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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007

Vol. 634 No. 4

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 14, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 15 to 74, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 75 to 80, inclusive, answered orally.

Foreshore Licences.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

81 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the use of High Court orders for the management of unlicensed developments in view of the proposed removal of a slipway and moorings at Oysterhaven, County Cork. [11484/07]

When the conditions attached to a foreshore lease are not complied with, it is standard procedure for the Department to contact the lessee with a view to ensuring compliance with the conditions of the lease.

However, when a lessee refuses to comply with the terms of the relevant lease, the Department, acting in consultation with its legal advisors, will initiate appropriate legal proceedings to protect the foreshore.

As the case referred to by the Deputy is currently before the Courts, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Dan Boyle

Question:

82 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has acted on the recommendations of the Public Accounts 9th Interim Report on the 2003 Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Office of Public Works, with regard to the issuing of marina grants and foreshore licences. [11483/07]

I accept fully the recommendations made in the 9th Interim Report of the Public Accounts Committee concerning the application of the principles underlying the Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals in the Public Sector to capital projects undertaken by the State. However, the question concerns specifically the application of these principles to the issuing of grants to marinas, and there are no plans for any scheme for grant aid for marinas to be operated by the Department. All State support for tourism development, including marine tourism, will be channelled through Fáilte Ireland under the new National Development Plan.

The only outstanding matter concerns a grant for a marina at Roundstone, County Galway, which was selected for grant aid by way of a Budget Day adjustment in 2000, in advance of the terms of the former Marine Tourism Grant Scheme being finalised. The conditions set down for approval of the grant to this project mirror as closely as possible the conditions for payment that were put in place for the Marine Tourism Grant Scheme. The Operational Guidelines for the Scheme laid down rigorous selection and assessment procedures which were consistent with the 1994 Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals that have now been updated by the 2005 Guidelines.

The Roundstone project has been unable to satisfy the conditions for payment of the grant, and no payment has been made. There is a token provision in the 2007 Revised Estimates to allow for the possibility of this grant being paid in the event that the applicants can comply fully with the conditions.

With regard to the issuing of foreshore leases and licences, the Department is pursuing a number of initiatives designed to significantly improve our processes and procedures with a view to enhancing customer service while protecting the foreshore.

Postal Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

83 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of the postal service to meet the challenges of technology and competition in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11452/07]

The ability of the existing postal service and An Post to meet the future challenges of full market opening and electronic substitution are in the first instance, a matter for the board and management of An Post and other companies operating in the market.

Competition has arrived in the postal sector in Ireland and across the EU. The weight limit applying to postal items falling within the reserved area and therefore not open to competition, has been reduced on a phased basis since 2003. The reserved area currently only applies to mail weighing 50g or less and two and a half times the basic tariff for domestic and inbound international mail. Outbound international mail was fully liberalised on 1 January 2004 and the parcels business is fully liberalised, with major international players operating in the Irish market.

To date Ireland has adopted a light-touch regulatory approach to liberalisation so as to encourage and maximise the number of postal operators that might wish to enter the market. Currently, there are 29 firms operating in Ireland with a postal service authorisation from the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The level of competition is likely to intensify in the coming years. Full market opening of the postal market is due to take place across the EU from 1 January 2009, subject to political agreement.

A vibrant, efficient postal service is an important aspect of any successful economy and it is vital therefore that An Post continues its return to a secure financial footing and prepares to meet the challenges ahead.

The Government is confident that once the initial challenges have been overcome, full competition in the postal market will ultimately be good for both An Post and Irish consumers. It is however, imperative that the company restructures itself effectively and that management and trade unions in An Post work together to transform the company into an efficient and modern service provider by implementing the agreed restructuring programme.

By embracing the necessary changes in a positive manner, management and staff in An Post will help move the company in the direction it needs to go if it is to maintain current contracts and compete for further business.

