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 6, inclusive, answered orally.

Garda Operations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

7 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made by Gardaí in Dublin under Operation Anvil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6792/07]

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

Operation Anvil is central to the strategy of the Garda Síochána in combating serious crime and in particular murder. The Operation has proved to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs. It has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the acquisition of intelligence on the movements of criminals. Notable improvements have been achieved in the recorded number of incidents of crime being targeted by the Operation. In particular, crime statistics for the fourth quarter of 2006 showed an increase of 34% in detections of possession of firearms which contributed to the reduction of 3.4% in discharges of firearms. Operation Anvil has also contributed to the increase in that quarter of detections of offences of possession of drugs for sale or supply which is closely associated with many murders using firearms.

The most recent figures available to me, up to 11 February, show the massive effect which Operation Anvil has been having since its inception in May 2005. In the Dublin Metropolitan Region there have been 7,488 arrests for serious crimes, comprising of 69 arrests for murder, 1,916 arrests for burglary, 880 arrests for robbery and 879 arrests for serious assaults. There have also been 1,793 arrests for theft offences. In addition 27,804 searches have been carried out, comprising 24,177 for drugs, 2,168 for thefts and 1,459 for firearms. Also 631 firearms have been seized and there have been 9,533 seizures under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act. Over 49,900 checkpoints have been carried out and property to the value of €16.2m has been recovered.

I am sure that all members of the House will join me in commending An Garda Síochána for their success in this regard.

While the Deputy's question refers to Dublin, I should mention that Operation Anvil was extended nationwide during 2006 and consists of a series of special operations, proposed by each Regional Assistant Commissioner, which are designed to focus on areas where there is a high incidence of crime.

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

Operation Anvil is, of course, only one element of the unprecedented resources being made available in the fight against crime.

I have made it clear to the Garda Commissioner that Operation Anvil will continue to be funded to the extent and as long as the Commissioner considers that it is necessary to do so and it is fulfilling its objectives.

Prison Drug Treatment Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

8 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposals he has to have a methadone maintenance programme introduced in Cork Prison; if, in regard to prisoners with addiction who are on a prescribed sedative before being sent to Cork Prison, he will outline the proposals he has to ensure that this treatment continues in prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6844/07]

The new Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy & Strategy — ‘Keeping Drugs Out of Prisons' — will see existing drug treatment programmes, including the provision of methadone maintenance programmes where clinically indicated, being expanded and enhanced. This policy envisages a multifaceted approach towards tackling the problems associated with substance misuse in the prison environment. There is particular focus on the need to assist prisoners who indicate a serious desire to tackle their drug problem and the policy states that appropriate treatment for substance misuse related problems should be available regardless of where a prisoner is located. I have obtained significant extra resources to facilitate this and the policy is in the process of being rolled out on a phased basis.

While it is intended that any treatment which is clinically indicated as being appropriate and necessary should be available to prisoners this provision will require the coordinated input and co-operation of various agencies, both internal and external. In particular it will require the co-operation of relevant community agencies to ensure the continuity of such treatment on release.

I have not been made aware to date, of any significant demand for the provision of methadone maintenance to prisoners entering Cork Prison. This matter is, however, being kept under ongoing review.

The prescription of any medication, including sedative medication, requires careful assessment. This is particularly the case given the potential for abuse associated with many sedative drugs. The Department of Health & Children recommends caution and limited prescription of such drugs and the IPS would seek to reflect such caution in the health standards promoted within prison.

Garda Reserve.

Willie Penrose

Question:

9 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda Reserve at the latest date for which figures are available; the numbers he expects will be in place by 1 June 2007; when the promised full complement of 1,500 will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6828/07]

The Garda Commissioner is proceeding with the recruitment and training of 1,500 members of the Garda Reserve. The first group of 36 Garda Reserves completed their training and were formally attested as members of An Garda Síochána on 15th December 2006. They have been deployed in Dublin (Store Street and Pearse Street), Cork (Anglesea Street), Galway City and Sligo.

The second group commenced training in the Garda College at Templemore on 20th January 2007. This group consists of 52 Garda Reserve trainees who will be deployed in Blanchardstown, Santry, Dún Laoghaire, Tallaght, Limerick, Clare, Sligo, Galway and Kerry. It is expected that they will be attested in May.

Further interviews were held in recent weeks for applicants from counties Waterford, Cork, Kilkenny, Wexford, Tipperary, Carlow, Kildare, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth, Meath and Wicklow. Applicants from other areas will be interviewed on a rolling basis over the coming weeks and months.

Training for the next group of Reserve trainees is scheduled to commence in early March and it is expected that they would be attested in June. It is also expected that further groups of Reserve trainees will commence training on a monthly basis.

By June of this year there will be three groups of trainees who will have been attested. It is difficult to specify exactly how many Garda Reserve members will be included in this group as the selection of the third group of trainees is still ongoing. As the nature of the scheme is purely voluntary, I cannot definitively say what any particular monthly intake of volunteers will be. Garda Reserve trainees will have work, family and other commitments which they will have to balance with their service with An Garda Síochána. An Garda Síochána is offering maximum flexibility in this regard to accommodate those who wish to put themselves forward for service.

While I am satisfied generally with the progress being made in the recruitment and training of Reserve members, I consider that the process of initial recruitment can be made more efficient if it is given a local dimension in that context. I have asked the Garda Commissioner and he has agreed to involve local Garda Superintendents directly in local recruitment arrangements to attract suitable candidates from the local community. This will assist in ensuring that the 1,500 target is reached as soon as possible.

The Commissioner has also recently appointed a Chief Superintendent to oversee the Garda Reserve on a full-time basis. I will of course, in conjunction with the Commissioner, keep all procedures relating to the Garda Reserve under review to ensure that target figure of 1,500 is reached.

Garda Reports.

Liz McManus

Question:

10 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has completed his consideration of the recent report of An Garda Síochána Advisory Groups published on 7 November 2007; if he will implement the recommendations of the report; if a timetable has been set for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6831/07]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

16 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has completed his consideration of the recent report of the Garda Inspectorate published on 7 November 2007; if he will implement the recommendations of the report; if a timetable has been set for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6830/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 16 together.

I published last November the two important reports recommending radical reform of the top management structure of An Garda Síochána. The reports are by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and the Garda Síochána Advisory Group chaired by Senator Maurice Hayes.

By way of background, the Garda Síochána Inspectorate was established in July 2006. Its objective under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 is to ensure that the resources available to An Garda Síochána are used so as to achieve and maintain the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness in its operation and administration, as measured by reference to the best standards of comparable police services. This is the Inspectorate's first report. The Advisory Group was appointed by me in August 2006 to advise the Garda Commissioner on addressing the leadership and management challenges currently facing the Garda Síochána. This is the Advisory Group's first, and interim, report to the Garda Commissioner.

The reports recommend enhanced civilian support for senior Garda management and urge accelerated recruitment of civilian support staff so as to release Gardaí for operational duties. Some key recommendations include

a new civilian post at Deputy Garda Commissioner level to deal with administration and resource management, including areas such as finance and information technology,

six civilian Director level posts, namely Legal Affairs, Human Resource Management, Information and Communications Technology, Strategy, Forensic Support and Communications. More generally, the Advisory Group urges,

a new post of Assistant Commissioner for professional standards, reporting direct to the Garda Commissioner.

maximum delegation of operational responsibility to the Assistant Commissioners in charge of the Regions, with appropriate support by civilian staff in areas such as finance, HR and analysis,

a realignment of the Garda Síochána's organisational chart to recognise the central role of these Regional Commissioners and the core policing functions they exercise.

I very much welcome these timely reports as a very significant contribution to the current reform and renewal of An Garda Síochána. I have brought the reports to the attention of the Government and at its meeting on 19 December, 2006 the Government, as part of a number of measures it took to strengthen the capacity of An Garda Síochána to combat crime, approved the creation of 7 new senior civilian management posts, including a new Deputy Commissioner equivalent, in the senior management structure of An Garda Síochána, as recommended by the Hayes Group and by the Garda Inspectorate. The Garda Commissioner is now finalising arrangements for the recruitment of these senior managers.

The Garda Síochána Inspectorate is currently undertaking an operational and administrative assessment of the Garda Síochána, including resource allocation and the deployment of Garda and civilian personnel. I have asked for an interim report from the Inspectorate on its assessment and I have been informed that its report in this regard is at an advanced stage of preparation and will be submitted to me in the coming weeks. Following receipt of that report, I intend to bring specific proposals to Government at that stage in relation to the implementation of its recommendations.

Finally, I should emphasise that the reports on the reform of the Garda management structure are the beginning and not the end of a process of reform and modernisation. I want to thank the members of the Advisory Group and the Inspectorate for the work they have put into these reports, and I also want to acknowledge the co-operation they have received from An Garda Síochána.

Garda Equipment.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

11 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent claim made by the president of the Garda Representative Association, that outmoded equipment, broken radios and delayed delivery of promised new supplies were hampering the Gardaí in the battle against crime; his views on the criticism; the steps he is taking to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6829/07]

I am aware of the views expressed by the President of the Garda Representative Association which I believe were reported late last year in the media.

I reject the reported remarks out of hand. The record will clearly show that under this Government An Garda Síochána has never been better resourced. Deputies can judge for themselves the level of investment in An Garda Síochána under this Government. Over the past 10 years unprecedented resources have been provided by Government to An Garda Síochána in their fight against crime. This year alone, the Garda budget is over €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms. Capital and related expenditure over the period 1997 to 2006 amounts to over €500m. This year the capital provision including Garda building programme provisions under the Office of Public Works will amount to approximately €69m.

These resources have enabled An Garda Síochána to significantly upgrade the range of equipment and services available to support them in their daily fight against crime.

A major development is the current rapid expansion and upgrading of the Garda fleet. The total spend for 2006 on the purchase of new vehicles to upgrade the Fleet was €27.45 million and this sum was used to purchase 1,378 vehicles. Over half the entire fleet was replaced in one year, and further investment will be made this year.

On the question of radio equipment the Deputy will be aware that a state of the art digital radio service is in the process of being procured for An Garda Síochána and other emergency services. Tetra Ireland Limited has been selected by the Department of Finance as the preferred supplier of the service. Work has already commenced on a Service Performance Evaluation which involves the provision of a live working system covering a significant part of Dublin and surrounding areas. An Garda Síochána, as one of the principal users of the service, will play a major role in the evaluation and testing of the network and equipment. The Service Performance Evaluation will enable the preferred supplier, Tetra Ireland, to demonstrate that it can deliver all the aspects of the system and provide a fully working solution that meets all of the requirements of an emergency services network.

Subject to a successful outcome of this evaluation phase and completion of parallel contract negotiations, a contract for the provision of the nationwide services will be signed. Completion of the system nationwide is expected within two years after the Service Performance Evaluation.

In the interim, Garda authorities inform me that where existing radio equipment is found to be faulty it is repaired. When it is not possible to effect repairs, the equipment is replaced thereby maintaining existing levels of radio infrastructure.

Another issue regularly raised in relation to Garda equipment is the provision of anti-stab vests. A contract for the supply and delivery of 11,000 Anti-Stab vests, with an option to purchase an additional 4,000, has been put in place by An Garda Síochána. These Anti-Stab Vests will be provided to all uniform members. A fitting and delivery programme commenced on 8th February and it is anticipated that in excess of 1,000 vests will be issued to uniform members by the end of this month and distribution will be completed within the next number of months.

In addition, a separate contract for the supply and delivery of up to 2,100 Ballistic Vests, which have anti-stab properties, is in place. These Ballistic Vests are being provided to Detective Gardaí and those employed on a long term basis as aides to Detective Units. A total of 1,300 vests have been issued and a further order has been placed for delivery of an additional 300 Ballistic Vests. This is a major development in the provision of safety equipment for members of An Garda Síochána.

Other major projects that are currently underway include a range of Information Technology projects such as a Major Incidents System, a new automated fingerprint system, a new Computer Aided Dispatch System and a new Ballistics System. In addition, I recently announced that An Garda Síochána will very shortly issue tenders to the market for a major expansion of the town centre CCTV system with a total of 17 towns around the country set to benefit from the scheme. This is in addition to the grant aid provided by my Department under the Community based CCTV scheme.

This huge programme of investment in An Garda Síochána, together with the current major expansion of Garda numbers, will significantly enhance the capacity of the Force to combat crime and bring criminals to justice.

Garda Deployment.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

12 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí currently assigned to community policing; if he will confirm that this represents less than 4% of the overall strength of the force; his plans to increase the number of community Gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6827/07]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the number of designated full-time Community Gardaí assigned at 31 December, 2005 and 2006 was 453 and 497 respectively. The 2006 figure is almost 4% of the current personnel strength of An Garda Síochána and represents an increase of 44, or 10% in the number of Gardaí assigned to community policing duties over the previous year's figure. Of course all uniformed Gardaí carry out community policing functions.

The term Community Garda describes a member of An Garda Síochána working full-time in a specified area and assuming responsibilities and performing duties which relate to that area.

It is designed to give local neighbourhoods/ communities a more personalised and comprehensive Garda service. By its nature, it is the cities and larger towns which benefit most from the adoption of Neighbourhood/Community Policing. Areas which have not had regular contact with An Garda Síochána get the opportunity to know and build up a relationship with a member of the force.

A review of Community Policing in Ireland is currently being carried out and it is anticipated that the review will be completed in 2007. This review will take into account of international best practice in this area.

When completed, the finished review will inform a National Model of Community Policing, which is a Strategic Goal in An Garda Síochána's Corporate Strategy.

I know that the Garda Commissioner will take full account of the needs of Community Policing in his allocation of the very considerable increase currently under way in the strength of the Force. The attested strength has increased by well over 2,000 since June 1997 — which is more than 20% of an increase. There are now more than 14,000 attested members and recruits in training and this means that Community Policing and other operational areas in the force will continue to grow in strength.

Garda Training.

Jack Wall

Question:

13 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the time devoted to each of the five phases of Garda training, both in the Garda College and at Garda stations; if there has been reduction in the time for any of the five phases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6851/07]

The current Garda recruit training programme is of two years duration and is made up of 5 separate but integrated phases. The time devoted to each phase of training and the location of each phase of training is as set out as follows:- Phase 1 involves 22 weeks in the Garda College. Phase 2 involves 24 weeks in a Training Garda Station. Phase 3 involves 12 weeks at the Garda College and 4 weeks at a Training Garda Station. Phase 4 involves 38 weeks at a Training Garda Station and Phase 5 involves 4 weeks at the Garda College.

There has been no reduction in the Garda training programme. The only change in recent times has been an adjustment in Phase 3 so that 4 of the 16 weeks in that Phase are spent in a Garda Station rather than at the Garda College. This training programme is being managed in such a way as to ensure that the accelerated intake of 275 recruits per quarter into the Garda College will result in the Government's target of a total Garda strength of 15,000 being met.

Departmental Evaluations.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

14 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency can expect to receive the conclusions of his Department’s internal evaluation of the pilot project; if the project will receive multi-annual funding, if the conclusions are positive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6855/07]

I can inform the Deputy that the final report of the completed pilot project by the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency (NDVIA) was received by my Department on Thursday 25th January 2007. Following the delivery of the report, further funding for the project on an interim basis was agreed by my Department and representatives of the NDVIA.

Officials of my Department are now reviewing this final report, together with the 2006 external evaluation of the pilot project. The aim of the understandably localised pilot project was to develop an integrated response to domestic violence. We need now to consider fully how we are to progress this objective on a nationwide basis.

The analysis of the findings of the pilot project is taking place in the context of a major policy review in my Department and the development of a new Strategic Action Plan for the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women. I expect that Minister of State Frank Fahey and I will bring proposals to Government shortly in relation to the establishment of a domestic violence agency which will ensure the development of a well co-ordinated "whole of Government" response to violence against women.

Equality Issues.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

15 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the activities and policy moves that will be taken under his portfolio as part of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2522/07]

The Equality Authority has been designated as the National Implementing Body for Ireland to organise its participation in the European Year of Equal Opportunities for all.

The Equality Authority in its role of National Implementing Body is responsible for defining the national strategy and priorities of the Year, while ensuring a balanced treatment of all nine grounds under Irish equality legislation.

The Equality Authority launched its national strategy, "2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All — A National Strategy for Ireland" on 5 February this year. A copy of this publication has been placed in the Oireachtas Library for the information of Members and it is also available on the Equality Authority's website, www.equality.ie.

The Authority has developed its strategy having due regard to the objectives of the year agreed by the European Parliament and Council. These are:

to raise awareness of rights under the equality legislation,

to promote the participation of under-represented groups in all sectors,

to encourage a celebration of diversity in society, and

to support social cohesion and good relations between groups.

The National Strategy is an ambitious programme of over 30 distinct initiatives across six priority areas of activity, namely information and advocacy, equality mainstreaming, equality competence, equality debate, burning issues and multiple discrimination.

The strategy has been developed having regard to commitments made in Towards 2016 the national agreement between the Government and the social partners. The issues selected contribute to the implementation of the broad range of national action plans developed in relation to groups experiencing inequality.

This strategy will be implemented in parallel with a strategy for the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All in Northern Ireland, with appropriate links between the two strategies. It will also build on existing links with the "For Diversity against Discrimination" campaign of the European Union. It will also make links with the final year of the EQUAL Community Initiative in Ireland.

The National Strategy engages the resources of organisations such as IMPACT, the IVEA, the CSO, Pobal, Chambers of Commerce and the Universities.

Priorities addressed in the Strategy include initiatives which:

enhance the provision of information on rights to those groups experiencing inequality,

build an institutional infrastructure to ensure equality is a consideration in planning and policy making,

bring about institutional change to ensure organisations are effective in combating discrimination, making adjustments for diversity and promoting full equality in practice,

engage key stakeholders in a national debate on issues of equality, diversity and discrimination, and

focus on the identity, experience and situation of those groups at the intersections of the grounds covered by equality legislation.

The range of activities to be undertaken during the year includes several awareness campaigns, covering issues such as work life balance, ageism, anti-racism in the workplace and disability. Conferences celebrating 30 years of Gender Equality Legislation, an NGO conference and a conference celebrating 70 years of the Constitution and Equality in the Constitution are planned for the Year. The Equality Authority has also established a funding programme to support non-governmental organisations at national level seeking to organise activities to mark the European Year and to achieve a longer-term legacy for the Year.

Question No. 16 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Prisoner Costs.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

17 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the high cost per prisoner of keeping a person in prison here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6803/07]

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

I would caution that there is no information readily available to me on the precise methodology and procedures used by our international counterparts in the preparation of their figures for costs per prisoner and this should be borne in mind in any comparison of these figures to the current Irish figures.

Significant factors in determining prison costs include the size and age of institutions and the regime applied to prisoners. For example average annual costs per prisoner for prison institutions in the USA are generally lower than in this jurisdiction but the regimes applied would not necessarily be of a type that would apply in this jurisdiction.

The comprehensive change Agreement reached with the Prisons Officers Association in 2005, which has been successfully rolled out throughout the Service, has brought to an end the chronic problem of escalating overtime costs and introduced a range of other efficiencies. The savings arising from these efficiencies are contributing significantly to the control of costs, including the overall cost of keeping an offender in custody.

In addition the development of new prison facilities, particularly at Thornton, and for the Munster region will provide an opportunity to further reduce operating costs while providing an improved regime for prisoners and staff.

Drug Seizures.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

18 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of heroin seized during 2006; the way this compares with 2005; his views on the huge increase in seizures of heroin, especially in view of the fact that the UN suggest that such seizures account for only around 25% of the total on the market; the steps the Gardaí are taking to reduce the flow of illegal drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6834/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the volume and street value of heroin seized for 2005 and 2006 is as set out in the following table:

Heroin seizures made by An Garda Síochána 2005-2006

Year

Quantity

Estimated Street Value

kgs

€m

2005

32

6.4

2006*

136

27.2

* The figure for 2006 is provisional and may be subject to change pending the publication of An Garda Síochána's Annual Report for 2006.

I am also informed that the increase in the amount of heroin seized during 2006 is directly attributable to increased law enforcement through intelligence driven operations at national, regional, divisional and district level which is co-ordinated by the Garda National Drugs Unit in conjunction with other specialist Garda units and local Garda management.

An Garda Síochána invokes a number of broad strategic responses in addressing the issue. These include the following:

Identifying, targeting and dismantling national and international drug trafficking networks which supply and distribute illegal drugs within this state

Conducting intelligence driven operations focusing on all aspects of the illicit drugs trade including commodity, logistics, distribution and financing.

Working with other national and international law enforcement agencies on joint actions designed to reduce the availability of drugs and the proceeds derived from the drugs trade

Working in partnership with statutory, community and voluntary groups to reduce both the supply and demand for drugs within society.

Significant drug seizures including the considerable increase in the amount of heroin continuing to be seized in recent times have been made as a result of these operations. The operations, which are ongoing, continue to dismantle drug trafficking networks and have led to the arrest in recent times of major criminals both based here and abroad who are involved in the drugs trade.

The record level of resources, both in financial and personnel terms, being made available to An Garda Síochána this year is proof of the Government's commitment and determination to ensure that the Garda authorities will continue to implement targeted, intelligence and high intensity operations against organised crime with a special focus on drugs crime. This commitment is further evidenced by the fact that the allocation for the Garda Vote for 2007 is up by €135.3m to €1.445 billion — an increase of 10% on the allocation for 2006.

Furthermore we are ensuring that our law enforcement agencies have a strong legislative platform from which to operate in their work in tackling those involved in such criminal activity.

While we already have a strong legislative package in place for tackling drug trafficking, the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for further measures which will enhance the powers of the Gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of drug offences.

In addition, I recently secured Government approval to bring forward a further package of legislative proposals as a matter of priority to further counter the threat posed by gangland activity, especially in relation to drug trafficking and firearms.

Of course the Government would view with concern any apparent rise in the level of any illegal drugs being trafficked into this country. However, as I have pointed out the seizures also reflect the increasing success of the Garda's law enforcement measures targeting drug trafficking.

The drugs situation is dictated by global developments, it is dynamic and ever changing and our policies need to be flexible to meet those changes. For example, recent international data from the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime suggests that the level of heroin production, particularly in Afghanistan, has significantly increased in recent times and this undoubtedly has a direct effect on the amount of heroin in circulation globally.

In terms of estimating the proportion of drug seizures made in this jurisdiction by our law enforcement authorities in relation to the overall volumes of drugs being trafficked, obviously given the clandestine nature of this illegal activity this is extremely difficult to quantify with any degree of certainty and is speculative.

However, what can be said in this regard though is that the global illicit drug trade is, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reputed to exceed billions of US$ annually. That UN office estimated in 2005 that global seizures for that year accounted for 44% of cocaine production, 28% of cannabis resin, 25% of opium production, 7% of amphetamines and 4.7% of ecstasy.

Undoubtedly, drug misuse remains one of the most complex social ills faced globally. Our drug law enforcement response is of course a vital feature of our overall response in addressing the issue but we cannot just look at the issue from a supply reduction perspective only.

Rather, we must examine the drugs problem in the wider context in which it takes place and take cognisance of the fact that the demand for and the use of illegal drugs is what fuels the drugs trade. The measures that we have in place to address the problem must take account of this.

The Government remains resolutely committed to tackling the problem through our National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008.

The National Strategy addresses the problem under pillar headings of education and prevention, supply reduction, treatment and rehabilitation and research and is firmly founded on the principle that drug misuse needs to be addressed in an integrated manner across these headings through a co-operative approach involving the statutory, community and voluntary treatment sectors.

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, under the stewardship of my colleague and Minister of State Mr. Noel Ahern, T.D., is the lead Government Department in co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy.

My Department's remit in this area, while not exclusively, is primarily in the area of drug supply reduction, and drug law enforcement remains a key feature of the Government's drug policy framework.

Finally, I can assure the House that the policy of targeting those involved in organised crime including drug trafficking and the gun culture with which it is associated remains the Government's top policing priority.

Prisons Inspectorate Reports.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

19 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take to address the Irish Prisons Inspectorate Report on Castlerea Prison (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6865/07]

The Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention recently submitted a report to me on a visit he carried out in Castlerea Prison. In his report the Inspector concluded that the prison is well managed. However, as well as pointing out a number of areas where there have been significant positive developments, he did raise some issues where further improvements could be made. I am happy to say that some of the issues raised by the Inspector have already been progressed and the Irish Prison Service is endeavouring to deal with the others as quickly as practicable.

The Irish Prison Service has made significant efforts in recent years to recruit a psychologist for Castlerea Prison. A recruitment competition in 2006 identified a suitable candidate for the post; regrettably however, that candidate withdrew from the competition prior to appointment. Efforts to source psychological services on an inreach basis from the local health services have also been unsuccessful to date. Efforts are continuing to be made to source an appropriate service for this prison and consideration is still being given to all options, including contracting services on a sessional basis. The employment of full-time psychologists for the prison still remains the optimal approach.

The experience of Castlerea Prison is indicative of the tight labour market in which the Service continues to operate. In the market for psychologists the Irish Prison Service is in competition with other public bodies when trying to attract recruits. Prison presents a very challenging environment to work in and understandably some psychologists prefer to work in the community.

In order to broaden the base from which the Service can draw, the Irish Prison Service in recent years has recruited both Forensic and Counselling Psychologists, where previously only Clinical Psychologists had been recruited. While this has broadened the base somewhat, the pool of suitable candidates remains small and recent recruitment competitions have involved many applicants who work outside of Ireland.

I have been informed that the computer workshop was only closed for a period of two to three weeks due to staff changes on promotion, and this coincided with the Inspector's visit. The Irish Prison Service have confirmed that the short closure period was unavoidable and that it is currently fully operational.

Certain issues arose which prevented Roscommon County Council from proceeding with the recruitment of a full-time librarian for Castlerea Prison. I understand these issues are now resolved and the recruitment is now proceeding.

One Probation Officer is currently allocated to work full-time in Castlerea Prison. The Probation Officer assigned to Castlerea Prison is carrying out valuable work in the prison, including addressing issues impacting on offending behaviour, prisoner assessments and preparing offenders for release and reintegration in their communities. I can advise the Deputy that a strategic action of the Probation Service in its Strategy Statement 2006-2007 is to, inter alia, "refocus services to prisons and prisoners". The Probation Service is currently reviewing all operational Probation Service resources, including that provided in Castlerea.

Garda Investigations.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

20 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the source of the leak to a newspaper (details supplied) has been investigated; the persons by whom it was investigated; and if disciplinary action has been taken. [6809/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the allegation that Gardaí leaked information to the media in this case was fully investigated by Superintendent E.P. MacEoin. The High Court's determination was critical of the Garda Síochána but was not definitive in relation to any specified individual member of the Garda Síochána. Notwithstanding the High Court's decision there was insufficient evidence to ground disciplinary proceedings against any individual member.

Proposed Legislation.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

21 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to concerns voiced by a person (details supplied) who claims that his proposed legislative package to tackle organised crime is unwarranted and not justified by crime statistics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6856/07]

Joe Costello

Question:

72 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the promised Bill, in regard to the package of anti-crime measures he announced on 13 February 2007, will be published; his proposed legislative timetable for the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6823/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 72 together.

On 13 February 2007 I published the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice Bill 2007. This legislation is being brought forward to counter the threat posed by crime gangs which, as I have repeatedly stated, represents one of the most significant threats to our society since the advent of the paramilitaries in the 1970s. It is against that background that the Government has decided that it must introduce legislation which, although severe, is proportionate to the threat we face.

The proposed legislation — ensuring bail operates as the people intended when they voted to change the Constitution in 1996, ensuring the right to silence is properly construed, increasing detention periods, lengthening the sentences to be served and providing a focus to undermine the support systems gang bosses build around themselves — is one of the most comprehensive anti-crime legislative packages ever brought forward.

I intend that the Criminal Justice Bill 2007 will be published within the next few weeks and I with the co-operation of all this House look forward to bringing the Bill through all stages in the Dáil and Seanad before the Easter recess.

The Bill will amend several areas of law directly relevant to the Garda fight against gangland crime:

Detention Periods

Detention of suspects for up to 7 days already applies in the case of drug trafficking offences. This new legislation will make it possible to detain for up to 7 days those suspected of murder involving use of a firearm, use of a firearm with intent to endanger life and so-called ‘tiger' kidnappings and similar activities.

Right to Silence

The law in this area is being extended through allowing inferences from silences to be drawn in the case of all arrestable offences in line with the recommendations in the Balance in the Criminal Law Review Group's interim report. New cautions will be included which will make it perfectly clear that withholding information in certain circumstances may be taken into account in determining guilt or innocence.

