee is currently assessing the applications received. The Committee expects to provide me with recommendations in respect of these applications by March 2007 and I hope to make an announcement regarding the scheme shortly thereafter.

The Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which is also administered by my Department, provides grant aid for the construction of public swimming pools. My Department is completing an Expenditure Review of the Programme at present. The Review is currently being finalised and it is my intention to publish it as soon as possible. Following consideration of the recommendations in the review it is my intention to launch a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme as soon as possible. When the Programme is re-opened, it will be open to all local authorities to submit applications under the terms that will apply.

Visa Applications.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

39 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will extend the visitors visa of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 in order that they can remain in the State for a further six months in the circumstances. [5754/07]

The person concerned was granted a C visit visa to enter the State for a period of three months. It now appears that she is seeking an extension of her permission to remain in the State.

A wrap-around information sheet accompanies every visa application form. That sheet makes it clear to the applicant that, in general, persons granted visas for particular purposes are not permitted to remain in the State for any purpose other than that for which the visa was granted.

Every visa applicant is required to state on the application form the dates on which he or she proposes to enter and leave Ireland. He or she is also required to declare that the information supplied is correct and complete.

A C Visa is granted for visits of less than 90 days. As a consequence it is not the general policy to extend permission to remain to persons who are admitted initially for a period of 90 days or less on a C Visa, save in very exceptional and unforeseen circumstances.

The person concerned must leave and reapply from outside the State should she wish to return. She should include in her new visa application the purpose and duration of her intended stay.

Garda Investigations.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

40 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consult with the Garda Commissioner and ensure that a structured arrangement is put in place to work continuously on the case of a person (details supplied). [5755/07]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

43 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has discussed the case of a person (details supplied) with the Garda Commissioner with a view to having it investigated thoroughly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5784/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 43 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the investigation into the murder of the person referred to is currently being reviewed with a view to establishing new lines of inquiry.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

41 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when his attention was drawn to the information received from the Austrian authorities regarding possible Irish involvement in a global child pornographic ring; the steps he has taken arising from the circumstances that are now known that the initial information from INTERPOL in August 2006 had not been followed up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5768/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a Chief Superintendent has been appointed by the Garda Commissioner to carry out a fact finding investigation into the full circumstances of the failure to react to the Interpol communication and the subsequent statement to the effect that such a document had not been received by An Garda Síochána. I am awaiting the outcome of the investigation before making any further comment.

Residency Permits.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

42 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will issue a letter confirming the status of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [5769/07]

The person in question made an application for asylum in March 2002. He subsequently withdrew that application and made an application for leave to remain on the basis of his Irish Born Child in April 2002.

Representations were subsequently received from the legal representative of the person concerned in connection with his wish to take up employment as a Temporary Registered Doctor. In December 2004 he was granted permission to remain as a Temporary Registered Doctor and currently has permission to remain until June 2007. It is noted that the spouse of the person referred to by the Deputy has recently made an application for the renewal of permission to remain in the State granted under the IBC/05 Scheme.

Question No. 43 answered with QuestionNo. 40.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

44 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the result of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Galway to the business permission immigrants operation control for permission to start up a business as a dressmaker; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5844/07]

The person in question currently has permission to remain in the State until July 2007 on the basis of being the spouse of a work permit holder. There is no record of a separate application for permission to engage in business in the State from the person concerned.

As a Jamaican national, the person concerned would require permission to operate a business in the State. An application can be made in writing to the Business Permission Section, Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, 4th Floor, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2. Details of the requirements can be obtained from my Department's website at www.justice.ie.

Crime Levels.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

45 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of offences committed by persons on bail for each of the years 2002 to 2006. [5870/07]

Following the submission to me in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, I decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act, 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, I am pleased to note that the CSO is now compiling and publishing criminal statistics and has published provisional headline crime statistics for the third and fourth quarters of 2006. In addition, it has compiled and published a series of quarterly and annual statistics for the period starting with the first quarter of 2003. I understand that the CSO are examining how the crime statistics published might be expanded and made more comprehensive.

I have requested the CSO to provide the information sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Road Traffic Accidents.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

46 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of times in 2005 and 2006 that gardaí were called to attend road accidents on a road (details supplied) in County Galway; the number in which fatalities occurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5914/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that on the road referred to there were 117 collisions in 2006, with two people killed in one collision. In 2005 there were 127 collisions with one fatality.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

47 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the expected position in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5937/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question made a Family Reunification application in October 2006. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. When this investigation is completed, the Commissioner will prepare and forward a report to my Department. The application will then be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

48 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5938/07]

The case referred to by the Deputy falls under the scope of the Dublin II Regulation, (Council Regulation (EC) No. 343/2003).

This Regulation is intended to prevent the phenomenon of ‘asylum shopping' across Europe and sets out criteria for determining which Member State is responsible for examining an asylum application where applications have been lodged in more than one Member State or whereby an asylum seeker has been granted a visa to enter another regulation state. At the same time, it guarantees applicants that one State will process their application, thereby preventing the creation of ‘refugees in orbit', a situation which had previously pertained in Europe. Under the Dublin II Regulation, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, (ORAC), can, on the basis of relevant criteria, request another State to accept responsibility for an asylum application and have it processed in that other state.

Following investigation by ORAC, it was determined that the person concerned had previously made an asylum application in France. As a direct result of the ORAC determination, a Transfer Order was signed in respect of him on 01 August, 2006, obliging him to present to the Garda National Immigration Bureau, (GNIB), on 22 August, 2006, for arrangements to be made for his return to France. He presented as requested and a flight was arranged for his transfer on 30 August, 2006. However he evaded his transfer and became illegally present in this State. The person concerned continues to evade his transfer and remains illegally present in the State. I would therefore urge the person concerned to come forward and present himself to the GNIB without further delay.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

49 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5939/07]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Dáil Question number 152 of 14 December, 2006, in respect of the mother in this instance.

As you are aware, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, (ORAC), determined in accordance with the terms of the Dublin II Regulation, Council Regulation (EC) No. 343/2003, that France is responsible for examining the mother's asylum application in this instance. Under Article 4(3) of the Regulation any child or children born to an asylum seeker after they arrive in another Member State shall have their asylum application, if they make one, heard in the State where the mother's application for asylum was first lodged. Accordingly a request under Article 4(3) was made to the appropriate authorities in France on 07 December, 2006, asking them to also accept the child, which they did.

Arrangements were made for their transfer on 15 December, 2006. However they evaded their transfer and became illegally present in this State. The persons concerned continue to evade their transfer and remain illegally present in the State. I would therefore urge the persons concerned to present to the GNIB without further delay in order to arrange their transfer to France.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

50 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when a further application for family reunification will be entertained in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if, having regard to the humanitarian circumstances in this case, he will allow the issue to be reconsidered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5940/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that a Family Reunification application by the person in question was refused in November 2006.

The application was made on foot of a marriage which was by proxy. As with all proxy marriages cases in Family Reunification, the person in question was informed in his decision letter that this marriage does not appear to be valid under Irish Law. He was informed at that time that he may apply to the courts for a declaration, under Section 29 of the Family Law Act 1995 to the effect that the marriage in question is valid. The Immigration Division will review the Family Reunification application on receipt of such a declaration.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

51 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has information available to him as to the way references to Romania appear on the file of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 having particular regard to the fact that such reference may have created confusion and jeopardised their residency application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5941/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions No. 377 of Wednesday, 31 January, 2007, No. 54 of Thursday 30 November, 2006, No. 83 of Thursday 26 October, 2006, and No. 187 of Thursday 1 June, 2006 and the written replies to those Questions. The position is unchanged.

Visa Applications.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

52 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will alter the rules relating to work visas for US citizens in view of the fact that the same is being sought from the US for Irish seeking to stay legally in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5949/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, US citizens are exempt from Irish entry visa requirements. They are however, as are all non-EEA nationals, required to report to an Immigration Officer on arrival at an Irish port of entry to seek permission to enter the State. In addition, all non-EEA nationals, including US citizens, who wish to remain in Ireland for longer than three months are required to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau and seek the appropriate permission to remain.

Access to the Irish labour market by US and other non-EEA nationals, other than those whose residence status (e.g. refugee, legally resident spouse of Irish national etc.), specifically grants them free access, is dealt with by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. As the Deputy will be aware, the Employment Permits Act 2006 has now entered into force and sets out new arrangements governing this area. These include a new ‘‘Green Card" permit for people earning above €60,000 per year in any sector and for those in the €30,000 — €60,000 range in strategically important sectors. Information regarding the qualifying criteria for "Green Cards", work permits and other labour market access schemes are available from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment website at www.entemp.ie. The Work Visa and Work Authorisation schemes previously operated by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment have been replaced by these new arrangements.

Non-EEA nationals, including US citizens, who have permission to remain in the State as students are currently entitled to take up casual employment (defined as 20 hours per week during school term time and up to 40 hours per week during school holidays) for the duration of their permission to remain. This entitlement ceases upon the expiry of the person's permission to remain as a student. However, while this represents the current position, "Towards 2016" provides that employment of non-EEA students will become subject to an application for an employment permit.

Although US citizens are not visa required, they can subject to certain criteria, avail of the Holiday Working Visa Scheme which can be issued for up to a 12 month period and which allows the holder to work in Ireland in a casual capacity during the validity of the Working Holiday Visa.

My Department has no proposals to initiate a regularisation scheme in respect of non-EEA nationals, including US citizens who are currently working and residing illegally in Ireland. However, if the Deputy has a particular case in mind I would advise that the individual concerned should write to the Immigration Division of my Department, which is located at 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 giving details of their circumstances and the grounds on which they wish to remain. Each case will be examined and determined on the individual merits of the case.

Prisoner Releases.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

53 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has proposals for the early release of the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5958/07]

There are no proposals for the early release of the killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe.

Tax Code.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

54 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners will review in detail the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; if they will ensure that every possible assistance is given to them, taking into account any discretionary powers the Revenue Commissioners have in all of the circumstances. [5752/07]

Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for tax relief on certain health expenses incurred by a taxpayer in respect of the provision of health care for him or herself and/or his or her qualifying dependants. However, the relief is only available to the extent that tax has been paid in a tax year.

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in this particular year the taxpayer has been granted the maximum relief available for the health expenses as claimed. The total amount of tax paid for the year ending 31 December 2006 amounted to €3,135.43, and this amount was repaid on 17 January 2007. Unfortunately, there is no further tax available to repay to the taxpayer for the year 2006.

Consultancy Contracts.

Seán Ryan

Question:

55 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of expenditure on consultancy by the Revenue Commissioners in 2003, 2004 and 2005; the number of consultants engaged by the Revenue Commissioners in those years; and the steps which have been taken to reduce the expenditure on consultancy and the reliance on consultants by the Revenue Commissioners in these years and for the future. [5785/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that almost all their consultancy expenditure is in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) area. While Revenue endeavour as far as possible to carry out their ICT work in-house, and use the various civil service ICT recruitment options to maintain a cadre of skilled and experienced internal staff, they do use ‘external support' to develop tangible assets in the form of software which is recognised by the C&AG in the annual appropriation accounts.

Recent examples of this are the engagement of computer experts to develop and provide support for critical ICT projects such as the redesign of the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Customs Automated Entry Processing (AEP) systems as well as the maintenance and enhancement of Revenue's underlying application frameworks — their back-office Integrated Taxation Services and the public-facing Revenue On-Line Services.