Telecommunications Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

84 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has identified any particular infrastructural deficiencies or requirements in the telecommunications sector which have prevented or might in the future prevent the provision of modern telecommunication services including broadband and mobile telephony in all areas throughout the country without exception; if he will issue directives to or through the regulator to the service providers with a view to achieving 100% availability of state of the art services at the earliest possible date; when this will be achieved or achievable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11465/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband and mobile telephony, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

I have no powers to influence the behaviour of private sector companies in relation to the provision of mobile telephony services. ComReg sets out the obligations on mobile network operators with regard to population coverage. These obligations are set down in the licence conditions for each operator. All four mobile network operators have complied with these targets to date. The mobile network operators in Ireland, Vodafone, O2, Meteor and 3 are all investing significantly in their networks and ComReg estimates that more than €600m is invested annually on mobile networks in Ireland.

It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. That is why my Department has undertaken initiatives to address issues regarding broadband coverage. These include investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in over 120 towns and cities. These MANs will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs. Complementary to the MAN networks, the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) has funded over 120 projects specifically aimed at smaller communities.

However, despite Government and private investment in broadband I am aware that there are still some parts of the country where the private sector is unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. A Steering Committee comprising officials from my Department and ComReg is currently finalising a scheme, entitled the National Broadband Scheme which will address the question of availability of broadband to unserved areas.

The Steering Committee has met with Service Providers and key stakeholders about this scheme. The scheme, when it is fully rolled out, will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in unserved areas of the country are met. Work on the design of an appropriate public tender is under way.

There has been a large increase in the number of operators who offer Broadband services. In addition, there have been welcome signs in the last year that public take-up of alternative means of accessing broadband such as cable broadband and fixed wireless has begun to take off. The continuing development of Wi-Max and other wireless and mobile broadband technologies offers considerable potential for the future.

Migration to Next Generation Networks is currently being considered by Service Providers and will generate many issues with wide implications for regulation, competition, investment and service delivery that need to be addressed. Therefore I consider it essential that all stakeholders are working together to ensure that Irish business and consumers have choice and that competitive products and services are being offered.

To achieve this migration, I intend to establish a National Advisory Forum to advise me on progress towards Next Generation Networks. The Forum will be charged with having a blueprint in place by the end of 2007 on the migration.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

85 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the percentage of biofuel crops that have been supplied to date under Government support schemes which have been produced from raw materials sourced here; the percentage that have been imported from abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11491/07]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

86 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to increase the production and use of biodiesel and bioethanol other than by importation, having particular regard to the needs for security of supply, the provision for import substitution and the maximisation of employment arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11424/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

99 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the measures he will introduce to improve the sustainability profile of the fuel transport sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11334/07]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

114 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he proposes to incentivise the use of home produced alternative fuels in the transport sector with a view to combating global warming while at the same time maximising the economic benefit nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11443/07]

Bernard Allen

Question:

120 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is prepared to recommend raising the quota of pure plant oil which qualifies for excise free status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11414/07]

Michael Noonan

Question:

124 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in the context of import substitution and eco awareness he is prepared to encourage an increase in the amount of biodiesel or ethanol qualifying for excise free status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11462/07]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

147 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount of bioethanol and biodiesel currently qualifying for excise free status; the potential production in 2007; his intentions for further incentivisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11453/07]

Billy Timmins

Question:

163 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to surpass the projections outlined in the Government’s recently unveiled White Paper on Energy with particular reference to encouraging the use of home produced alternative energy in the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11471/07]

Joe Costello

Question:

186 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the biofuels obligation will be delayed until 2009; the measures he will introduce in the interim to accelerate the level of biofuels in the fuel mix here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11338/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85, 86, 99, 114, 120, 124, 147, 163 and 186 together.

The Government is firmly committed to the development of an Irish biofuels market and to the development and deployment of bio-energy generally in Ireland. A range of initiatives is already in place to support the development of the biofuels sector. The Minister for Finance has made it clear that any extension in the amount of excise relief under the Biofuels Relief Schemes is not envisaged at this stage. The second Scheme runs until 2011. We are focusing now on non-fiscal measures which will increase the market penetration of Biofuels. The planned introduction of a Biofuels Obligation by 2009 will require all fuel suppliers to ensure that biofuels represent a certain percentage of their annual fuel sales.