Bail

The proposals on bail are designed to ensure that it will be more difficult for those charged with gangland offences to get bail:

A senior Garda will be able to give his or her opinion that the applicant for bail, if given bail, is likely to commit a serious offence. That opinion shall be admitted in evidence.

The applicant may be required to provide a statement in which he or she will be required to outline his or her assets (both inside and outside the State), his or her income, the source of that income, his or her previous criminal record, his or her previous bail applications and, if bail had been granted on those occasions, the conditions that attached thereto. He or she can be cross examined on the statement. It will be an offence to give wrong or misleading information.

Appeals in bail applications from the District Court will in future be heard in the Circuit Court, thereby allowing appeals by way of full rehearing of the case.

Provision will be made for electronic monitoring of persons granted bail.

The new proposals are likely to result in the prosecution being able to mount a strong challenge in bail applications, with the result that there will be fewer applications or, where applications are made, they can be opposed more effectively.

Sentencing

There are new proposals to deal with re-offending:

Where a person who has been convicted of a firearms, drug trafficking or other offence associated with ‘gangland' activity re-offends within 7 years of release from prison, that person will get an enhanced sentence for the second offence and the proceeds of that offence, including assets acquired with the proceeds, will be confiscated.

New ‘crime prevention' orders will be introduced. These will cover some or all of the period from release up to the date when the maximum sentence for the offence, had it been imposed, would have expired. Under these orders, the person may be ordered to report on his place of residence, travel or employment and may be ordered not to associate with certain persons or stay away from certain places.

In addition, those who have been imprisoned for firearms, drug trafficking or other offences related to gangland activity may have conditions attached to any remission of sentence granted to them. A breach will result in re-triggering of the sentence.

Further clarification will be provided on the limited circumstances in which the minimum mandatory sentences currently available for drug trafficking and firearms offences may be reduced.

New Offences

The legislation will provide for new offences where a person is found in possession of equipment for use in connection with murder or drug trafficking (for example, weighing scales or money counting machines) or cash that is the proceeds of a crime or for use in the commission of a crime and where the equipment or the cash cannot be accounted for. The cash or equipment will, of course, be confiscated. This will ensure that those who assist and facilitate the gangland bosses will find themselves exposed to severe penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment.

I completely reject any assertion that this package of measures is unwarranted or unjustified. We need only recall the horrific gangland murders of the past six months and the drug and firearms seizures by An Garda Síochána to recognize that a rigorous response is required to combat the scourge of organised crime. It is no use setting an objective of ending gangland activities unless we provide the means to the relevant agents of the State to achieve that goal. This legislation, together with other measures which have been taken, such as the recent decision to increase the number of judges and the unprecedented level of resources being made available to the criminal justice system, provide those means.

A criticism has been levelled that the 7 day detention period provided for under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking Act) 1996 has never been used, and therefore that invalidates the detention provisions being proposed for inclusion in this present Bill.

The Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996 came into operation on 9 September, 1996. Section 11(1) of the Act provides that certain sections will cease to be in operation at the expiry of twelve months from the date of commencement, unless a resolution has been passed by each House of the Oireachtas resolving that all or any of the sections shall continue in operation.

The sections in question are sections 2 (powers of detention), 3 (amendment of Forensic Evidence Act, 1990), 4 (re-arrest), 5 (application of sections of Criminal Justice Act, 1984) and 6 (regulations regarding officers of customs and excise).

Since the inception of this Act, resolutions have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on six occasions to continue the operation of each of the above mentioned sections. In this regard, resolutions were passed by the Dáil and the Seanad in December 2006 to continue each of the sections in operation until 31 December 2008.

The following table sets out the statistical data provided by An Garda Síochána in relation to the utilisation of the longer periods of detention — the dates shown are related to report dates provided by An Garda Síochána during the completion of Ministerial Reports (as required under the 1996 Act) at each occasion of renewal.

Date period

Use of 48-120 hours detention period

Use of 120-169 hours detention period

9 September 1996–27 June 1997 (inclusive)

10

11

28 June 1997–30 November 1998 (inclusive)

13

10

1 December 1998–17 November 2000 (inclusive)

26

3

18 November 2000–22 November 2002 (inclusive)

20

0

23 November 2002-11 November 2004 (inclusive)

12

0

12 November 2004–24 November 2006 (inclusive)

9

0

Total 9 September 1996–24 November 2006

90

24

To say that the full 7 days may be used rarely is no argument for saying that the Gardaí should not have this provision in their armoury where it proves necessary.

We must remember that there is also an onus on the Gardaí to release people or to charge them when the detention is no longer necessary for the investigation of the offence. The fact that the Gardaí are careful in calling into use the more stringent provisions of this legislation must not be misinterpreted as implying they are easy on criminals, but rather that they are measured in their approach and are not making an excessive use of the longer detention periods.

I would also like to address the charge that bringing forward this legislation toward the end of this Dáil represents political opportunism on my part. As Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I have a responsibility to the people of Ireland to do all in my power to counter any significant threat to the safety and security of our society. Indeed, this duty extends also to all members of the Oireachtas. It would be a gross dereliction of duty for any Minister to refuse to act promptly in the face of such threats because of any extraneous timing issues.

Youth Diversion Projects.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

22 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda youth diversion projects here; the resources allocated to same; if he has plans to extend them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6793/07]

Martin Brady

Question:

33 Mr. M. Brady asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the resources allocated to Garda youth diversion projects here; the number of such projects; the impact they have had; his plans to extend them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6794/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 33 together.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seek to divert young persons from becoming involved or further involved in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda/community relations.

I am committed to the continuing development and, as resources permit, the expansion of Garda Youth Diversion Projects. It is my intention to expand the scheme to 100 projects nationwide before the end of 2007. The first phase of this expansion programme is currently being implemented with the announcement of 10 new projects in January 2007, bringing the total number of projects currently established to 84. Further proposals have been received by the Garda Commissioner and will be considered shortly in the context of the further expansion of the programme in 2007.

The total amount of funding for the Garda Youth Diversion Projects is €9.8 million for 2007. This represents an increase of 48% over funding allocated to the projects in 2006. This funding is part of an overall funding of €120m which has been secured under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 for the development and expansion of the Diversion Programme. This funding will allow for the expansion of the number of projects to 130 during the lifetime of the Plan. Alongside the expansion process, a system of evaluation will be developed and implemented to measure the effectiveness of the programme. I am confident that the expanded programme will prove to be an effective intervention for children at risk of offending.

Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

23 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the progress made in terms of getting An Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission up and running; and the date from which it will commence receiving complaints. [6813/07]

Jack Wall

Question:

43 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to the establishment of the Garda Ombudsman Commission; the number of staff recruited to date; when the Commission will be in a position to begin dealing with complaints from the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6824/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 43 together.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commissioners were appointed by the President on the 10th February 2006, following nomination by the Government and recommendations by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Garda Ombudsman Commission is planning to commence operations in May 2007. In order to meet this deadline, the Commission is now engaged in completing an extensive programme of work. This programme includes, among other things, the recruitment and training of staff, the refurbishment of a new premises and the delivery of an I.T. infrastructure.

The Commission has appointed 25 staff at this stage. Initial staff training will commence on 5th March 2007. At that stage the Commission will have appointed 37 staff and are in the process of recruiting the remaining members of its staffing complement.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Seán Ryan

Question:

24 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a response from the Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate to the copy of the Barr report that he sent to them and which he told the House he expected to receive in January 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6839/07]

Yesterday I received the report from the Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate into the review of practices and procedures for certain types of incidents. The Report sets out a number of recommendations for dealing with such incidents. The report is being considered by my Department and I have forwarded a copy to the Garda Commissioner.

Drug Seizures.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

25 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a Garda file was sent to the DPP arising from the reported arrest of a person (details supplied) in connection with the seizure of a major consignment of drugs at Ardee, County Louth in October 2005; if the Gardaí have received a response to the file; if his attention has been drawn to newspaper reports in which the person in question is reported to have boasted that they were untouchable; his response to such claims; if the case has been the subject of an internal Garda inquiry; if so, the basis of the inquiry and the outcome of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6853/07]

As papers relating to the seizure of drugs referred to in the Deputy's question are before the Director of Public Prosecutions at present, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.

Crime Levels.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

26 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the findings of the recent survey, the Burden of Crime in Europe, in which Ireland is ranked as one of Europe’s hotspots for crime; his response to the findings; the steps he will take to reduce the levels of crime reflected in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6819/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Question No. 1 of today's date.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

27 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the increase in many crimes, particularly violent crime and offences involving drugs, reflected in the annual crime figures for 2006 published by the CSO in January 2007; his views on the findings; the steps he will take to reduce the levels of crime reflected in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6820/07]

Any interpretation of the crime figures has to factor in the increase in population. In 1995, with a population of 3.6 million, there were 28.5 crimes per 1,000 of the population. In 2006, with a population of over 4.2 million, there were 24.5 crimes per 1,000 of the population, a significant reduction by any standard.

During the two full years of the Rainbow Coalition Government (1995 and 1996), the corresponding figures were 28.5 and 27.8.

Since 2003, the first full year of this Government, the figures dropped from 26 crimes per 1,000 of the population in 2003 to 24.5 in 2006, with the figures for 2004 and 2005 being 24.5 and 24.8 respectively. The crime rate per 1,000 of the population in 2006 was therefore the lowest in the period of office of this Government.

The most recent crime statistics are the provisional headline crime statistics published by the Central Statistics Office for the fourth quarter of 2006 and the full year of 2006. The figures for the fourth quarter of 2006 continue the improvement in the headline crime statistics evident since the second quarter of the year. Following a worrying increase of 10.1% in the first quarter, there was a slight increase of 0.8% in the second quarter, followed by accelerating decreases of 1.5% and 3.2% in the third and fourth quarters. As a result, the outturn for the year was an increase in headline crime of 1.4%, compared with an increase of 3% in 2005.

The Garda Commissioner has reported that there was also an increase in the detection rate in 2006 with the overall detection rate at 40%, compared with rates of 36% in 2003 and 35% in 2004 and 2005.

The continuing high level of drug seizures being made by the Gardaí, their continued success in bringing serious drug traffickers to book and their increasing detection of drug related offences as identified in the report is to be warmly applauded.

Operation Anvil is central to the strategy of the Garda Síochána in combating serious crime and in particular murder. The Operation, which commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in May, 2005 and was subsequently extended nationwide at my request, has proved to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs. It has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the acquisition of intelligence on the movements of criminals. Notable improvements have been achieved in the recorded number of incidents of crime being targeted by the Operation. In particular, I am pleased to note the increase of 34% in detections of possession of firearms in the fourth quarter of 2006 which I believe has contributed to the reduction of 3.4% in discharges of firearms. I believe that Operation Anvil has also contributed to the increase in that quarter of detections of offences of possession of drugs for sale or supply which is closely associated with many murders using firearms.

In addition to the introduction of Operation Anvil, the Garda Commissioner in November 2005 augmented the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation with additional Garda members to address the problem of criminal gang activity. Enforcement by the Unit has resulted in further firearms being seized and a number of persons arrested, thereby disrupting their criminal activities. There has also been an increase in Garda monitoring and targeting of individuals and groups involved in armed crime in particular.

A wide range of provisions to combat gun crime were introduced in the Criminal Justice Act, 2006. With effect from 1 November, mandatory minimum sentences, of between five and ten years, came into effect for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest.

On 19 December last, the Government agreed my proposals for an unprecedented package of measures which includes:

A further increase of 1,000 in the strength of An Garda Síochána to bring the total to 15,000 over the next three years;

Sanction for 300 additional civilian administrative support posts for An Garda Síochána;

The recruitment of the 7 senior civilian posts recommended in the recent reports from the Garda Inspectorate and Senator Maurice Hayes;

An increase in the retirement age for Gardaí, Sergeants and Inspectors from 57 to 60;

A proportionate increase in the targeted strength of the Garda Reserve from 900 to 1500;

Increased staffing for the Forensic Science Laboratory, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Courts Service;

No limit on funds available for the Witness Protection Programme.

I have recently announced that the Government agreed a package of legislative proposals to counter the threat posed by gangland activity, especially in relation to drug trafficking and firearms.

These legislative proposals are in addition to the substantial package of additional resources for the Gardaí which the Government agreed in December last. Targeted Garda measures such as Operation Anvil will also continue to focus on gangland crime.

I have made it clear to the Garda Commissioner that Operation Anvil will continue to be funded to the extent and as long as the Commissioner considers that it is necessary to do so and it is fulfilling its objectives.

Martin Ferris

Question:

28 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the findings of the Garda Public Attitudes Survey 2006 which found that public satisfaction has fallen in 80% of divisions, only 42% of those who reported crime to the Gardaí were satisfied with the response and in 10% of 999 calls no Garda car responded; and the steps he is taking to reverse these trends and findings. [6811/07]

Public satisfaction with An Garda Síochána in Ireland is significantly higher than in other countries, higher than the PSNI, higher than any UK police service and higher than in any EU country.

National surveys of public attitudes to the Garda Síochána, satisfaction with service and policing priorities have been carried out every year since 1999. The Garda Annual Policing Plan 2006 provided for a survey of public attitudes to be carried out in 2006, on a Divisional basis. The Garda Public Attitudes Survey 2006 employed a national sample of about 10,000 respondents. The survey allowed analysis of results in respect of each of the 25 Garda Divisions.

The Garda Public Attitudes Survey 2006 shows that the average satisfaction in each Garda Division was 80%, ranging from 86% in Roscommon/Galway East to 68% in Waterford/Kilkenny. Through the National Policing Plans each Divisional Officer develops an action plan, identifies performance indicators and a targeted timeframe to address issues of concern identified in the Public Attitudes Survey.

The 42% of persons who reported that they were not satisfied with the response of the Gardaí, refers to satisfaction with being kept informed of progress after reporting a crime. Measures have been taken to address this and now include call backs and letters updating them of developments.

The survey shows that one in twenty respondents sought an emergency Garda response in 2005 by dialling 999 or 112, a rate similar to previous surveys. Of those who did seek an emergency response, 80% had their call answered within 10 seconds. Where an emergency response was provided, it came mostly within 15 minutes. For a number of reasons it is not always necessary that a Garda car respond to a 999 call, for example the call may have been misdirected and another emergency service was needed, not the Gardaí. The survey also shows that a majority of respondents (70%) were satisfied with the emergency response received, 1% more than in the 2005 report.

I am further informed that generally delays to responding to 999/112 occur at peak demand periods and are caused by more serious cases intervening.

Among the policing priorities for 2007 which I have determined under section 20 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 are ones to increase public confidence in law enforcement through significantly increased high visibility policing in the community and to monitor and improve response times to emergency calls while ensuring that persons reporting any crime are dealt with sympathetically and efficiently.

This policing priority is being assisted by the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The Government is satisfied that a further additional 1,000 Gardaí is necessary to ensure that the Force is properly resourced to deal with the challenges it will face.

Commissions of Investigation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

29 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a response from the Garda Commissioner to the copy sent to him of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case; if disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against any of the Gardaí involved in the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6837/07]

Assistant Commissioner has been appointed to assess the impact of the recommendations of the report of the Commission of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case for An Garda Síochána with a view to recommending remedial action where necessary. This assessment is ongoing at present and is nearing completion. I am informed that the Commissioner is expecting to receive a report on the matter in the near future.

Garda Investigations.

Joan Burton

Question:

30 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the latest position in regard to the Garda investigation into murders (details supplied); if a file on the murders has been sent to the DPP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6822/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda investigation into the murders of the persons referred to are ongoing. I am further informed that an investigation file has not been forwarded to the Law Officers at this time. The Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further as there is an ongoing Garda investigation.

Proposed Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

31 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to publish the Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill; if he will include powers to control charges imposed by estate agents having regard to recent reports that this sector was planning to increase its fees by up to 33%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6849/07]

The Government Legislation Programme published on 30 January provides for publication of the Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill in 2007. Pending enactment of the legislation, I have established an Implementation Group to assist and advise on practical matters relating to the new body and to prepare for the new licensing system. A Chief Executive designate has also been appointed and is engaged in preparatory work for establishment of the Authority.

One of the key functions of the Authority will be to increase public awareness of property services and the cost to consumers of such services, as well as the risks and benefits associated with the provision of those services. The Authority will also require all providers of property services to issue an appropriate letter of engagement to clients. Regulations prescribing the form and content of the letter of engagement will provide that it shall include an outline of the basis on which the service provider's fee will be calculated.

I believe that these provisions will ensure greater transparency in the calculation of fees and charges for property services and lead to improved consumer awareness and consumer protection.

Pension Provisions.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

32 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is prepared to address the two GSRMA proposals towards bringing closure to their pensionability issue in view of the fact that the number of members and widows involved pre-1982 are aged and fast dwindling and in respect of pre-1993 retirees who have been precluded from the pensionability of unsocial hours allowances where the proposal for closure would cost a mere fraction of the full cost of pensionability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6441/07]

The subject matter of this question is before the courts and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the matter.

Question No. 33 answered with QuestionNo. 22.

Anti-Racism Measures.

John Curran

Question:

34 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that his Department’s National Action Plan Against Racism is a success; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6797/07]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Dáil Question No. 79 of 7 December, 2006 where I outline in detail the progress made under the National Action Plan Against Racism (NPAR) since its launch in January 2005.

I am sure that the Deputy will agree that considerable progress has been made under all of the key objectives of the intercultural framework underpinning the NPAR: Protection, Inclusion, Provision, Recognition and Participation. I am satisfied that the implementation of the NPAR is progressing effectively through its key stakeholders in Government, social partners and civil society. Great credit is due to the Strategic Monitoring Group chaired by Ms. Lucy Gaffney for their work to date in its implementation.

The Deputy will be glad to learn that in its Concluding Observations on Ireland's first and second national report, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) Committee commended the State, on the adoption of the first National Action Plan against Racism. The extensive consultations with civil society organisations during the drafting of this plan were also welcomed as a positive reflection of the State's commitment to developing an ongoing and constructive relationship with civil society. Furthermore, in his follow up report on progress on the implementation of the recommendations in the UNCERD Concluding Observations, Mr. Morten Kjaerum UNCERD Follow-up Co-ordinator, again commended the State on its implementation of the NPAR. The Council of Europe body, The European Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), has also praised the work of the NPAR.

The NPAR is the cornerstone of Government policy to create a society which accommodates cultural diversity and combats racism. I am satisfied that through the reasonable and common sense measures in the NPAR, and working coherently with other government policy priorities, in particular on equality and integration, we are creating the conditions for a positive acceptance and understanding of our culturally diverse society.

Prisoner Releases.

Seán Crowe

Question:

35 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission to introduce legislation that transfers the function of release of prisoners serving life sentences from his office to an independent body. [6816/07]

The recommendation in question of the Irish Human Rights Commission is based on the premise that our existing law on the temporary release of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. There has been no specific finding of a court to this effect and my advice is that premise is questionable. The question of the compatibility of our law in this area with the European Convention on Human Rights is the subject of current litigation and the State is vigorously contesting the matter.

Previous judgements in the Irish Courts have found that the management of prison sentences is a matter for the Executive and under current legislation I, as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, am entrusted with the power to grant temporary release to a sentenced prisoner. New legislation in the form of the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act, 2003, was commenced in late 2004. The Act provides a clearer legislative basis for the power to grant temporary release by setting down the principles which apply to the exercise of this power and provides a clear and transparent basis, as well as the necessary safeguards required, for the operation of the system of temporary release. The power of release has been retained by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform under the Act.

The Interim Parole Board, which replaced the Sentence Review Group, was established on an administrative basis in April, 2001. The Board's principal function is to advise me in relation to the administration of long term prison sentences. The Board, by way of recommendation to me, advises of the prisoner's progress to date, the degree to which the prisoner has engaged with the various therapeutic services and how best to proceed with the future administration of the sentence. I consider in full all recommendations put before me by the Interim Parole Board before making the final decision regarding sentence management.

The question of the establishment of the Parole Board on a statutory basis is being kept under review, taking into account the experience gained over a number of years by the operation of the Board on an administrative basis. There are, however, no plans to introduce legislation that transfers the function of release of prisoners serving life sentences to the Board or any other body.

Garda Investigations.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

36 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the investigation into the killing of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6761/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda investigation into the murder of the person in question remains ongoing. I am further informed that this investigation involves local Garda resources supplemented and assisted by resources from national Garda units, as well as close liaison with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Garda Operations.

John Curran

Question:

37 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of checkpoints, arrests, seizures and searches made by Gardaí in the Dublin metropolitan area under Operation Anvil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6796/07]

Pat Carey

Question:

55 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on Operation Anvil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6790/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 55 together.

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

Operation Anvil is central to the strategy of the Garda Síochána in combating serious crime and in particular murder. The Operation has proved to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs. It has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the acquisition of intelligence on the movements of criminals. Notable improvements have been achieved in the recorded number of incidents of crime being targeted by the Operation. In particular, crime statistics for the fourth quarter of 2006 showed an increase of 34% in detections of possession of firearms which contributed to the reduction of 3.4% in discharges of firearms. Operation Anvil has also contributed to the increase in that quarter of detections of offences of possession of drugs for sale or supply which is closely associated with many murders using firearms.

The most recent figures available to me, up to 11 February, show the massive effect which Operation Anvil has been having since its inception in May 2005. In the Dublin Metropolitan Region there have been 7,488 arrests for serious crimes, comprising of 69 arrests for murder, 1,916 arrests for burglary, 880 arrests for robbery and 879 arrests for serious assaults. There have also been 1,793 arrests for theft offences. In addition 27,804 searches have been carried out, comprising 24,177 for drugs, 2,168 for thefts and 1,459 for firearms. Also 631 firearms have been seized and there have been 9,533 seizures under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act. Over 49,900 checkpoints have been carried out and property to the value of €16.2m has been recovered.

I am sure that all members of the House will join me in commending An Garda Síochána for their success in this regard.

While the Deputy's question refers to Dublin, I should mention that Operation Anvil was extended nationwide during 2006 and consists of a series of special operations, proposed by each Regional Assistant Commissioner, which are designed to focus on areas where there is a high incidence of crime.

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

Operation Anvil is, of course, only one element of the unprecedented resources being made available in the fight against crime.

I have made it clear to the Garda Commissioner that Operation Anvil will continue to be funded to the extent and as long as the Commissioner considers that it is necessary to do so and it is fulfilling its objectives.

The following tables show the successes of Operation Anvil.

Operation Anvil in the Dublin Metropolitan Region up to 11 February 2007

Arrests

Murder

69

Burglary

1,916

Robbery offences

880

Serious assaults

879

Theft from shops*

1,379

Theft from MPV*

110

Theft other*

304

Total Arrests

5,537

Searches

Drugs

24,177

Thefts

2,168

Firearms

1,459

Total Searches

27,804

Seizures

Firearms

631

Section 41 (Road Traffic Act)

9,533

Total Seizures

10,164

Number of Checkpoints Performed

49,900

Value of property recovered

€16,189,194

* These statistics commenced from 25 September 2006.

Outside the Dublin Metropolitan Region

Persons Arrested

4,954

Firearms Seized

315

(Figures up to 28 January, 2007).

Recidivism Rate.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

38 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the findings of recent research undertaken by the UCD Institute of Criminology which found that more than a quarter of the State’s prisoners were back in jail within a year of their release; his views on this rate of recidivism; the steps he will take to deal with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6847/07]

I welcome the findings of the recent research by the Institute of Criminology in University College Dublin to which the Deputy refers. I can inform the Deputy that the Researchers received the full co-operation of the Irish Prison Services in carrying out the research.

The findings are in line with international experience, and I understand that they may in fact be considered to fall in the mid to lower range internationally. I can assure the Deputy that every effort is being made by my Department to continue to address and reduce the rate of recidivism. The Prisons and Probation Services provide a range of rehabilitative programmes which have the dual purpose of providing prisoners with purposeful activity while serving their sentences and encouraging and equipping them to lead non-offending lives on release.

The Irish Prison Service is committed to helping prisoners to develop their sense of responsibility and encouraging those attitudes and skills which will assist them to return to society with the best chance of leading law abiding and self-supporting lives after release. The Irish Prison Service employs a number of means to encourage prisoners to bring about positive development within themselves, including:

individual and group counselling on offending issues;

programmes in the areas of education, vocational training and life-skills;

drug treatment;

specific programmes to address criminogenic factors (Thinking Skills, Anger Management and Sex Offenders Treatment Programmes);

one-to-one counselling and support; and

facilitating the involvement of voluntary organisations in providing appropriate prisoner support services.

These interventions are delivered by a wide range of specialist services that operate in the prison system, which include, psychologists, teachers, Probation Service and Prisons staff.

I wish to further advise the Deputy that a group to examine the elaboration of Positive Sentence Management has reported to the Director General of the Irish Prison Service. Their Report details a proposed model of sentence management based on multidisciplinary working. The National Development Plan also provides significant new funding for the implementation of this Report throughout the prison estate. This will involve a new orientation in the delivery of services to prisoners and a new emphasis on prisoners taking greater personal responsibility for their own development through active engagement with both specialist and non-specialist services in the prisons. The end result should be a prisoner-centred, multidisciplinary approach to working with prisoners with provision for initial assessment, goal setting and periodic review to measure progress. Central to this process will be a focus on reducing the risk of reoffending. Piloting of this project is ongoing in two prisons.

In addition to prison based programme for offenders, my Department through the Probation Service fund 65 voluntary bodies which provide a range of services to offenders in local communities, e.g. pre-industrial training and education, offender management programmes, residential accommodation, drug and alcohol abuse treatment/intervention/awareness programmes, work with offenders in custody and post release, as well as providing a vital ingredient of a focused day time programme for those found guilty of criminal offences by the courts and placed on supervision to the Probation Service. In 2007, the budget allocation for ‘Assistance to Voluntary Bodies' to support Probation Service in the management of offenders in the community amounts to just over €24 m.

It may also be of interest to the Deputy to know that in preparing pre-sanction reports for the Courts, Probation Officers undertake an assessment of the risk posed to the public by an offender. As part of a policy of improving their service to the Courts and in line with other Probation and Correctional Services in other jurisdictions, the Probation Service has introduced a risk assessment tool known as the Level Of Service Inventory revised (LSI-R). This tool measures the risk of reoffending in each case and identifies the criminogenic factors that contribute to the offending, such as drug and alcohol misuse and can inform the appropriate intervention needed. I should also add that Risk Assessment tools are also in use in the prison system.

National Women’s Strategy.

Dan Boyle

Question:

39 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the National Women’s Strategy; when the strategy will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6859/07]

David Stanton

Question:

47 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the National Women’s Strategy has been finalised; if not, when he expects it to be finalised; when he will publish the strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6867/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 47 together.

The National Women's Strategy is currently being finalised with a view to bringing it to Government shortly, and, in this regard, the target date for publication of the Strategy is by end of March 2007. While the preparation of the Strategy has been time-consuming, it has involved a significant amount of research and consultation with a view to preparing a comprehensive strategy that will resonate with all the women of Ireland. I believe that the Strategy, when published, will provide a solid road map for the achievement of true gender equality in Ireland.

Prison Redevelopment.

John Gormley

Question:

40 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the future of Shanganagh Prison and lands in the council of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown; the details of the prospective purchaser; the amount paid to the lands; if this sum has been paid; if the lands were offered for sale to the County Council; if so, when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6863/07]

Approximately 21 acres of land was sold to Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in 2005. Prison Service Officials were at the time informed by the Council that it had no interest in the remaining 6.3 acres including the buildings, which were subsequently sold by public tender competition in October, 2006 to Castlethorn Construction for €20.6m. Following the disposal of the 6.3 acres the Prison Service no longer has any interest in the lands at Shanganagh Castle.

The proceeds from the sale of the lands at Shanganagh Castle covers the cost of acquiring the 150 acre site in North County Dublin to facilitate the new prison development at Thornton Hall which will replace the Mountjoy Prison Complex.

Garda Recruitment.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

41 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when, in regard to his announcement of 19 December 2006, the promised additional garda will be recruited; when the extra Garda Reserve members will be in place; when the proposed civilianisation of Garda posts will take place; the number involved in respect of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6852/07]

The combined strength of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training as at the 31 December 2006 was 14,068. Furthermore, in December, 2006 as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. Additional resources are coming on stream all the time, with an accelerated intake of approximately 1100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College which will continue until the target of 15,000 is met.

I also announced a proportionate increase in the targeted strength of the Garda Reserve from 900 to 1500. The Garda Commissioner is proceeding with the recruitment and training of the 1,500 members of the Garda Reserve. The first group of 36 Garda Reserves completed their training and were formally attested as members of An Garda Síochána in December 2006. The second group of 52 commenced training in the Garda College at Templemore in January 2007. It is expected that they will be attested in May.