Revenue also employ consultants who ‘advise and recommend' in the traditional manner. These consultancies represent typically low-cost, once-off business area assignments. For clarity, the numbers involved in these consultancies are shown separately in the table.

The amount of expenditure and the numbers engaged are shown in the table. The number of people varies from time to time during each year depending, for example, on the number of projects being worked on at the same time and the stage that projects are at.

Year

Expenditure on external support/ business consultancy

Numbers engaged on external support for ICT projects

Numbers engaged on business consultancy

€ million*

2003

12.45

47–82

39

2004

18.53

57 –124

46

2005

22.9

104 –130

47

* Figures include c. €5m per annum from the Information Society Fund.

As regards reducing reliance on consultants, it would not be realistic to expect to eliminate consultants altogether from an organisation like the Revenue Commissioners, because of the organisation's size and the complexity of its operations. However, as already mentioned, Revenue do try as far as possible to carry out their ICT work in-house, and uses the various civil service ICT recruitment options to maintain a cadre of skilled and experienced internal staff. Latterly they have used provisions of Sustaining Progress and its successor for ‘open' recruitment.

Revenue also test the market, via open EU competitions, for all key projects such as PAYE (2003) and AEP (2005). They have issued a Prior Information Notice in the EU Journal stating an intent to approach the market again in 2007 for external ICT support for the full portfolio of projects and frameworks.

Finally, the figures in the table above must be seen in context: Revenue's total expenditure in 2005, for example, was €387m and it employed some 6,445 staff.

Flood Relief.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

56 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the progress made to date in the implementation of the flood relief measures in Fermoy, County Cork. [5814/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, detailed design of the Fermoy North Drainage Scheme commenced in June 2006 and has been ongoing since. As some changes had to be made to the Scheme exhibited in November 2005, mainly on the western boundary, a slight delay has been experienced in commencing the tender process to appoint a civil engineering contractor. However, this work is now almost completed and the Office of Public Works expects to commence the tender process within a matter of weeks. When the tender process is complete OPW will submit the scheme to the Minister for Finance for Confirmation. Subject to the Minister Confirming the Scheme, OPW would expect to commence construction works within a matter of weeks thereafter, some time in the third quarter of 2007.

Detailed design of the Fermoy South West Scheme will commence when construction on the North Scheme is underway. The South East Scheme will follow similarly when construction commences on the South West Scheme.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

57 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if persons (details supplied) in County Cork who have purchased a farm in joint names can qualify for the stamp duty exemption; and if further time will be given to them if the husband has to complete his qualifications. [5822/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that from the information provided it is not clear whether exemption from Stamp Duty under the young trained farmer scheme applies. However where property is purchased in the joint names of husband and wife, the requirement is that only one of the spouses must qualify as a young trained farmer. For further information the persons concerned should contact: Cork Stamp Duty Office, South West Region, Government Buildings, Sullivan's Quay, Cork.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

58 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the payment of DIRT tax on deposit accounts for persons over 65; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5850/07]

Individuals aged 65 years or over (and individuals who are permanently incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity from maintaining themselves,) can claim a refund from DIRT where the income of the individual (inclusive of the deposit interest) is below the appropriate income exemption limit for tax purposes. In the 2007 tax year the exemption limit for a single person aged 65 or over is €19,000 per annum, and in the case of a married couple, the exemption limit is €38,000 (the equivalent limits for the 2006 tax year were €17,000 single/ €34,000 married). A partial refund may be due to such individuals whose income (inclusive of the deposit interest) does not greatly exceed the appropriate income exemption limit.

In the recent Budget I announced that the rules relating to such individuals are now being changed so that in future they may notify their financial institution of their status and receive the interest without deduction of DIRT. These changes are included in the 2007 Finance Bill and further details will be published by the Revenue Commissioners when the Bill is enacted.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

59 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he will amend the Finance Bill to facilitate persons who have completed their 180 hour course for their green certificate but have not completed their apprenticeship with FÁS by 31 March 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5861/07]

The Finance Bill 2007 proposes changes to the requirements necessary to be regarded as a young trained farmer for the purposes of relief from stamp duty on certain transfers of farm land as well as the enhanced regime of stock relief. From 31 March 2008 the basic minimum standard required will be the new FETAC Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture. Details of the new scheme, as well as a commencement date of 31 March 2008, were agreed with the farming representative bodies at the Partnership talks concluded late last year.

The extended lead in time provides an opportunity for an individual to achieve the existing standard before the new requirements take effect. However, individuals who have not achieved the necessary standard under the existing scheme of courses by that date will, in fact be given credit against the FETAC Level 6 standard for any element of existing courses completed and this includes the 180 hours of Teagasc training which is referred to in the question.

Tax Yield.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

60 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the estimated amount of income tax payable annually by permanent residents on Ireland’s offshore islands. [5869/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that statistics are not recorded in such a manner as would enable the information requested by the Deputy to be provided. Such information could not be obtained without conducting a protracted investigation of the Revenue Commissioners' records.

Tax Code.

Dan Boyle

Question:

61 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the tax expenditure currently being foregone through the tax relief of private pension plans; the average tax relief given per individual; and the highest individual relief. [5952/07]

I assume the Deputy has in mind the estimated cost of tax relief on pension contributions by employers, employees and self-employed. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest year for which this information is available is the income tax year 2003 and is provided in the table.

Cost of income tax relief relating to pension contributions

Type of Pension Contributions

2003

€ million

Employees’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

622

Employers’ Contributions to approved Superannuation Schemes

564

Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs)

264

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) *

6

Total

1,456

*Figures for PRSAs reflect the relative early stage of the scheme which was introduced in 2002.

With regard to occupational pensions, that is approved superannuation schemes set up by the employer, it should be noted that the cost figures in respect of employee and employer contributions are very tentative estimates and that efforts are being made to improve information on the cost of tax relief for pensions, generally. Subject to these limitations, and using data on the numbers of employee contributors obtained from the Pensions Board, the approximate average value to each employee contributor of tax concessions in respect of the total combined estimates of contributions by employees and employers is estimated at €1,637. There is no basis on which to provide an estimate of the highest individual value of tax relief.

The average value of income tax concessions for contributions to Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs) which are available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes and to Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) is estimated at €2,411 and €2,500, respectively.

The highest individual tax relievable contribution allowable in 2003 in respect of the contributions to RACs and PRSAs, assuming a contributor aged 50 years or over and taking into account a contributions earnings cap of €254,000, is 30 per cent of €254,000 or €76,200. This amounts to a tax relief of €32,004 at the top tax rate of 42 per cent. The relief can be doubled in the case of a married couple where each spouse qualifies for the maximum individual relief of €32,004. On the basis of the information available from tax records the highest individual values of tax relief allowed in 2003 were €56,262 for RACs and €39,900 for PRSAs.

Health Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

62 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to expand the availability of defibrillators throughout the rural communities through the existing Red Cross network or another source; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5865/07]

In September 2004 a national Task Force on Sudden Cardiac Death was established in order to address the problem of sudden cardiac death in Ireland. The Report of the Task Force, published in March 2006, makes recommendations on the prevention of sudden cardiac death and on the detection of those at high risk.

The Task Force supports the establishment of first responder programmes and recommends that priority should be given to programmes, geographical locations and facilities identified as having the greatest need. All programmes should be coordinated by the HSE ambulance services, with best practice guidance from the Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council.

The Task Force also recommends that Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) should be placed in facilities where the incidence of cardiac arrest is high, including inpatient health facilities, G.P. surgeries and primary care facilities, airports, shopping centres, major sports venues and golf courses, bus/rail terminals, ferries/ferry terminals, concert and conference venues, universities and colleges, gyms and fitness clubs, and other venues for major public events

Where funding for AEDs or first responder schemes is required, the Health Service Executive, which has overall responsibility for the implementation of the report's recommendations, may consider such applications.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

63 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of childminders who availed of the income tax exemption scheme in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5881/07]

David Stanton

Question:

80 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of inquiries and the number of voluntary notifications respectively received by the child care committees from childminders wishing to avail of the income tax exemption; the breakdown of same per child care committee area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5880/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 80 together.

To apply for the Childcare Services Relief, Childminders are obliged to make an annual tax return of their childminding income to the Revenue Commissioners. For tax exemption purposes, Childminders must also provide evidence that they have notified their local City/County Childcare Committee (CCC), through the local Childminding Advisory Officer that they are providing a childminding service.

The number of voluntary notifications made by Childminders to the CCCs since the introduction of the Childcare Services Relief in December 2005 has been monitored by my Office on a regular basis. The latest figures available as of the end of November 2006 are summarised in the table below.

The first tax year for which this tax exemption applies is 2006 and tax returns for 2006 must be made by the end of October 2007. Until that time, the final take-up of this initiative cannot be fully established.

Voluntary Notifications to CCCs

City/County Childcare Committee (CCC)

Up to end of November 2006

Carlow

1

Cavan

14

Clare*

7

Cork City

0

Cork County

1

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

0

Donegal

0

Dublin City

1

Fingal

38

Galway

46

Kerry

70

Kildare*

19

Kilkenny

2

Laois*

5

Leitrim

24

Limerick City*

0

Limerick County*

5

Longford*

2

Louth

2

Mayo

55

Meath

52

Monaghan

12

North Tipperary*

6

Offaly*

27

Roscommon

0

Sligo

2

South Dublin**

19

South Tipperary

0

Waterford City

20

Waterford County

12

Westmeath*

17

Wexford

0

Wicklow

40

Total

499

*Figures for these areas are held by and provided by the HSE via the CCC.

**Figure is provisional and pending finalisation.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

64 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of the provision of home care packages; the procedure that an applicant must adhere to; the mechanism of payment and the way such a package is determined; if the relevant information can be supplied by e-mail to an applicant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5753/07]

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. 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.

Care of the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

65 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department will provide funding to a centre (details supplied) in County Clare for a dementia unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5766/07]

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

Mental Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

66 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to provide funding to a centre (details supplied) in County Wexford which provides counselling services and deals with referrals from the Health Service Executive. [5767/07]

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. The Executive, therefore, 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.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

67 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the hospitals here which have had PACS implemented; when Mayo General Hospital can expect implementation of this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5781/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 question 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.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

68 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a scan with a view to operating on a cataract; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5782/07]

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 this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

69 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) in County Cork in being called for a hip replacement operation; and if she will ensure that they are considered for surgery under the National Treatment Purchase fund. [5815/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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.

Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on his behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to this case.

Health Promotion.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

70 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the policies she has in place to encourage active and healthy lifestyles amongst the over 60s; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5830/07]

"Adding Years to Life, Life to Years: A Health Promotion Strategy for Older People" was developed by the Department of Health and Children in collaboration with the National Council on Ageing and Older People (NCAOP), as the first strand of the Healthy Ageing Programme. This strategy provides a framework for action and informs health promotion activity for older people at national and regional levels. The Department continues to support the NCAOP in the development of further strands of the programme.

The second and third strands involve supporting the implementation of the strategy through various means including the development of an information and support network for promoting the health, welfare and autonomy of older people and identifying and promoting models of good practice for healthy ageing. The programme also aims to support a range of sectors with a role to play in healthy ageing through development and capacity-building practice in the areas of networking, training, materials, models of good practice, national partnership initiatives, public awareness and evaluation of initiatives.