In announcing the obligation, I have also committed to achieving 5.75% market penetration of biofuels by 2009, in advance of the target date in the EU Biofuels Directive. We have also committed to achieving 10% market penetration of biofuels in Ireland by 2020. We will undertake a series of consultations this year with stakeholders on the specific details of the scheme and this will be followed by the introduction of appropriate legislation. We have set 2009 as the date for introduction of the obligation. This is a tight timeline in reality and it allows for sufficient time for market players to gear up and for the details to be worked through.

The Bioenergy Action Plan sets out a series of cross-Governmental and inter-agency actions to support the development and deployment of bioenergy in Ireland. In formulating the plan, it was agreed that while excise relief is an effective short-term measure to stimulate the biofuels market, other policy initiatives, such as a renewables obligation, would be beneficial in the longer-term. The obligation will also give all market players the necessary long-term certainty to make appropriate investment decisions.

The Bioenergy Action Plan also sets out the measures aimed at encouraging farmers to grow energy crops. The move to a biofuels obligation and our ambitious targets, together will create opportunities for the farming community to diversify into energy crops. The production of energy crops in Ireland is relatively underdeveloped and the incentives put in place by my colleague the Minister for Agriculture and Food are designed to encourage further development.

The biofuels obligation will provide market players and producers with long-term certainty and a more stable investment climate. The 5.75% obligation represents a long-term commitment by the Government to the development of a biofuels market in Ireland, and will build on the success of the two biofuels excise relief programmes.

Under the 2005 Pilot Biofuels Mineral Oil Tax (MOT) Relief Scheme, excise relief was awarded on the production of 2m litres of bioethanol and 2m litres of biodiesel for the duration of the scheme. 95% of the 16m litres of biofuels being produced overall under the scheme involve the use of raw materials sourced in Ireland.

Under the 2006 Biofuels MOT Relief Scheme, excise relief was awarded on the production of 306m litres of bioethanol and 290m litres of biodiesel for the duration of the scheme. The scheme provides for the production of 40m litres of bioethanol and 57m litres of biodiesel in 2007. This is in addition to the pilot scheme, which provides for the production of 0.795m litres of bioethanol and 1.076m litres of biodiesel in 2007.

Scheme II was designed to move from the pilot stage to a 2% market penetration of biofuels by 2008, representing up to 163m litres of production per annum. While there is a significant increase in indigenous feedstocks being used in this scheme, it is too early to state the precise percentage of indigenous raw materials that will be used.

In the case of larger scale, long-term developments under the Scheme, where significant investments are required, a degree of imports have been identified as necessary until facilities and feedstock supply chains are in place. I can confirm however that the majority of applicants under the scheme have indicated that it is their immediate or longer term intention to locate processing facilities in Ireland.

The Biofuels Mineral Oil Tax Relief Schemes were rolled out as competitive calls for proposals. They involved an open and transparent process in which the scoring mechanism was published as part of the application form and accompanying documentation. The schemes were the subject of State Aids applications which were approved by DG Competition. Under State Aids Rules the process must be open and fair and subject to single market rules.

The EU transport fuel market is fully liberalised and EU rules do not allow for positive discrimination. Neither could preference be given to any participants within the competition by virtue of the origin of biofuels or biofuel feedstocks, or by the size or nature of the company applying for excise relief.

In addition to measures to increase the penetration of biofuels, farmers are also being incentivised by a new €6 million bioenergy scheme to top-up the EU energy crop premium, announced recently by my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food. Under this scheme, farmers will receive an additional €80 per hectare on top of the existing €45 premium.

Ireland currently has 400,000 hectares of land under tillage and 75,000 hectares of land would be required if all of the 2% target were to be met from indigenous crops. By establishing targets of 5.75% and 10% market penetration by 2010 and 2020, we are creating a Biofuels market framework in which Irish farmers will have significant opportunities to participate.