Training for the next group of Reserve trainees is scheduled to commence in early March and it is expected that they would be attested in June. It is also expected that further groups of Reserve trainees will commence training on a monthly basis. As the nature of the scheme is purely voluntary, I cannot definitively say what any particular monthly intake of volunteers will be, as Garda Reserve trainees will have work, family and other commitments to take account of. An Garda Síochána is offering maximum flexibility in this regard to accommodate those who wish to put themselves forward for service. While, I am satisfied generally with the progress being made in the recruitment and training of Reserve members, I consider that the process of initial recruitment can be made more efficient if it is given a local dimension. In that context, I have asked the Garda Commissioner, and he has agreed, to involve local Garda Superintendents directly in local recruitment arrangements to attract suitable candidates from the local community. This will assist in ensuring that the 1,500 target is reached as soon as possible.

The programme to expand the civilian complement of An Garda Síochána, in order to bring civilian support in the Force up to best international standards, is proceeding apace. In December 2006, I announced Government approval for 300 additional civilian support staff for An Garda Síochána to release an equal number of Gardaí from administrative duties and free them up for operational policing duties. The Garda Commissioner has signed a Service Level Agreement with the Public Appointments Service for the provision of up to 50 new candidates each week to be offered positions in An Garda Síochána until the 300 Clerical Officer posts are filled.

Preparations are at an advanced stage to commence the recruitment of a civilian Chief Administration Officer in An Garda Síochána, at a grade equivalent to Deputy Commissioner. An Garda Síochána is also in the process of recruiting senior civilian managers as Directors of Communications, Strategy, Human Resources, Finance and Information Technology. A dedicated Human Resource Directorate has been established within An Garda Síochána to serve the needs of the 2,000 clerical, administrative, professional, technical and industrial civilian staff already working in An Garda Síochána and to promote an extensive programme of civilianisation. The result will be a visible increase in the number of Gardaí on the streets and the concentration of Garda resources in the fight against crime.

Prison Committals.

Dan Neville

Question:

42 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on and proposals for action in relation to the outcome of the study by a team led by the director of the Central Mental Hospital which revealed that 60% of female prisoners and 35% of male prisoners have experienced a mental illness at some stage in their lives and criticised the use of prisons as psychiatric waiting rooms. [6765/07]

The study referred to by the Deputy was undertaken in 2003 by a team from the Central Mental Hospital. The Irish Prison Service was pleased to facilitate and part-fund this study. I welcome the findings which clarify for the first time the actual level of various mental health problems among the Irish prison population. The findings of the study confirm that the rates of diagnosed mental illness among prisoners are significantly higher than in comparable community populations. This finding is common to prison populations in many jurisdictions.

The study found that drugs and alcohol dependence and harmful use were by far the most common problems, present in between 61% and 79% of prisoners. The rate of mental illness ranged from 16% of male committals to 27% of sentenced men, while in women committed to prison the rate was 41%, with 60% of sentenced women having a mental illness.

The Irish Prison Service must accept all persons committed into their custody on foot of legal orders of the Court. A person committed to prison may have or develop a mental illness. The Irish Prison Service is committed to healthcare standards comparable with those pertaining in the wider community outside prison. Prisoners have access to medical, nursing, psychiatric and psychological services within the prison system. The psychiatric needs of prisoners are serviced by visiting psychiatrists.

The Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, 2006 provides that where on the basis of medical assessment, a prisoner is considered to require specialist treatment that cannot be provided in prison that prisoner may be transferred to a designated centre for treatment. The Central Mental Hospital is currently the only such designated centre. Due to increased demand on this facility from various sources in recent years it has frequently been the situation that a waiting list occurs for admission and priority is on clinical need. This situation arises in spite of general agreement regarding the necessity for admission and, while awaiting a bed to become available, the prison authorities may be left with no alternative but to seek to manage a disturbed individual in conditions which provide the greatest degree of protection for the individual, for other prisoners, and for staff.

As the Deputy will be aware the question of resources for the Central Mental Hospital is a matter for the Health Service Executive. My Department is working closely with the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive with a view to ensuring that the necessary mental health facilities are available to prisoners and that any prisoner deemed to require in-patient mental health treatment does not encounter unreasonable waiting times in prison awaiting any such transfer. Furthermore the Irish Prison Service has promoted the integration of prison based mental health structures and provision with community structures in surrounding areas and are engaged in an on-going process with the Health Service Executive aimed at promoting such integration at a practical level. This will require the active involvement of local services. If it is considered that specific or dedicated community structures are required to facilitate such integration this issue would come within the remit of the Department of Health and Children / Health Service Executive.

I should also advise the Deputy that specialist in-reach services to address mental health problems are being expanded in cooperation with the relevant health agencies. In addition, the Irish Prison Service is in the process of implementing the Drugs Policy & Strategy — ‘Keeping Drugs Out of Prisons' and this is intended to significantly improve the coordination and resources available to support prisoners seeking to address their substance misuse problems while in prison. In this context a range of expanded services in the area of Drug Treatment are in the process of being implemented.

Question No. 43 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Crime Levels.

Joan Burton

Question:

44 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gun murders recorded in 2006; the way this compares with the figures for 2005; the number of gun murders recorded to date in 2007; the steps being taken to deal with these crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6821/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

73 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2007; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases where convictions were secured; if he has satisfied himself with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6825/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 73 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the table shows the numbers of murder offences recorded where a firearm was used and the numbers of detections, proceedings commenced and convictions in respect of those murders between the years 1998 and 2006 and in 2007 up to 19 February. It is anticipated that the number of convictions obtained will increase as the number of proceedings commenced are finalised by the courts.

Operation Anvil is central to the strategy of the Garda Síochána in combating serious crime and in particular murder. The Operation, which commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in May, 2005 and was subsequently extended nationwide at my request, has proved to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs. It has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the acquisition of intelligence on the movements of criminals. Notable improvements have been achieved in the recorded number of incidents of crime being targeted by the Operation. In particular, I am pleased to note the increase of 34% in detections of possession of firearms in the fourth quarter of 2006 which I believe has contributed to the reduction of 3.4% in discharges of firearms. I believe that Operation Anvil has also contributed to the increase in that quarter of detections of offences of possession of drugs for sale or supply which is closely associated with many murders using firearms.

In addition to the introduction of Operation Anvil, the Garda Commissioner in November 2005 augmented the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation with additional Garda members to address the problem of criminal gang activity. Enforcement by the Unit has resulted in further firearms being seized and a number of persons arrested, thereby disrupting their criminal activities. There has also been an increase in Garda monitoring and targeting of individuals and groups involved in armed crime in particular.

A wide range of provisions to combat gun crime were introduced in the Criminal Justice Act, 2006. With effect from 1 November, mandatory minimum sentences, of between five and ten years, came into effect for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest.

On 19 December last, the Government agreed my proposals for an unprecedented package of measures which includes:

A further increase of 1,000 in the strength of An Garda Síochána to bring the total to 15,000 over the next three years;

Sanction for 300 additional civilian administrative support posts for An Garda Síochána;

The recruitment of the 7 senior civilian posts recommended in the recent reports from the Garda Inspectorate and Senator Maurice Hayes;

An increase in the retirement age for Gardaí, Sergeants and Inspectors from 57 to 60;

A proportionate increase in the targeted strength of the Garda Reserve from 900 to 1500;

Increased staffing for the Forensic Science Laboratory, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Courts Service;

No limit on funds available for the Witness Protection Programme.

I have recently announced that the Government agreed a package of legislative proposals to counter the threat posed by gangland activity, especially in relation to drug trafficking and firearms. These legislative proposals are in addition to the substantial package of additional resources for the Gardaí which the Government agreed in December last. Targeted Garda measures such as Operation Anvil will also continue to focus on gangland crime. The package amends several areas of law directly relevant to the Garda fight against gangland crime.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that in common with the experience in other jurisdictions murders involving the use of firearms tend to have lower conviction rates than other murders. This is not unique to Ireland. I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that the highest priority is given by An Garda Síochána to the investigation of murders and the detection of those responsible.

Murder offences Recorded, Detected, Proceedings Commenced and Convictions where a Firearm was used for Years 1998 to 2007*

Year

Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

2007* (up to 19 February)

2

0

0

0

2006*

27

10

5

0

2005

21

4

2

1

2004

9

8

5

4

2003

20

11

4

2

2002

10

5

4

3

2001

9

6

2

2

2000

12

7

6

2

1999

12

7

7

5

1998

4

3

2

1

*Figures provided are provisional/operational and liable to change.

Garda Investigations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

45 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a report from the expert group established in view of concerns arising from the Dean Lyons case; if a deadline has been set for the work of the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6838/07]

The work of the Expert Group to which the Deputy refers is ongoing and there was never a specific formal time limit placed by me on its important deliberations. However I can say that there is regular and ongoing contact between the Group and officials from my Department. In that context the Group has, with my agreement, taken the time to allow it to comprehend the detention module of the Morris Tribunal in its work. As the Deputy may be aware those hearings, which deal extensively with the question of detention of suspects, have not yet fully concluded.

Property Management Companies.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

46 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in regard to his comments to a Law Reform Commission conference on 25 January 2007, he will outline his proposals for a high level group to consider how best to regulate the operation of property management companies; if the membership of the group has been finalised; if the terms of reference for the group have been agreed; when the group is expected to report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6848/07]

Issues relating to multi-unit developments and the operation of property management companies were discussed at a Conference organised by my Department and the Law Reform Commission on 25 January. The Conference provided an opportunity for a preliminary discussion of the wide range of policy issues identified in the Law Reform Commission's Consultation Paper on Multi-Unit Developments. A consultation process is currently under way in relation to the draft recommendations contained in the Paper and the Commission intends to publish a Report containing its definitive recommendations for reform later this year.

The Consultation Paper makes it clear that solutions to the difficulties arising in this area will require action across a broad range of policy areas, including the planning and development code, company law, consumer protection law and the development of regulatory structures. In recognition of this, and the cross-cutting nature of many of the issues, the Government has approved the establishment of a high-level interdepartmental committee to assist in the development of a coherent and comprehensive legislative response to the difficulties arising in relation to property management companies.

The committee, which will hold its first meeting early next month, comprises representatives of the following Departments and Offices:

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment;

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government;

Department of Finance;

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform;

National Consumer Agency;

Office of the Attorney General;

Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement, and

Office of Public Works.

A key task of the committee will be to identify the key legislative and administrative actions to be taken and to determine a timescale for implementation as soon as possible. In particular, the committee will have regard to the recommendations for legislative reforms contained in the Law Reform Commission's forthcoming Report on Multi-Unit Developments.

Question No. 47 answered with QuestionNo. 39.

Proposed Legislation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

48 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in regard to his recent speech to a conference hosted by the Law Society, he will outline his proposals for the introduction of detention centres for what he described as high risk asylum seekers; the nature of the proposed detention centres; the reason he is bringing forward this proposal at a time when the number of asylum seekers has fallen to a ten year low; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6846/07]

As I outlined in my address of 27 January 2007 at a public interest seminar in the Law Society on the soon to be published Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2007, I am considering including in this Bill provisions for detaining certain protection claimants, with a view to processing their claims quickly and efficiently to finality.

Processing certain categories of protection applicants in a closed centre with all the necessary services on site — first instance decision, appeal, legal services and interpretation as well as accommodation and other supports — will mean speedier decision making and, of course, the faster integration of genuine refugees into our society. For those claims which, after a fair and speedy consideration, turn out to be without foundation, as in the region of some 90% do, the removal from the State of the claimants will happen as soon as possible thereafter.

This is unlike the present situation whereby large numbers of applicants who are admitted to the State solely for the purpose of having their asylum applications processed, and who are found after a fair and efficient determination process to have no protection needs, simply fail to turn up for deportation or to avail of a voluntary return alternative. The taxpayer is investing large amounts of resources in processing these claims as well as in the provision of accommodation and other support services.

The same high standards of procedural fairness will apply as to normal investigations and no-one will be sent away from the State who has a genuine entitlement to protection here. As I indicated, all the established appeals procedures and services such as access to interpretation facilities and legal assistance will remain in place.

I am mindful of the fact that UNHCR figures illustrate that an enormous proportion of the world's actual refugees are hosted by poverty-stricken countries next door to countries where persecution and civil strife have caused them to flee. Many of those who come to Ireland to claim protection do not come from such trouble-spots and are found not to be subject to persecution, but have paid people-smugglers to come here and make claims that turn out to be spurious. This does a disservice to Ireland as host; but more importantly, it does a disservice to those who are in genuine need of Ireland's protection because such groundless claims only seem to slow down the system for genuine applicants. I believe that detention in limited circumstances will both increase the efficiency of our system and help protect the integrity of that system.

There are similar detention mechanisms currently operating with success in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. A more detailed outline of my legislative proposals will follow in due course and in the normal way.

Prison Accommodation.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

49 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding conditions in Mountjoy Prison; if and the way the problem of overcrowding at the prison has been alleviated since the summer since months of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6857/07]

The Deputy may be aware that on 1 September, 2006 I directed that Wheatfield Prison and the Midlands Prison operate as committal prisons for certain male adult prisoners sentenced by courts in designated counties. The effect is that Mountjoy's committal responsibility was reduced to Dublin City and County. Following this designation the number of new committals to Mountjoy has reduced significantly. In the period 1 September, 2006 to 20 February, 2007, thirty percent of the 927 new committals to these prisons were to Wheatfield and Midlands prisons as outlined in the following table.

Institution

Number of Committals

Mountjoy Prison

642

Wheatfield Prison

120

Midlands Prison

165

Total

927

The daily average number of prisoners in custody in Mountjoy Prison from 1 September, 2006 to date is 464 compared to a bed capacity of 480. This represents on average a 96% occupancy level. The refurbishment of the A2 and A3 landings of Mountjoy Prison is nearing completion which will provide an additional 50 single occupancy cells.

Nevertheless, I do accept that a number of our prisons are in a fairly poor state, particularly Mountjoy and Cork Prisons. This is being remedied by constructing new facilities in Dublin and Munster. The new facilities will, in addition, offer significant improvements in the areas of work training, education and medical services as well as providing predominantly single cell accommodation with in-cell sanitation facilities. These are major undertakings involving replacement of close to 40% of the entire prison estate.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Damien English

Question:

50 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of closed circuit television systems being monitored by An Garda Síochána on a 24 hour basis; the number of CCTV systems being monitored by on An Garda Síochána on a part-time basis; the number of CCTV systems not being monitored by An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6866/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Garda Town Centre CCTV Systems have been installed in the following locations:

Dublin North Central — 44 cameras — monitored at the Garda Office, O'Connell Street;

Dublin South Central — 25 cameras — monitored at Pearse Street Garda Station;

Cork City — 29 cameras — monitored at Anglesea Street Garda Station;

Tralee — 24 cameras — monitored at Tralee Garda Station;

Galway — 18 cameras — monitored at Mill Street Garda Station;

Limerick — 24 cameras — monitored at Henry Street Garda Station;

Bray — 13 cameras — monitored at Bray Garda Station;

Dundalk — 10 cameras — monitored at Dundalk Garda Station; and

Dún Laoghaire — 8 cameras — monitored at Bray Garda Station.

I am further informed that the Garda Traffic Management Centre, located at the Garda DMR Headquarters, Harcourt Square, also has the ability to access and monitor cameras as required from the Pearse Street/Temple Bar and O'Connell Street CCTV systems, as well as cameras attached to Dublin City Council's Traffic Management system.

Each of these CCTV systems is operated by the Garda Síochána and is equipped with technology to monitor, read and print images recorded by the system. For Garda operational reasons it would not be appropriate to indicate the precise monitoring arrangements at each location. However, in addition to monitoring of images in real time, all images are recorded and can be reviewed at short notice when required.

While An Garda Síochána do not have responsibility for monitoring Community or other non-Garda CCTV Systems, there is a provision within the Garda CCTV Policy for local Garda management to view images on slave monitors from these non-Garda systems.

I am committed to expansion of the Garda CCTV programme and contracts have recently been signed for CCTV systems in Ballyfermot, Clondalkin and Tullamore. In addition, I recently announced that It planned that tenders will issue very shortly for further systems in Athlone, Carlow, Castlebar, Clonmel, Drogheda, Dungarvan, Ennis, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Mullingar, Portlaoise, Sligo, Tallaght, and Waterford.

Proposed Legislation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

51 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Judicial Council Bill is expected to be published; the consultation he has had with members of the judiciary regarding the contents of the Bill; if he is concerned, in view of a recent case, that there is still no procedure for dealing with breaches of conduct by judges apart from the impeachment process provided for under the Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6833/07]

As I indicated in my reply to a similar Question (No. 16) on 7 December last, work on the Scheme of the Judicial Council Bill is at an advanced stage of development in my Department. I expect to be in a position to bring it to Government for approval in the reasonably near future. The Bill will build on the Report of the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Ethics chaired by the former Chief Justice Ronan Keane. That Report recognised the need for a procedure for dealing with complaints of judicial misconduct which, while serious in itself, might not warrant the ultimate sanction of impeachment by the Oireachtas.

Consultations on the proposed Bill have, as is usual in the development of any legislative proposals, taken place with the Office of the Attorney General. I have also considered it prudent, given the nature of the subject, to seek the observations of the Chief Justice. I await those observations.

It is my intention that when the Scheme of the Bill has been approved by Government, I will make it available to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. Any views that may emerge from the Joint Committee can be taken into account during the drafting of the Bill which will be proceeding at the same time.

Garda Strength.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

52 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recruits who have graduated from the Garda Training College as full Garda members since 6 June 2002; the number of gardaí who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the force since 6 June 2002; the number of fully qualified Gardaí at the latest date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6842/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources that the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 following the attestation of 299 new members on Thursday, 16 November, 2006. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The personnel strength of the Force as at 31 January 2007 was 12,932. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

In October 2004, I announced that I was proceeding with the Government's promise to recruit 2,000 additional Gardaí over the life of the Government and an implementation plan to achieve that expansion was drawn up in consultation with the Commissioner.

That plan envisaged a recruiting strategy that would see the combined strength of the Force reaching some 14,044 Gardaí (including trainees) by the end of 2006 and the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. A total of 1,125 recruits were inducted to the Garda Training College in 2005, and a further 1,114 were inducted in 2006. The overall strength of the Force, including recruits in training, on 31 December, 2006 was in fact some 14,068.

Furthermore, I should say that in December, 2006 as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1,100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources.

Garda training involves 5 phases over a two year period. Phases I and V take place in the Garda College, Templemore and phases II and IV take place at Garda Stations to which trainees are assigned. Phase III of training takes place at both the Garda College and at a Garda station. Garda trainees are attested to the Force, and become serving members of the Force, on successful completion of phase III of their training. Therefore the serving strength of An Garda Síochána at any given time includes those who have been attested following completion of phase III of their training but have not yet formally graduated. Graduation takes place following the fifth and final phase of training.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the number of Gardaí (all ranks) who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the force from 6 June, 2002, to 20 February, 2007 was 2,010. In addition, I have been further informed that a total of 3,174 new members have been attested to An Garda Síochána since 6 June, 2002 and 2,672 have graduated.

Commissions of Investigation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

53 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on referring of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6850/07]

The Order establishing the Commission of Investigation which specified the matter to be investigated was approved by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas on 30 November 2005 and 1 December 2005 respectively. When I published the Commission's Report on 1 September 2006, I sent a copy to the Expert Group which I established in the light of concerns arising from the Dean Lyons case. The Group will be reporting to me on the adequacy of Garda training, protocols, regulations and procedures, in assessing the fitness of persons to be interviewed and on the recording of any bona fide reservations of an individual member of a Garda investigation team as to the truthfulness or accuracy of self-incriminating statements. I have already stated publicly that I will publish the Expert Group's Report when it is available to me. Furthermore, the Report of the Commission of Investigation has already been the subject of comprehensive debate in Dáil Éireann on 28 and 29 November 2006 and in Seanad Éireann on the 13 December 2006. In these circumstances, I see no practical purpose in seeking to have the matter referred to the Joint Committee at this time.

Anti-Racism Measures.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

54 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the funding being made available by his Department to assist voluntary groups and non governmental organisations in combating racism. [4318/07]

My Department is responsible for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Action Plan Against Racism (NPAR). The plan, which provides strategic direction to combat racism and to develop a more inclusive, intercultural society in Ireland, was launched in 2005 and will run until the end of 2008. It is based on five pillars: protection, inclusion, provision, recognition and participation. The Strategic Monitoring Group, which includes representatives from Government bodies, the social partners and broader civil society, including representatives of minority communities, oversees its implementation. The NPAR core budget, of €1 million per annum, is used primarily to make strategic interventions in the implementation of the NPAR, to pursue specific research or consultancy projects in particular sectors and to undertake public awareness/ information initiatives and grant schemes.

In January 2005, a total of €250,000 was allocated to 44 projects nationally as part of a grant scheme which was organized to coincide with the launch of the NPAR. The scheme helped organisations to raise awareness about racism and to highlight cultural diversity in Ireland.

In September 2005, the Strategic Monitoring Group allocated €275,000 to fund 45 projects from NGOs and community groups in the sports, recreation and arts areas.

In 2006, out of a total budget of €2 million (which included an allocation of €1million from the integration fund), funding in the order of €110,000 was allocated to voluntary groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to combat racism.

I would add that my Department in 2006 provided €5 million towards co-ordination of integration measures, which significantly contribute to combating racism. From that allocation, integration projects to the value of €3 million for both local partnerships and NGOs were approved late last year and are currently in the process of implementation.

In addition to funding voluntary groups and NGOs, my Department works with a broad range of organisations in the development of policies to ensure long-term implementation of the NPAR's goals.

Question No. 55 answered with QuestionNo. 37.

Asylum Applications.

David Stanton

Question:

56 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for refugee status from asylum seekers in 2006; the number of these applications which were initially decided in favour of the applicant; the number of same decided in favour following an appeal; the number of people currently awaiting decision on their asylum or refugee status; the average length of time it takes to process an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6868/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

In 2006 there were 4,314 applications for refugee status in the State which was a slight decrease on the 2005 figure and the lowest annual total since 1997. The 2006 figure represents a 63% reduction on the 2002 high of 11,634 asylum applications.

In 2006 there were 397 recommendations to grant refugee status at first instance by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

251 appeals in 2006 in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal resulted in refugee status being granted to applicants.

As at 31 December 2006, there were a total of 924 applications waiting decision in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner only some 47 of which are over six months old.

There were a total of 2500 appeals outstanding in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal at the end of December 2006. The high number of appeals outstanding in RAT is the result of the need to develop a new system for accessing decisions by appellants as a result of a Supreme Court judgment. Arrangements are now in place in the Tribunal to process cases on hands as expeditiously as possible.

In relation to processing times, I can inform the Deputy that average processing times for prioritised applications to the end of January 2007 have been 18 working days at ORAC and 15 working days at RAT. Some 40% of all applications are currently covered by the prioritised caseload provisions.

In respect of non-prioritised applications, during 2006 the interview date in ORAC was normally within 25 working days of the application date. Consideration of the application by ORAC was normally completed within a further 20 to 25 working days.

The average length of time taken by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) to process and complete substantive appeals received in 2006 was approximately 15 weeks.

State Airports.

Joe Costello

Question:

57 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has a role in conducting random searches of US war planes or CIA operated planes travelling through Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2801/07]

My Department has no role in conducting searches, random or otherwise, in the circumstances outlined in the Deputy's question. As the Deputy is aware, the Garda Síochána is responsible for the investigation of the commission, alleged or otherwise, of offences. Where the Garda Síochána reasonably suspects that an offence is being committed, statutory powers of entry and arrest are available, subject to national and international law.

The Garda Síochána has investigated a range of complaints of alleged unlawful activity at Shannon Airport and, where appropriate, files have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions. In all these cases, no further action was found to be warranted, owing to a lack of any evidence of unlawful activity.

Courts Service.

Ivor Callely

Question:

58 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that the Gardaí are in a position to enforce orders by the Family Law Courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6759/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Section 8 of the Enforcement of Courts Orders Act 1940 as amended by the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976 provides that where the maintenance debtor is in arrears on payments, a District Judge may, if he thinks proper, direct that the sums payable be levied by distress, i.e. seizure and sale of his goods. Also a maintenance debtor can be imprisoned for up to three months for default in making maintenance payments.

I am further informed that with regard to breaches of Safety Orders, Barring Orders, Interim Barring Orders and Protection Orders, section 18 of the Domestic Violence Acts 1996 and 2002 provide that, where a member of the Garda Síochána suspects that there has been a contravention of the terms of an Order under the Act by the respondent, on a complaint being made to him / her in that regard by, or on behalf of the applicant, the member may arrest the respondent without warrant. For that purpose, the member may enter, if need be by force, and search any place where he suspects the respondent to be.

Section 23 of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act, 1926 provides that all orders of any Court for the arrest, attachment or committal of any person shall be executed by members of the Garda Síochána, and no such order shall henceforth be executed by an under-sheriff and no person shall be arrested or taken into custody under any such order otherwise than by a member of the Garda Síochána.

Where orders are made by the Courts directing a course of action by An Garda Síochána they are complied with, where it is possible to do so. In the event that the order cannot be executed the matter is returned to the Court for direction.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

59 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if barristers and solicitors working on tribunals established before 2007 will have their rates reduced to those set in 2004 which were to apply to tribunals from 1 January 2007. [6810/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the daily standard rate of remuneration for senior or junior counsel, barristers or solicitors involved in tribunals which fall under the remit of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7085/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 130 together.

There are currently two sitting Tribunals which come under the aegis of my Department; the Morris Tribunal and the Smithwick Tribunal. In so far as the Morris Tribunal of Inquiry is concerned, I can inform the Deputies that the revised fees were to be introduced from October 2006. However, following consideration of a request from the Tribunal, the Government decided in June 2006 to extend the Tribunal at the prior existing rates of remuneration until the end of October 2007. The question of reviewing these rates, therefore, does not arise at this time.

I can further inform the Deputies that the Smithwick Tribunal of Inquiry was established in May 2005. As this Tribunal was established subsequent to the Government Decision in 2004, the legal fees payable to the Smithwick Tribunal's legal team have been in accordance with the revised rates. Accordingly, the question of a reduction in rates from 1 January, 2007, does not arise. The specific daily rates of remuneration that apply in respect of both Tribunals are set out in the following tabular statement:

Tribunal

Daily Rate of Remuneration Paid (excl. VAT)

Smithwick

Senior Counsel — €1,008 Junior Counsel — €672 Research Counsel — €252 Solicitor — €800

Morris

Senior Counsel — €2,250 Junior Counsel — €1,500 Research Counsel — €550

Departmental Correspondence.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

60 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received correspondence from the Chief Justice in regard to statements he made in which he referred to 24 associates of a deceased criminal having been arrested and 23 of them being granted bail despite objections from the Garda; if he has replied to such correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6843/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to PQ Nos. 422, 464 and 465 of 31 January 2007.

Garda Code.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

61 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the dates for the most recent updates to the Garda code; the summary of those changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6864/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Code is published in two volumes. Volume I relates to managing a modern police service. The most recent edition of Volume I was issued in August, 2005. Volume II relates to financial matters. The most recent edition of Volume II was issued in December, 1994. Updates of the Garda Code are circulated by way of H.Q. Directives, as the need arises.

Each member of An Garda Síochána has been issued with a personal copy of the Garda Code to be retained by the member during service. The Garda Síochána Code, which covers all areas of Garda duties including operational, security and administrative duties, is a confidential publication which must be carefully preserved and its contents, in whole, or in part, are not disclosed by the Garda Commissioner to any unauthorised person. Accordingly, it is not possible to publish details of recent changes to the code. As the Deputies will be aware, the Government Decision in 2004 relating to the introduction of revised payment structures for legal fees at Tribunals of Inquiry envisaged the introduction of the revised fees on different dates, depending on when the Tribunal in question was established.

International Treaties.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

62 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for his failure to oppose the integration of the Prum Treaty Less Article 18 into EU law in view of the set-back this entails for data protection; the reason he failed to attend the important Council of the European Union meeting at which this was agreed by all including an Irish representative; and if he will offer a commitment that he will reject the planned future effort to integrate Article 18 of that Treaty which provides for sovereign powers for armed foreign police forces including air marshals on flights into law. [6818/07]

Due to other urgent official commitments, I was not in a position to attend the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels on 15 February 2007. One of the items considered at the recent Council meeting was a proposed Council Decision for the integration of some of the elements of the Prum Treaty into the EU legislative framework. In the course of the discussion on this item, the Irish delegation indicated that, while it could agree generally with the approach set out in the draft Decision, certain changes and clarifications would be necessary to meet Irish requirements. In addition, it was stated by our delegation that Ireland is in the process of carrying out a detailed analysis of the legal and constitutional implications that would arise in the context of the adoption of the proposed instrument. This analysis will also take account of the relevant data protection issues.