To date the programme has: developed the Healthy Ageing Database, through widespread consultation with relevant stakeholders. This database is a valuable information resource for sharing information and experience on healthy ageing initiatives; published "Healthy Ageing in Ireland: Policy, Practice and Evaluation" Report, analysing current healthy ageing initiatives around the country and presenting models of best practice; published the "Directory of Healthy Ageing Information Resources for Older People", to provide older people with information on leaflets, videos and posters relevant to healthy ageing (produced by both statutory and voluntary organisations); developed a Healthy Ageing Residential Care Initiative for long-stay institutions and residential facilities for older people in Ireland; and published "Older People in Ireland: A Profile of Health Status, Lifestyle and Socio-Economic Factors from the National Health and Lifestyle Surveys (SLAN)". The programme is assisting the development of a national falls and fractures prevention, treatment and rehabilitation strategy. Annual healthy ageing conferences are organised on Safety and Older People, Social Inclusion of Older People at Local Level, and Nutrition and Older People in Residential and Community Care Settings.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

71 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be taken off the waiting list for orthodontic services and receive treatment. [5834/07]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

72 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be assessed for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5835/07]

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.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

73 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is financial assistance available towards the purchase of hair wigs for people suffering from alopecia; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many people have to purchase wigs three times a year at a cost of €400 to €500 a time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5839/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 have the issue examined and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

74 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway who has had seven operations, suffers from kidney problems and has high blood pressure is not entitled to transport to and from their hospital appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5840/07]

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 this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

75 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if a co-ordinator has been appointed by the Health Service Executive west to take executive responsibility for whatever proposals are forthcoming from the national immunisation advisory committee; the person given such responsibility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5841/07]

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.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

76 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the model of care for children services in County Galway arising out of the implementation of the Disability Act 2005 and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 has yet to be implemented; the nature of the plan; when she anticipates its full implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5842/07]

The Government launched the National Disability Strategy, in 2004 as a framework of positive action measures to support the participation of people with disabilities in Irish society. Two new pieces of legislation — the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, 2004 and the Disability Act, 2005 form an integral part of this Strategy, along with the suite of six sectoral plans, launched in 2006.

One of the most important aspects of my Department's sectoral plan is the arrangements for commencing Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which provides a statutory entitlement to an independent assessment of health and education needs, a statement of the services (Service Statement) which it is proposed to provide, and the right to pursue a complaint through an independent redress mechanism if there is a failure to provide these entitlements.

Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 will be commenced on a national basis (including Galway) in respect of persons of different ages as follows: for children aged less than 5 years — with effect from 1, June 2007; for children aged 5 years to 18 years — in tandem with the implementation of the EPSEN Act 2004; and for persons aged over 18 years — as soon as possible but no later than 31, December 2011.

Services for adults and children will continue to be enhanced progressively over the next number of years. The commitment by the Government to provide a Multi-Annual Investment programme of some €900m over the period 2006-2009 for disability support services recognises the need to build capacity in the health services to deliver on these obligations.The bulk of this funding, around €720m, is being spent in the health services.

I have allocated €100m in 2006 and a further €100m in 2007 for the continuing development of services for people with a disability.

Health Repayment Scheme.

Bernard Allen

Question:

77 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on the application made for recoupment of nursing home charges to a person (details supplied) in County Cork, on behalf of their late spouse who was a patient at Sarsfield’s Court, Glanmire, County Cork. [5843/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and 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 to the Deputy

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

78 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5852/07]

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 therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

79 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a group (details supplied) in County Roscommon has been refused a staffing grant under the equal opportunities child care programme; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the group has been awarded €25,000 in EOCP funding for a playground which is of little use without a staffing grant; if she has reviewed correspondence from the group in question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5859/07]

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.

Staffing grant assistance was previously approved for the Group in question of €84,786 under the EOCP, which included €76,786 over three years in November 2000 and a further €8,000 in February 2004. Capital grant assistance of €25,554 was also approved for the Group in March 2002. An application by the Group for further staffing grant assistance over three years, was appraised by the Programme Appraisal Committee (PAC) recently.

The PAC did not recommend to the Secretary General that he approve further staffing grant assistance to the Group under the EOCP, as the Group had not met the reporting requirements regarding the previous grant assistance allocated. The Secretary General concurred with the recommendation of the PAC not to approve additional funding in this instance and the Childcare Directorate of my Office informed the Group of this decision.

The Group recently appealed this decision and the appeal has been forwarded to Pobal, who carry out detailed assessments of all grant applications on behalf of the Office of the Minister for Children. Following Pobal's assessment of the application, a recommendation will be made to the PAC, prior to a decision being made by the Secretary-General. The Group will be informed of the outcome in due course.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Pre-School Inspections.

David Stanton

Question:

81 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in making pre-school inspection reports available on-line to the public; when this initiative will be up and running; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5882/07]

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.

National Children Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

82 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the national children’s strategy has been implemented in full; the sections of the strategy which remain to be implemented; the timescale of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5883/07]

The National Children's Strategy, Our Children — Their Lives, was published in November 2000 to bring a better focus and greater impact to Government activity in relation to children, through stronger leadership and co-ordination. The Strategy covers the period 2000 to 2010.

An independent mid-term review of progress on implementing the Strategy was carried out by the National Children's Advisory Council in 2006. This review acknowledged that significant progress had been made on many aspects of the Strategy but that a renewed impetus was required in certain areas.

The Office of the Minister for Children (OMC) was established in December 2005 to strengthen the structures which facilitate the implementation of the National Children's Strategy. The OMC is a cross-cutting Government office located in the Department of Health and Children which focuses on harmonising policy issues that affect children. It brings together key staff and functions regarding children's health and well being and policy functions concerning Youth Justice and Early Years Education.

A key objective for the OMC is to bring about more effective implementation of services and interventions for children at local level through cross-departmental and cross-agency working.

Hospital Accommodation.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

83 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds and the bed capacity available at a hospital (details supplied) in County Galway; the number of beds that were at this facility for each of the past five years; the period of closures; the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5910/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 question 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.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

84 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds and the bed capacity available at a hospital (details supplied) in County Galway; the number of beds that were at this facility for each of the past five years; the period of closures; the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5911/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 question 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.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

85 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds and the bed capacity available at a hospital (details supplied) in County Galway; the number of beds that were at this facility for each of the past five years; the period of closures; the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5912/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 question 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.

Ambulance Service.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

86 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of times in 2005 and 2006 that emergency services were called to attend road accidents on a road (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5913/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive 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 Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

87 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will refer a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny to a service for inclusion in a long-term health improvement programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5920/07]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

88 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a review of eligibility for a primary medical certificate will take place in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5936/07]

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

89 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if an allowance towards travel is available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5944/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

90 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if a decision has been taken on improving the qualifying thresholds for medical and doctor visit cards; if so, the new thresholds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5950/07]

Since the beginning of 2005 the medical card assessment guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29%. Other significant changes which I have introduced are that applications are now considered on the basis of income net of tax and PRSI and that allowance is made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work. 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 used in respect of medical cards.

My Department and the HSE are at present considering whether any further changes to the guidelines are required, having regard to factors such as changes in income levels generally, the nature of typical household outgoings and also changes to the various social welfare schemes.

Health Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

91 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in need of long-term care who have been moved directly from a Dublin hospital (details supplied) to care homes outside the county of Dublin during each of the past 12 months; the number of those moved who are incapable of expressing consent or withholding consent to medical procedures and operations under the meaning of the relevant Acts; the reason these individuals are incapable of expressing consent; and the counties to which all of those moved outside of Dublin who are in need of long-term care have been moved. [5951/07]

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.

Harbours and Piers.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

92 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to a project (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5751/07]

Following extensive communications with Donegal County Council, confirmation was received by the Department that the works being proposed at Buncrana Harbour are being constructed solely for the use of the RNLI and are not being constructed for the benefit of any other party.

The current position is that the Department is in communication with the Chief State Solicitor's office concerning the preparation of an appropriate draft lease in respect of the proposed works.

Telecommunications Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

93 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will designate the digital hub as a location of best practice for the roll out of metropolitan area networks under the national development plan; and if so, when he will make this designation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5832/07]

The Digital Hub Development Agency is a Government initiative which aims to develop a world class digital industry cluster, as well as regenerating an historic community area in the heart of Dublin by operating a number of significant community and educational initiatives.

The State made an initial investment in quality telecommunications infrastructure within the Hub at the project's outset, costing an estimated EUR €2.3 million. This infrastructure is fibre based and has high end capacity. It is effectively a Metropolitan Area Network and has been utilised by enterprise tenants within the Hub as well as facilitating interactive learning through the Agency's 25 learning initiative programmes.

While there are no immediate plans in place to use the Digital Hub as a location of best practice for the roll out of Metropolitan Area Networks, officials in my Department are in contact on an on-going basis with the Digital Hub regarding its Metropolitan Area Network, in terms of innovative usage and showcasing.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

94 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when broadband will be available to customers in rural areas of County Galway served by exchanges which are not broadband capable; his views on whether the lack of DSL broadband is discouraging business and employment in these areas and placing school children and students at a disadvantage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5890/07]

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

The facilitation of broadband coverage across the entire country continues to be a key priority. I am aware that, despite Government and private investment in broadband, there are areas of the country where the private sector is unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. Accordingly, I have announced a new scheme which will aim to provide a broadband service to these areas. This scheme will, when it is fully rolled out, ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in rural areas are met.

A Steering Group comprising officials from my Department and ComReg is currently considering all elements of the proposed scheme and work on the design of an appropriate tender will commence in the coming weeks. This scheme will be confined to areas of the country that are not yet served by any broadband service provider, currently thought to be 10-15% of the population.

Under the joint industry/Government initiative, which established the Broadband for Schools programme, high speed broadband connectivity is being provided to all primary and post primary schools in the country at no cost to the schools themselves. 96.8% of schools have broadband installed to date.

Natural Gas Grid.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

95 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if gas will be supplied to towns (details supplied) in County Galway; if same has been approved; if An Bord Gáis agreed to the pipeline; when this will happen; the timeframe for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5891/07]

Since 2002, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is a statutory independent body, has been charged with all aspects of the assessment and licensing of prospective operators who wish to develop and/or operate a gas distribution system within the State under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002.

In 2006, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) directed BGÉ to implement a new Gas Connections Policy, which determines the economic viability of connecting towns to the gas network. The new policy allows for the appraisal of a new town either on its own or as part of a regional group of towns. Having regard to this new policy, BGÉ carried out a comprehensive review of towns being considered for connection to the national gas network. The review is being conducted in two phases, and phase 1, which covers the towns in the proximity of the Mayo-Galway Pipeline, has already been completed.

Following consideration of this phase of the review, the CER made the decision to allow Bord Gáis to extend the natural gas network to eleven towns along the route of its Mayo-Galway gas transmission pipeline, including Athenry, Craughwell, Headford and Tuam, and it is envisaged that the connection of the eleven towns will take two to three years to complete.

Bord Gáis is continuing its evaluation of the viability of extending the gas network elsewhere to towns in other parts of the country with a view to completing its review by July, 2007. I can advise the Deputy that the towns of Gort, Loughrea and Portumna are being examined as part of this second phase of the Bord Gáis review. Following completion of this study, the CER will consider whether other towns with an economically viable case may be connected.