Broadcasting Services.

Damien English

Question:

87 Mr. English asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which it is expected to extend RTÉ transmission capacity to neighbouring jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11432/07]

Section 16(1) of the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960, as amended, sets the core public service objectives for the RTÉ Authority. It requires the Authority to provide a national television and radio service and permits the Authority the discretion to provide "broadcasting services of a local, community or regional character".

Section 28(1) of the Broadcasting Act 2001 expands the public service broadcasting remit of the RTÉ Authority to the whole of the island of Ireland. Section 3(1)(b) of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2006, as recently passed by Dáil Éireann, proposes to amend Section 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1960, to require the RTÉ Authority to provide television and radio services to Irish communities outside of the island of Ireland. The television service is required to be representative of the programme schedules of the existing public service channels RTÉ One, RTÉ Two and TG4. Whilst ultimately a matter for RTÉ it is likely that the programming provided on the television service will consist primarily of domestic programming commissioned or produced by RTÉ and Teilifís na Gaeilge.

Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Section 16(2) of the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960 empower the RTÉ Authority to establish, maintain and operate transmission infrastructure for the purposes of providing its public service broadcasting services.

Section 3(1)(a) of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2006 also proposes that the RTÉ Authority would be required to establish, maintain and operate the provision of a national multiplex service. Such a service would comprise of the infrastructure and electronic services needed to allow for digital terrestrial broadcasting in Ireland.

In essence, the existing corpus of broadcasting legislation and the proposed Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2006, taken together mandate the RTÉ Authority to provide public service broadcasting services within the island of Ireland and to Irish communities abroad, and empowers the RTÉ Authority to establish broadcasting transmission infrastructure for such a purpose.

As such it is a matter for the RTÉ Authority to decide on the extent and reach of its transmission capacity in delivering on its statutory mandate.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

88 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has received and reviewed the National Council for the Blind of Ireland’s general election manifesto for 2007; if he will bring forward measures to implement the NCBI’s recommendations to improve access to communications and information technology for citizens who are blind or vision impaired; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11363/07]

I have received the National Council for the Blind's General Election manifesto for 2007. My Department's Disability Sectoral Plan 2006-2009, under the Disability Act 2005, sets targets for improving the range of accessible services in all sectors under its aegis including communications. The Plan will be reviewed every three years and amended and updated as necessary.

Under the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) Universal Service and Users' Rights) Regulations 2003, the Universal Service Provider is required to implement specific measures for disabled end-users. Responsibility for the enforcement of these regulations lies with the Commission for Communications Regulations (ComReg).

The NCBI manifesto asks for a number of tax concessions and subsidies in the area of: accessible books, pensions, transport and access to ICTs.

While many of these are outside my immediate remit, you can be assured that all their submissions will be carefully considered. Addressing the needs of people with disabilities is a priority of this Government and will continue to be so.

Postal Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

89 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has conveyed to An Post or the postal union representatives his preferred options and structures for the development and delivery of the postal service with particular reference to the optimum number of post offices or sub-post offices expected to be upgraded electronically in the context of the future role for An Post in the letter and package delivery service [11434/07]

Matters relating to the development and delivery of postal services and the electronic upgrading of post offices are a matter, in the first instance, for the Board and management of An Post and ones in which I have no statutory function.

However, I asked the company to ensure that any strategy for the development of the company should ensure the long-term viability of the network.

It was to this end that the Government, in September last year, gave its approval for An Post to enter into a joint venture agreement with Belgian Bank, Fortis, to set up a retail banking business. This will entail the provision of a range of financial services operated through the post office branch network, using the An Post brand and other An Post assets. Key to the Government approval of this joint venture was that it not only offers a real opportunity for the growth and development of An Post and the post office network but that it will, in time, greatly benefit the income streams of postmasters.

The company recognises that having an automated network is an important prerequisite to availing of the opportunities for additional business. In this context, the company has recently completed a pilot project in which ten smaller post offices were fully automated. It is intended to evaluate the business generated and the income gains in these newly automated offices, in order to see if there is a justified commercial case for further automation of non-automated offices.