I am not aware of any proposal to extend the application of Article 18 of the Prum Treaty to EU Member States generally. In the circumstances, I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to offer any comment in relation to that provision. The establishment of the Irish Youth Justice Service followed the Report on the Youth Justice Review. One of the findings of that Review was that there were gaps in data on youth justice and historical weaknesses in information gathering. It is a priority of the Service to address this issue and a researcher has been engaged on contract to establish baseline data from which a process of gathering longitudinal information on children who offend, including recidivism rates, can be set up. The transfer of the responsibility for the management of the children detention schools will facilitate my Department in tracking through the youth justice system those children who offend and, thereby, help establish recidivism rates in the future. The commissioning of a specific study into historical rates of recidivism amongst children who offend is being considered by my Department at present.

Competition Authority Report.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

63 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the final report of the Competition Authority; if he will implement the recommendations contained in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6845/07]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the Competition Authority report on Competition in Legal Services — Solicitors and Barristers, which was published on 11 December 2006. The Report makes twenty-nine recommendations, the key ones being that:

the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform should bring forward legislation to establish a Legal Services Commission, which would regulate both solicitors and barristers and the market for legal services. The Head of the Commission and majority of members should be non-lawyers

the Legal Services Commission would have responsibility for the regulation of the legal services but would delegate many regulatory functions to other/existing bodies. The Commission would have statutory powers to make new regulations and to veto the rules of self-regulatory bodies

the Legal Services Commission should be given the role by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to set standards for the provision of professional education for solicitors and barristers. The Law Society and the King's Inns, in common with other providers, should be required to apply and meet these requirements. The Law Society and the Bar Council should set out detailed criteria pursuant to which they would licence institutions to provide courses

both the Law Society and Bar Council should provide accessible information for consumers on their rights and main features of legal services

unlimited direct access to barristers for legal advice should be allowed by the Bar Council

legislation should be brought forward to permit licensed conveyancers other than solicitors to provide conveyancing services. Such conveyancers should be required to register by a Conveyancers' Council of Ireland with responsibility for the training, qualification and operation of conveyancers.

I have in the past acknowledged that the legal professions are open to claims that there are restrictive practices within each profession and between them. Indeed such claims are also regularly made against professional services, such as medicine, accountancy and others. While I believe in self regulation, I am also of the belief that self regulation must deliver the highest standards of professional integrity for the protection of clients. A critical factor to be considered in response to calls for deregulation is whether the resultant system is likely to deliver a fairer, more accessible, more economic and higher quality service to the citizen and to Irish society as a whole. Given their crucial roles in society, this factor is particularly relevant to the legal professions and the recommendations of the Competition Authority require careful and detailed consideration by the Government in consultation with both branches of the legal profession, other interested organisations and the public.

I should point out that both the Law Society and Bar Council have on several recent occasions indicated their willingness to take measures to improve the services which they offer to the public. The Law Society established a Regulatory Review Task Force to examine the procedures and systems by which the Society regulates its members and interacts with the public. The Task Force, chaired by Joe Brosnan, a former Secretary General, carried out a thorough review and made fifty-six recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Council of the Law Society. Examples of other measures are the setting up in September 2006 of a second training school in Cork for solicitors by the Law Society and the introduction in March 2006 of reforms by the Bar Council to update its code of conduct. The Bar Council have also improved their work practices, allowed for advertising, allowed for free transfer between the two professions and provided for cost-sharing amongst barristers. I welcome these measures which I consider to be very positive steps in embracing change rather than opposing it.

The Government considered it appropriate to proceed in advance of the Competition Authority Report by taking advantage of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006 to provide for establishment of a Legal Services Ombudsman to

provide a form of review for customers of legal services who are dissatisfied with the outcome of a complaint made to the Law Society or Bar Council.

oversee the complaints procedures of the Law Society and Bar Council by examining a selection of complaints files each year taken on a random basis.

oversee admission to the legal professions, particularly with regard to the adequacy of numbers admitted.

The Bill also gives effect to certain recommendations of the Brosnan Report that required statutory backing (including increasing the lay membership of Regulatory Committees). The Bill is awaiting Committee Stage in the House.

The wider issue of legal costs is being addressed through implementation of the Report of the Haran Working Group on Legal Costs.The Haran Report, published in November 2005, made recommendations for far reaching changes in the area of legal costs spanning operational, policy and legislative areas. As a great deal of preliminary work would be required prior to implementation an Implementation Advisory Group (IAG) was established to

advise on the timely implementation of the recommendations of the Legal Costs Working Group, with particular reference to the establishment on an interim basis of the proposed legal costs regulatory and assessment structure, and

consult with interested bodies in relation to the recommendations contained in the Report.

I have recently received the recommendations of the IAG and I will be making a further announcement in this regard in the near future.

The new measures that I am taking in the form of an Ombudsman and on legal costs will transform the provision of legal services. Taken with important initiatives already put in place to tackle the so-called compensation culture in the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 and the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, the legal system is changing rapidly. Our society is becoming more complex in tandem with our increasing prosperity. The legal system has a key function in oiling the wheels of progress and the legal professions must continue to adapt. I am sure that the package of measures taken already and those on the way will equip the legal system and the two legal professions to react to the changing needs of a mature and progressing modern economy.

Government policy in this area will continue to be determined on the basis of the need for improvement in the cost, efficiency and quality of the services of the legal profession.

Court Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

64 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a decision has been made on the request of Circuit Court Judge, Mr. Brian Curtin, for early retirement on health grounds under Section 6 of the Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act 1961; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6832/07]

The former Judge Brian Curtin resigned as a Judge of the Circuit Court on 13 November, 2006. The matter of his pension entitlements is being finalised.

Prison Drug Treatment Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

65 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the level of funding that has been allocated for methadone maintenance programmes and other such treatments and programmes for drug addicts in the Prison Services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6760/07]

The Irish Prison Service expended almost €3 million excluding staff costs on the provision of medical services to the prisoner population in 2005 but it is not possible to disaggregate, with any degree of accuracy, from this total, the element that related solely to the treatment of prisoners with drug problems.

The new Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy & Strategy — Keeping Drugs Out of Prisons — will see existing drug treatment programmes, including the provision of methadone maintenance programmes where this is clinically indicated, being expanded and enhanced. This expansion will involve the allocation of a range of dedicated staff, including addiction counsellors, to support these various programmes. In 2007 it is envisaged that an extra €2,000,000 will be allocated to support these developments.

My Department funds sixty five Community based Projects that support the work of the Probation Service in the management of offenders both in the Community and in Prisons. These Projects which are made up of community groups and voluntary bodies provide a range of services to offenders in local communities and in prisons, e.g. offender management programmes, drug and alcohol abuse treatment / intervention / awareness programmes, training and education. While the emphasis of each Project varies, the overall objective of the funded programmes and facilities is to assist the reintegration of the offender into their community by addressing specific issues such as subsistence awareness / misuse and to thereby reduce his/her risk of re-offending. In 2007, I have provided a total €2.216m in the Probation Service budget allocation specifically for projects which cater for substance misuse, treatment and/or aftercare for offenders.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

66 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of serious criminal gang members or known principals in the crime world that have been arrested on foot of various forms of criminal activity in the past five years; if it is known the extent of the value of their assets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6946/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the level of organised criminal activity represents the sting of a dying wasp; the length of time he expects the demise to continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7090/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of known criminal gangs now operating here; the extent to which the principles or members have been arrested, detained or questioned in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7093/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 133 and 136 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, for operational reasons, it is inappropriate to categorise proceedings as being linked to any particular, identifiable criminal groupings. I am further informed by Garda management that, as part of its contribution to the Europol Organised Crime Report which was recently refined to become the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA), an annual assessment of organised crime in the Republic of Ireland was carried out. This recent assessment was completed in November 2006. This analysis concluded that the nature of organised crime gangs in this State continues to be the same as in previous years. In this respect, there are two categories of groups in organised crime operating in this jurisdiction.

The first category consists of individuals operating in groups that are well established and tightly structured and involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures and are involved in criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland. An Garda Síochána will continue to utilise intelligence-led operations against selected targets to combat the criminal activities of these groups. However, because of the relatively fluid nature of those involved in serious crime in Ireland, it is not possible to easily place them in a particular group. Therefore it is not possible to provide an accurate and definitive number for the various groups operating here.

The Criminal Assets Bureau in conjunction with other Garda Specialist Units will continue to target those suspected of criminal activity and will utilise the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 to 2005 in this regard. The specific information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and would require considerable research by An Garda Síochána and the Court Services and would necessitate the expenditure for a disproportionate amount of Garda resources and time at the expense of operational policing. In addition to the transfer of operational budgets from the Department of Education and Science, significant capital investment of over €140 million in the detention schools has been secured as part of the National Development Plan 2007-2013. I am confident that this investment and the Government's other reforms to children detention services will significantly improve the accommodation in the schools and end the practice of using adult prison places for the detention of children.

Mental Health Policy.

Dan Neville

Question:

67 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether legislation should be introduced to facilitate the process of diverting people with mental health problems from the criminal justice system and providing the Courts with a range of non-custodial options; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6764/07]

I am aware that under the auspices of the Department of Health and Children, the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy entitled "A Vision for Change" contains certain recommendations in this area. In March 2006, the Minister of State at that Department, Mr. Tim O'Malley, T.D., with special responsibility for mental health, established an Independent Monitoring Group to monitor and assess progress on the various recommendations made in that Report. The matter which is the subject of this question is one of two areas which have been identified by the Group as being of concern to my Department. It is currently being examined in that context.

I should mention that I took the opportunity to include a provision in section 4 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, 2006 (fitness to be tried) which is relevant to this matter. It provides for the diversion of persons, in certain circumstances, appearing before the courts on criminal charges who are suffering from a mental disorder as defined, away from prison to either a designated centre (i.e. a psychiatric centre) where they may receive any necessary in-patient care or treatment or, where appropriate, out-patient care or treatment. This applies in circumstances where the court determines that an accused person is unfit to be tried having heard evidence from an approved medical officer that the person is suffering from a mental disorder.

In addition, section 5 of the Act provides that, following a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, if the court is satisfied, having considered a report from an approved medical officer, that the person concerned is suffering from a mental disorder as defined and is in need of in-patient care or treatment, the court must commit the person to a specified designated centre.

Proposed Legislation.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

68 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when Ireland will sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings; the steps he has taken to bring Irish criminal law into line with the requirements of the convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6860/07]

I recently announced my intention to ask the Government to sign the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings. I also stated that it is intended, as part of the new immigration policy framework, to provide a clear policy statement setting out how these cases will be managed once it is established that trafficking has taken place. I would reiterate, however, that the lack of a specific legislative provision on the victims of trafficking has in no way reduced Ireland's commitment to dealing with cases sympathetically as they arise. The Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill has been approved for drafting by the Government and is currently being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. The Bill introduces new specific criminal offences of trafficking in persons (adults and children) into, through or out of Ireland for the purposes of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation and the removal of organs. It fully complies with the criminal law requirements of the relevant international instruments, namely, the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings, the EU Framework Decision on combating trafficking in human beings and the UN Protocol to prevent and punish trafficking in persons. The General Scheme of the Bill is on my Department's website.

Residency Permits.

Pat Carey

Question:

69 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements in place for renewing permission to remain in the State for persons who were originally granted temporary leave under IBC/05 scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6791/07]

I wish to inform the Deputy that advertisements inviting applications for renewal of permission to remain in the State, granted under the IBC/05 scheme, were placed in National Newspapers on 31 January, 2007. Applications from non-national parents of Irish born children, born before 1 January 2005, for renewal of their permission to remain in the State under the IBC/05 Scheme, must be made on the official IBC renewal form. This form sets out the requirements for renewal and is available on my Department's website (www.justice.ie). Hard copies of the form are also available at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 and Garda District Headquarters stations outside Dublin. Forms have been distributed to various non-governmental organisations working with immigrants and asylum seekers.

Applications for renewal for permission to remain granted in January, February or March 2005 must be submitted by post to the IBC Unit by 2 April 2007 at the latest. All other applications must be submitted one month in advance of the date on which the current permission to remain in the State expires. Original identity documents will be returned by registered post with a letter acknowledging receipt of each application. Applications will be processed in order of the date permissions to remain expire. Guidelines to assist applicants in making their application are available with the application form.

It is my intention that a thorough approach will be taken to the implementation of the renewal process of the IBC/05. Applications for renewal will therefore be assessed in accordance with the following conditions:

the applicant must have resided continuously in the State since granted permission to remain, allowing for reasonable periods of absence from the State for holidays, exceptional family circumstances or commitments outside the State arising from business or employment carried on within the State;

the applicant must have been living with his/her Irish Born Child as part of a family unit or alternatively, must have taken an active role in the upbringing of the Irish Born Child since granted permission to remain;

the applicant since he/she completed the initial application form under the IBC/05 Scheme must have obeyed the laws of the State and not been convicted of any offence and not been involved in criminal activity;

the applicant must have made every effort to become economically viable in the State since granted permission to remain;

the applicant must have taken all steps necessary, such as appropriate participation in training or language courses, to enable him/her to engage in employment, business or profession since granted permission to remain;

if the applicant has not been engaged in employment he/she must provide evidence of how they have been financially maintaining themselves and their family since granted permission to remain.

Garda Disciplinary Proceedings.

Seán Ryan

Question:

70 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding their consideration by the Garda Conciliation Council in relation to the new draft Garda Discipline Regulations, which he originally said would be introduced prior to the Dáil Éireann summer recess in 2006; when the new regulations will be in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6840/07]

The Garda Síochána Act, in 2005, made detailed provisions for the making of Disciplinary Regulations for the Garda Síochána. In its report earlier this year, the Garda Síochána Act Implementation Group, chaired by Senator Maurice Hayes, acknowledged the requirement for changes to the Garda disciplinary regulations to coincide with the coming into operation of the Garda Ombudsman Commission. The Group was strongly of the view that the opportunity should be taken for a comprehensive revision of the Garda disciplinary framework so as to bring it into line with modern practice in human resource management.

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

On 17 August last, on publication of the 3rd, 4th and 5th reports of the Morris Tribunal, I published new draft Garda Discipline Regulations which were drawn up in consultation with the Garda Commissioner. These draft regulations take account of the recommendations of the Morris Tribunal, follow well-established principles in the public sector and beyond, and are significantly more streamlined than existing Garda Discipline Regulations. The new draft regulations have been put into the Garda Conciliation Council for discussion with the Garda Representative Associations and, in recognition of the fundamental changes now proposed, I have made available additional time beyond the original target date of the Summer recess. I am informed that the Garda Representative Associations have engaged positively in those discussions. I expect that the discussions can be concluded quickly and effectively, and I look forward to bringing final proposals to Government for approval in the coming weeks.

Departmental Reports.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

71 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report (details supplied); the main findings of the report; if he has not received the report, when he expects to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6836/07]

I have not yet received the report from Mr Michael Mellet in relation to this matter. The Deputy will be aware that in my reply on this matter to Deputy Kenny on the 7th December 2006, I indicated that Mr Mellet was still in the process of obtaining certain material of particular relevance to this inquiry. I now understand that this material has been obtained and that the report is in the process of being finalised. I expect to receive it shortly.

Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 21.
Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 44.

Crime Levels.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

74 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of tiger robberies, where people were taken hostage in an attempt to force others to hand over cash or goods, recorded in 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007; if he is planning new measures to counter this threat; if he has had discussions with the financial institutions or the security industry with a view to stopping these robberies and ensuring the safety of staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6826/07]

The Garda authorities inform me that there were two so-called ‘tiger' robberies in 2005 and three such robberies in 2006. To date in 2007 there have been two such robberies. An Garda Síochána continue to investigate these robberies. Naturally I cannot go into any details about these as to do so might risk prejudicing these investigations or subsequent prosecutions.

The Deputy will be aware that I recently published the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice Bill 2007. This is a comprehensive measure that will counter the threat posed by criminal gangs, including those involved in kidnapping and robbery. The Bill will contain provision for detention for up to 7 days of persons suspected of certain offences, including these so-called ‘tiger' kidnappings.

There are, as the Deputy would expect, regular contacts between the banks and other financial institutions and the Gardaí to discuss methods of forestalling attempts by criminal gangs to enrich themselves by preying on the vulnerability of individuals.

I can inform the Deputy that the Garda authorities have agreed response procedures with the banks and financial institutions to deal with hostage situations where members of staff or their families are taken hostage in order to facilitate robberies. These response procedures are detailed and all encompassing. The Deputy will appreciate that for obvious reasons An Garda Síochána cannot disclose information on the detail of these procedures.

In my own discussions with representatives of the banking and security industries I have always made it clear that I expect the highest security standards to be adhered to by their members.

International Agreements.

Martin Ferris

Question:

75 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Privacy International and the American Civil Liberties Union have advocated the repeal of the agreement between the EU and US on passenger data transfers on the grounds that the recent disclosure of the automated targeting system being used by the US Department of Homeland Security demonstrates that the US have violated the agreement with the EU by using European passenger data for creating a risk assessment score, and retaining this data for 40 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6812/07]

I am aware of the expressed views of Privacy International and the American Civil Liberties Union on the Passenger Name Records Agreement between the European Union and the United States. However, as this Agreement falls outside the remit of my Department, but rather, within the remit of the Department of Transport. I am not in a position to assist the Deputy.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

76 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is appraised of the ongoing activities of the various drug and criminal gangs; if he has familiarised himself with the number, scale and location of their operation; if they have become involved in intimidating or compromising the security industry; if they continue to operate here and simultaneously at various locations throughout Europe and further afield; if adequate resources are available to the Garda to track, monitor and charge the principals of such operations; the number of convictions of such persons in the past five years; if they remain in prison; the extent if known, to which they have carried on their criminal activities while in prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6945/07]

I can assure the Deputy that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner on a range of important issues, including the problems caused by organised crime and criminal gangs. In order to disrupt such criminality, Garda operations are regularly put in place to target individuals and gangs suspected of involvement in criminal activity and such operations, for example initiatives under Operation Anvil, have proved successful with many persons arrested and brought before the courts in connection with serious crimes. I am also informed by the Garda Authorities that, as part of its contribution to the Europol Organised Crime Report which was recently refined to become the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA), an annual assessment of organised crime in Ireland was carried out. This assessment was completed in November 2006.

This analysis concluded that the nature of organised crime gangs in this State continues to be the same as in previous years. In this respect, there are two categories of groups in organised crime operating in this jurisdiction.

The first category consists of individuals operating in groups that are well established and tightly structured and involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures and are involved in criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland.

An Garda Síochána will continue to utilise intelligence-led operations against selected targets to combat the criminal activities of these groups. However, because of the relatively fluid nature of those involved in serious crime in Ireland, it is not possible to easily place them in a particular group. Therefore it is not possible to provide an accurate and definitive number for the various groups operating here.

In relation to the private security industry, in 2004 I established the Private Security Authority. The Authority, which is independent in the exercise of its functions, has responsibility for regulating the industry and has already introduced licensing in a number of areas, most recently the cash in transit sector. I am confident that the regulatory framework the Authority is putting in place will prevent any compromising of the security industry.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that, particularly as a result of the proactive role of the Criminal Assets Bureau and other specialist units in targeting the proceeds of crime in this jurisdiction, a number of Irish criminals have re-located to the continent.

Some of these individuals continue to engage in criminal activity and this may impact on criminality in this jurisdiction. There is some evidence to support the fact that criminal groupings in this State have links to similar groups in other jurisdictions. However, it is not possible to quantify the extent to which Irish nationals based abroad are involved in criminal activity.

Where evidence exists to support a prosecution in this State against any particular individual residing outside the jurisdiction, an extradition application is pursued with the competent authority where extradition agreements are in place.

The Deputy will appreciate that Garda resources are at unprecedented levels and are increasing. These are deployed by the Garda Commissioner to address effectively the types of issues that the Deputy refers to.

In relation to the specific information requested by the Deputy about convictions and prison sentences imposed, this is not readily available as it would require considerable research by An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service. It would therefore not be prudent to allocate resources to carrying out such research at the expense of operational policing. I am also aware of reports suggesting that prisoners may be engaged in criminal activities, including drug dealing, from inside prison cells and I would like to assure the Deputy that I am committed to continuing to implement all appropriate measures to deal with such activity and to ensure that the prisoner's contact with the outside world is tightly controlled and monitored in an appropriate way. For example, prisoner visits in all closed prisons are carefully controlled and held in sight of prison officers and monitored on CCTV. The implementation of a passive drug dog detection programme is currently underway and initial reports are very positive. There is regular contact between the Prison Service and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues and Gardaí will be contacted whenever any suspected criminal offence has taken place.

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

The Deputy may also be aware of a recent directive to the effect that a number of serious drug and criminal gang members are now to be segregated in a special area of Cloverhill Prison. It is anticipated that this initiative, in conjunction with the other measures referred to earlier, will prevent them from exerting inappropriate influence over other persons.

Juvenile Offenders.

Martin Brady

Question:

77 Mr. M. Brady asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Youth Justice Service of his Department will take over responsibility for the juvenile detention centres currently managed by the Department of Education and Science; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6795/07]

Responsibility for the management of four children detention schools — Finglas Child and Adolescent Centre, Oberstown Boys School, Oberstown Girls School and Trinity House School — will transfer to the Irish Youth Justice Service of my Department on 1 March 2007. This will follow the commencement of the relevant provisions of the Children Act 2001, as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

In addition to the transfer of operational budgets from the Department of Education and Science, significant capital investment of over €140 million in the detention schools has been secured as part of the National Development Plan 2007-2013. I am confident that this investment and the Government's other reforms to children detention services will significantly improve the accommodation in the schools and end the practice of using adult prison places for the detention of children.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

78 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the information he holds on the rates of recidivism amongst young offenders here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6861/07]

While there have been some studies on this issue they have been sample based rather than longitudinal in nature. As the Deputy may be aware, the Government decided, in December 2005, to establish the Irish Youth Justice Service to take responsibility for the management and development of all services relating to young people who offend. This responsibility includes the management of the children detention schools which will transfer from the Department of Education and Science with effect from 1 March 2007 upon the commencement of relevant provisions of the Children Act 2001 as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

The establishment of the Irish Youth Justice Service followed the Report on the Youth Justice Review. One of the findings of that Review was that there were gaps in data on youth justice and historical weaknesses in information gathering. It is a priority of the Service to address this issue and a researcher has been engaged on contract to establish baseline data from which a process of gathering longitudinal information on children who offend, including recidivism rates, can be set up. The transfer of the responsibility for the management of the children detention schools will facilitate my Department in tracking through the youth justice system those children who offend and, thereby, help establish recidivism rates in the future. The commissioning of a specific study into historical rates of recidivism amongst children who offend is being considered by my Department at present.

Garda Investigations.

Seán Crowe

Question:

79 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the covert human intelligence sources system; and if he will confirm that in the future no informant will be permitted by Garda to engage in crimes such as drug dealing simply because they are an informant. [6815/07]

I am informed by the Garda Síochána that its code of practice in respect of covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) came into effect in April 2006.

The Deputy will understand that it is not the practice and it would not be in the public interest to comment on the specifics of the operation of this system, as to do so could potentially adversely affect ongoing and future Garda operations. I can confirm, however, that the Garda Síochána will continue to operate the CHIS system in the public interest, having regard to both operational requirements and the rule of law.

Garda Strength.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

80 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of An Garda Síochána; the number of juvenile liaison officers and the percentage of the force this represents in respect of 2007 and each year since 2002; the reason there has been no increase in the number of JLOs despite the increase in the overall strength of the force; his plans to increase the number of JLOs in view of the proven success of their work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6841/07]

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Garda authorities. I will be in contact with the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Asylum Applications.

Ivor Callely

Question:

81 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress that has been made regarding the processing of asylum applications over the past 10 years; the further improvements that are under consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6435/07]

Considerable progress has been made since 2000 in relation to the operation of the asylum determination process in the State. The progress achieved has been the result of a combination of factors including increased investment in the asylum determination agencies, the strengthening of the legislative framework for asylum and immigration generally, increased co-operation between Government Departments and agencies, increased co-operation with other States particularly in an EU context, as well as enhanced enforcement strategies by the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

A cornerstone of our approach to asylum has, and continues to be, continued commitment to the State's obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees. However, at the same time, we have been determined to address on an ongoing basis the high level of abuse of our asylum process by people seeking to gain entry to the State for purposes other than protection.

The Refugee Act, 1996 was commenced in full on 20 November, 2000. The Act placed the procedures for processing applications for refugee status on a statutory footing and resulted in the establishment of two offices to process asylum applications:

a Refugee Applications Commissioner who makes recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform as to whether a person should be granted or refused refugee status;

a Refugee Appeals Tribunal to deal with appeals against negative recommendations of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

The Government also increased the level of resources employed in the asylum process to a situation where today, there is sanction for in excess of 740 staff for the asylum, immigration and citizenship areas.

We have also strengthened the legislative framework for processing asylum applications. The Immigration Act, 2003 which was commenced with effect from 15 September 2003 contained a number of key changes to the Refugee Act, 1996 which enabled processing to be speeded up but also enhanced our ability to deal with abusive applications. These included

the power to designate States as safe countries of origin.

the ability to prioritise certain categories of applications whether, for example, by nationality or country of origin.

the imposition on applicants of a clear statutory duty to actively pursue their asylum applications and to co-operate at all times with the processing agencies or face having their applications deemed withdrawn.

provisions to facilitate the enhanced use of the EU Dublin II Regulation which determines the EU State responsible for processing asylum claims.

A system of direct provision and dispersal was also established to provide for accommodation requirements of asylum applicants.

Recognising that immigration is a whole of Government issue, enhanced co-operation with other Departments in the area of immigration and asylum also resulted, for example, in changes in the social welfare system such as restricting access by asylum seekers to child benefit and rent supplements which tended to act as a pull factor in encouraging high levels of unfounded applications.

Finally, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) was established in 2005 in order to provide a "one stop shop" in relation to asylum, immigration, citizenship and visas. The INIS also facilitates a whole of Government approach to immigration and asylum issues which enables a more efficient service to be provided in these areas.

New arrangements for the speedier processing of prioritised asylum applications were implemented with effect from 25 January 2005 in respect of nationals of specified countries such as Nigeria. Average processing times for prioritised applications to the end of January 2007, have been 18 working days at ORAC and 15 working days at the RAT. Some 40% of all applications are presently covered by the prioritised caseload provisions.

The strategies and policies which I have outlined, have resulted in a considerable fall in the number of asylum applications received in the State over recent years. For example, the number of applications received in 2006 was 4,314, which represents a slight decrease on the 2005 figure and the lowest annual total since 1997. The 2006 total represents a 63% reduction on the 2002 high of 11,634.

Processing of asylum applications continues to move strongly. At the end December 2006, there were 924 applications on hands in the ORAC (with only 47 of these cases over six months old) which is a reduction of 21% on the 1,169 cases on hands at the end of December 2005. The backlog in ORAC has effectively been eliminated.

In addition, in 2006 interviews in ORAC were scheduled at the point of application for all cases with interviews to take place within 25 working days for non-prioritised cases and 9-12 working days for prioritised cases. The total number of cases on hands in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and Refugee Appeals Tribunal for over six months was 1,299 at the end of December 2006 compared to some 6,500 at the end of September 2001.

I am also glad to report that the level of progress which I have outlined in relation to asylum has enabled the Director General of the INIS to re-deploy considerable resources from the asylum determination system to enhance service provision in other immigration areas such as citizenship and visas.

The Government is determined to ensure that the progress which has been made in recent years is further consolidated in the years ahead. Central to this policy will be the enactment of the soon to be published Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill. In September 2006 the Government approved the drafting of this Bill which is a significant piece of legislation setting out, in a single code, comprehensive statutory procedures for the application of stated policies to the various stages of the immigration process: visas, entry to the State, protection, residence permits and their terms and conditions, and the process of removal where that is necessary.

In the area of protection, in particular, the Bill will further streamline the examination of applications for protection by introducing a single procedure to provide for one single examination of all the reasons why a person may wish to remain in the State — refugee protection, subsidiary protection and non-protection grounds. The Bill will also see the replacement of the cumbersome deportation process with a statutory obligation on individuals who are illegally in the State, and who are found to have no protection needs, to remove themselves or be removed by the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

The Bill will also provide for significant structural changes in the asylum process with the functions currently carried out by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner being subsumed into the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the replacement of the Refugee Appeal Tribunal by a new Protection Review Tribunal with enhanced powers to ensure greater consistency of decision making.