As regards the methodology employed by BGÉ in its review, including its rationale as to why towns such as Tynagh, Ardrahan, Kinvara and Kilcolgan were not selected for examination, I can advise the Deputy that BGÉ has a dedicated e-mail address, newtowns@bge.ie, for the purpose of dealing with any such queries.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

96 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will call on the US government to investigate the terrorist activities of groups infiltrated by the five Cuban agents known as the Miami Five with a view to ensuring that there will be no further repeat of these terrorist activities. [5775/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

97 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the matter of the five Cuban agents is a bilateral issue or an internal issue and beyond his competence to address; and the reason his predecessor was willing to comment repeatedly and at length on another bilateral or internal issue in relation to trials in Cuba in 2003. [5776/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

98 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on all trials in Cuba. [5777/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

99 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he feels competent to advise the Cuban government on the security measures it should adopt to protect itself in view of the fact that he claimed to know nothing in relation to some of the threats faced by Cuba in his reply of 16 November 2004. [5778/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

100 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether he is better placed than the Cuban government to decide the policies that are best for Cuba. [5779/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

101 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will acknowledge the injustice involved in the Miami Five case and call for the wives to be allowed to visit their husbands. [5780/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 to 101, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy is aware, I addressed this matter comprehensively in my reply to Priority Question Number 3 of 8 February 2007 and to subsequent supplementary questions. The case to which he refers in Questions 96, 97 and 101 relates to five Cuban citizens who were convicted in the US in 2001 on charges ranging from espionage to first degree murder. A panel of three judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the 2001 convictions on 9th August 2005 and ordered a retrial based on new evidence. The Miami District Attorney duly filed an appeal against the decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Following an appellate hearing on 14 February 2006, a 10-2 decision to uphold the 2001 convictions was issued on 9 August 2006.

It is my understanding that a number of appeals lodged on behalf of the defendants remain under active judicial review within the framework of the US domestic legal system. As I have previously informed the Deputy on several occasions, the Government has no standing in this matter, which is a bilateral consular question between the US and the Cuban authorities and, consequently, I do not intend to raise this matter with the US Government.

With regard to the question of family visits, I am aware from the 2005 Report of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that, as of October 2005, sixty visas had been issued for visits by family members but that visas had not been granted to the wives of two of the convicted men on the stated grounds of US national security. Again, I do not believe that this is a matter on which I have any standing and I do not intend, therefore, to raise it with the US authorities.

As I have made very clear in my replies to the Deputy's previous Parliamentary Questions on the issue of terrorist threats, Ireland, along with our EU partners, condemns all acts of terrorism, regardless of their target or motivation. Terrorism can never be justified by any cause, reason or ideology. It places the lives of innocent people at risk and undermines tolerance, openness and respect for fundamental freedoms in society. However, as I have also previously stated, I am not in a position to comment in any substantive way on the issues raised by the Deputy due to the imprecise nature of the allegations.

As the Deputy is aware, the overriding objective of Ireland and our EU partners in our relations with Cuba is to encourage — and not to enforce by external coercion — a process of transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as is clearly set out in the European Union's 1996 Common Position on Cuba. The European Union believes that critical engagement with the Cuban Government, alongside dialogue with wider Cuban civil society, is the most effective way to promote peaceful change in Cuba.

In June 2003, the European Union took a number of diplomatic steps following large-scale arrests, summary and arbitrary judicial processes, and the severe prison sentences imposed upon 75 dissidents for the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and participation in public affairs, as well as the summary trial and rapid execution of three ferry-boat hijackers in breach of minimum standards for the administration of the death penalty.

In July 2003, the General Affairs and External Relations Council noted a serious deterioration in the human rights situation in Cuba. The Council, nonetheless, reaffirmed the validity of the policy of constructive engagement with Cuba, as provided for in the 1996 Common Position, as the basis of EU policy towards that country.

The validity of the 1996 Common Position was most recently reaffirmed by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 12 June 2006. The European Union has emphasised its willingness to cooperate with Cuba on the basis of a dialogue with the Cuban Government and Cuban civil society, as soon as the Cuban Government shows the political will to engage in a dialogue aiming at tangible results, especially in the field of human rights and political freedom, the restriction of which remains a matter of deep concern. In this regard, I would again urge the Cuban Government to release all prisoners of conscience and to respect internationally acknowledged principles and practices, including in respect of judicial process.

Sports Capital Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

102 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding an application by a centre (details supplied) in County Galway for funding under the recreational facilities scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5837/07]

The sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications for funding under the 2007 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on October 15th and 16th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was November 24th 2006. All applications received before the deadline, including one from the organisation in question, are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Denis Naughten

Question:

103 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will approve funding for a project (details supplied) under the sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5858/07]

The sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications for funding under the 2007 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on October 15th and 16th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was November 24th 2006. All applications received before the deadline, including one from the organisation in question, are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

104 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in relation to the application for grant aid for a project (details supplied) in Co. Galway; if his Department has completed its examination of the legal aspects referred to in his reply of 27 September 2006; the outcome of the examination; when approval will be given for this project to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5889/07]

In 2004, Galway County Council submitted a tender to my Department seeking grant aid under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme for a project promoted by a private sector interest to construct a leisure centre, including a swimming pool, on a council site different to that initially recommended in a Feasibility Report prepared by the Council in 1999. The formal procedures under the programme, which would have been known to the Council, are that Ministerial approval is required at each of the Preliminary and Contract Document stages, before tenders are invited for a project. Notwithstanding the fact that Galway County Council pursued an alternative approach to the procurement of the facility, my Department indicated to the County Council that it would be prepared to examine a detailed proposal on its merits. My Department's main concern in such cases is to ensure that the normal characteristics of a public swimming pool, such as public access and social inclusion considerations are adequately catered for.

Since then, Galway County Council has been in contact with my Department which resulted in a proposal being made by the Council in June 2006. Given the need to protect the State's interest arising from any grant aid awarded under the programme, my Department had certain legal aspects involved examined by the Chief State Solicitor's office. Arising from that examination and in order to progress the matter further, Department Officials met with Galway County Council in November 2006 and proposals which emerged from that meeting are the subject of ongoing negotiations between the Council and the promoter and the Council and the Department. The Department is awaiting a reply for the Council to a recent letter.

National Lottery Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount awarded or spent by his Department for various projects throughout the country from the proceeds of the national lottery in 2006; the extent to which he expects to allocate such grant aid in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5925/07]

The sports capital programme, which is national lottery funded and is administered by my Department, is the primary means of providing funding to sporting clubs and organisation and to voluntary and community organisations towards the provision of sporting facilities at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

In 2006 I allocated a total of €91.84 million to 859 sports capital projects at national, regional and local level throughout the country.

The 2007 sports capital programme was advertised in the Press on October 15th and 16th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was November 24th 2006. All applications received before the deadline are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

I will decide on the level of provisional grant allocations to be made this year having regard both to the quality of the applications received under the 2007 programme and the pattern of grant allocations and drawdowns on foot of earlier years' approvals.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 38.

Tourism Promotion.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which he will offer assistance towards community based tourism promotion groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5927/07]

My Department does not disburse any grants or supports directly to any tourism groups. All its tourism promotion funding is channelled to the Tourism Agencies — Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Shannon Development.

Community-based tourist promotion groups, which are interested in pursuing the issue of support, should contact the relevant Fáilte Ireland regional structure, Shannon Development or Dublin Tourism as appropriate.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of applications for grant aid for the development of sporting and recreational facilities in County Kildare in respect of 2007; when he expects to respond to such applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5928/07]

The sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications for funding under the 2007 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on October 15th and 16th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was November 24th 2006. All applications received before the deadline, including the 38 submitted from organisations in County Kildare, are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the full extent of his Department’s decentralisation programme to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5929/07]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department was designated by the Decentralisation Implementation Group as one of the "early mover" Departments. The tender process for the permanent building was completed some time ago and OPW selected the preferred bidder — PJ Hegarty & Sons. Planning permission has been granted. I am advised by OPW that construction of the new building is expected to commence shortly and the anticipated completion date is early to mid 2008.

In the meantime, an advance group of 44 staff relocated to temporary accommodation at Fossa, Killarney in September 2006. To date, a total of 55 staff have transferred in to the Department in order to decentralise to Killarney and my Department is now planning to transfer a further 25 staff to Fossa during the summer. The temporary premises are capable of accommodating up to 70 staff.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 38.
Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 27.

Stadium Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in regard to the development of the national stadium at Abbotstown; the costs to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5933/07]

There is no proposal to develop a national Stadium at Abbotstown since, with completion of the redeveloped Lansdowne Road Stadium and the redeveloped Croke Park the stadium needs of the three main field sports for major sports events, at national and international level, will have been catered for.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 34.

Work Permits.

Jack Wall

Question:

114 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the protection there is for applicants with work permits where their employers submit their applications for renewal of the permit late thus depriving an applicant of continuity in regard to an application for naturalisation or citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5826/07]

Applications for Work Permits are issued in accordance with the Employment Permits Act 2006 and are processed in order of receipt. I have no role or responsibility in relation to matters of naturalisation or citizenship. These are matters for my colleague the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform.

Industrial Development.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

115 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the lands owned by the IDA for industrial or commercial purposes in locations (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5894/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

116 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5895/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

117 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2007; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5896/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

118 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5897/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

119 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5898/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

120 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5899/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

121 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5900/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

122 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year since 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5901/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

123 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5902/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

124 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5903/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

125 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5904/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

126 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in the year 2006; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5905/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 to 126, inclusive, together.

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency. While I may give general policy directives to the Agency, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

IDA Ireland has informed me that it owns a total of 33.14 hectares of land in seven of the towns in question. The tabular statement below shows the location and size of each of these holdings. IDA Ireland has no land holdings in Craughwell, Headford, Kinvara, or Portumna.

During 2006 IDA hosted a total of three site visits by potential investors to two of the towns referred to in the above questions — two visits were to Tuam and one visit was to Loughrea.

A central goal for IDA Ireland is the achievement of balanced regional development. The National Spatial Strategy (NSS) and the new National Development Plan provide a framework for the achievement of this goal through the prioritization of development and investment in the Gateway and Hub locations. On this basis, IDA Ireland seeks to attract FDI into the Gateway and Hubs, as well as a small number of additional locations, throughout the West, i.e. Galway, Tuam, the linked Hubs of Ballina and Castlebar, as well as Ballinasloe and Westport.

In line with the NSS, the Agency is investing significantly in the provision of planned and focussed property solutions tailored to specific sectoral targets. IDA Ireland's sectoral emphasis is on attracting new knowledge intensive projects in Medical Technologies, Life Sciences, Information Communications and Technology and International Services. Two new Business and Technology parks have been developed in Tuam and in Ballinasloe.

Despite increasing competition, Galway County and City continues to be very successful in winning new FDI. IDA supported companies are showing very strong employment numbers in the County, now accounting for 9,923 permanent jobs.

IDA Ireland continues to work actively with the existing base of overseas companies across the County to encourage them to grow and expand. In addition the Agency is working with local groups, utility providers and other organisations to ensure that the County secures the appropriate infrastructure to enable the existing companies to grow and develop and to make the relevant locations sufficiently attractive for new projects.

Table showing IDA Land holdings

Town

Available Hectares

Athenry

0.3780

Ballinasloe

11.6615

Glenamaddy

0.9105

Gort

0.6006

Loughrea

1.9220

Mountbellew

3.4398

Tuam

14.2293

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jack Wall

Question:

127 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is in receipt of all of their entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5748/07]

The supplementary allowance (SWA) scheme is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Executive has advised that it has refused payment of qualified adult allowance and qualified child allowance (formerly child dependant allowance) to the husband in this case. The Executive has further advised that this decision has been appealed to the Executive's Appeals Office who will inform the person directly of its decision in due course.