With respect to mail services, I believe there will continue to be a key role for An Post in the delivery of mail and parcels. With full market opening from 2009, subject to political agreement, competition in the market can be expected to intensify. Therefore, in terms of dealing with the challenges it faces, An Post must deliver on restructuring agreements, particularly in the mails area.

Energy Resources.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

90 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he expects gas to become available from the Corrib gas field in the near future; if precise deadlines have been set or agreed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11457/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

93 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the position of the Corrib gas pipeline project; the time frame for bringing the gas from the Corrib gas field ashore; the contacts he has recently had with Shell and local opponents of the pipeline development; the way he envisages this dispute being resolved in a safe and agreed manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11340/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 93 together.

I understand that the Corrib developers anticipate first gas in late 2009. I would add, however, that completion of the development works by Shell is clearly the principal factor that will determine the date for first gas.

Production of gas from the Corrib field is also obviously dependent on the successful re-routing of the onshore pipeline. Deputies will recall that the Corrib mediator, Mr. Peter Cassells, recommended that, in order to address local concerns about the proximity of the pipeline route to houses, the developer should modify the route in the vicinity of Rossport. The developer has committed itself to implementing this recommendation and I understand that public consultation with the local community is now under way to help choose the optimum route. The developer will also require additional consents both from my Department and from the planning authorities in this regard. Any application received by my Department will be examined from a technical, environmental and safety perspective.

My consent will also be required before commercial production operations from the field can commence. That consent will depend on the satisfactory completion of the development works and fulfilment of all of the required technical conditions by the developer. My Department, meanwhile, has ongoing contact with the developer as part of its role in monitoring the project.

Retail Service Stations.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

91 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will work with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to address the continued decimation of the retail service station network across the country and ensure that this critical infrastructure remains an integral part of the key national infrastructure for energy security and as a key driver of an expanding nationwide biofuels network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11343/07]

The Irish oil industry is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated. There is free entry into and out of the market. There is no price control on oil products and this is to ensure that the market is fully competitive.

The Government is firmly committed to the development of an Irish biofuels market and to the increased development of bio-energy generally in Ireland. A range of initiatives are in place to support the development of a biofuels sector in Ireland as set out in the BioEnergy Action Plan and the Government's White Paper on Energy Policy. Our intention to introduce a Biofuels Obligation by 2009 will require all fuel suppliers to ensure that biofuels represent a certain percentage of their annual fuel sales.

The biofuels obligation will provide market players with long-term certainty and a more stable investment climate. The obligation underpins the commitment by the Government to the development of a biofuels market in Ireland, and will build on the success of the two biofuels excise relief programmes rolled-out in 2005 and 2006. One of the aims of the Biofuels Mineral Oil Tax relief schemes is to mainstream the availability of biofuels within the existing fuel station supply network. Current trends in the petrol station network are a matter for the commercial companies themselves.

Electricity Generation.

Pat Breen

Question:

92 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he expects each sector of the renewable energy options to provide for the generation of electricity in each of the next five years; the extent by which this represents an increase on the current amount of generating capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11416/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

365 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he expects each sector of the renewable energy options to provide for the generation of electricity in each of the next five years; the extent by which this represents an increase on the current amount of generating capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11541/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 365 together.

The support programmes put in place by the Government to promote the increased use of renewable energy technologies in electricity production have more than doubled the total capacity of renewable energy powered electricity generating plants connected to the electricity network in the last three years.

Building on the success of the Government in this area, we have set a national target of 15%, contribution of renewable energy which approximates to 1650MW, by 2010. The current renewable capacity is approximately 1,000 MW. We are fully on track to meet that target.

The Government's White Paper, "Delivering A Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland", sets a further target of 33% of gross electricity consumption from renewable energy sources by 2020. Delivery on the ambitious 33% target requires the maintenance of robust support measures which can provide sufficient market certainty to assist new sustainable projects. The system must also maintain the necessary flexibility to accommodate emerging technologies.