Deportation Orders.

Ivor Callely

Question:

82 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of asylum applicants that have been served deportation orders over the past five years; the number who were deported; the number who left voluntarily following the serving of deportation orders; the number that went missing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6436/07]

The total number of cases considered for deportation under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), for the five year period 2002-2006 and the results thereof are shown in Table A as follows:

Table A — Deportation orders made and effected — 2002 to 2006

Year

Number of deportation orders made

Number of deportation orders effected

2002

2,430

521

2003

2,411

591

2004

2,915

599

2005

1,899

396

2006

1,547

302

The majority of the above cases referred to in the Table involve persons who claimed asylum but their claims were rejected.

I wish to dispel any confusion on the part of the Deputy with regard to the voluntary repatriation process. Following rejection of an asylum claim by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, the person concerned is informed by letter that the Minister is proposing to make a deportation order in respect of him/her and he/she is afforded three options in accordance with Section 3 (3) (b) (ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, one of which is to leave the State voluntarily. This option ceases once a deportation order has been signed by me.

The total number of persons who opted to voluntarily repatriate during the five year period 2002-2006 is provided in Table B as follows:

Table B — Voluntary returns effected — 2002 to 2006

Year

Number of voluntary returns — Department

Number of voluntary returns — International Organisation for Migration assisted

Total

2002

396

110

506

2003

361

401

762

2004

218

393

611

2005

125

210

335

2006

63

164

227

My Department's records show that, at present, there are circa 7,214 persons represented as evading Deportation Orders, whose whereabouts are unknown to the Garda National Immigration Bureau. However, it is believed that most of these have already left the State. If, however, it is the case that any of these persons are still in the State, their presence here is illegal and they are therefore subject to arrest and detention for the purposes of their removal from the State. In a very significant number of cases, Deportation Orders have not been effected arising from challenges in the High Court by way of Judicial Review. There are, as of the 16 February 2007, 478 ‘live' judicial review cases ongoing and the enforcement of Orders in these cases is generally suspended pending the outcome of such proceedings. As the Deputy is no doubt aware, the enforcement of Deportation Orders is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Asylum Applications.

Ivor Callely

Question:

83 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the level of supports in place by his Department or aegis of his Department for asylum applicants; the level of legal service and legal supports to assist asylum applicants; the costs associated with the legal service over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6437/07]

I can inform the Deputy that comprehensive services are in place for persons who apply for refugee status in the State. Insofar as my Department is concerned, applicants for asylum are entitled to have their applications processed at first instance by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, as appropriate, at appeals stage by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Applicants also have access to comprehensive interpretation services.

The Reception and Integration Agency provides accommodation for asylum seekers through the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. Under this policy, asylum seekers are provided with full board accommodation and ancillary services. Comprehensive service provision is also available to asylum seekers from other Government Departments.

In relation to legal advice, the Refugee Legal Service (RLS), provides a comprehensive, confidential and independent legal service to persons applying for asylum in the State. This service is provided at all stages of the asylum process — initial application, appeal stage and, post asylum, in relation to matters such as applications for subsidiary protection and humanitarian leave to remain.

Also, in a relatively small number of cases, assistance is provided in relation to judicial reviews of asylum determinations or in respect of decisions on leave to remain applications or deportation orders. Judicial review is provided only where this is warranted in accordance with the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. Applicants may apply to the RLS for service at any stage of the asylum process or in relation to the post asylum issues which I have referred to.

Legal services at all stages of the process are provided by solicitors employed by the RLS. In addition, as an added measure of flexibility, legal aid in relation to appeals to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal can also be provided by a barrister instructed by an RLS solicitor or by a private solicitor engaged by the Board under the RLS Private Practitioner schemes.

Interpretation is arranged, where necessary, for all RLS client consultations at all stages of service provision.

The amount of funding drawn down by the RLS from my Department's Vote in each of the past five years is as follows.

Year

Outturn Funding

€ million

2002

9.600

2003

9.174

2004

9.071

2005

9.226

2006 (provisional)

7.726

The proportion of asylum applicants registering for service with the RLS at any stage in the process increased from 20% on its establishment in 1999 to just under 70% in 2006.

Legislative Programme.

Ivor Callely

Question:

84 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the legislative priority of his Department for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6438/07]

The legislation for which I have responsibility in my Department is as contained in the Government's Legislative Programme announced by the Chief Whip on 30 January 2007. The ordering of the legislation that is before the House and any other measures I may bring forward is a matter for the Government Chief Whip in consultation with other Whips.

Missing Persons.

Ivor Callely

Question:

85 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of missing persons whose files remain under investigation by An Garda Síochána; if he will provide details of the unsolved missing persons cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6439/07]

It has not been possible in the time available for the Garda authorities to supply the details requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Garda Deployment.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

86 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí based in each Garda station in County Louth for the years 2002 to date in 2007; if he will increase the numbers in any location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6936/07]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

87 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of full-time Gardaí based in Ardee in 2002 and in 2007; if he will increase the number of Gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6937/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 87 together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 following the attestation of 299 new members on Thursday, 16 November, 2006. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training as at the 31 December 2006 was 14,068. Furthermore, I should say that in December, 2006 as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1,100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Louth Meath Division on 31 December, 2002 and 2006 was 532 and 548, respectively. The personnel strength (all ranks) of each Garda Station in the Louth/Meath Division on 31 December 2002-2006 and on 31 January, 2007 was as set out in the following tables:

31/12/02

31/12/03

31/12/04

31/12/05

31/12/06

31/01/07

Drogheda

89

90

89

93

93

93

Castle-bellingham

4

4

4

4

4

4

Clogherhead

3

2

2

1

2

2

Dunleer

4

4

4

4

4

4

Laytown

7

7

8

8

10

10

Ashbourne

37

37

40

37

49

49

Dunboyne

15

13

12

14

14

14

Dunshaughlin

11

11

10

9

9

9

Kilcock

6

5

5

5

5

5

Dundalk

96

97

101

101

109

109

Carlingford

3

3

3

3

3

3

Hackballscross

14

14

13

12

11

11

Dromad

13

12

11

9

7

7

Omeath

14

14

15

10

7

7

Louth

1

2

1

2

2

2

Blackrock

4

4

4

5

5

5

Kells

31

34

31

32

37

37

Athboy

6

6

6

6

6

6

Oldcastle

4

4

4

3

4

4

Nobber

3

3

3

3

3

3

Trim

24

25

25

23

25

25

Longwood

0

0

0

1

1

1

Summerhill

2

2

2

2

2

2

Enfield

16

17

16

13

14

14

31/12/02

31/12/03

31/12/04

31/12/05

31/12/06

31/01/07

Ballivor

2

2

3

2

2

2

Balbriggan

35

32

34

32

32

32

Skerries

10

10

11

10

11

11

Lusk

4

4

4

4

4

4

Rush

4

5

5

6

7

7

Garristown

3

3

3

3

3

3

Navan

47

49

46

45

48

48

Ardee

9

10

10

10

9

9

Collon

2

2

2

2

2

2

Duleek

3

4

4

3

3

3

Slane

4

4

4

4

3

3

The Deputy should appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual stations may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the geographical boundaries of the various Garda Divisions do not match with county boundaries in all instances. A map showing the boundaries of each Garda Division together with a list of all stations in these Divisions is available on the Garda Síochána website at the following address — www.garda.ie/angarda/stations.html.

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

Internet Use.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

88 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed at the growth in internet pornography; if his attention has been drawn to the need to utilise modern technology to isolate and identify the perpetrators with particular reference to the prevention of internet grooming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5427/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

89 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if directly or in conjunction with his EU colleagues any effort is being made to protect the internet from pornography promoters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5428/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

90 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if directly or in consultation with his EU colleagues or through the service providers, progress has been made with a view to preventing the use of the internet by those involved in the promotion of pornography with particular reference to children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5429/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

91 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the technological developments expected to assist in the prevention of internet pornography; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5430/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 to 91, inclusive, together.

I have already answered a similar Questions to the ones tabled by the Deputy and I refer the Deputy to my answer to those Questions (Nos. 191 to 194) given on the 14 February 2007. If the Deputy wishes, I will repeat what I said then.

As I outlined earlier by its very nature, the internet lends itself to being used for a wide range of criminal activities. This can include illegal pornography, racist or hate materials, financial fraud, intimidation or any other criminal activity carried out via the internet. Combatting such illegal, harmful and predatory use of the internet requires a response at national, EU and wider international levels. The internet is an international and world-wide phenomenon with no borders and no single organisation controlling it. Measures to combat illegal materials and activities on the internet are, therefore, hampered by a multiplicity of jurisdictions, differing legal systems, and differing societal norms. Furthermore, new developments in communications technologies allowing for internet access by new means are a regular occurrence. These are largely positive developments but also bring particular challenges for those charged with protecting against the downsides of the internet.

A combination of responses, and the co-operation of all the stakeholders, at both national and international level — legislators, law enforcement, schools, child protection practitioners, parents and guardians — is essential. My Department is fully committed to playing its part in a pro-active way.

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

The EU Council adopted a Framework Decision on Combating the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography on 22 December 2003. While the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 is a particularly robust legislative measure, this Framework Decision requires some relatively minor amendments to our legislation and these are contained in the Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill which is at present being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

Among the provisions of the Bill is one that prohibits the sale of children, including through a computer system, for the purpose of the sexual or labour exploitation of a child and other provisions will prohibit the sexual grooming of children, including by means of communication through the Internet.

This Bill will comply fully with the criminal law requirements of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons and the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. Ireland signed the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons on 13 December 2000.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that they monitor child pornography on the internet and where evidence is available action is taken in accordance with legislation. Similarly, where evidence becomes available that the internet is used for trafficking of human beings action is also be taken to apprehend those responsible. Other incidents of child pornography or trafficking in human beings coming to the attention of An Garda Síochána are fully investigated and where there is evidence to support a prosecution criminal proceedings are commenced, as directed by the Law Officers.

I am also informed by the Garda Authorities that staff from the Computer Crime Investigation Unit (CCIU) in the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation participate in numerous fora where crime prevention advice is given to companies and members of the public on the safe use of the internet. The Unit provides support to the many operations by other national and local units in targeting paedophiles and others suspected of downloading child pornography in Ireland. Members of An Garda Síochána attached to the National Bureau of Investigation augment these units as the volume of work requires. Computer forensics are carried out by the members attached to the Domestic and Sexual Assault Unit and also by members attached to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation utilising up-to-date forensic software.

I understand that An Garda Síochána, in conjunction with its EU colleagues, is currently examining new methods of preventing the production and distribution of child pornography on the internet.

On the structural side, the Government established a working Group in 1997 to examine and report on the whole question of the illegal and harmful use of the internet with particular reference to child pornography. The Report of the Working Group on the Illegal and Harmful Use of the Internet was published in July 1998. The main recommendation of the Report was for a system of self-regulation by the Internet Service Provider industry and the components of such a system were to include:

an Internet Advisory Board (IAB) — established Feb 2000 — to promote awareness of Internet downside issues, co-ordinate efforts to combat child pornography on the Internet and monitor the progress of self regulation by the Internet Service Provider industry

a Public Hotline for reporting child pornography (established 1999 and funded by the industry)

an industry Code of Practice and Ethics setting out the duties and responsibilities of each Internet Service Provider (agreed February 2002 and reviewed in 2004).

The Internet Advisory Board (IAB) as well as overseeing a self-regulatory regime for the Irish Internet Service Providers, encourages best practice procedures, provides advice and facilitates research in Internet-related issues including child safety. My Department provides secretarial and other supports for the Board's work.

The IAB in its role of encouraging best practice, procedures and formulating advice on Internet downside issues is currently evaluating electronic technology which can be used to block access to websites on the internet and is preparing a report on the matter.

The Hotline (www.hotline.ie), funded by the Internet Service Providers' Association of Ireland with support from the EU Safer Internet Action Plan, was launched in November 1999 and has been operating since that time. Special protocols operate between the Gardaí and the Hotline that maximise co-operation on law enforcement issues so that offences in the area of child pornography can be detected and prosecuted.

The Hotline works closely with, and is a founding member of, the international INHOPE Association (www.inhope.org), a network of European hotlines which is expanding to all parts of the world. The INHOPE Association develops procedures and shares information on the best practices for the tracing and tracking of illegal child pornography.

International co-operation is a vital part of the fight against pornography on the internet, and Ireland is fully committed to playing its part. The Deputy may be aware that the European Union has taken a strong line on combating child pornography and other illegal and harmful uses of the internet. Since 1999, under the Safer Internet Action Plan, the EU has provided financial and other supports for measures in the member states to combat illegal and harmful uses of the internet, with particular emphasis on protecting children. A new EU action plan — Safer Internet Plus — covering the period 2005 to 2008, and with a budget of €45m, was agreed under the Irish presidency in June 2004 and is now in operation. My Department is represented on the management committee for the programme.

In September 2001, the Council of Europe approved the first international Convention on Cybercrime. Ireland signed up to the Convention in June 2002. The main objective of the Convention is to foster international co-operation in protecting society against cybercrime. The Convention deals specifically with the distribution of child pornography on the internet, infringements of copyright, computer related fraud and violations of network security. On 15 September 2006, I announced that Government approval had been obtained for the drafting of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. This Bill is being used to give effect to a number of international instruments including the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime 2001.

My Department is fully committed to co-operating with and promoting these measures nationally, at EU level and the wider international level.

Garda Investigations.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

92 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of headline offences recorded and detected for each Garda division in the Louth area for year ending 31 December 2002 and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6953/07]

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 Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

93 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of the instances in which penalty points were imposed where the offender chose to go to the Courts instead of paying the fined charge fine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6956/07]

In view of the nature of the question and in order to supply the details requested by the Deputy it is necessary for the Garda authorities to make enquires in each Garda Division. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Criminal Injury Compensation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

94 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the delays in arranging hearings in respect of criminal injury compensation, as in the case of a person (details supplied); and the obstacles to more timely processing of claims. [6958/07]

I can inform the Deputy that under the terms of Article 2 of the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted, the Tribunal is entirely responsible for deciding individual applications including appeals against first instance decisions by the Tribunal. I understand, however, that the appeal referred to is in line for hearing and that the Secretary to the Tribunal will be in contact with the applicant's solicitors in the near future to make the necessary arrangements.

Residency Permits.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

95 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 129 of 29 November 2006, the consideration that has been given to the application for leave to remain on the basis of family reunification and on humanitarian grounds in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6964/07]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question 129 of 29 November 2006. At present there is no Family Reunification application pending in respect of the above named. The person concerned arrived in the State on 8 June, 2005 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 24 January, 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned.

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

Garda Deployment.

Joan Burton

Question:

96 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to a previous parliamentary question, if he will verify the answer given that there has been a 97.75% increase in the number of personnel allocated to Blanchardstown Garda Station between December 2006 and January 2007; if he will explain what the numbers given in this paragraph are referring to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6974/07]

Further to Parliamentary Question No. 226 of 7 February 2007, a letter issued from my office on 13 February, 2007 to the Deputy clarifying the details given in my reply in relation to the personnel strength of Blanchardstown Garda Station.

Prison Building Programme.

Joe Higgins

Question:

97 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has received the final tenders for the proposed PPP development at Thornton, County Dublin. [7015/07]

Joe Higgins

Question:

99 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the person who is evaluating the final tenders for the proposed PPP development at Thornton, County Dublin. [7017/07]

Joe Higgins

Question:

100 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be taken on which tender will be awarded the contract for the proposed PPP development at Thornton, County Dublin. [7018/07]

Joe Higgins

Question:

101 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the expected date for signing the contract for the proposed PPP development at Thornton, County Dublin. [7019/07]

Joe Higgins

Question:

102 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps involved before the contract for the proposed PPP development at Thornton, County Dublin can be signed. [7020/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 99 to 102, inclusive, together.

Three tenderers have submitted tenders in respect of the Thornton Hall Prison Public Private Partnership Project. The tenders are being evaluated by a team comprising senior Irish Prison Service managers, prison governors, and representatives of the National Development Finance Agency. The evaluation team has the appropriate technical, financial and legal expertise available to it to assist in the evaluation of the tenders. It is intended to identify a preferred bidder by the end of February 2007. Experience with other PPPs suggests that a period of discussion and clarification with the preferred bidder may be required before a contract can be signed but in any event I would hope to see a contract signed within a matter of months.

As the tenders are still being evaluated, I am not in a position to outline all the steps that will be taken before signature of a contract. However I can say that the relevant officials are taking all the appropriate steps in accordance with EU Regulations, National Guidelines and Department of Finance PPP Guidelines in relation to the procurement of this project.

Joe Higgins

Question:

98 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if one of the preferred partners has withdrawn from the tendering process in relation to the proposed PPP development at Thornton, County Dublin; and if so, the reason for same. [7016/07]

Four consortia were short-listed to receive the tender documentation and three of those have submitted tenders. It is in the nature of tender competitions that it is open to any bidder to withdraw from a competition without giving reasons. I am not in a position to give the reason why a particular consortium has decided not to proceed in this competition.

Questions Nos. 99 to 102, inclusive, answered with Question No. 97.

Joe Higgins

Question:

103 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the provision of services such as water and sewerage are to be included as part of the PPP contract for the proposed development at Thornton, County Dublin. [7021/07]

The provision of services to the site forms part of the invitation to tender and it is, therefore, a matter for the successful bidder to provide services to the site. The local authority will take the services in charge once they have been completed.

Joe Higgins

Question:

104 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the provision of a new road to facilitate the proposed development at Thornton, County Dublin is to be included as part of the PPP contract. [7022/07]

The site for the proposed prison at Thornton Hall is accessed by the R130 road which, prior to the purchase of the site, was assessed and found to be fully adequate to meet the requirements of the development. The tender documentation provides for some works on the existing road in the context of the provision of services to the site.

The question of providing a separate dedicated access has however been raised with me by local interests on a number of occasions and I have, in response, undertaken to afford full consideration to any such proposals received. No decision has been made in relation to this matter.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for naturalisation will be finalised in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7035/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 370 on Wednesday 31 January 2007. The position remains as stated.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for citizenship in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7036/07]

Applications for naturalisation from the persons in question were received in the Citizenship Division of my Department on 21 January 2005.

While both persons are recognized refugees, the second-named person did not satisfy the residency requirement as set out in Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 as amended. I will normally waive two years of the statutory residency requirement in cases where it is appropriate to consider applications under the provisions of Section 16 of the above-mentioned Act. However, the second-named applicant was not resident in the State for three years at the time he applied for naturalisation and I decided to refuse his application at that time. His solicitor was advised of this on 19 October 2005.

In the case of the first-named person, who satisfied the residency requirements at time of application, processing of her claim is continuing and I understand that the file will be presented to me shortly for a decision. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 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 Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7037/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 702 of Tuesday, 25 April, 2006, and 329 of Wednesday, 27th September, 2006 and the written replies to those Questions. The position is unchanged.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7038/07]

I would refer the Deputy to my earlier replies given to Parliamentary Questions Numbers 345 and 266 of the 8th and 9th March 2005 respectively. The person concerned was granted refugee status in the State on the 11th January 2000. He was subsequently charged with and convicted of people trafficking offences in Belgium and served a prison sentence in that country for those offences.

As these offences are incompatible with the principles of 1951 United Nation Convention for Refugees, his refugee status was revoked on the 18th February 2005, under Section 21 (1) (g) of the Refugee Act, 1996. He has appealed this revocation to the High Court as is his right under Section 21 (5) of the Refugee Act, 1996. I am informed by the Chief State Solicitor's Office that the case is up for mention on the 8th March 2007 when it is expected that a hearing will be fixed by the Court for a date later in the current law term. In the meantime the person concerned is not required to leave the State before the final determination of his appeal or, as the case maybe, the withdrawal of the appeal — Section 21 (6) of the Refugee Act, 1996 refers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7039/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the person in question was granted permission to remain in the State on 06 September 2005 for two years under the revised arrangements for non national parents of Irish children born prior to 1 January 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme.

Advertisements inviting applications for renewal of permission to remain granted under the IBC/05 scheme were placed in National Newspapers on 31 January 2007. Details of the scheme and the renewals process can be found on my Department's website (www.justice.ie).

Applicants should submit their application for renewal of their permission to remain granted under the IBC/05 Scheme, one month prior to the date their permission to remain expires. My Department has no record of a current application in respect of the person in question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7040/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the person in question was granted permission to remain in the State on 06th September, 2005 for two years under the revised arrangements for non national parents of Irish children born prior to 1st January 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme.

Advertisements inviting applications for renewal of permission to remain which was granted under this scheme were placed in National Newspapers on 31st January, 2007. Details of the scheme and the renewal process can be found on my Department's website (www.justice.ie).

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7041/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 191 of Thursday, 2nd February, 2006, and 178 of Thursday, 22nd June, 2006 and the written replies to those Questions. The position is unchanged.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for naturalisation in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7045/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 191 of Thursday, 2nd February, 2006, and 178 of Thursday, 22nd June, 2006 and the written replies to those Questions. The position is unchanged. I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 625 on Thursday 6 July 2006. The position remains as stated.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 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 Kildare whose children were born here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7046/07]

The person in question was originally granted permission to remain in the State on 2 May 2000 based on his parentage of an Irish born child. This permission has been renewed for the person concerned until 17 March 2008. The permission to remain in the State granted to the person mentioned is conditional on him continuing to reside in a family unit with the Irish citizen child in question. In the event that the person in question's circumstances change in the future, he should notify the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department immediately as it may affect his residency in the State.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application for residency and when their green card will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7047/07]

I refer the deputy to my previous replies in relation to the person in question and in particular my response to his Question of 9 March 2006. Despite a number of requests for specific information and supporting documentation relating to the person in question's circumstances, I regret to say that the position remains unchanged as the information requested has not been forthcoming to date. However, it has been decided to give the person in question one final opportunity to provide the specific information required and a decision on the case will be made shortly thereafter.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proper procedure to be followed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7048/07]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 18 March, 2003 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, she was informed by letter dated 17 February, 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned.

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

As the immigration status of the person concerned has not been finally determined, it is at the discretion of the person referred to by the Deputy as to whether she wishes to leave the State to join her husband in the UK. If she chooses to do so, she will of course be subject to any UK visa entry requirements. Should she wish to subsequently return to the State, she will be the subject of Irish visa entry requirements.

As it is not clear as to the nationality of her spouse, if he wishes to join her in this State, it is open to him to contact his nearest Irish embassy or Consulate regarding any visa entry requirements, he may be subject to.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7049/07]

The person in question is the subject of a Family Reunification application made by her husband in November 2005. The Immigration Division of my Department has recently been in contact with the husband of the person concerned requesting further documentation. On receipt of a response the application will then be processed further.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

117 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress to date in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 who has made an application for family reunification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7050/07]

I refer the Deputy to my previous response to Question 1564/07 of the 31st January 2007. The Immigration Division of my Department has recently been in contact with the person concerned requesting further documentation. On receipt of a response the application will then be processed further.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 136 of 8 February 2007, if he and his Department’s attention has been drawn to the fact that in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin their daughter is the basis on which they remain here but that their mother was not aware of the newspaper notice regarding renewal of residency status; if a late application is now acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7051/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 136 of 8th February, 2007. The person in question was granted permission to remain in the State on 24th January, 2006 for a period of one year under the revised arrangements for parents of Irish children born prior to 1st January, 2005. This permission is now due for renewal.

Applications for renewal of permission to remain, which fall for renewal in January, February or March 2007 must be submitted by post to the IBC Unit by 2nd April, 2007. Details of the scheme and the renewal process can be found on my Department's website (www.justice.ie).

Garda Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

119 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of detections, prosecutions taken and convictions secured for graffiti in each of the past three years for which figures are available; the preliminary figures for 2006, with a breakdown for each Garda division of the Dublin metropolitan area; the number of these that were taken under the Criminal Damage Act, 1991 and the number taken under the Litter Pollution Act, 1997 for each division; the Garda activity in detecting and preventing graffiti; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7054/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Criminal Damage Act, 1991 and the Litter Pollution Act, 1997 provide for the offences of damaging or defacing property.

The Criminal Damage Act 1991 does not provide a specific offence of defacing property with graffiti. Statistics are therefore not available to identify the number of persons prosecuted for offences involving graffiti.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that section 2(1) of the Criminal Damage Act 1991 creates a simple offence of damaging property without lawful excuse. Section 4 of the Act creates the offence of having custody or control of anything with intent to cause damage to property. Both of these offences are punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding €1,270 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months. Following conviction on indictment these offences are punishable by a fine not exceeding €12,697 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.

Section 7 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides that where a Garda, who is in a public place or any other place under a power of entry authorised by law or to which he or she was expressly or implicitly invited or permitted to be, finds or comes into possession of anything he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that it is evidence of, or relating to, the commission of an arrestable offence, he or she may seize and retain it for use as evidence in any criminal proceedings for such period from the date of seizure as is reasonable or, if proceedings are commenced in which it is required for use in evidence, until the conclusion of the proceedings.

I can assure the Deputy that the Garda authorities take the defacing of and damage to property very seriously. The Gardaí have Operations Encounter and Assist in place focussing on tackling anti-social behaviour including offences of criminal damage, such as defacing property. When Gardaí detect such offences culprits are processed through the courts, or via the Juvenile Liaison System, as appropriate.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that one of the topics of the Garda Schools Programme (Primary) covers the area of vandalism. Pupils are made aware of what vandalism entails and the financial cost of it to the individual and the community.

The Garda Schools Programme (Secondary) addresses the area of personal safety which includes discussion on vandalism and other forms of anti-social behaviour, its costs and consequences.

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 her.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

120 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the full circumstances in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7058/07]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Dáil Questions No. 407 of 31 January, 2007, 151 of 14 December, 2006 and 56 of 30 November, 2006, in relation to this case.

As previously advised the person concerned has had her case fully examined and it has been determined by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, and upheld by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, that Belgium is the appropriate state to examine her application for asylum.

I again wish to inform the Deputy that the person concerned has still not come forward to either An Garda Síochána or the Garda National Immigration Bureau and she should do so without any further delay.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

121 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7059/07]

The person in question applied for permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for non national parents of Irish children born prior to 1st January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. A letter granting permission to remain in the State for two years was issued on 07th June 2005.

Advertisements inviting applications for renewal of permission to remain in the State, granted under the IBC/05 scheme, were placed in National Newspapers on 31st January, 2007. Details of the scheme and the application process can be found on my Department's website (www.justice.ie).

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when Garda strength at all stations throughout County Kildare will be sufficiently increased to ensure adequate policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7062/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 following the attestation of 299 new members on Thursday, 16 November, 2006. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training as at the 31 December 2006 was 14,068. Furthermore, I should say that in December, 2006 as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of approximately 1100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College will continue, until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Carlow/Kildare Division on 31 December, 1997 and 20 February, 2007 (all ranks) was 281 and 370 respectively. This represents an increase of 89 (or 31.6%).

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

The next allocation of probationer Gardaí is scheduled to take place on 14 March, 2007. The needs of the Carlow/Kildare will be considered in this allocation.

Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects Leixlip Garda station will have a full range of services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7063/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the new City Type Station Garda station for Leixlip is scheduled for completion in Autumn 2008.

In general terms, City Type Stations consists of reception, interview rooms, detention facilities, vehicle storage capacity, juvenile accommodation facilities as well as accommodation for Garda personnel. It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to particular stations on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and other operational policing needs. Accordingly, it will be a matter for Garda management to determine the precise services to be provided from the new station before occupation.

Crime Syndicates.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which criminals continue to operate their crime syndicates from prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7068/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions No. 151 and No. 205 of 7 November, 2006 and Question No. 262 of 3 October, 2006 in which I indicated that I was aware of reports which suggest that prisoners are attempting criminal activities from inside prison cells. I want to re-iterate that I am committed to implementing all appropriate measures to prevent the possibility of such activity and to ensure that the contact that prisoners have with the outside world is tightly controlled and monitored in an appropriate way.

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

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

Random searches of cells and their occupants and searching of correspondence and all other items entering the prison have all intercepted significant quantities of contraband in recent years. When a person is admitted to prison custody, he or she is searched and prohibited items and money are taken. Similarly, searching takes place of prisoners returning from court, temporary release or after visits. Searches of prisoners also take place where their behaviour or information received raises suspicions that they may be in possession of contraband. The Prison Service has recently conducted a number of trial tests on modern cameras and probe systems which assist in searching previously difficult areas such as hollow chair or bed legs, U-bends in toilets, drain holes, under floor boards and other cavities. Initial tests would appear to indicate that these new technologies will be a valuable asset in this area. The new prison estates at Thornton Hall and Munster will also make it harder for contraband to enter the prison over the perimeter walls by means of locating recreation yards away from perimeter walls and thus ensuring a cordon sanitaire.