Pension Provisions.

David Stanton

Question:

128 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his progress on the production of a Green Paper on pensions; when he expects to publish same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5873/07]

The Government is committed to producing a Green Paper on pensions as part of the social partnership agreement Towards 2016. The Green Paper will outline the major policy choices and the challenges we face in the pensions area. The two reports completed by the Pensions Board in 2006 — the National Pensions Review and their report on mandatory pensions, Special Savings for Retirement are major inputs to the Green Paper.

I expect that the Green Paper will be finalised by the end of March 2007 and published thereafter. A consultation process will then take place and the Government will publish a framework for future pensions policy on foot of this.

Social Welfare Benefits.

David Stanton

Question:

129 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 189 of 31 January 2007, the weekly cost of all family income supplement payments; the average weekly payment; the expenditure on FIS in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5875/07]

David Stanton

Question:

130 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated cost to his Department in 2007 of the family income supplement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5876/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 130 together.

The total cost of family income supplement payments is approximately €2.75 million per week at present. The average weekly payment is €125. Total expenditure in 2006 was €107 million.

The Family Income Supplement is designed to provide cash support for employees on low earnings with families. This preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were claiming other social welfare payments.

There are currently 22,009 people in receipt of a weekly FIS payment. My Department has received 13,591 new claims in 2006 compared with 7,781 in 2005.

The financial provision for FIS in 2007, which will take account of the most up-to-date information on recipient numbers as well as the improvements announced in the Budget, will be published in the Revised Estimates Volume next week.

David Stanton

Question:

131 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of family income supplement recipients who received the back to school clothing and footwear allowance in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5877/07]

David Stanton

Question:

132 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of families eligible for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance who did not apply for and receive the payment in 2006; the percentage take-up rate of the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5878/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 132 together.

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme (BSCFA) operates from the beginning of June to the end of September each year and is administered on behalf of my Department by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). Applications for the allowance may be made between the beginning of June and the end of September each year. Some 84,800 families with approximately 172,000 children benefited from the scheme in 2006 at a cost of €25.4m. This is an increase on the 2005 figures when some 76,166 families with 157,254 children benefited at a cost of €16.7m. Some 90% of all applications received in 2006 were successful. Some 19,323 applications were refused in 2006.

Statistics are not available on the numbers of people who could qualify for, but do not apply for, back to school clothing and footwear allowance. There were some 20,000 people in receipt of FIS last year when the back to school clothing and footwear scheme was in operation. The Department's records show that almost 4,000 of these applied for and were awarded back to school clothing and footwear allowance. As FIS is payable in conjunction with one-parent family payment (OFP) and other payments, FIS recipients will also have received back to school clothing and footwear allowance as OPF recipients.

David Stanton

Question:

133 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of child dependant allowances currently being paid by his Department; the number of families currently in receipt of CDA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5879/07]

At the end of December 2006, there were child dependant increases payable at the full rate in respect of 258,812 children and at half rate in respect of 82,554 children. The current estimated number of families in receipt of child dependant increases is 213,406.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

134 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in relation to decentralisation (details supplied) in County Galway; the number of people seeking transfer; the site of the new offices; the progress being made on provision of a building; the completion date for the new building; and the date on which the transfer will be complete. [5908/07]

The decentralization of the National Roads Authority (NRA) has not been identified by the Decentralization Implementation Group as an early mover. 90 posts have been identified for decentralization and the NRA has 66 external applicants and 1 internal applicant. Implementation issues, including the identification of accommodation are being pursued, by the Agency itself and the OPW is actively seeking potential sites in Ballinasloe.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

135 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in relation to decentralisation (details supplied); the number of people seeking transfer; the site of the new offices; the progress being made on provision of a building; the completion date for the new building; and the date on which the transfer will be complete. [5909/07]

Work is well advanced on this move to Loughrea in respect of both Departmental and Road Safety Authority staff. 50 posts have been identified for decentralization. There are 18 internal Department applicants and 72 external applicants from other Departments and agencies. The address of the new offices is Clonfert House, Bride Street, Loughrea, Co. Galway. The building was formally handed-over to the Office of Public Works this month and the transfer of staff is expected to be completed by end of quarter three 2007.

Air Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

136 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that adequate resources are available to the Irish Aviation Authority to provide the appropriate level and quality of oversight of Irish aviation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5750/07]

The Irish Aviation Authority was established under the Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993 with responsibility for the safety regulation of the Irish aviation industry and the provision of Air Traffic Management services in Irish airspace. The Authority exercises its safety regulation functions and service provision functions in accordance with the norms of international standards and procedures, both European, i.e. EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency), JAA (Joint Aviation Authorities), Eurocontrol, and global, ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Authority). It is, furthermore, the competent authority for purposes of the EU EASA Regulations.

The question of resources within the Authority is entirely a matter for the Board. The Authority has advised me that its workforce in the safety regulation area has been reinforced in the operations and airworthiness areas to take account of growth in the aviation industry.

My responsibility in relation to the safety functions of the Authority arises under Section 32 of the 1993 Act, which requires me periodically, to commission an examination of the performance by the company of its functions insofar as they relate to the application and enforcement of technical and safety standards in relation to aircraft and air navigation. The most recent examination took place in 2004 and concluded that there is a general, positive and proactive attitude and competence vis-à-vis safety and the maintenance of a high safety level. It is my intention to commission a further examination this year in accordance with the provisions of Section 32.

The Authority has also recently being subject to external review by EASA and the JAA (Joint Aviation Authorities) and I understand that these audits concluded that the Irish Aviation Authority is performing its functions satisfactorily and is appropriately resourced for its task.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

137 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of inspections carried out per annum by the Irish Aviation Authority; his views on the increased number of safety incidents which have occurred in the industry here in recent months; if he discussed the matter with the IAA; if he has sought improvements in safety standards within the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5821/07]

The Irish Aviation Authority Act, 1993 established the Irish Aviation Authority and among the primary functions conferred on it under the Act is safety regulation of the Irish aviation industry. The Authority exercises its safety regulation functions in accordance with international standards set at both European level by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and globally by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO). To that end a total of 900 hundred plus inspections were conducted in 2006 as part of an integrated audit programme of flight operations and maintenance in Irish Aviation.

As Minister for Transport my responsibility in relation to the safety functions of the Irish Aviation Authority arises under Section 32 of the 1993 Act, which requires me periodically, to commission an examination of the performance by the company of its functions insofar as they relate to the application and enforcement of technical and safety standards in relation to aircraft and air navigation. The most recent examination took place in 2004 and concluded that there is a general, positive and proactive attitude and competence vis-à-vis safety and the maintenance of a high safety level in the organisation. It is my intention to commission a further examination this year in accordance with the provisions of Section 32.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) in my Department investigates accidents and incidents on a case-by-case basis. None of the AAIU investigations and reports on recent Public Scheduled Transport category occurrences have identified broad industry deficiencies. Reports of accidents and incidents investigated by the AAIU, including any safety recommendations made and responded to are publicly available and are published on my Department's AAIU website, www.aaiu.ie.

Public Transport.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

138 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the public transport services that serve Ballaghdereen town; if there is a bus service from the town connecting with the Mayo rail service; if not, the reason such a service has been withdrawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5828/07]

The provision of public bus services by private bus operators or Bus Éireann on specific routes to serve particular towns is a day-to-day operational matter for the companies themselves.

The table below gives details of the current Bus Éireann services notified to my Department and the private operator who is licensed for services to and from Ballaghdereen. Also shown are the services that connect to rail services.

Service

Route

Rail link

BE 22

Dublin — Mullingar — Longford — Ballina

Longford Rail Station

BE 75

Ballina — Longford — Athlone

Longford Rail Station

BE 429

Galway — Tuam — Castlerea

Tuam Rail Station

BE 451

Ballina — Charlestown — Longford

Longford Rail Station

BE 460

Sligo — Castlerea

APL 95075 — Andrew Treacy

Ballina — Athlone RTC (Student service)

Road Safety.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

139 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the number of road traffic accidents that were recorded on a road (details supplied) in County Galway in 2005 and 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5915/07]

Statistics relating to road accidents are based on information provided by the Garda Síochána. They are published by the National Roads Authority (NRA) in their annual Road Accident Facts reports. The most recent report, now entitled "Road Collision Facts", relates to 2004 and is available in the Oireachtas Library and on the NRA website.

Responsibility for the collection of structured information on road safety, including the publication of the annual Road Collision Facts Report, now lies with the newly established Road Safety Authority. I understand that the statistics relating to 2005 are currently being analysed and authenticated in preparation for publication. The statistics relating to 2006 are still being compiled.

I expect to receive the 2005 Report from the Road Safety Authority shortly and I will lay it before the Houses as soon as possible thereafter. I do not hold any specific information on the number of accidents recorded on any particular stretch of road for any specific period. This information may be available directly from the Gardaí.

Architectural Heritage.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

140 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the grant aid available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork to carry out works to their shop front which has a heritage status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5811/07]

Funding for such projects is available under the LEADER programmes. Although all funding under the current round of LEADER programmes has now been committed to projects, funding will be available under the new Rural Development Programme which is expected to start in the coming months.

Community Development.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

141 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to an application by a centre (details supplied) in County Galway for funding under CLÁR as a top up to funding received from the GRD; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the community centre is in dire need of a massive refurbishment; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that it is a building that is used every day and night of the year by the community in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5838/07]

Community-based projects attracting less than 50% public funding under LEADER may qualify for CLÁR top-up funding, subject to certain conditions. Applications for funding are made to the local LEADER Group. Enquiries have been made with GRD but, to date, no application has been forwarded to my Department.

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

142 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a single farm payment for 2006 will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [5745/07]

The position is that an application for the Transfer of Entitlements under the Single Payment Scheme to the person named was submitted on the 30th November 2006. The application was accepted even though the closing date for receipt of completed applications to transfer entitlements was the 16th May 2006.

During processing of the Transfer application, it was necessary for an official of my Department to request specific documentation relating to the application. The requested information was received and the application is now fully processed. Payment in respect of €46.17 standard entitlements, transferred by way of inheritance, will issue shortly.

Veterinary Inspection Service.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

143 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of veterinary inspectors in her Department’s special investigation units; the inspection levels carried out by this unit over recent years; and her plans to provide extra resources to this unit in view of the concern over the amount of undetected illegal substances being used on animals here. [5762/07]

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) was established in the late 1980s to deal with serious problems relating to use of illegal substances (hormones, angel dust etc.) in animal production. Over the intervening years, the remit of the Unit has been expanded to assist in the implementation of various schemes and in particular to investigate breaches of legislation governing animal disease control, identification and smuggling, animal medication, etc.

Staffing in the Unit has expanded over the years to reflect its extended role and its dedicated staffing currently stands at 14. In addition, there are 13 staff in the Unit who deal with identification and traceability aspects and, where necessary, the Unit can be expanded by resources from other areas of the Department, including District Veterinary Offices. I am satisfied that the staffing levels available are adequate and I do not propose to assign extra resources to the Unit at this time.