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí on duty on a daily and nightly basis in each Garda division and district throughout Dublin City and County and in the immediate adjoining counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7069/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 following the attestation of 299 new members on Thursday, 16 November, 2006. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training as at the 31 December 2006 was 14,068. Furthermore, I should say that in December, 2006 as part of a package of anti-crime measures, the Government approved the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000. The accelerated intake of 275 new recruits per quarter into the Garda College will continue until this target is met. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, an 11% increase on 2006 and a 96% increase since 1997 in real terms.

Garda management state that for security and operational reasons it is not Garda policy to disclose the number of Gardaí on duty in any given area over any specific period of time.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of each Garda District in DMR South Central, DMR North Central, DMR South, DMR North, DMR West, DMR East, Louth/Meath, Carlow/Kildare and Wicklow/ Wexford on 31 December, 1997 and 31 January, 2007 was as set out in the following tables:

DMR South Central

31/12/97

31/01/07

District A

199

214

District B

322

343

District E

186

178

Total

707

735

DMR North Central

31/12/97

31/01/07

District C

231

281

District D

156

168

District U

198

208

Total

585

657

DMR South

31/12/97

31/01/07

District G

136

172

District M

196

249

District P

139

174

Total

471

595

DMR North

31/12/97

31/01/07

District H

245

247

District R

181

211

District J

151

180

Total

577

638

DMR West

31/12/97

31/01/07

District Q

127

186

District K

247

332

District L

139

203

Total

513

721

DMR East

31/12/97

31/01/07

District F

213

195

District N

160

205

District W

173

190

Total

546

590

Louth/Meath

31/12/97

31/01/07

Drogheda

92

113

Ashbourne

56

77

Kells

42

50

Balbriggan

51

57

Navan

70

65

Trim

50

44

Dundalk

137

144

Total

498

550

Carlow/Kildare

31/12/97

31/01/07

Kildare

66

77

Carlow

68

92

Naas

98

136

Baltinglass

49

62

Total

281

367

Wicklow/Wexford

31/12/97

31/01/07

Wexford

76

103

Gorey

63

87

Enniscorthy

41

46

New Ross

37

47

Wicklow

52

61

Total

269

344

The Deputy should appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual stations may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers.

I am also informed that the resources of these Divisions are further augmented by a number of Garda National Units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and other specialised units, all of which have had increased resources.

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

Visa Applications.

Tony Gregory

Question:

126 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if arrangements can be made for the renewal of the green card and Garda immigration card for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1. [7079/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person concerned has recently renewed their permission to remain with the Garda National Immigration Bureau and has permission to remain until the 13 February 2008.

Deportation Orders.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

127 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount that has been spent by his Department in the past five years on flying people who have been deported out of this country; and the amount that has been spent on solicitors fees for the holding of judicial reviews by people fighting deportation orders. [7080/07]

The deportation costs provided as follows refer to the deportation of either illegal immigrants, persons refused refugee status in the State or persons whose applications for asylum have been transferred to another country under the Dublin Convention/ Dublin II Regulations. The vast majority of the removals involved persons who were refused refugee status in the State.

Set out as follows are the yearly cost of removals of persons subject to either deportation or transfer orders since the commencement of the Immigration Act 1999 by scheduled/commercial and charter flights (including ferries in very limited circumstances for some Dublin II removals) for deportees/transferees and their Garda escorts.

Year

Cost (Euros) of scheduled/commercial flight removals

1999

27,355

2000

429,570

2001

1,080,604

2002

1,187,626

2003

1,569,813

2004

1,797,523

2005

1,725,745

2006

1,607,685

Full total

9,425,921

The figures above do not include the cost of overtime or subsistence payments for Garda escorts but do include the cost of 25 charter flights since 2002 at a total cost of €3,597,373 Euro.

The deportation of illegal immigrants and refused asylum seekers is costly, particularly to distant countries such as Nigeria, China, etc. In most cases removals are carried out using commercial flights which usually involves transit through other European airports as Ireland does not have direct flights to most of the countries of return. In addition, most flights have to be booked at short notice very near the date of departure which involves higher costs than if booked well in advance.

Also, in considering the costs of deportations, the considerable expense arising from the continued presence in the State of persons who are the subject of deportation orders has to be taken into account. These costs include social welfare costs, direct provision costs, and detention costs in certain cases. While it is important to keep deportation costs to a minimum, not to remove persons refused permission to remain in the State would call into question the integrity of the entire immigration system. This would leave this country open to further illegal immigration and even more expense to taxpayers.

It should be made clear that the Chief State Solicitor acts on behalf of the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform in civil actions involving the Minister and all costs in relation to legal advice or assistance afforded to him are borne by the Vote of the Chief State Solicitor.

However, legal costs incurred by the opposing side in a civil case involving the Minister may be borne on the Vote of the Minister in circumstances where the Court, as part of its judgment in the case, awards costs against the Minister or where the case is settled prior to the Court hearing and one of the terms of the settlement is that the Minister bears the legal costs of the opposing side:

Year

Expenditure

2002

1,019,606

2003

311,697

2004

941,207

2005

2,576,027

2006

2,306,556

Departmental Expenditure.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he first came to the conclusion that the cost of any tribunal under the remit of his Department was excessive; if he has identified the alleged cause of such costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7082/07]

The Deputy will appreciate that the Mahon tribunal does not operate under the aegis of my Department and, accordingly, it would not be appropriate for me, by way of answer to a Parliamentary Question, to add to the remarks which I have already made publicly about the matter.

I have always been concerned about the cost of tribunals and for that reason I actively pursued the passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas of the Commissions of Investigation Act, 2004 as an alternative, more cost-effective and timely avenue to important investigations.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons convicted of gun crime in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7083/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that its records currently show there have been 269 individuals recorded who have a conviction for a headline offence which involved a firearm from 2002 to 2006.

Operation Anvil is central to the strategy of the Garda Síochána in combating serious crime and in particular murder. The Operation has proven to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs. It has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the acquisition of intelligence on the movements of criminals. Notable improvements have been achieved in combating the types of crime being targeted by the Operation. In particular, crime statistics for the fourth quarter of 2006 showed an increase of 34% in detections of possession of firearms which clearly contributed to the reduction of 3.4% in discharges of firearms. Operation Anvil also contributed to the increase in that quarter of detections of offences of possession of drugs for sale or supply which is closely associated with many murders using firearms.

The most recent figures available to me, up to 11 February, show the massive effect which Operation Anvil has been having since its inception in May 2005. In the Dublin Metropolitan Region there have been 7,488 arrests for serious crimes, comprising of 69 arrests for murder, 1,916 arrests for burglary, 880 arrests for robbery and 879 arrests for serious assaults. There have also been 1,793 arrests for theft offences. In addition 27,804 searches have been carried out, comprising 24,177 for drugs, 2,168 for thefts and 1,459 for firearms. Also 631 firearms have been seized and there have been 9,533 seizures under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act. Over 49,900 checkpoints have been carried out and property to the value of €16.2m has been recovered.

Operation Anvil is, of course, only one element of the unprecedented resources being made available in the fight against crime.

A wide range of provisions to combat gun crime were introduced in the Criminal Justice Act, 2006. With effect from 1 November, 2006 mandatory minimum sentences, of between five and ten years, came into effect for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest.

Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 59.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gun crime incidents in the past five years; the number of convictions on foot thereof; the number of times bail was awarded in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7088/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being researched. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prison spaces available at present; the number of empty spaces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7089/07]

As of 20 February, 2007 the available bed capacity of the prison system was 3,415 and there were 3,296 persons in custody on that date. This represents an occupancy level of 97%.

It should be noted that this issue is not simply one of matching the global prisoner population to a global figure for beds or cells. A number of factors have to be taken into account including the prisoner's age, gender, the nature of the offence, location, security and whether they are on remand or sentenced. When these factors are taken into account the prison system currently operates close to the capacity limit.

I have authorised the Irish Prison Service to engage in a significant project to upgrade and increase the number of prison places. This is being addressed by constructing new facilities notably in Dublin and Munster. The new facilities will offer significant improvements in the areas of work training, education and medical services as well as providing predominantly single cell accommodation with in-cell sanitation. These are major undertakings involving replacement of close to 40% of the entire prison estate.

Question No. 133 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which Irish criminal gangs operate from exotic overseas locations; the reason they are not extradited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7091/07]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that, particularly as a result of the proactive role of the Criminal Assets Bureau and other specialist units in targeting the proceeds of crime in this jurisdiction, a number of Irish criminals have re-located to the continent.

Some of these individuals continue to engage in criminal activity and this may impact on criminality in this jurisdiction. There is some evidence to support the fact that criminal groupings in this State have links to similar groups in other jurisdictions. However, it is not possible to quantify the extent to which Irish nationals based abroad are involved in criminal activity.

Where evidence exists to support a prosecution in this State against any particular individual residing outside the jurisdiction, an extradition application is pursued with the competent authority where extradition agreements are in place.

The Criminal Assets Bureau will continue its statutory remit to deprive criminals of their assets pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 to 2005 and relevant Revenue and Social Welfare legislation irrespective of where the people in question may be located.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons on criminal charges who have absconded while on bail in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7092/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being researched. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Question No. 136 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases in which persons charged with gun crimes have received bail and subsequently re-offended while on bail in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7094/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being researched. I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Grant Payments.

Michael Lowry

Question:

138 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reasons a grant was withdrawn from a disability group (details supplied) after it had been paid out, in view of the fact that the group had ordered capital items they had sought grant aid for, on receipt of the original Departmental confirmation of 100% support; if he will review the situation and honour the original allocation as confirmed by his Department on 11 December 2006; his views on the withdrawal of funding from disability groups; if other groups have had funding allocated and then withdrawn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7095/07]

The disability group concerned applied to my Department for funding of €99,945 under the Independent Living Support Programme to purchase and convert for accessible use two Renault Master vehicles. This application was appraised by an independent evaluation committee which recommended that they receive 50% of the funding sought, 90% of which (€44,975) to be paid on agreement of contract and the 10% balance on completion of the contractual commitment.

No funding was withdrawn from the group, or any other group under the Programme. However, an overpayment of €44,975 was made to the group concerned, on discovery of which the Department contacted the applicant requesting the repayment of the excess amount and this was subsequently repaid. While the initial overpayment is regretted, the position is that the applicant is now in receipt of the grant amount as allocated and approved following independent assessment.

Citizenship Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

139 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for citizenship by a person (details supplied); when same will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7105/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation on behalf of the person in question, who is a minor, was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 6 October 2006.

Due to the fact that applications on behalf of minors generally require less processing than standard adult applications, it is usually possible to finalise them more quickly. Based on current processing trends, it is likely that the application on behalf of the person concerned will be finalised in first quarter of 2008.

I will advise the Deputy and the applicant when I have reached a decision in the matter.

Willie Penrose

Question:

140 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the application for citizenship by a person (details supplied); when same will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7106/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation on behalf of the person in question, who is a minor, was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 6 October 2006.

Due to the fact that applications on behalf of minors generally require less processing than standard adult applications, it is usually possible to finalise them more quickly. Based on current processing trends, it is likely that the application on behalf of the person concerned will be finalised in first quarter of 2008.

I will advise the Deputy and the applicant when I have reached a decision in the matter.

Pension Provisions.

Denis Naughten

Question:

141 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance his plans to return pension rights to women forced out of the public service due to the marriage ban; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6952/07]

The Deputy will be aware that I have primary responsibility for Civil Service pensions. The position is that, prior to 31 July 1973, the law required female employees to resign on marriage. In such cases, employees under pension age who had at least five years service (six years in the case of resignations prior to 1 January 1968) qualified for marriage gratuities of 1/12th of salary per year of service, subject to a maximum of one year's salary.

The "Marriage bar" was removed in 1973. Various initiatives, providing for reinstatement, in certain circumstances, of persons who had resigned on account of the "Marriage bar" were then introduced by my predecessors. These initiatives were formally removed in 1996 following a successful challenge, before the Labour Court, that they discriminated in favour of a particular category of women.

From a pensions point of view, it must be noted persons who were obliged to resign in such circumstances received a "marriage gratuity" in lieu of pension entitlement. To reinforce this point; a person who had received a "marriage gratuity" and who is subsequently re-employed in the public service, must repay the gratuity, with compound interest, if they wish their former service to be considered for pension purposes. Further, it should be noted, that prior to 1973 and the introduction of the preservation of pension rights, officers resigning from the civil service before reaching the minimum retirement age, other than on foot of the "Marriage bar", had no entitlement to a pension or any payment in lieu of pension.

There is no doubt, in regard to general policy and practice, that the application of the "Marriage Bar", which operated up to 1973 would not be acceptable in modern times or to modern thinking. However, at that time, the practice was generally accepted and the principle and approach fitted in with prevailing social thinking. I have no plans to change the Superannuation Acts to provide pensions for officers who resigned on marriage before 1973. I would point out that any such change would, inter alia, have wide ramifications and major cost implications in relation to employees who left the public service before the introduction of preserved pension entitlements.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the long promised Leixlip Garda station to open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7063/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the new City Type Station Garda station for Leixlip is scheduled for completion in Autumn 2008.

In general terms, City Type Stations consists of reception, interview rooms, detention facilities, vehicle storage capacity, juvenile accommodation facilities as well as accommodation for Garda personnel. It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to particular stations on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and other operational policing needs. Accordingly, it will be matter for Garda management to determine the precise services to be provided from the new station before occupation.

Public Service Contracts.

Richard Bruton

Question:

143 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the companies that win the right to supply Government Departments and agencies should be published with the value of contracts as a matter of course as this information is not currently made available; and his further views on issuing guidelines to ensure this transparency in respect of public procurement. [6948/07]

For contracts above the EU threshold (e.g. €137,000 for supplies and services in Departments and Offices) there is a requirement that public bodies publish certain information in a Contract Award Notice within 48 days of the award in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU). Information published in this way includes the value of the contract or the range of tender prices and the name of the successful tenderer. For contracts below the EU threshold, it is recommended that similar information be published on etenders.gov.ie. (the Government's tendering website) as an aid to transparency and obtaining good statistics.

In relation to guidelines, the Public Procurement Guidelines — Competitive Process 2004, along with supporting guidance material developed by the Department of Finance is available on etenders.gov.ie. These guidelines set out the procedures to be followed by public bodies to help ensure that the procurement process is carried out in an open and transparent manner.

Tax Collection.

Jack Wall

Question:

144 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Laois is due a tax rebate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6971/07]

The Revenue Commissioners inform me that they have not received a claim for a refund from the person in question. The taxpayer should submit details of his pay and tax for the year 2006 for all employments to Mr Eamonn McArdle, Kilkenny Revenue District, Hebron Road, Kilkenny. On receipt of these details a review will be carried out in order to establish if a refund is due.

Public Service Contracts.

Joan Burton

Question:

145 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has conducted an assessment of the effect that the introduction of the new public sector contracts being introduced on 19 February 2007 will have on sub-contractors; if there is measurement of the impact the changes will have on sub-contractors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6978/07]

The Government decided to reform construction procurement to help achieve greater cost certainty, better value for money and more cost effective delivery of public works projects. My Department, with the assistance of the Government Contracts Committee for Construction, specialist legal /technical expertise and, following intensive consultation with the construction industry, developed a suite of five new Forms of Construction Contract and Standard Conditions of Engagement for Construction Consultants, to give effect to the Government decision. The Conditions of Engagement apply from 1 January 2007 and the new Construction Contracts apply from 19 February 2007. These reforms in the area of construction procurement are a core element in the implementation of my Department's Value for Money agenda.

The new public works contracts do not interfere with the contractual relationship between main contractors and domestic sub-contractors. However, as part of the drive to achieve better value for money and greater cost certainty in public works projects there has been a change in the contractual relationship between public sector clients and main contractors in relation to specialist sub contractors. This change has been introduced as part of the Government's reform of construction procurement. It introduces single point responsibility in the contractual relationship between the main contractor and the specialist sub contractor, in line with best practice. The impact of this change will be positive for public sector clients and, in turn, the taxpayer. The impact of the separate contractual relationship between specialist sub-contractors and main contractors is a matter for the parties to that contract to assess.

Tax Code.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

146 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of PAYE workers who are outside the tax net; the percentage of PAYE workers on the lower rate of tax; the percentage of PAYE workers who pay the combined lower and higher rate of tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6985/07]

There are many taxpayers who are nominally liable at the higher rate of tax but who effectively pay tax at no more than the standard rate of tax. This is due to their higher rate liability for tax being fully offset by the value of their personal credits, as explained in pages C23 to C28 of the 2007 Budget booklet.

Assuming the enactment of the Budget 2007 measures in the Finance Bill it is estimated that, allowing for this effect, an estimated 39.6 % of all PAYE income earners will be exempt from tax, 41% will pay tax at an effective rate of 20% or less and 19.3% will pay tax at an effective rate of more than 20%.

Departmental Properties.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

147 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the situation regarding the former Customs and Excise premises at Newry Road, Dundalk; the involvement by the Office of Public Works in the ownership or leasing of this premises; if they are responsible for public liability on this site; if he will outline on an individual basis each item of expenditure since May 2001 incurred by the OPW in relation to this site; the present security arrangements in relation to this site and the cost of same; the precise arrangements the OPW made or are making to ensure the safe and proper removal and disposal of all asbestos materials in this building complex including the asbestos sheeting on the roof and along the outer walls; the steps being taken to guarantee full compliance with current EU standards and regulations in this matter; if they are ensuring that there can be no unauthorised occupation or squatting in this building complex and that the site and buildings have not and cannot be used for any illegal activities or practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7010/07]

Approximately two thirds of the Newry Road site is State owned and a long term lease is held on the remainder. The State carries the risk for Public Liability on the entire site. Details requested on expenditure since May 2001 are being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy separately, at the earliest opportunity. It is planned to remove all the buildings from the site shortly and this will be done in a safe manner and in compliance with relevant EU regulations. The expectation is that the removal of the buildings will significantly reduce the unauthorised activities on the site. The question of further security measures is being assessed at present. A design team have been appointed for the redevelopment of the site into a large Driving Test Centre facility with off road manoeuvring compound. A full planning application is being prepared for submission to the Local Authority.

Denis Naughten

Question:

148 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the status of a site purchase (details supplied); if there is a deadline for the signing of contracts; if the landowners or their agents have raised queries regarding the contract documents; if so, when; the date such queries were responded to; if there are outstanding queries with the Office of Public Works from the landowners or their representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7032/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland act as agents for the Department of Education and Science in the acquisition of sites for schools. Agreement was negotiated subject to contract, for the acquisition of a site for the proposed Community School at the end of November, 2006. The Commissioners are currently awaiting Contracts for Sale from the Vendors. No queries have been raised by the Landowners or their Representatives regarding contract documents or any other business.

Grant Payments.

Michael Lowry

Question:

149 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if supports or incentives are available from his Department for the development of an equestrian centre. [7076/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Business Expansion and Seed Capital schemes provide tax relief to investors in respect of investments in companies operating certain approved tourism facilities, including equestrian centres. Approval has been sought from the European Commission for an extension to the schemes for a further seven years and the Commission's response is awaited. To qualify under the schemes, an equestrian centre must submit a three-year marketing and development plan for approval by Fáilte Ireland.

Apart from the schemes mentioned, there are no other specific tax supports or incentives available for the development of equestrian centres. However, the general position under tax law is that expenses incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of a trade are deductible in arriving at taxable profits. Relief is also available for capital expenditure on plant and machinery used for the purposes of a trade. Tax relief, in the form of capital allowances, may still be available under one of the general property-based incentive schemes, depending on where the premises is located and the circumstances of the case. Under the Urban Renewal, Town Renewal and Rural Renewal schemes, tax relief is available for the construction of certain commercial premises which could include equestrian centres. However, at this stage, as these schemes are now being phased out, relief would only apply in the case of projects already established or those which met the various transitional arrangements put in place as part of the phasing out process. In general, commercial premises must be in use either by an owner-occupier for the purposes of a trade or profession or by a lessee who is renting the premises on commercial terms.

In order to qualify for tax relief under the Urban and Town Renewal schemes the relevant local authority must certify that the particular development is consistent with the aims, objectives and criteria of the particular scheme. This does not apply to the Rural Renewal scheme. This scheme applies to the entire counties of Leitrim and Longford and to certain areas of Roscommon, Sligo and Cavan. The Finance Act 2006 provided for the ending of these schemes on 31 July 2008. However, as already indicated, this extended deadline applies only to pipeline projects where certain transitional conditions were met.

Information on the various property-based incentive schemes is available on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie in the ‘Leaflets and Guides' section and in the publication ‘Tax Briefing' Issues 63, 64 and 65, also available on the Revenue website, contain articles on the transitional arrangements for the phasing out of the various property incentive schemes.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason speech and language therapy has not been offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7060/07]

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

Organ Retention.

Joe Higgins

Question:

151 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will meet the organisation Parents for Justice in the near future. [6957/07]

Further to correspondence received and recent contact my Office had with Parents for Justice, it is my intention to arrange a meeting at the earliest available opportunity. My Private Office will be in further contact with the organisation directly to make the necessary arrangements in this regard.

Grant Payments.

Liam Twomey

Question:

152 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of a capital grant (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6976/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for the provision of capital funding to local services including the matter referred to in the Deputy's question. 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.

Michael Ring

Question:

153 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a group (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and granted a staffing grant in order that the facility can open. [6980/07]

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.

Under the EOCP support is provided towards the staffing costs of employing childcare workers in community based childcare facilities in disadvantaged areas, ensuring that less advantaged parents in those areas have access to quality childcare in order to facilitate access to education, training and employment opportunities. Staffing grants under the EOCP have been extended to 31 December 2007 for all groups who are meeting the terms of their existing staffing grant contracts. A new programme of staffing grants under the NCIP is expected to be announced in 2007 and will be informed by the outcome of a Value for Money Review of the EOCP which is currently in progress. The Review is expected to be completed in the first half of 2007 following which the procedures and criteria governing the new grant scheme will be made available both generally and to existing staffing grant recipients.

The Group in question applied for staffing grant assistance under the EOCP. As part of the process of closing the EOCP, all groups approved funding were required to enter into contract with Pobal, who administer the grants on my office's behalf, by 31 December 2006. Following a recent appraisal of the application by the Programme Appraisal Committee, the application was not recommended for funding under the EOCP, as it could not meet the contractual timeframe of end December 2006. It was recommended that the Group develop their proposal under the NCIP when staffing guidelines are available. I understand that the Childcare Directorate of the my office has informed the group of this decision.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

154 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of radiotherapy for public cancer patients at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6982/07]

The development of radiation oncology at Waterford Regional Hospital (WRH) is an integral part of the Government's National Plan for Radiation Oncology. This will be part of a major oncology development at WRH, including the provision of a 20 bed oncology day ward. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it is not intended to provide this development under its co-location initiative at the hospital.

It is my objective and that of the HSE to see the earliest delivery of the Plan in the best interests of cancer patients throughout the country. In December last year I met with the Chairman and Chief Executive of the HSE and discussed the timelines for the delivery of the National Plan. The HSE and my Department are considering options to speed up the pace of delivery. In the interim, a service level agreement was signed on 1 February between the HSE and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre Whitfield Clinic in County Waterford. This will support the referral of public patients for radiation oncology treatment pending the commissioning of the radiation oncology centre at WRH.

Child Care Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

155 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the financial and other support she has given to the community childcare sector; her plans to continue that support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6987/07]

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.

The EOCP 2000-2006, which is part funded by the European Union and for which the budget is now €500 million was created to develop childcare to meet the needs of parents in employment, education and training. This Programme incorporates the Childcare Measures of the two Regional Operational Programmes of the National Development Plan 2000-2006. To end December 2006, approximately €381 million had been expended on developing childcare under the National Development Plan — €136 million in capital expenditure and €246 million on current expenditure. Community and voluntary projects accounted for approximately 92% of this expenditure and private projects 8%.

Nearly 32,000 new childcare places were delivered by grant beneficiaries to end June 2006. This represents approximately 102% of the target set for the Programme i.e. (31,300 new childcare places). The overall total number of childcare places, including new places, receiving grant aid under the Programme now stands at over 56,000 places. Over 2,500 childcare staff are receiving support under the staffing grant scheme of which approximately 98.5% are female and 1.5% are male.

City/County Childcare Committees delivered 640 accredited courses with 8,418 participants and National Voluntary Childcare Organisations 209 accredited courses with 2908 participants with funding provided under the Programme between January 2005 and June 2006. The City/County Committees and National Voluntary Childcare Organisations report that approximately 75% of participants have completed such training courses over the same period.

Community and Voluntary Groups make up the bulk of grant beneficiaries under the Programme, representing approximately 60% of successful applicants under the Programme up to mid 2006. Approximately one third of grant beneficiaries were located in the BMW Region and the other two thirds in the SAE Region.

The closure of the EOCP is being managed in a way which seeks to facilitate grant applicants to the greatest extent possible given the various deadlines which projects must meet to be in compliance. Capital grant applicants who had received indicative funding approval under the EOCP, but who did not meet the contractual deadline of 31 December 2006, have been invited to transfer to the NCIP with account taken of all relevant preparatory work under the EOCP. This is intended to facilitate applicants who transfer to the new programme.

The smooth transition which is taking place between the EOCP and NCIP, has been possible because of the introduction of the NCIP in January 2006 in advance of the EOCP's closure. With an allocation of €575 million, the NCIP is a key element of the National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010, the aim of which is to deliver a more comprehensive approach to early years care and education. The NCIP is designed to deliver 50,000 additional childcare places, with a greater focus on pre-school places for 3-4 year olds and school age childcare. Childcare places are provided either through community based/not for profit childcare groups or by private providers. Applications for capital grants under the NCIP are assessed by reference to a number of criteria; chiefly the nature and extent of the need locally for the service proposed, the applicant's capacity to deliver the project proposed and value for money. All proposals are expected to demonstrate how they will increase the supply of quality childcare and community projects are expected to have a focus on disadvantage. One strand of the Programme focuses on private providers, with a maximum capital grant of €100,000 per facility. There is also a maximum of €1 million available per facility for community based/not for profit providers.

During 2007, EOCP staffing grants continue to be provided towards the staffing costs of childcare workers in community based childcare facilities in disadvantaged areas. These grants help to ensure that less advantaged parents in these areas have access to quality childcare to facilitate access to education, training and employment opportunities. A new programme of staffing grants under the NCIP is expected to be announced during 2007 and will be informed by the outcome of a Value for Money Review of the EOCP which is currently in progress. The Review is expected to be completed in the first half of 2007, following which the procedures and criteria governing the new grant scheme will be made available both generally and to existing staffing grant recipients.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

156 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the achievements of the equal opportunities childcare programme under the National Development Plan 2000 to 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6988/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006. This Programme incorporates the Childcare Measures of the two Regional Operational Programmes of the National Development Plan 2000-2006. To end December 2006, approximately €381 million had been expended on developing childcare under the National Development Plan — €136 million in capital expenditure and €246 million on current expenditure. Community and voluntary projects accounted for approximately 92% of this expenditure and private projects 8%.

Nearly 32,000 new childcare places were delivered by grant beneficiaries to end June 2006. This represents approximately 102% of the target set for the Programme i.e. (31,300 new childcare places). The overall total number of childcare places, including new places, receiving grant aid under the Programme now stands at over 56,000 places. Over 2,500 childcare staff are receiving support under the staffing grant scheme of which approximately 98.5% are female and 1.5% are male.

City/County Childcare Committees delivered 640 accredited courses with 8,418 participants and National Voluntary Childcare Organisations 209 accredited courses with 2908 participants with funding provided under the Programme between January 2005 and June 2006. The City/County Committees and National Voluntary Childcare Organisations report that approximately 75% of participants have completed such training courses over the same period.

Community and Voluntary Groups make up the bulk of grant beneficiaries under the Programme, representing approximately 60% of successful applicants under the Programme up to mid 2006. Approximately one third of grant beneficiaries were located in the BMW Region and the other two thirds in the SAE Region.

The types of services offered by grant beneficiaries include Preschool/Playgroup 64%, Crèche/Nursery 38%, After School 36%, Montessori 27% and Naíonra (Irish Language Pre-School) 6%. The proportion of services offering full day care has increased from 30.7% as reported in 2002 to 39.6% as reported in 2005. The average operating hours for services have increased from 29.6 hours per week to 34.5 and the proportion of services offering more than 40 hours of care per week has increased from 32.4% to 41.1% over the period. As a result many parents now have greatly improved access and choice of childcare and accordingly beneficiaries have reported an increase in the percentage of parents engaged in employment, education or training up from 77.1% in 2002 to 80.7% in 2005.