The work of the Unit involves regular inspections, monitoring, investigations and follow up work including preparation of cases for prosecutions and attendance at court. Following are details of the number of formal investigations initiated by the Unit over the past 3 years:

Year

Number

2004

76

2005

80

2006

78

With regard to illegal substances, extensive monitoring carried out by my Department on farms and at slaughtering plants indicates strongly that use of such substances is a not a current feature of Irish farming as evidenced by the absence of any confirmed positives out of over 21,000 samples tested for such substances over the last 3 years. This positive situation is due in no small way to the consistent work of the SIU since its inception, whose investigations led to 250 persons being convicted of various offences under animal remedies legislation since 1996, resulting in 72 persons receiving custodial sentences and fines of c. €950,000 being imposed.

While the reducing trend of prosecutions in more recent years also reflects a greater culture of compliance resulting from enforcement activity in earlier years, my Department continues to be extremely vigilant in this area. I might also state that my Department works closely with other national agencies, such as the Garda Síochána and Customs, as well as with equivalent agencies elsewhere in the EU, as part of its monitoring of this area. In addition, the laboratory services at the disposal of my Department work within a coordinated structure at EU level to ensure that analytical capability is kept up to date with ongoing developments.

Animal Welfare.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

144 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if animal cruelty legislation applies to the act of prescribing harmful substances to race animals; the penalties that apply; and the number of prosecutions taken for such an act in recent years. [5763/07]

The Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1965 are the principal statutes governing the welfare of animals, including race animals, in this country. The responsibility for pursuing complaints of cruelty under that legislation rests with An Garda Síochána. On receipt of such a complaint, the Gardaí have a statutory basis on which to investigate and bring a prosecution against any person alleged to have committed an act of cruelty against an animal. In view of this, my Department does not have details of prosecutions taken under this legislation.

The Animal Remedies Regulations 2005 regulate the act of prescribing by veterinary practitioners of veterinary medicines. As a general principle, under this legislation, a veterinary practitioner may only prescribe for any animal a medicine which, following evaluation to ensure its quality safety and effectiveness, has been licensed for the species and condition in question. However, as an exception to this general principle and in order solely to avoid unacceptable suffering in an animal, a veterinary practitioner, based on his or her professional judgement, is enabled to prescribe, within certain defined limits, products authorised for other species and other conditions.

However, of its nature, this latter provision could not legitimately be used as a basis for prescribing a product which would be harmful to the animal or to the consumer and any person breaching this provision would be liable to the penalties provided for in the legislation (up to €5,000 and/or 1 years imprisonment on summary conviction or €350,000 and/or 10 years imprisonment on conviction on indictment).

EU Directives.

Denis Naughten

Question:

145 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the process involved for a farmer seeking a derogation under the nitrates directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5764/07]

Although Ireland's application for a derogation has been approved by the EU Nitrates Committee, the European Commission has not yet issued its formal decision. Until it does so, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government cannot make the necessary amendments to the Regulations. However, my officials are actively making preparations to implement the derogation; and full information, including the detailed conditions and application procedures, will be published by my Department once the Regulations have been amended.

Denis Naughten

Question:

146 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of farm inspections carried out to date to inspect compliance with the nitrates directive; the number of farmers who were found not to be in compliance; the penalties enforced on the latter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5765/07]

The rate of on-farm inspection required for cross-compliance is 1% of those farmers to whom certain Statutory Management Requirements (including the Nitrates Directive) or GAEC apply. In 2006 this resulted in some 1350 Cross Compliance inspections under the Nitrates SMR.

The EU Regulations governing cross-compliance penalties provide that where the non-compliance results from negligence of the farmer the reduction shall normally be 3% but this may be reduced to 1% or increased to 5% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the non-compliance found. Similarly, where the non-compliance is deemed intentional the reduction shall normally be 20% but this may be reduced to 15% or increased to 100% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the non-compliance found.

In each case the applicant has the right to have any decision reviewed by my Department. The review is carried out by an officer other than the person who carried out the original inspection. Where the applicant is not satisfied with the result of the review he/she has the right to have the case referred to the Independent Agricultural Appeals Office.

Breaches of the Nitrates Directive were found during 300 of these inspections. In 78 cases the breach was deemed inadvertent, minor in nature, did not result from negligence of the farmer and was capable of occurring in practical farming situations. In these cases the tolerance regime operated by my Department was applied and the farmers in question did not suffer any financial penalty. Of the remaining 222, 90 farmers received a 1% penalty, 54 farmers received a 3% penalty, 74 farmers received a 5% penalty, and 4 farmers received a 15% penalty.

Departmental Expenditure.

Seán Ryan

Question:

147 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount of expenditure on outsourcing by her Department in 2003, 2004 and 2005; the numbers of outsourcing contracts initiated by her Department in these years; and the steps which have been taken to reduce the expenditure on outsourcing and the reliance on outsourcing by her Department in these years and for the future. [5786/07]

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Grant Payments.

Liam Aylward

Question:

148 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment under the 2006 single farm payment scheme will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [5825/07]

The position is that an application for the Transfer of Entitlements under the Single Payment Scheme from the person named was submitted on the 15th May 2006. The application has now been fully processed and payment will issue shortly.

Sugar Beet Industry.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

149 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will confirm that payment of Labour Court recommendations to farm workers in Mallow was committed to in Greencore’s application for restructuring aid. [5848/07]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

150 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will confirm that if Greencore does not honour the Labour Court recommendation to farm workers in Mallow, its current application for restructuring aid will be invalid; and if in these circumstances, when granting the application, she will make the payment of redundancy payments in line with the Labour Court recommendation a legally binding condition. [5849/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 150 together.

Under the relevant EU regulations, the restructuring aid for the sugar industry has to be drawn down on the basis of an aid application submitted by the sugar processor. The applications must contain a restructuring plan, including a social plan detailing the actions planned in particular with respect to re-training, redeployment and early retirement of the workforce concerned. In July 2006, Greencore duly submitted such an application, which indicated that the proposed redundancy payments were in accordance with the ruling of the Labour Court.

I am aware that there is an ongoing dispute between the company and the workers over the interpretation of the Labour Court recommendation. I regret that the parties have not yet resolved their differences but, as I have explained on a number of occasions, I have no function in that regard. The position regarding that dispute was outlined by my colleague the Minister for Labour Affairs, Mr. Tony Killeen TD, in reply to a Parliamentary Question on Wednesday 31 January 2007.

The aid application submitted by Greencore was approved in September subject to the outcome of the Judicial Review proceedings instituted by Greencore in respect of the Government decisions regarding the allocation of the aid. In view of these legal proceedings, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Farm Waste Management.

Denis Naughten

Question:

151 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, under the farm waste management scheme, grant assistance is provided to construct farm roadways; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5862/07]

The Farm Waste Management Scheme, which closed for new applications at the end of December 2006, does not provide grant-aid for the construction of farm roadways.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Question:

152 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide a hardship fund for landowners with land flooded for over three months in winter 2006/2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5863/07]

My Department does not have any scheme available which would cover such incidents.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

153 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the new farm retirement scheme will be operational; and the date from which it will be effective. [5864/07]

The new Early Retirement Scheme will form part of the new Rural Development Programme for the period from 2007 to 2013. The Programme was sent to the European Commission in late December and has to go through its approval process. I cannot be definite as to how long this process will take but I continue to pursue early approval. My officials are in ongoing contact about it with their counterparts in the Commission services.

Grant Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

154 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary under the 2006 scheme. [5884/07]

The position is that an application for the Transfer of Entitlements under the Single Payment Scheme to the person named was submitted on the 12th December 2006. The application was accepted even though the closing date for receipt of completed applications to transfer entitlements was the 16th May 2006. During processing of the Transfer application, it was necessary for an official of my Department to seek clarification on certain matters relating to the application. The requested information was received on the 6th February 2007. The application is now fully processed and payment in respect of 12.89 standard entitlements transferred by way of inheritance will issue shortly.

Noxious Weeds.

Willie Penrose

Question:

155 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will take steps to ensure that local authorities and other State and semi State organisations, take steps at a management level to ensure that there are no noxious weeds allowed to grow on any of the lands in their possession, and that such authorities would be called upon to implement an effective management plan to ensure that this objective is achieved particularly in view of the fact that farmers have to take steps as part of their management proposals and REP scheme plans to eradicate the menace of noxious weeds such as ragwort; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5916/07]

I wish to assure the Deputy that my Department takes seriously the issue of noxious weeds growing on the lands of State and semi-State organizations and Local Authorities. In 2006 my Department launched two publicity campaigns in February and May to raise public awareness of the need to control noxious weeds. These publicity campaigns consisted of: posters forwarded to public bodies including Garda Stations, Local Authorities, Department of Agriculture and Food regional offices, Teagasc offices and agricultural merchants for display in public places, Department press notices in the National press, and Department press releases. In addition all Local Authorities were written to again in August to remind them of their responsibilities under the Noxious Weeds Act.

My Department will be running this type of publicity campaign again in 2007 so that Public Bodies and Local Authorities continue the elimination of these weeds from public areas.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

156 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the stage of the application to transfer single farm entitlements for persons (details supplied) in County Wexford; if the application will be complete before the applications for the 2007 single farm payment need to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5947/07]

The position is that an application for the Transfer of Entitlements under the 2007 Single Payment Scheme by way of gift from the second person named to the first person named was received in my Department on the 26th January 2007.

The closing date for receipt of applications to transfer entitlements in respect of the 2007 Single Payment Scheme year is the 16th April 2007 i.e. closing date for submitting applications under the 2007 Single Payment Scheme. It will not be possible therefore to definitely process all applications for transfer of Entitlements by the 16th April 2007.

I can confirm however that my Department has examined this application and that the transfer of entitlements by way of gift from the second person named to the first person named is in order.

School Accommodation.

Seán Ryan

Question:

157 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of temporary classrooms which have been sanctioned by her Department to national schools under the rental of temporary accommodation scheme on a county basis for years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006; and the cost for the rental in each of the years referred to. [5772/07]

Seán Ryan

Question:

158 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of temporary classrooms which have been sanctioned by her Department to post-primary schools under the rental of temporary accommodation scheme on a county basis for years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006; and the cost for the rental in each of the years referred to. [5773/07]

Seán Ryan

Question:

159 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the schools and the number of classroom units within each school in the Dublin North constituency area that are currently availing of accommodation under the temporary accommodation scheme; and the average rental cost of each unit per annum. [5774/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 to 159, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. 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.

However, the current focus within my Department is to empower schools to resolve their accommodation needs, wherever possible by way of permanent accommodation. In order to reduce the amount of temporary accommodation at primary level a new devolved initiative was launched in 2003. The purpose of this initiative is to allow schools to undertake a permanent solution to their classroom accommodation needs and to achieve the best value for money. Since the introduction of the devolved initiative over 200 schools have been allocated funding under this scheme.

Higher Education Grants.

Seán Crowe

Question:

160 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied); her views on the fact that if this student did not pass their exams they would be eligible to receive both full tuition fees to lodge a grant application; and her further views on whether this anomaly penalises educational success. [5787/07]

My Department funds four maintenance grant schemes for third level and further education students. These are the Higher Education Grants (HEG) Scheme, the Vocational Education Committees' (VEC) Scholarships Scheme, the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees and the Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post Leaving Certificate Courses.

The HEG Scheme is administered by the Local Authorities on behalf of my Department. The other three schemes are administered by the Vocational Education Committees. Generally speaking, students who are entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. An approved third level course for the purpose of the HEG and the VEC Scholarship Schemes means a full-time undergraduate course of not less than two years duration and a full time postgraduate course of not less than one year's duration pursued in an approved institution. The Schemes outline the respective courses which are approved for grant purposes.

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is desired. If an individual applicant considers that s/he has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, s/he may appeal to the relevant local authority or VEC.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the relevant local authority or VEC, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in his/her case, a letter outlining the position may be sent to my Department. Alternatively, as already indicated, the local authority or VEC may, itself, in exceptional circumstances, seek clarification on issues from my Department.

Under the terms of the third level student support schemes (clause 3.3 of the Higher Education Grants Scheme), a second chance student is defined as a student, who having attended but not successfully completed an approved course, is returning following a break of at least five years in order to pursue an approved course at the same level (i.e. Second Chance Student).

My Department understands from the information supplied that the student referred to by the Deputy already holds an undergraduate degree. Accordingly, he is ineligible for a higher education grant or to benefit under the Free Fees Initiative in respect of a subsequent course at that level. Tax relief, however, is available in respect of undergraduate fees paid in publicly funded colleges here and in other EU Member States, as well as in private colleges in the State. This relief applies at the standard rate of tax and is available to full time and part time courses. Further details and conditions in relation to this tax relief are available from local Tax Offices.

Apart from the funding provided through the Student Support Maintenance Grant Schemes, financial assistance is also available from my Department through the Student Assistance Fund. The objective of the Fund, which is ESF-aided, is to assist students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise, due to their financial circumstances, be unable to continue their third level studies. Further information on this fund is available from the Student Access Officer at the college being attended by the candidate.

School Transport.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

161 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 1726 of 31 January 2007, if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the maps received from her Department, dated 12 April 2006 under a freedom of information request, differ from the map currently displayed on the Wexford VEC website; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that a letter dated 3 March 2006 from the transport liaison officer of County Wexford in Bus Éireann requested a copy of Bus Éireann’s maps to replace the catchment boundary maps then in use by the TLO; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5788/07]

The Deputy will be aware that catchment boundaries have their origins in the establishment of free post-primary education in the late 1960's and maps were drawn up at the time. No general review of catchment boundaries has taken place since the inception of the school transport scheme. A small number of local reviews were carried out over the years in certain circumstances where, for example, a new post-primary school was established in an area where previously there was none or, conversely, where a "sole provider" school closed due to declining enrolment.

No recent changes have been made to the catchment boundary maps for County Wexford. However, my Department is aware that an incorrect map was used to categorise a small number of students for school transport in the 2005/06 school year only. The error was promptly discovered and acted upon.

My Department will liaise with the Transport Liaison Officer for County Wexford regarding the map on the Wexford VEC website. If necessary, that map will be brought into line with the map retained in my Department.

In-service Training.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

162 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the project involving the Ionad Náisiúnta Oideachais at Ballyvourney, County Cork, has not commenced in view of the many commitments made in regard thereto in the past six years and of the extensive consultation that has taken place regarding the project in recent years. [5866/07]

When the establishment of an Ionad Náisiúnta Oideachais Gaeilge in Baile Bhuirne was announced in 1999 the intention was that it would function as a national centre of excellence to support the teaching of Irish and through Irish, and would engage with education institutions from pre-school to third level.

When the project went to tender, the construction costs were deemed excessive and it did not go ahead. There have been a number of developments since the original announcement. Principal among these was the establishment of An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta and the evolution of a new in-service model for teachers.

There is an overlap between the functions of An Chomhairle and the functions envisaged for the Centre in Baile Bhuirne and this has to be addressed. In addition, the new in-service model for teachers will prioritise regionalised access to a full spread of curriculum expertise through the regional education centre network.

In order to clarify the specific rationale and function of the proposed Ionad Náisiúnta Oideachais Gaeilge, officials from my Department together with officials from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs met with the interested parties. I am currently considering the views expressed by the interested parties at that meeting.

School Staffing.

John Deasy

Question:

163 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason certain teachers in a school in (details supplied) in County Waterford have no contract or terms and conditions after being employed there for a number of years and having consistently raised the issue with her Department; if this contravenes labour law; if it is in contravention of labour law that such teachers have had no pay rise since 2001; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5885/07]

The school referred to by the Deputy is administered by City of Waterford VEC. The terms and conditions of employment of teachers in the school are therefore a matter for the VEC, subject to agreed procedures.

John Deasy

Question:

164 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason teachers in special schools which are regarded as having primary school status are not tied to the benchmarking process; the reason in some cases, these teachers who have received honours degrees are deemed unqualified by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5886/07]

Qualified teachers paid on my Departments' payroll who are teaching in recognised special schools are paid on the common basic scale for teachers. They are paid appropriate qualification and post of responsibility allowances.

The salary scale and allowance details for teachers are outlined on my Departments' website.

The pay increase of 3% due from the 1st December, 2006 as a result of the implementation of Phase 1 of "Towards 2016" was paid to serving teachers recently.

If the Deputy has a specific case relating to the issues he has raised and he forwards me the details, I will arrange for officials of my Department to investigate the position.

School Closures.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

165 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if, further to her response to Parliamentary Question No. 549 of 21 November 2006, she will outline the outcome of an examination her Department was carrying out; her position as regards the need to keep a school (details supplied) in County Galway, open and operational; her views on whether in the event of this school closing, the area would have a severe shortage of school spaces now and into the future, especially in view of projected population growth figures; her views on the need for a co-educational school in the town and area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5887/07]

The Trustees of the school referred to have confirmed their intention to close the school and have recently reaffirmed to the Department that the closure will be on a phased basis and will commence in September 2007, with all students in junior cycle being given the option of proceeding to senior cycle, including the opportunity to avail of a transition year. The Trustees have also confirmed that the current site will not be available for the provision of post-primary education once the school closes.

Having considered the immediate implications of the decision by the Sisters of Mercy, I can confirm that the Department will facilitate the enrolment in Gort Community School of students from the Kinvara area by changing the existing catchment area. To facilitate an increase in enrolments at Gort Community School, any additional accommodation for the school will be treated as matter of priority by my Department. My Department will discuss the position with the authorities of Gort Community School with a view to agreeing the extent of the additional accommodation required to cater for the Kinvara students in the short and medium term.

Third Level Students.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

166 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of Irish students studying abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5892/07]

The most recent figures available from Eurostat are for 2003/04. In that year, a total of 17,422 Irish students were studying abroad. Of that number, 16,266 were studying in higher education institutions in other EU Member States. The remaining 1,156 students were studying in Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Albania, the United States and Japan. Figures for Irish students studying in other countries are unavailable.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

167 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of Irish students studying abroad under the Erasmus programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5893/07]

The most recent figures available are for the academic year 2005/2006. In that year, 1567 Irish students studied abroad under the Erasmus programme.

National Drugs Strategy.

Willie Penrose

Question:

168 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view on the extent and complexity of the drug problem here and the importance of education as a strategy to prevent misuse, the dedicated support provided by the Walk Tall programme support service will be made available to all teachers in the long term as part of their continuing professional development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5917/07]

Willie Penrose

Question:

169 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if primary schools in all local drugs task force areas and DEIS schools have access to dedicated support in drug prevention education, through the Walk Tall programme support service; if this dedicated support will be made available to all rural DEIS schools; if so, when this is expected to take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5918/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 169 together.

The Substance Misuse Prevention Programme (which is also known as the Walk Tall Programme support service) is available to all schools in local drug task force areas and to date teachers have availed of the training provided to over 325 schools. In addition to the 325 primary schools in the LDTF areas in Dublin, Bray and Cork which receive an ongoing service of support from the SMPP (Walk Tall Programme), since September, 2006, the service has notified all DEIS (Urban 1 and 2) schools about its support service and, as a result, 150 extra schools in those categories now receive a support service in drug prevention strategies from the Walk Tall Programme.

The Substance Misuse Prevention Programme is offered to teachers in summer courses in various education centres around the country (15 planned for 2007) as part of their professional development in this important aspect of their work in teaching pupils about the dangers of substance misuse.

Proposals for extending the Substance Misuse Prevention Programme to other areas of disadvantage outside the Local Drugs Task Force Areas (LDTFAs) have been made by the Steering Committee of the ‘Walk Tall' Programme.

The proposals have been received in my Department where they are currently being considered by my officials. This consideration involves consultation with the "Walk Tall" Support Programme personnel to explore, amongst other issues, the feasibility of extending the Programme to areas of disadvantage which are outside the local drugs taskforces. This includes the deployment of resources to areas of most need in accordance with the National Drug Strategy 2001-2008, including Urban Band 1 and 2 schools which are identified in the DEIS (Delivering Equality in Schools) programme.

Student Accommodation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

170 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the guidelines that must apply to student accommodation which qualifies for relief under section 372 of the Tax Consolidation Act 1997; and the methods used for establishing compliance with these guidelines. [5919/07]

In recognition of the difficulties that students can experience in obtaining suitable accommodation and following consultation with third level institutions, a special tax incentive was introduced to encourage the provision of student rented residential accommodation in Section 50 of the Finance Act, 1999. The Act provides for relevant Guidelines to be issued by the Minister for Education and Science in consultation with the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government and with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

The Guidelines detail a range of conditions that are required to be in place in order that a development may qualify for tax relief. The Guidelines are available on my Department's website and I am arranging for a copy to be provided to the Deputy.

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

Higher Education Grants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if or when children whose parents are foreign nationals in full time employment can qualify for third level education having particular regard to the fact that such children have gone through the primary or second level education cycle here but cannot attend third level education unless they meet the full costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5935/07]

My Department funds four maintenance grant schemes for third level and further education students which are administered by the Local Authorities and the Vocational Education Committees. The Higher Education Grant Scheme operates under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts, 1968 to 1992. Generally speaking, students who are entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for maintenance grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment.

Under the nationality requirement, students must hold E.U. Nationality, have Official Refugee Status or — have been granted Humanitarian Leave to Remain in the State; or

have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to an Irish national residing in the State, or be the child of such person, not having EU nationality; or

have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to a national of another EU Member State who is residing in the State and who is or has been employed, or self-employed, in the State or be the child of such a person, not having EU nationality; or

be nationals of a member county of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

Students must meet the nationality requirement at the time of entry or re-entry to an approved course. However the Grants Schemes contain a ‘change in circumstances' clause which provides that a candidate's eligibility may be assessed or re-assessed in the event of a change in circumstances in relation to, inter alia, reckonable income, the number of dependent children, normal residence and nationality, where the candidate becomes an Irish national or the national of another EU member State.

The ‘change in circumstances' provision allows candidates who acquire nationality through the naturalisation process, during the course of their studies, to apply to be assessed or re-assessed for grant assistance with effect from the academic term when the change occurs.

The decision on eligibility for third level or further education grants is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is desired.

If, however, the Deputy has a particular case in mind and provides detailed information, to the Student Support Unit of my Department, the case can be examined to ensure it was assessed correctly under the terms of the grant Schemes.

Special Educational Needs.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

172 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if access to a special needs assistant will be provided for a child (details supplied) in County Wexford; if the contents of the school based psychological report on this child have been considered by her Department in the context of their special needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5946/07]

As the Deputy is aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special needs supports, including special needs assistant (SNA) support. The SENOs also convey decisions on the applications directly to schools.

I can confirm that the local SENO received an incomplete application for SNA support in respect of the pupil in question. The SENO will consider the application further as soon as the additional information required is made available and will be in contact with the school at that point.

Schools Refurbishment.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

173 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide funding under the summer works scheme for a play area for a school (details supplied) in County Limerick which has less than 2 sq. ft. of play space per child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5948/07]

The school to which the Deputy refers made an application under the Summer Works Scheme 2007 for provision of a hardcourt play area. On the 8th January 2007 I announced details of the schools to receive funding to improve facilities under the Summer Works Scheme 2007.