The funding committed to date under the Programme includes the provision of almost €108.2 million towards childcare services operating in RAPID/ CLÁR areas specially designated for urban/rural regeneration. In excess of 20% of beneficiaries under the Programme are now from designated RAPID and approximately 11% are from CLÁR designated areas.

A total of 9,552 new childcare places, of which 3,549 are full time and 6,003 are part time, were created in RAPID/CLÁR designated areas to end June 2006. In addition 164 new facilities were built and 531 facilities upgraded in designated areas over the same period. There are 1,163 childcare staff receiving support, of which 492 are full time and 671 are part time, under the Programme in services located RAPID/ CLÁR designated areas.

The number of services which reported caring for at least one child from a one parent family rose from 459 services in 2002 to 891 services in 2005. Over the same period, the number of children from such families attending services supported under the Programme rose from 3,780 to 7,313. This represents approximately 18% of all children attending services supported under the Programme.

The number of services which reported that there was at least one Traveller child among the children attending their service more than doubled from 84 services in 2002 to 191 services in 2005. In addition the number of services which reported that there was at least one child attending who was a member of an ethnic minority was 660 services or 53.4% of the 2005 total. The total number of children from ethnic minorities attending services supported under the Programme was 3,327.

Approximately, €100 million in expenditure was reported by grant beneficiaries in the BMW region to end June 2006. More than €219 million in expenditure was reported by beneficiaries in the SAE region for the same period. Nearly 10,872 new childcare places, and more than 2,100 quality enhanced places, have been created in the BMW Region to end June 2006. Over the same period approximately 20,878 new places, of which nearly 50% are full time places, and more than 3,500 quality enhanced places were created in the SAE region. Over the same period 231 new facilities were build and 470 facilities upgraded in the BMW region. In the SAE region 439 new facilities were built and 797 facilities upgraded.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

157 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress to date of the childcare strategy launched in Budget 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6989/07]

In Budget 2006, the Government introduced a number of significant new developments under a new National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010. As part of these developments and to facilitate the delivery of the new Strategy a new Office of the Minister for Children (OMC) was established.

A key component of the National Childcare Strategy is the €575 million National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006-2010. The NCIP succeeds the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) 2000-2006 and unlike the EOCP, the NCIP is entirely Exchequer funded. The NCIP commenced in January 2006 in advance of the closure of the EOCP, thereby facilitating the smooth transition between the closure of the EOCP and the introduction of its successor.

The NCIP aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality childcare supports and services, which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. The Programme has a target to create 50,000 additional childcare places with a greater focus on pre-school places for 3 to 4 year olds and school age childcare. The additional places will include 5,000 after-school places and 10,000 pre-school education places.

Childcare places are provided by community based not for profit childcare groups and by private childcare providers. One strand of the Programme is directed towards private providers, with maximum capital grant assistance of €100,000 available per facility. Another strand is directed towards community based not for profit providers, with maximum capital grant assistance of €1 million available per facility.

Since the beginning of the NCIP in January 2006, over €40 million has been allocated in capital grant assistance countrywide, which includes almost €12.5 million to 32 community based not for profit childcare groups and almost €21.5 million to 285 private childcare providers. When fully drawn down this funding is expected to lead to the creation of almost 10,000 new childcare places and to the enhancement of over 2,800 existing places. To date, more than 1,000 "Expression of Interest Forms" have been submitted to the 33 City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs), seeking capital funding under the NCIP. These factors are indicative of how successful the NCIP has been to date in stimulating interest in childcare provision.

During 2007, EOCP staffing grants continue to be provided towards the staffing costs of childcare workers, in community based childcare facilities in disadvantaged areas. These grants help to ensure that less advantaged parents in these areas, have access to quality childcare to facilitate access to education, training and employment opportunities. A new programme of staffing grants under the NCIP is expected to be announced during 2007 and will be informed by the outcome of a Value for Money Review of the EOCP which is currently in progress. The Review is expected to be completed in the first half of 2007, following which the procedures and criteria governing the new grant scheme will be made available both generally and to existing staffing grant recipients.

Under the NCIP, the role of the CCCs has been expanded to enable greater flexibility and responsiveness to local needs. This new role includes the assessment of childcare needs across their City or County and supporting the development of quality childcare in areas where service gaps are identified. To this end, additional funding was allocated to the CCCs by my Department for the implementation of their 2006 Supplementary Action Plans and was followed by the allocation of increased funding for the implementation of their 2007 Action Plans. This funding is facilitating the recruitment of additional staff to take account of the expanded role.

A total of over €11 million has been allocated to the CCCs for the implementation of their 2007 Action Plans. In addition, to the role the CCCs play in the co-ordination of quality childcare provision at county/city level, they are mandated to address gaps in childcare training provision. At present, childcare training is delivered by a number of providers including FÁS, VECs and some third level institutions. The National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010 includes a commitment to develop a National Childcare Training Strategy in order to co-ordinate the provision of quality training to meet the growing needs of the childcare sector and to deliver on the targets set for additional childcare places under the NCIP. A target of 17,000 childcare training places has been set under the National Childcare Training Strategy 2006-2010 and the Department of Education and Science, through the OMC, is in the process of developing this Strategy. An Expert Advisory Group has been established and will be supported by a number of representative sub-groups from across the sector. It is expected that this Expert Group will report its findings later this year.

A new Early Childcare Supplement (ECS) of €1,000 per annum was introduced for all children less than 6 years of age from April 2006. This is a direct, non-taxable payment of €250 per quarter year, in respect of each eligible child. In the last quarter of 2006, the ECS was paid in respect of 396,000 children.

A new Childminding Relief was also introduced in Budget 2006. Where an individual minds up to three children in the minder's own home, no tax will be payable on the childminding earnings, provided the amount is less than €10,000 per annum. This threshold was increased to €15,000 in Budget 2007.

To further support parents, Paid and Unpaid Maternity Leave was increased by 4 weeks in 2006 and will be increased by a further 4 weeks in 2007. This will bring the total duration of Paid Maternity Leave to 26 weeks and the total duration of Unpaid Maternity Leave to 16 Weeks from March 2007.

Jimmy Devins

Question:

158 Dr. Devins asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding she has allocated for the provision of childcare facilities in County Sligo under the equal opportunities childcare programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6990/07]

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

Over €14.75 million has been allocated under the EOCP to childcare in Sligo to date. This includes an allocation of €3.88 million for staffing grants, over €9.1 million for community not-for-profit capital grants and €1.44 million to support Sligo County Childcare Committee in its role to co-ordinate and develop childcare provision and training locally. Spending to date supports 981 childcare places, including 683 new childcare places, in Sligo and also provides staffing grants to support 68 new staff.

The EOCP, which is part funded by the European Union and for which the budget is now €500 million, was created to develop childcare to meet the needs of parents in employment, education and training. The EOCP operates under three sub-measures to meet its aims and provides grant assistance in the form of:

capital funding for both community not for profit groups and for private providers;

staffing supports for community not-for-profit groups in disadvantaged areas; and

supports for Quality Improvement projects, including supports to the City/County Childcare Committees and the National Voluntary Childcare Organisations.

The EOCP is now closed to new applications and all new capital and staffing funding applications will be made to the NCIP.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

159 Ms Hoctor asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to ensure there is no delay in the provision of funding for childcare facilities in view of the closure of the equal opportunities childcare programme. [6991/07]

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.

The closure of the EOCP is being managed in a way which seeks to facilitate grant applicants to the greatest extent possible given the various deadlines which projects must meet to be in compliance. All EOCP capital grant applications were required to be in contract by the end of 2006 in order to qualify for grant drawdown in 2007. All applicants who met this deadline will be required to drawdown their grant funding by the end of 2007. Capital grant applicants who had received indicative funding approval under the EOCP, but who did not meet the contractual deadline, have been invited to transfer to the NCIP with account taken of all relevant preparatory work under the EOCP. This is intended to facilitate applicants who transfer to the new programme.

The smooth transition which is taking place between the EOCP and NCIP, has been possible because of the introduction of the NCIP in January 2006 in advance of the EOCP's closure. With an allocation of €575 million, the NCIP is a key element of the National Childcare Strategy 2006-2010 the aim of which is to deliver a more comprehensive approach to early years care and education. The NCIP is designed to deliver 50,000 additional childcare places, with a greater focus on pre-school places for 3-4 year olds and school age childcare. Childcare places are provided either through community based/not for profit childcare groups or by private providers. Applications for capital grants under the NCIP are assessed by reference to a number of criteria; chiefly the nature and extent of the need locally for the service proposed, the applicant's capacity to deliver the project proposed and value for money. All proposals are expected to demonstrate how they will increase the supply of quality childcare and community projects are expected to have a focus on disadvantage. There is a strong focus on private provider applications, with a maximum capital grant of €100,000 per facility. There is also a maximum of €1 million available per facility for community based/not for profit providers.

During 2007, EOCP staffing grants continue to be provided towards the staffing costs of childcare workers in community based childcare facilities in disadvantaged areas. These grants help to ensure that less advantaged parents in these areas have access to quality childcare to facilitate access to education, training and employment opportunities. A new programme of staffing grants under the NCIP is expected to be announced during 2007 and will be informed by the outcome of a Value for Money Review of the EOCP which is currently in progress. The Review is expected to be completed in the first half of 2007, following which the procedures and criteria governing the new grant scheme will be made available both generally and to existing staffing grant recipients.

Departmental Expenditure.

Jim Glennon

Question:

160 Mr. Glennon asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money that has been invested in children’s playgrounds over the past five years; the number of playgrounds here; and the measures being put in place to ensure that these facilities are being maintained. [6992/07]

Since the publication of the National Play Policy, Ready, Steady Play! in March 2004 a total of €24.8 million of Government funding has been expended on improving play infrastructure. This funding has led to the development of playgrounds in every local authority area in the country, with specialised schemes for building play facilities in both urban and rural disadvantaged areas. Over 400 playgrounds have been built to date with more in the development process and due for completion in 2007.

Overall responsibility for maintaining playgrounds rests with individual local authorities.

Higher Education Grants.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

161 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason students studying for a doctorate in clinical psychology abroad are given financial assistance while those studying for a doctorate in educational psychology are not; and her plans to change this anomaly. [6998/07]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources, including training and education resources, to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public.

The HSE has advised that it does not provide financial assistance for students undertaking a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology abroad.

The HSE's priority in terms of funding psychology training is to increase the supply of clinical psychologists within the public health service. In this regard the HSE provides sponsorship to a number of trainee psychologists to undertake a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology through one of the following four Irish universities: University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, and NUI Galway. This three-year training programme may involve a clinical placement abroad which would be supported by the HSE.

The HSE is currently supporting upwards of 114 trainee clinical psychologists in the Irish universities. The objective is to reach a target of an annual output of 50 clinical psychologists per annum from the four universities.

The provision of additional educational psychologists is not a current priority for the HSE. However, I understand from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) that there are currently some 127 educational psychologists employed by NEPS with plans, recently announced by my colleague the Minister for Education and Science, to increase the cohort by 31 in 2007. These educational psychologists are recruited from competitions organised by the Public Appointments Service. There is no requirement upon entry for candidates to possess Doctorate qualifications.

A number of educational psychologists within NEPS do undertake post-graduate or doctorate study annually and these receive support under the Department of Education and Science scheme for Reimbursement of Fees and receive the requisite support, in this regard, from the NEPS service.

In general, support for third level students is a matter for the Department of Education and Science and I understand that the Third Level Student Support Schemes were extended to provide maintenance grants to eligible students pursuing approved full-time undergraduate courses of at least two-year's duration (pursued in a university or a third level institution which is maintained or assisted by recurrent grants from public funds) in other EU Member States with effect from the 1996/97 academic year. The extension of the Schemes at that time did not include courses at postgraduate level and, accordingly, there is no grant aid available under the schemes for students pursuing postgraduate studies outside of Ireland.

Any extension of the current arrangements to provide for students pursuing postgraduate courses outside of Ireland could only be considered in the light of available resources and other competing demands within the education sector. At present, there are no plans to expand the provisions in the grant schemes in relation to postgraduate study abroad.

However, Section 21 of the Finance Act 2000, as amended by Section 29 of the Finance Act 2001, provides for the introduction of tax relief for postgraduate tuition fees paid in colleges outside of Ireland. This relief, which is available from the tax year 2000/01 onwards, applies at the standard rate of tax. Further details and conditions in relation to this tax relief are available from local tax offices.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Question:

162 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons for the delay in arranging an assessment for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny at Kilcreene Hospital for a knee operation; and if she will arrange an early assessment and operation in view of the urgency of their case as described by their general practitioner. [7011/07]

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 her behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to this case.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

163 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a full medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a decision in the case. [7012/07]

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, childcare and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed a further adjustment to the income guidelines for GP visit cards. 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.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

164 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the child protection system is fully engaged in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a resolution to the problem. [7013/07]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

165 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the application for special housing aid for the elderly for persons (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7014/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the operation of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued.

Departmental Expenditure.

Denis Naughten

Question:

166 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the allocation of funds for minor capital works to the Health Service Executive services in County Roscommon in the year 2006; the projects identified and the projected cost; the amount spent on professional fees on each project; the breakdown of such fees; the completion date of each project and final cost; if funds were reallocated, the projects identified and the associated costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7033/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for the provision of minor capital funding to local services including the matter referred to in the Deputy's question. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Qualifications.

Michael Lowry

Question:

167 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that since May 2006 her Department no longer recognises the British medical qualification BLAB; the reasons for this policy change; if her attention has been drawn to the number of qualified doctors who have obtained this certification in the UK and are awaiting recognition from the Irish Medical Council; if she will review the matter with a view to reinstating the BLAB recognition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7078/07]

Under the Medical Practitioners Act 1978, the Medical Council is the statutory body charged with responsibility for the registration and regulation of medical practitioners. My Department has no role in relation to the matter and I have no role in reviewing the decision of the Medical Council.

I have therefore requested the Medical Council to respond directly to the Deputy on the matter.

General Register Office.

Paul McGrath

Question:

168 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the marriage certificate in the case of an Irish couple, married in Rome, will not be accepted for registration of the birth of their child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7126/07]

An tArd-Chláraitheoir (Registrar General) is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the Civil Registration Service. I have made enquiries with an tArd Chláraitheoir and the position is as set out below.

The provisions governing the registration of births are set out in Part 3 of the Civil Registration Act, 2004. These provisions were commenced with effect from 5 December 2005. Section 19 of the Act includes provision for the registration of marital births. Section 22 provides for the registration of a father's details where the parents are not married to each other. The registrar is obliged to satisfy himself/herself as to the marital status of persons who seek to have their names entered on the register of births as parents of a particular child in order to determine under which section of the act the birth may be registered.

In the case of a parent who presents to register the birth of a child and who informs the registrar that his/her marriage took place in Ireland, the registrar verifies this by checking the marriage records on the Civil Registration System. However if the marriage has taken place outside of Ireland, the registrar must be satisfied that the marriage was civilly registered in the country in which it took place and must request a certificate to this effect. If this marriage certificate is in a language which is not understood by the registrar, he/she is entitled to seek a certified translation.

Passport Applications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

169 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of passports reported as lost and as stolen during each of the years 2003 to 2006. [7077/07]

Prior to the introduction of the new Automatic Passport System (APS) in 2005, the figures for lost or mislaid and stolen passports are only available for Ireland. Since the introduction of centralised production with APS from 2005 onwards we can give worldwide figures.

The introduction of the biometric or e-Passport on 16 October, 2006 has greatly enhanced the security features of the Irish passport. The presence of a microchip, containing a digital image of the holder, has for instance meant that any photo substitution can now be more readily and easily detected.

The figures for lost or mislaid and stolen passports since 2003 are contained in the following table.

Year

Location

Total Passports issued

Lost or mislaid

Stolen

Total lost, mislaid or stolen

% of total issued

2003

Cork and Dublin

467,653

19,000

2,800

21,800

4.66%

2004

Cork and Dublin

498,956

20,000

2,000

22,000

4.41%

2005

World wide

630,000

31,500

5,900

37,400

5.9%

2006

World wide

630,000

32, 820

5,910

38,730

6.15%

Sports Capital Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

170 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the remarkable efforts of groups (details supplied) in County Galway to provide excellent sports and recreational facilities for their area years before most other communities got involved in this whole area; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that there is an urgent need for a root and branch modernisation of this existing facility to bring it up to present day standards; if he will give every consideration to a sizeable grant to give effect to these ambitious plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7002/07]

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.

Sports Funding.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

171 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the importance of Tuam Stadium in so far as the recreational and social life, not alone of Tuam town but also a wide hinterland of north Galway is concerned; if his attention has been drawn to the ambitious plans to keep the stadium abreast of modern trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7003/07]

I am very familiar with Tuam Stadium and, as the Deputy is aware, met a delegation representing the project last week in relation to an application submitted under the 2007 sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department. This programme 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 that from Tuam Stadium, 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.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

172 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the ambitious plans submitted to his Department for grant aid by a group (details supplied) in County Galway; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this community has turned a sleepy isolated village into a lively rural settlement centre providing much needed employment and housing for new families; if he will look on the application with sympathy and consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7004/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 6768/07 of Wednesday 21st February 2007.

Drugs in Sport.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

173 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the action he has taken to tackle the problem of the illegal use of drugs or remedies on race animals; if his attention has been drawn to a recent statement (details supplied) indicating an extensive problem here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7057/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 5558/07 of 15th February last and reaffirm 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 last week 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.

In line with the recommendations of the Dalton Report, I recently announced the establishment of an independent Control and Appeals Committee, 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.

Sports Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

174 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the supports available from his Department or from tourism and sporting agencies funded by his Department for the development of an equestrian centre. [7073/07]

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. Projects seeking support under the programme must be directly related to the provision of sport and recreational facilities and be of a capital nature.

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 by the deadline are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme.

It is open to any project that meets the eligibility criteria to apply under the next round of the programme. I should point out that the programme is primarily directed at voluntary and community organisations and is not intended to fund wholly commercial enterprises.

Of the €800 million allocated to the Tourism Programme of the National Development Plan 2007-2013, €317 million will be invested in enhancing our tourism product and infrastructure in accordance with Fáilte Ireland's recently launched Tourism Product Development Strategy for the period to 2013, and in delivering a National Conference Centre in Dublin. That Strategy proposes, inter alia, that certain key products provided by the private sector, such as equestrian facilities, should be supported. It is expected that the roll-out by Fáilte Ireland of measures to give effect to the Strategy will commence shortly.

As provided by Section 8 (1) of the National Tourism Development Authority Act, 2003, it is a matter for Fáilte Ireland to encourage, promote and support the development and marketing of tourist facilities and services within the State. Accordingly, any decisions to be made in regard to funding for individual projects is a matter for Fáilte Ireland.

State Property.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

175 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of site visits that have taken place to the IDA Business Park, Dublin Road, Carlow; the amount spent to date by the IDA on the business park; the amount of money that has been spent marketing the site by the IDA; the reason potential investors are deciding not to locate to the business park; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7074/07]

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 in the past 20 months it has hosted 14 visits by potential investors to the Business and Technology Park on the Dublin Road, Carlow. To date almost €11.5 million has been invested by IDA Ireland in the development of the Park.

The marketing of any location in Ireland begins in IDA's overseas offices and is quite a lengthy process. The agency does not breakdown the costs of the separate elements involved in an individual itinerary, such as salaries, travel costs etc. so it is not possible to give a figure for the costs involved in marketing the Carlow Business and Technology Park.

IDA Ireland is actively promoting Carlow Town Business and Technology Park for new foreign investment from the life sciences sector, international and financial services sectors and high value manufacturing activities. The agency's strategy is to market the town's strategic location close to Dublin as providing all of the advantages of an urban location along with the additional advantages of a readily available pool of skilled workers and excellent quality of life.

Decisions on where to locate are ultimately a matter for the investing company and the criteria used by such companies depends on the particular requirements of the company.

Work Permits.

Michael Lowry

Question:

176 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the circumstances by which an Australian national may obtain employment here under the new work visa arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7075/07]

I recently introduced new employment permit schemes which include a green card, work permit and intra company transfer facility. A comprehensive guide to each of these schemes is available on my departments website atwww.entemp.ie. These guides set out in detail the qualifying requirements and how to apply for a permit.

Departmental Properties.

Finian McGrath

Question:

177 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason his office at Oisín House was closed; and the way persons can access social welfare information without contacting politicians. [6965/07]

My Department operates a network of 130 local offices and branch offices throughout the country. In the greater Dublin area there are currently sixteen Social Welfare Local Offices from which members of the general public may obtain information on the Department's schemes and services. Each Office has officers who are dedicated to providing information and are available to explain supports and services and to help and assist people in completing forms and accessing their entitlements. The work previously undertaken by the public office based in Oisín House has now been taken over by these offices in Dublin.

Information services have been enhanced in the local offices in recent years. Therefore it was decided that the local offices would be the most appropriate outlets for information services and that services previously provided at Oisín House should, in future, be provided from the Dublin-based offices, in particular Apollo House in Tara Street. Oisín House was closed on 13th April 2006 and at the same time the general enquiry telephone service provided by the Information Services Section was extended and enhanced. A LoCall number 1890 66 22 44 is now in operation which enables customers, regardless of their geographic location, to contact the Section for the cost of a local call.

In addition, there are a number of other means by which members of the general public may access social welfare information without contacting politicians. Presentations and talks are given by staff of my Department to various interest groups relevant to their needs and my Department also attends exhibitions and seminars throughout the country promoting information on social welfare rights and entitlements.

My Department produces a comprehensive range of information leaflets and booklets covering each social welfare payment or scheme. Information leaflets are available in a wide range of outlets across the country, including all Social Welfare Local Offices, Citizens Information Centres, Post Offices and from my Department's LoCall Leaflet Line at 1890 20 23 25. Information is also provided on my Department's website atwww.welfare.ie.

A proactive approach is taken in advertising new schemes and changes and improvements to existing schemes and services, by using an appropriate mix of national and provincial media, information leaflets, fact sheets, posters and direct mailshots. My Department also works closely with the Citizens Information Board which provides information on social services through its nationwide network of Citizen Information Centres (CICs), the Citizens Information website and phone service.

A number of voluntary organisations are also funded by my Department for the provision of welfare rights and information services for groups such as lone parents, the unemployed, immigrants, returning emigrants, older people and carers.

Pension Provisions.

Finian McGrath

Question:

178 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason pensioners who worked in the 1960s were not informed adequately about pension issues; and if there is an obligation on his Department to ensure all pensioners are informed of all entitlements. [6966/07]

The objective of my Department's information policy is to ensure that all citizens, including pensioners, are made aware of their entitlements and that they are kept informed of changes and improvements in schemes and services as they occur. The provision of information in a clear and accessible manner is an essential element of this.

Comprehensive information and guidance in relation to social welfare schemes and services is available through my Department's network of over 130 local offices throughout the country. In some 59 Social Welfare Local Offices of my Department, officers who are dedicated to providing information are available to explain supports and services and to help and assist people in completing forms and accessing their entitlements. This service is available to pensioners in common with other members of the public.

My Department produces a comprehensive range of information leaflets and booklets covering each social welfare payment or scheme. Information booklets for pensioners include publications on State Pension Transition, State Pension Contributory, State Pension Non-Contributory, Household Benefits Package, Free Travel, National Fuel Scheme and Living Alone Allowance.

A Guide to Social Welfare Services (SW4), giving information on all our schemes and services, is also available. New pensioners are issued with a "Pensioners Checklist" advising them of all the supports to which they may be entitled. Information leaflets are available in a wide range of outlets across the country, including all Social Welfare Local Offices, Citizens Information Centres, Post Offices and from my Department's LoCall Leaflet Line at 1890 20 23 25. Information is also available on my Department's websitewww.welfare.ie.

The Central Information Services Unit in my Department operates a phone service where people can get information on all our services. My Department takes a proactive approach in advertising new schemes and changes and improvements to existing schemes and services, by using an appropriate mix of national and provincial media, information leaflets, fact sheets, posters and direct mailshots.

My Department regularly gives presentations or talks to retirement or pre-retirement groups. Information stands are also provided at exhibitions throughout the country promoting information on social welfare rights and entitlements, including the annual Over-50s Shows.

My Department also works closely with the Citizens Information Board which provides information on social services through its nationwide network of Citizens Information Centres (CICs), the Citizens Information website and phone service. A number of voluntary organisations are also funded by my Department for the provision of welfare rights and information services for various groups including older people.

In time, the Department hopes to be in a position to offer pensions customers an enhanced service by proactively inviting them to claim pensions in advance of reaching pension age. In this regard, work has already commenced on the preparation of social insurance contribution records for persons who are approaching pension age, to establish their entitlement to pension in advance.

I am not aware of any particular issue regarding information provision to pensioners who worked in the 1960s. If the Deputy is aware of particular difficulties in this regard, my Department would be happy to deal with any queries. The Information Services Section of my Department may be contacted by telephone at LoCall 1890 66 22 44 or by writing to Information Services, Social Welfare Services Office, Department of Social and Family Affairs, College Road, Sligo.

Road Traffic Offences.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

179 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the penalties imposed on a person found guilty of driving with levels of alcohol above the permitted levels in their system; if these penalties have changed recently; if there are plans to revise these penalties in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6967/07]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my reply to his question of 1st February, Dáil Question No. 200.

Air Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

180 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether there is adequate regulation of airlines, particularly their customer service and charging policies; the locations where customers can seek redress if they have grievances with the performance of airlines which serve the market here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6963/07]

I am satisfied that there is appropriate regulation of airlines and the aviation industry in general in Ireland and that there are adequate avenues of redress for customers regarding the performance of airlines.

The industry is subject to regulation by a number of different bodies. My Department monitors aviation security in the State and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is responsible, inter alia, for safety regulation. The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) is responsible for licensing Irish airlines, licensing the travel trade, regulation of the groundhandling sector, regulating airport charges and aviation terminal services.

CAR is also responsible for the enforcement of the European Community rules under Regulation 261/2004 on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellations and delays. It monitors compliance with the Regulation and investigates complaints relating to Irish airports and airlines.

The Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs enforces the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995 and consumer issues generally.

Public Transport.

Seán Crowe

Question:

181 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he will ensure that Cobh will have an adequate community bus service after June 2007 when a private operator will cease to operate there; if he will allocate the necessary funds to Bus Éireann to ensure that an internal bus service is provided in Cobh to cater for residents there; and if he will make a statement on public transport provision in Cobh. [7055/07]

Decisions by private bus operators relating to the provision and operation of bus services are day-to-day operational matters for bus operators. Any bus operator may apply to my Department under the Road Transport Act 1932 for a licence to operate public bus services.

It is a matter for Bus Éireann to decide, having regard to its statutory mandate and within the resources available to it, whether to undertake the provision of bus services in any particular area, including Cobh. My Department provides funding to Bus Éireann annually towards the cost of providing socially necessary but non-commercial transport services. This funding has increased from €6.9 million in 1997 to €31.595 million in 2007.

Harbours and Piers.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

182 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Kinsale Harbour Commissioners wish to remain independent; and the position in this regard arising from the Government’s Ports Policy. [7056/07]

The Government's Ports Policy Statement, which was launched in January 2005, states that the continued operation of many of the regional harbours under the provisions of the Harbours Act 1946 is unsustainable on the grounds of good governance.

The Policy Statement reiterated the view that these harbours would best achieve their potential through their transfer to local authority ownership or, where this is not possible, through sale to the private sector. In harbours where significant commercial traffic exists consideration will be given to bringing them under the control of a port company.

My Department is working with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to advance the implementation of the Ports Policy Statement with regard to the transfer of the designated regional harbours to their respective local authorities, where appropriate, and to proceed individually in conjunction with the relevant local authorities and harbour authorities, having regard to local requirements in each case.

Kinsale Harbour is a candidate for transfer to local authority control. Kinsale Harbour Commissioners have in the past indicated to my Department a preference that their existing status be preserved, but as outlined above, this status is viewed as unsustainable on the grounds of good governance.

As the harbour is situated in the functional area of Cork County Council, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government requested the Council to undertake an overall assessment of the potential of the harbour for transfer. This assessment is currently under consideration.

Community Development.

Tom Hayes

Question:

183 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when allocations will be announced under the community services programme; and if a group (details supplied) in County Tipperary will receive favourable consideration. [6975/07]

Business plans submitted under the Community Services Programme are currently being assessed and the outcome notified to projects on a rolling basis. Accordingly, groups that have been through the appraisal process in November, December and January have now been notified of the outcome. There are a further 274 business plans to be assessed and this process will take a number of months to complete.