Under the published prioritisation criteria governing the Scheme, external environment projects fall into category ten. This category was not reached this year. the School Planning Section of my Department has received an appeal on this decision from the school authority which is currently under consideration.

School Enrolments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

174 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school can refuse admission to a pupil within its catchment area but where siblings did not attend the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5957/07]

Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and the Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. The 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 which, subject to very limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters including the admission of a pupil to the school.

Currently, under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, parents of a student who has been refused enrolment in a school may appeal that decision to the Secretary General of this Department. Such appeals are dealt with within 30 days of their receipt and where an appeal is upheld the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student.

Otherwise, the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

175 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if he will confirm that staff in his constituency office in his Department were engaged in making phone calls extending seasons greetings on his behalf in December 2006; if he will further confirm that these were calls to all listed phone users rather than to just persons on his office database; the number of staff involved in these calls; and the number of calls made. [5923/07]

No paid staff of the Department or the Minister's constituency office were involved in the making of these calls.

National Heritage.

Ivor Callely

Question:

176 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the national monuments, historic properties and national heritage that are recognised or in State care in north city and County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5742/07]

A statutory Record of Monuments and Places, RMP, is maintained in accordance with section 12 of the National Monuments Act 1994. The RMP is published on a county by county basis and is available for public inspection in the offices of each planning authority and in one library of each library authority.

A number of the monuments listed in the RMP fall within a category defined under National Monuments Act 1930, as amended, as national monuments. These are monuments or remains of monuments the preservation of which is a matter of national importance by reason of the historical, architectural, traditional, artistic or archaeological interest attaching thereto.

Statutory protection of the architectural heritage is primarily a matter for planning authorities in the exercise of their functions under Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Each planning authority is required to include in its development plan a Record of Protected Structures within its functional area.

Under the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1999, my Department is preparing the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH). The purpose of this is to identify, record and evaluate the country's architectural heritage uniformly and consistently. Each NIAH survey, undertaken by my Department within any particular local authority's functional area, provides the basis for recommendations under the Planning and Development Act 2000 to planning authorities for the inclusion of particular structures in the Record of Protected Structures.

In March 2003, arising from the NIAH survey undertaken within the functional area of Fingal County Council, I recommended 665 structures for inclusion on the Fingal County Council Record of Protected Structures. The NIAH survey for Fingal is published on the website www.buildingsofireland.ie. An NIAH survey for the Dublin City Council area has not yet been undertaken.

In addition to the above, a number of historic properties are maintained in State care by the Office of Public Works. A list of the national monuments and historic properties in the northern part of Dublin City and in the functional area of Fingal County Council is being compiled by my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy.

Ivor Callely

Question:

177 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the level of funding available for the protection and enhancement of Ireland’s national heritage in 2007; the criteria to avail of funding for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5743/07]

The total funding available to my Department for heritage purposes in 2007 amounts to almost €70 million. Funding of some €31 million for built heritage includes sponsorship of the Heritage Council for its day to day operations and its capital grant scheme, the provision of capital financing to the Office of Public Works for works to properties in State care, support of local authorities to enable them to provide grant assistance for conservation works to protected structures, and provision for the newly established Irish Heritage Trust.

My Department has designated, and provides funding for a scheme of grants for the conservation of protected buildings. This scheme is administered by local authorities who assess and prioritise applications and approve individual grants. The scheme is aimed at assisting owners and occupiers to carry out conservation works on structures of architectural significance in the Record of Protected Structures which the local authority has listed under the Planning and Development Act 2000. Inquiries about this scheme may be made to the relevant local authority.

Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, my Department will also administer a scheme of grants for the restoration and conservation of buildings of significant architectural heritage merit and which are in public ownership or open to the public generally. Criteria in relation to the Heritage Council's grant scheme, Buildings at Risk, are available directly from the Council.

Funding of €38.553 million will also be available in 2007 to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department in respect of our natural heritage. This funding provides for running costs of six National Parks and 66 State-owned Nature Reserves, development of tourism related projects, visitor facilities and related capital projects, and salaries for industrial staff. It also provides for research and scientific study related to all areas of conservation management, and compensatory measures for landowners' costs and losses resulting from restrictions in managing their land in areas designated under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives, and for compensation for landowners who cease turf cutting activities. In 2007, this subhead will also provide funding of €750,000 of for Biodiversity Awareness.

National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Ivor Callely

Question:

178 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress that the wildlife rangers have made over the past five years; the number of wildlife rangers in place and the areas they assist in the protection and conservation of natural heritage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5744/07]

My Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service operates to implement and/or enforce wildlife and conservation measures around the country. The principal tasks carried out by the staff involved include the following: implementing and enforcing the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000, and the European Communities (Habitats) Regulations 1997, as amended; assisting in the management of National Parks, Reserves and other land for conservation along with the supervision of public access and use; liaison with landowners, farmers and community interests on natural heritage matters; carrying out wildlife research surveys and promoting knowledge of conservation; assessment of development applications and advising landowners; assessment of applications for consents and licences under the Habitats Regulations and Wildlife Acts; and monitoring and assessment of Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas to protect from damage to habitats or species.

More than 300 staff are normally available in support of this work, supplemented by up to 70 seasonal staff. Within this overall staffing resource, officers in the Conservation Ranger grade number some 74 at present, with a further four vacancies to be filled shortly. The distribution of Conservation Rangers is set out in the following table.

Division

Region

District

Number of Rangers

Eastern

North East

Kildare

4

Navan

4

South East

Kilkenny

4

Wicklow

6

Southern

South West

Killarney

10

Bantry

4

Cork

3

Nenagh

2

Western

Mid-Western

Loughrea

4

Ennis

5

Western

Newport / Ballycroy

7

Connemara

3

Northern

North-Midlands

Mullingar

4

Moyne

4

North-Western

Dromahair

6

Glenveagh

4

Total

74

Special Areas of Conservation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

179 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if turf-cutting will be permitted or restricted in special areas of conservation under the habitats regulations 1997 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5746/07]

The European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997 require the conservation and preservation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). The cutting of bog in SACs for industrial and commercial purposes has been prohibited since 1999. However, the cutting of turf for domestic use, subject to certain conditions such as a prohibition on the use of so-called "sausage machines", is generally permitted in SACs until the end of 2008.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

180 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in allowing Castleisland sewerage scheme stage two to go to tender in view of the importance of this scheme to the future development of Castleisland town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5747/07]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 1,787 and 1,838 of 31 January 2007.

Architectural Heritage.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

181 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the grant aid available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork to carry out works to their shop front which has a heritage status. [5812/07]

My Department supports a scheme of grants for the conservation of protected buildings. This is administered by local authorities. who assess and prioritise applications and approve individual grants. The scheme is aimed at assisting owners and occupiers to carry out conservation works on structures of architectural significance in the Record of Protected Structures which the Local Authority has listed under the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Enquiries about this scheme should be made directly to the Heritage Officer in Cork County Council, who it is understood will be accepting applications for funding under the 2007 Scheme until 23 February.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

182 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the thatched roof grant scheme is on operation; and if he will arrange to forward two application forms to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [5813/07]

Grant aid for the renewal or repair of thatched roofs of houses continues to be provided by my Department, subject to certain conditions being met. Application forms and scheme details have been forwarded to the person concerned.

Bog Purchases.

Denis Naughten

Question:

183 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in processing an application to purchase bog by a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; his views on whether such a delay is acceptable; his further views on whether it will negatively impact on the sale of other parcels of bog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5856/07]

An issue regarding the grant of right of way has arisen in relation to this case. This is currently being examined by my Department and the Chief State Solicitor's Office. When the matter is resolved the contracts for sale will be executed. This issue is specific to this case and would not generally arise in respect of the purchase of other parcels of bog.

Ministerial Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Question:

184 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, if he will furnish a detailed response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5857/07]

I understand that a full reply issued from my Department to the person concerned on 12 February 2007.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

185 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects the construction of the main Kinsale sewerage plant at Comnogue, Kinsale to commence and to be completed. [5867/07]

The Kinsale Sewerage Scheme is approved for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007. My Department is awaiting submission of Cork County Council's Contract Documents for the wastewater treatment plant.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

186 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the capacity constraints in relation to both industry and development in County Kildare due to the limited capacity of Osberstown waste water treatment plant; the action planned in order to overcome current difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5868/07]

The Upper Liffey Valley Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007 as a scheme to commence construction in 2007. In December 2006, I approved Kildare County Council's Preliminary Report for the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant at Osberstown; and since then the way has been clear for the Council to prepare contract documents for this element of the scheme. The Council's Preliminary Report for the collection networks in Clane, Johnstown, Kilcullen, Kill, Naas, Newbridge, Prosperous and Sallins is under examination in my Department and is being dealt with as quickly as possible.

Register of Electors.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

187 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if Irish students who are studying abroad will be facilitated to vote in the forthcoming general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5906/07]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

188 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to facilitate Irish people, registered to vote here but who work or study abroad, to vote in the forthcoming general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5907/07]

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

In order to be able to vote at elections and referenda in this jurisdiction, a person's name must be entered in the register of electors for a constituency in the State in which the person ordinarily resides.

Postal voting is provided for in respect of certain categories of person as specified in electoral law. The Electoral Act 1992 provides for postal voting by wholetime members of the Defence Forces, members of the Gardaí, and Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses. Subsequent legislation enacted by the Oireachtas has extended postal voting to other categories: electors living at home who are unable to vote because of a physical illness or a physical disability (the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1996); electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day — in these cases, the law provides for completion of the necessary voting documentation at a Garda station (the Electoral Act 1997); full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State (the Electoral Act 1997); electors who because of the circumstances of their detention in prison pursuant to an order of a court are likely to be unable to go in person on polling day to vote (the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2006); and certain election staff employed at the poll outside the constituency where they reside (the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001).

While electoral law is subject to ongoing review, there are no proposals to alter the existing arrangements along the lines referred to in the Questions.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dan Neville

Question:

189 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the provision of an upgraded sewerage scheme for Dromcollogher, County Limerick. [5922/07]

The Dromcollogher Sewerage Scheme, which is being advanced as a grouped project with schemes for Bruff, Hospital and Pallasgreen, is approved to advance through planning in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007.

My Department is awaiting submission of Limerick County Council's Preliminary Report for the project.

Local Authority Housing.

Dan Boyle

Question:

190 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the guidelines that exist for local authorities installing or retrofitting heating systems in their housing stock; and if such guidelines give precedence to non-fossil fuel based heating systems. [5953/07]

In July 2004, my Department introduced a special programme for the installation of central heating in local authority rented dwellings. Local authorities were advised that the choice of heating system and associated improvements in thermal insulation was a matter for determination by the authority with reference to, the expected capital and running costs, including servicing and management and maintenance costs as well as the preference of the occupants. In addition, the environmental benefits of the chosen system e.g. reduction in CO2 emissions were also to be borne in mind.

Prior to this initiative, my Department has required since 1994 that central heating be provided in all new local authority dwellings and included in the overall cost of schemes. Local authorities are also required to comply with the Building Regulations, the Department's guidelines and other statutory requirements when installing central heating in dwellings.

A number of pilot projects, supported by the Department, in relation to the provision of alternative energy for social housing are currently underway. When these are completed and the results assessed, a decision will be made on the future direction of policy in this area.