The business plan of the group in question was one of the last to be received and accordingly they will be one of the last groups to be assessed.

Milk Quota.

Pat Breen

Question:

184 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason an application to her Department under the milk quota trading scheme for 2007 and 2008 was not processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6939/07]

The first Milk Quota Trading Scheme attracted some 5,500 applications last November and for the first time involved the Department in directly managing and operating a restructuring scheme on behalf of all Coops throughout the country. As part of the processing arrangements application forms were entered into the database by an external data entry bureau. In this particular case, the application was overlooked in the data entry process. This was an unfortunate oversight, but the person named may apply again to the second scheme, which has a closing date of 9th March.

Farm Waste Management.

Liam Aylward

Question:

185 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in processing a grant application in respect of a slatted house for persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [6949/07]

The person concerned is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme and has now completed the building works concerned. A decision will be made in regard to this application following a final inspection of the completed works which will be carried out shortly by a Department official.

The person concerned also lodged two further applications in December 2006 under the same Scheme. These applications are currently being processed and correspondence will issue to the applicant shortly.

Sheep Industry.

Denis Naughten

Question:

186 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the progress made to date by the implementation group for the sheep strategy group report; the steps she will take to support the price of lamb; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6960/07]

The Sheep Industry Development Strategy Group issued its report in June 2006. This is a comprehensive study of the sheep industry which sets out a Development Plan for the sector contained in 37 recommendations. I decided that the best way to implement these recommendations was to set up an implementation body comprised of representatives of all sectors in the industry, including the relevant state bodies. It is chaired by Mr John Malone, former Secretary General of my Department, who was also the author of the Strategy Group report.

The recommendations address issues such as price structure, price reporting, carcass classification, breeding, research and advice, promotion and quality assurance. The Implementation Group is nearing the completion of its work and I look forward to its final report in the near future.

I have no function in the determination of market prices. The question of specific market price support is not allowed under EU state aid rules.

Grant Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

187 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary on the single farm payment scheme 2005 and 2006. [7000/07]

The person named has been paid an advance of €21,777.23 in respect of his 2006 Single Payment application. An application under the Consolidation measure of the 2006 Single Farm Payment Scheme was submitted on 12 May 2006. The Consolidation measure has been processed and this case is eligible for consolidation. However there is a total shortfall of 8.20 hectares and only 4.22 hectares can be accounted for as land farmed during the reference period that is no longer available as a result of the expiry of a rental agreement.

A letter issued to the person named on 24 January 2007 explaining the position and requesting him to confirm whether he wishes to proceed with his consolidation application or withdraw it. This confirmation is necessary because if the consolidation application proceeds 3.98 consolidated entitlements to the value of €3,261.13 (in respect of lands not declared on the 2006 Single Payment application) will be lost to the National Reserve.

The balance of the 2006 Single Payment will issue to the person named when the completed confirmation form is returned to my Department.

Departmental Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

188 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if there is a grant scheme available for the construction of equine stables; if a scheme exists for the conversion or refurbishment of buildings for equine stables; the rate of grant available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7031/07]

The new Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 provides for the continuation of grant-aid for the construction of equine stables and related facilities, including the conversion of existing buildings. The Scheme concerned, the Farm Improvement Scheme, will be introduced as soon as EU approval is received for the Programme.

Michael Lowry

Question:

189 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the supports available from her Department or from equestrian organisations funded by her Department for the development of an equestrian centre. [7072/07]

The on-farm capital investment measure included in the new National Development Plan includes possible support for the equine sector.

The new Rural Development Programme 2007-2013, which has been submitted to the European Commission for approval, provides for the continuation of grant-aid for the construction of equine stables and related facilities. The Scheme concerned, the Farm Improvement Scheme, will be introduced as soon as EU approval is received for the Programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 255 of 8 February 2007 and the answer thereto, the advice she has to offer to the person (details supplied) in County Kildare; the facilities available to the child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6997/07]

I previously advised the Deputy that as a specific function of the NCSE, through its network of local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is to identify appropriate educational placement for all children with special educational needs and the parents of the child in question should contact the local SENO in this regard.

I am now reiterating that advice particularly as the child is of school-going age. The SENO will advise of the options available which include mainstream placement with support and enrolment in a special unit attached to a mainstream school or a special school as appropriate. The child is currently in receipt of 20 hours per week home tuition.

As previously advised I am committed to ensuring that all children, including those with autism, receive an education appropriate to their needs, preferably through the primary and post primary school network. In this regard my Department has established:

181 special classes for children with autism, attached to special and mainstream schools, 17 of which are in the Kildare area.

5 special classes for children with Asperger's Syndrome.

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

14 Stand Alone facilities providing an Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) specific methodology on a pilot basis, 1 of these facilities is based in the Kildare area and 2 of these facilities have yet to be established.

Education Welfare Service.

John McGuinness

Question:

191 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if education and welfare officers are fully engaged in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the person’s poor attendance has been resolved; and if she will expedite a resolution to the problem. [7013/07]

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

In January 2005, the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) issued guidelines to the management authorities of all primary and post primary schools on reporting student absences, suspensions and expulsions. These guidelines advise that a school must report to the NEWB where a decision has been taken to expel a student. Schools are also required to periodically report to the NEWB on student absences.

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

With regard to the specific data requested by the Deputy, I am informed by the Board that only one return has been received by the Board in relation to this child. This return,which was received by the Board on 8 December 2006, indicated that the child was absent for 20 days on account of illness. A report of illness is not automatically followed up by an educational welfare officer unless a specific note of concern from the Principal is associated with the return. Such a note was not associated with the return in this specific case. I am informed that the Board will instruct the EWO to visit the school seeking an update on the child's attendance since the date of the last school return.

Health and Safety in Schools.

Liam Twomey

Question:

192 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to a complete lack of car parking spaces at a school (details supplied) in County Wexford and the risks associated with the current situation; her plans to solve this problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6977/07]

In accordance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, it is the responsibility of school management authorities to have a safety statement in place in their schools. Schools are obliged to identify possible hazards, assess the risks to health and safety and to put appropriate safeguards in place. Provision is built into the School Building Programme to enable schools address urgent health and safety problems. In this regard, primary schools are given an annual allocation under the grant scheme for minor works which can be used entirely at the discretion of school management to address basic health and safety issues relating to school infrastructure.

The scope of the works referred to by the Deputy is also appropriate for consideration under the Summer Works Scheme and, while the schools application was successful under the 2007 Scheme, it is open to it to apply again under the 2008 Scheme when it is published later this year.

Subject Inspections.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

193 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of subject inspections in mathematics conducted in post-primary schools in 2006; and the number of same that have been published on her Department’s website. [6981/07]

The Inspectorate of my Department conducted 727 subject inspections in post-primary schools in 2006. This figure includes 34 subject inspections of Mathematics which were conducted during 2006. Twenty-one of the inspections of Mathematics were conducted as stand-alone evaluations and 13 were carried out as part of whole-school evaluations (WSE). Fifteen subject inspection reports on Mathematics have been published on my Department's website and a further two reports on Mathematics will be published on the website this week. Further subject inspection reports on Mathematics will be published during 2007.

School Accommodation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

194 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the Office of Public Works will purchase a site which is available from Limerick City Council in order that an extension can be built to accommodate the needs of a school (details supplied) in Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7005/07]

The Office of Public Works is currently negotiating with the Department of Defence on the acquisition of a strip of land that is required to facilitate a building project at the Limerick Model School. The outcome of these negotiations will determine the need for consultation with the local authority on other lands.

School Staffing.

Marian Harkin

Question:

195 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will put extra supports in place in schools for children with Roma backgrounds, similar to supports for Irish Traveller pupils, in particular in a school (details supplied) in County Clare. [7006/07]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school for a particular school year is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on the 30th September of the previous school year and by reference to a staffing schedule. This staffing schedule for the 2006/07 school year is outlined in Primary Circular 0023/2006 which was issued to all primary schools. In the current school year (2006/07) the staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy comprises of an Administrative Principal and 6 mainstream class teaching posts based on an enrolment of 157 pupils at 30th September, 2005 as submitted by the Board of Management of the school. The school also has 2 Learning Support/Resource Teachers, 1 Permanent Resource Teacher for Travellers and 3 Temporary Language Support Posts. The language support posts have been allocated to the school in order to meet the language needs of students, including the Roma children, in the school whose first language is not English. The Board of Management has submitted a report indicating that there were 179 pupils enrolled in the school on the 30th September 2006. The mainstream staffing of the school for the 2007/08 school year will be determined on that figure and in accordance with the staffing schedule for the 2007/2008 school year which will be finalised as soon as possible.

Site Acquisitions.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

196 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in acquiring a site for a Gaelscoil (details supplied) in County Limerick; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Limerick County Council has a suitable available site for the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7007/07]

The Property Management Section of the Office of Public Works (OPW), which acts generally on behalf of my Department in the acquisition of school sites, has been requested to source a site for this school. On foot of advertising a number of proposals were received. A technical assessment of these proposals has been carried out by the OPW and a report is currently with my Department for consideration. Due to the commercial sensitivities of site acquisitions I am not in a position to identify any site under consideration at present. When a suitable site has been secured the project will be considered further in the context of the School Building and Modernisation programme and the National Development Plan.

School Staffing.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

197 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if appointment of a principal for a school (details supplied) in County Wexford will be granted before September 2007 in order that they can work with the group to set up the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7028/07]

An application for the sanctioning of the appointment of a principal teacher from a date earlier than September 2007 has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy. This application is under consideration and my Department will contact the school shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

Seán Crowe

Question:

198 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the situation at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin where parents were informed by the then principal in 2004 that a new building would be ready to occupy in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7042/07]

The Department has acknowledged the need to relocate the existing primary school referred to by the Deputy to a greenfield site. The acquisition of a site for this development is being actively pursued to enable this. When this matter has been finalised, progress on the proposed project can be considered under the School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

199 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the proposed new primary school to be located adjacent to Termon Abbey and Aston Village, Drogheda, County Louth where a site has been provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7043/07]

The Department recently published a Draft Area Development Plan for north Dublin, East Meath and South Louth. The Draft Plan, which is available on the Department's website www.education.ie, covers the North Drogheda Environs which is the area to which the Deputy refers.

The Deputy will be aware that the Local Authority has published a North Drogheda Environs Master Plan. This proposes the construction of 7,500 additional houses up to year 2024. The projected population is 20,250 persons.

The Department's Draft Area Development Plan concludes that this will create a need for between 2,288 and 2,652 extra primary school places in the period up to 2024. This equates to between 92 and 106 extra class groupings. The Department has reserved 3 primary school sites to meet this need. The Draft Plan recommends that the sites should be developed commensurate with the delivery of housing developments. The timing of their development will require ongoing consultation with the Local authority.

The Commission on School Accommodation will now conduct a public consultation process on the Draft Plan. It has indicated that Oral hearings in this regard will commence on Monday 26th March. This process will culminate in a final Development Plan for the Area for implementation.

Higher Education Grants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 can qualify for a late application higher education grant for which they have applied to South County Dublin VEC; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7044/07]

The three Third Level Student Support Schemes, administered by the Local Authorities and the Vocational Education Committees on behalf of my Department, offer financial assistance to eligible students attending approved third level courses. Students entering approved courses for the first time are, generally speaking, eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment.

The closing date for receipt of grant applications for 2006/07 academic year was 31st August 2006. The awarding bodies, at their own absolute discretion, may accept applications after this date.

The person referred to by the Deputy should contact their local awarding body to determine whether a late application would be considered at this juncture for the 2006/07 academic year.

Schools Building Projects.

Willie Penrose

Question:

201 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for additional accommodation by a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if she will take steps to ensure that a final decision is given in relation thereto as there has been a significant increase in population in the Kinnegad area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7102/07]

The proposed building project at the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. The school in question was listed to progress through the architectural planning process and was given approval to proceed to Stage 3 (Developed sketch scheme with costings) of architectural planning.

When the Stage 3 submission is received in the Department, Officials in School Building Section will arrange a meeting with the School's Design Team to evaluate the documentation. It is envisaged that unless there are very exceptional circumstances involved, the meeting will be sufficient to authorise the project to progress to the next stages of architectural planning.

The further progression of this project to tender and construction will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006-2010.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the highest fee charged by any practitioner to the Mahon Tribunal since its inception as the Flood Tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7086/07]

In relation to fees charged by external counsel engaged by the Tribunal to represent it in litigation, the highest fee submitted by the Tribunal to my Department for payment in respect of a senior counsel in a single case amounted to €254,221. This comprised a brief fee, per diem refreshers and other related charges.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

203 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the arrangements being put in place by local authorities to assume responsibilities for the housing aid for the elderly scheme which is to be transferred from the Health Service Executive; when this proposed transfer will take effect; if personnel who are currently engaged in the scheme will transfer to the local authorities or if new personnel will be recruited; if the scheme will alter as a result of this transfer; if there are proposed changes to the scheme upon transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6950/07]

Details of the revised housing adaptation grant schemes for older people and people with a disability were announced recently as part of the new housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities. The revised schemes are based on the outcome of the review of the Disabled Persons Grant scheme which was recently completed within my Department. The review also incorporated the conditions governing the Essential Repairs Grant scheme and the Special Housing Aid for the Elderly scheme.

As part of the revised conditions, a specific scheme to be known as the scheme of Housing Aid for Older People (HOP) will be introduced, and will provide targeted support to improve conditions in the existing housing of older people. The scheme, which amalgamates the provisions of the Essential Repairs and Special Housing Aid for the Elderly Schemes, will be administered by the local authorities. The maximum grant available will be €10,500 and may cover 100% of the cost of works for applicants with an annual household income of less than €30,000, tapering to 30% for those with annual household incomes of €54,001 to €65,000.

As part of the review process my Department convened a working group comprising representatives of the Department of Health & Children, the HSE, and local authorities, to finalise proposals arising from the review of the schemes and to advise on the implementation of the Government Decision to transfer responsibility for the Special Housing Aid for the Elderly Scheme from the HSE to the local authorities. The working group is in the process of assessing the additional resources that may be required by local authorities, if any, as a result of the transfer of the Special Housing Aid for the Elderly scheme.

It is not intended that there will be any transfer of HSE staff to local authorities as part of the new scheme. It is expected that the Scheme of Housing Aid for Older People will come into operation during 2007 and I intend to issue detailed administrative guidance to all local authorities later this year.

Planning Issues.

Denis Naughten

Question:

204 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the procedure involved in applying for approval for peat extraction following the enactment of the Planning and Development Regulations S.I. No. 364 of 2005; the type of development which is required to go through the planning process; his plans to issue guidelines to local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6951/07]

The Planning and Development Regulations 2005, generally exempt peat extraction below a threshold of 10 hectares from the requirement for planning permission. However, there are exceptions where the peat extraction would have significant effects on the environment. In these limited cases, planning permission must be applied for, accompanied by an environmental impact statement. If a person proposing to carry out peat extraction requires guidance as to whether the extraction in question would have significant effects on the environment they should consult the appropriate planning authority. If desired, a person may seek a declaration under section 5 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 from the planning authority on the question of whether a development is, or is not, exempted development.

In July 2005, my Department issued Circular PD3/2005 to local authorities detailing the amendments contained in 2005 Regulations. I have no proposals to issue further guidelines.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

205 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way waste water treatment systems are regulated; the reason many such systems have been certified by the Irish Agreement Board without essential health, safety, and consumer protection requirements being fulfilled; the redress consumers have if supplied with a faulty system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6959/07]

Part H of the Building Regulations (Drainage and Waste Water Disposal) sets out the requirements for the treatment of effluent from waste water systems. The relevant Technical Guidance Document H (TGD-H) provides guidance on how to comply with the requirements of Part H. TGD-H calls up the following standards:

(1) Septic tanks serving single houses: Irish Standard Recommendations SR6 of 1991 for Domestic Effluent Treatment and Disposal from Single Dwellings, issued by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI); and

(2) Septic tanks serving groups of houses: British Standard B.S. 6297: 1983 (incorporating amendment No. 1 of 1990), a Code of Practice for the Design and Installation of Small Sewage Treatment Works, issued by the British Standards Institution (BSI).

TGD-H also acknowledges that waste water treatment systems other than septic tanks may be used. Such systems are accepted as satisfactory provided it can be shown that they are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are used. Part D of the building regulations (Materials and Workmanship) specifies alternative ways of proving compliance, including compliance with appropriate product standards or being subject to certification by an appropriate national certification body. The Irish Agreement Board (IAB) is the national and European recognised body for certifying new building products or systems for which national standards do not exist. The IAB is an independent body which operates under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

A new European Standard (EN 12566-3), for small waste water treatments plants has been introduced and is now in the transitional phase of implementation. The need for new systems to comply with this standard has been brought to the attention of local authorities by Departmental Circular Letter BC16/2006 dated 8 November 2006.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently finalising a revised edition of their Manual on Wastewater Treatment Systems serving Single Houses, in consultation with all interested parties. It is understood that the EPA Manual will refer to relevant European Standards and that the NSAI propose to withdraw SR6: 1991, in favour of the proposed new edition of the EPA Manual, when available. My Department plans to amend TGD-H, to call up the EPA Manual and to consider any related issues at the time.

Local Authority Housing.

Michael Ring

Question:

206 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a person who bought out their council house approximately twenty years ago can rent out that house now; the position in such cases; and the length of time the local authority have a interest in houses that they formerly owned. [6962/07]

Under the tenant purchase scheme special conditions apply to the occupancy and disposal of a tenant purchased house. These conditions require that the dwelling must be occupied as a normal place of residence by the purchaser or by a member of the purchaser's family, unless the local authority otherwise allows. In addition, the first resale of houses sold under the tenant purchase scheme requires the consent of the local authority. The time period for which the conditions apply is as stated in the transfer order of the dwelling in question. Under the current scheme these conditions apply for a period of 20 years from the date of the transfer to the tenant purchaser or such longer period as may be provided for in a shared ownership lease.

All aspects of the tenant purchase scheme are currently under review in accordance with the Government's commitment in the recently launched Statement on Housing Policy — Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities. Details of the revised scheme will be announced over the coming months.

Housing Grants.

John Perry

Question:

207 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the final inspection on the home of a person (details supplied) will be carried out, as part of the rural renewal scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6969/07]

My Department will be scheduling this property for final inspection very shortly.

Nuclear Safety.

Barry Andrews

Question:

208 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the improvements in cooperation between Ireland and UK on the matter of Sellafield, arising from the legal actions to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6986/07]

Ireland has long been concerned about the threat posed by the large and complex nuclear installation site at Sellafield.

In 2001, and in response to the imminent commissioning of a further plant at the site, the MOX plant, Ireland instituted legal proceedings against the United Kingdom under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The action related, inter alia, to the inadequacy of the environmental impact assessment carried out by the United Kingdom for the MOX Plant, the failure of the United Kingdom to take all steps necessary to protect and preserve the marine environment of the Irish Sea, and the failure to co-operate with Ireland in taking the steps necessary to protect and preserve the marine environment of the Irish Sea.

The UNCLOS Tribunal hearing began in June 2003 but was suspended to facilitate resolution of an issue raised by the European Commission that the case was more appropriate to matters of EU competence rather than UNCLOS.

Pending hearing of the substantive case, and following an application by Ireland, the UNCLOS Tribunal issued a Provisional Measures Order, which made provision for, inter alia, a review by Ireland and the UK of the mechanisms for inter-Governmental notification and co-operation. Under this process a series of co-operative measures have been developed, agreed and put in place.

These measures are valuable from Ireland's viewpoint, are working well and represent distinct real added value to the necessary co-operative relationship to which Ireland considers is its entitlement on this issue. The Bi-Lateral Agreement on Early Notification of a Nuclear Incident, direct access to the UK Radiation Monitoring System (RIMNET), access for the Garda Síochána to Sellafield, access for the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to Sellafield and other facilities, significantly improved information exchanges, co-operation on emergency planning with the UK, and improved contacts at regulator and official level on nuclear issues, all provide objective evidence of real improvements.

The judgment of the European Court of Justice of 30 May 2006, inter alia, declared that Ireland, by instituting proceedings against the UK under UNCLOS, failed to fulfil its obligations under Community Law. This judgment established that certain provisions of UNCLOS form part of the Community legal order and that the ECJ has exclusive jurisdiction to determine disputes between Member States on their interpretation and application.

Following the judgment, there was an exchange of correspondence between Ireland and the European Commission on the matter, and the Commission has now clarified the legal situation. Following consultation with the Attorney General, the case taken by Ireland against the UK under UNCLOS will not now proceed. The Commission and the UNCLOS Tribunal were informed accordingly on the 16 February last.

The case taken by Ireland under UNCLOS has served the purpose of identifying the concerns of Ireland in relation to Sellafield on the international stage and more particularly at EU level. It has also led to significant improvements in the level of co-operation and information received from the UK in relation to Sellafield. Lack of co-operation and information from the UK on the issue was one of the significant claims made by Ireland in the UNCLOS case.

The ECJ in its judgement against Ireland had provided clarity in that certain international agreements now fall exclusively within the Court's remit insofar as disputes arise under them. This applies not only to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (which was in dispute in this case) but also potentially to other international conventions whose aim is to protect the environment. Accordingly, the ECJ and the European Commission are now placed centre stage in respect of Ireland's concerns regarding discharges and safety at Sellafield. In my meeting with Commissioner Piebalgs in January 2006, I made clear to the Commissioner that the Commission needs to respond to these concerns and become more proactive on the Sellafield issue.

Since Ireland began its case against the UK under UNCLOS in 2001, the Commission has instituted two actions against the UK in relation to Sellafield under the terms of the EURATOM Treaty. Following my meeting with Commissioner Piebalgs, the Commission issued a Decision (15 February 2006) against Sellafield in respect of the THORP leak. This follows the Directive issued by the Commission against the UK in March 2004 in respect of the B30 ponds.

The UK have lodged an appeal in the ECJ (April 2006) against the Commission Decision on the THORP leak claiming inter alia that the Commission does not have the competence to adopt the decision because it is based on safety concerns.

While the broad legal landscape regarding disputes between Member States has changed, this Government's fundamental position has not. Our policy continues to reflect the firm position that Sellafield is an unacceptable threat to Ireland and that it should be closed in a safe and orderly manner.

I will continue to ensure that the concerns of Ireland are represented directly to the European Commission in relation to Sellafield at Commissioner and Senior Official level and that the current actions against Sellafield by the Commission are continuously monitored to ensure that they are sustained and effective. The Attorney General will also monitor developments at the European Court of Justice.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects to receive the modified preliminary report from Kildare County Council in the matter of the upgrading of the waste water treatment facilities at Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare in view of the necessity to proceed with the project given the serious pollution threat; the nature of the correspondence between his Department and Kildare County Council in this matter; when his attention was drawn to the need for the upgrading of the facility; the way he responded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6996/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 596 of the 17 October 2006. The submission of the revised Preliminary Report to my Department is a matter for Kildare County Council.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

210 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to provide grants to people who install rain water harvesters in their homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6999/07]

Register of Electors.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

211 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if people who have been granted leave to remain here on humanitarian grounds are entitled to vote in a general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7008/07]

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.

Subject to this primary requirement, the person's citizenship then determines the polls at which he or she is entitled to vote. Irish citizens who are registered to vote may vote at all polls. British citizens may vote at Dáil, European and local elections; other EU citizens may vote at European and local elections; and non-EU citizens may vote at local elections only.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Pat Breen

Question:

212 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the tender documents for the Quilty, Scariff, Feakle sewerage schemes will be ready; when the contract will be awarded; when the scheme will commence on the grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7009/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 1820 of 31 January 2007.

Election Management System.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

213 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason it was decided to centrally store electronic voting machines at Gormanstown military base; the further reason a non-weather proof venue was not chosen; the cost of using this facility; the cost to date of storage of the machines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7029/07]

The Government decision to proceed with the movement of the electronic voting equipment to centralised premises was made taking into account a range of factors, including costs of current and centralised arrangements and the likely benefits to be realised. In this regard, the Commission on Electronic Voting in its Second Report concluded that, as the current arrangements under which voting equipment is stored at 25 locations are likely to give rise to continuing variations in the implementation of security and related control measures, together with replication of similar costs of implementation of these measures which are not insignificant across individual centres, enhanced and more uniform security and greater economy of security costs could be achieved through the rationalisation of storage on a regional or centralised basis.

The electronic voting equipment will be housed in weatherproof locked metal storage containers at Gormanston Aerodrome, as an added protection, the containers have also been insulated. On the advice of the manufacturers, the containers will, in addition, contain desiccants to absorb any moisture generated due to temperature variations. The containers are stored in one complete section of an aircraft hangar on the site of a full-time army barracks. The hangar has been inspected by the Office of Public Works and, with their assistance, has been made ready for storage purposes. The hangar itself is locked, alarmed and monitored by CCTV cameras. Accordingly, I am satisfied that the equipment will be appropriately stored at Gormanston.

Information provided by returning officers to my Department indicates that the annual storage costs for the electronic voting machines and ancillary equipment under local arrangements is currently some €705,000, with figures for 2005 and 2004 amounting to some €696,000 and €658,000 respectively. It is not possible to detail conclusively at this stage the total costs which will be associated with the centralised storage arrangements, including costs relating to the transport of the equipment to Gormanston. Arrangements have been made for the procurement of 48 metal storage containers and ancillary items for Gormanston Aerodrome at a cost of €112,750 (excluding VAT).

Spray Paint Regulation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

214 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which the sale of spray paints is currently regulated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7052/07]

I assume that the Question refers to the problem of graffiti. The sale of spray paint is not regulated in this regard.

Turbary Rights.

Willie Penrose

Question:

215 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the moneys due to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, who has agreed to sell lands under the cessation of turf cutting scheme of the Department, and who has duly completed all the necessary paperwork to obtain maximum incentives, will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7071/07]

Willie Penrose

Question:

218 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the moneys due to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, who has agreed to sell lands under the cessation of turf cutting scheme in the Department, and who has duly completed all the necessary paperwork to obtain maximum incentives, will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7098/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 and 218 together.

I understand that the persons concerned were offering for sale a specific type of turbary right which had originally been purchased from the Land Commission. It transpired that it was not possible to transfer this type of turbary right to the State, but only to extinguish the right. The complex issues involved in cases of this kind were only resolved last month and letters of offer will issue to all those involved in this type of sale as soon as possible.

Willie Penrose

Question:

216 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the moneys due to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, who has agreed to sell lands under the cessation of turf cutting scheme in his Department, and who has duly completed all the necessary paperwork to obtain maximum incentives, will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7096/07]

I understand that a letter of offer to purchase Turbary Rights issued from my Department to the person concerned in August 2006. To date, no response to this offer has been received from the person or their Solicitor.

Willie Penrose

Question:

217 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the moneys due to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, who has agreed to sell lands under the cessation of turf cutting scheme in his Department, and who has duly completed all the necessary paperwork to obtain maximum incentives, will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7097/07]

I understand that Contracts in this matter are currently being examined by the Chief State Solicitor's Office who are liaising with the vendor's solicitors with a view to finalising this transaction.

Question No. 218 answered with QuestionNo. 215.

Willie Penrose

Question:

219 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the moneys due to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, who has agreed to sell lands under the cessation of turf cutting scheme in his Department, and where all the necessary paperwork to obtain maximum incentives has been duly completed by the person will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7099/07]

I understand that a letter of offer to purchase Turbary Rights issued from my Department to the person concerned in May 2006. To date no response to this offer has been received from the person or their Solicitor.

Willie Penrose

Question:

220 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the moneys due to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath, who has agreed to sell lands under the cessation of turf cutting scheme in his Department, and where all the necessary paperwork to obtain maximum incentives has been duly completed by the person will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7100/07]

I understand that Contracts in this matter are currently being examined by the Chief State Solicitor's Office who are liaising with the vendor's solicitors with a view to finalising this transaction.

Willie Penrose

Question:

221 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the moneys due to a person (details supplied) who has sold their turbary rights in respect of NHA lands in County Westmeath, will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7101/07]

I understand that Contracts for Sale in this case were forwarded by my Department to the Chief State Solicitor's Office on 14 February 2007. The Chief State Solicitor's Office will be liaising with the vendor's solicitors with a view to finalising the transaction.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

222 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has received an application for a sewerage plant for the village of Ballinahown, Athlone, County Westmeath; the details in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7104/07]

The Ballinahown Sewerage Scheme was ranked 24th in the list of water and sewerage schemes submitted by Westmeath County Council in response to my Department's request to local authorities last year to undertake fresh assessments of the needs for capital works in their areas and to prioritise their proposals on the basis of the assessments. The priorities adopted by the members of Westmeath County Council will be taken into account in the framing of the next phase of my Department's Water Services Investment Programme.