At the present state of technology development, it is expected that wind energy will provide the pivotal contribution to achieving the 33% target. But we are creating the conditions for a balanced portfolio of renewable technologies including biomass and ocean technology.

The Government's White Paper sets a target of 30% co-firing at the three State owned peat power generation stations to be achieved progressively by 2015. ESB and Bord na Móna will work with the biomass sector on the potential of co-firing over the short to medium term.

The White Paper also sets an initial ambition of 500 MW of ocean powered plant by 2020. This will be achieved as part of an integrated Strategy to make Ireland a world leader for research, development and deployment of Ocean Energy technologies. Collaboration by SEI, the Marine Institute, UCC and other institutions as well as, ESB and EirGrid is being enhanced to develop and deliver solutions to the challenges facing ocean technologies. Ireland is also working in collaboration with other countries under the IEA Ocean Energy Systems Implementation Agreement. We will also leverage opportunities under the EU FP7 support programme for renewable technologies.

The Government is not prescriptive in terms of the contribution which each renewable energy technology will potentially make to meeting the 2020 target. We will continue to support the research and development and deployment of all renewable technologies appropriate to Irish energy needs.

Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Communications Masts.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

94 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the action he has taken or proposes to take in response to the report produced by the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in respect of safety guidelines or emission labelling in respect of mobile phone masts and handsets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11455/07]

I set up an Inter-departmental Committee on the Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields, in September 2005, to consider the recommendations contained in the report, "Non-ionising radiation from mobile phone handsets and masts", published in June 2005 by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

In that report the Joint Committee recommended: "That no mobile phone handsets should be allowed for sale in Ireland unless they are certified as complying with the International Commission for Non Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) standard."

And: "That all mobile phones should have a label that details its non-ionising radiation level — this to be similar to the A/B/C electricity efficiency rating applied to white goods."

It is already the case that all mobile phones and the associated base stations must comply with the international emission standards developed by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP), and endorsed by the World Health Organisation and the European Union under Council Recommendation EC/519/1999. These standards are continually under review and take account of the totality of the latest scientific research.

Mobile phones on sale in Ireland must carry the CE mark to demonstrate compliance with these standards in accordance with the EU Council Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive (RTTE), 1999/5/EC, transposed into Irish legislation under S.I. 240 of 2001.

Following their review, the Inter-departmental Committee noted that any further labelling would be contrary to that EU directive. Mobile phones are supplied with their tested maximum Specific Absorption Rate (SAR).

The Committee was guided by the science-based advice provided by an Expert Group, established by the Committee, who concluded that: "no adverse short or long-term health effects have been found from exposure to the radiofrequency signals produced by mobile phones and base station transmitters. Radiofrequency signals have not been found to cause cancer."

The Inter-departmental Committee has now reported to Government, which has decided that the current responsibilities of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in relation to the health effects of EMF will become the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government from 1st May 2007.

Furthermore, the Government decided that a single State agency be established to deal both with ionising radiation and non-ionising radiation. This will be achieved by extending the statutory powers of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to include responsibility for matters relating to non-ionising radiation.

The details of implementation of the new mandate for the RPII, in particular the powers and functions and the resources necessary to deliver the extended functions, will be presented to Government for approval in due course by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, following detailed consultation with other relevant Government Departments and agencies.

Government has also agreed to establish a national research programme to undertake further scientific research in Ireland on the health effects of exposure to EMF. This research programme will build expertise in Ireland and contribute to global knowledge.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Paul McGrath

Question:

95 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the full extent of his intended investment in research and development in the energy sector with a view to replacing carbon trading costs with procedures that will result in a serious reduction in carbon emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11450/07]

Reduction in energy sector carbon emissions will be achieved under the Energy Policy Framework 2007-2020, in particular through the actions listed under the sustainability pillar. The contribution of the energy sector to carbon emission reductions will be further addressed in the forthcoming Climate Change Strategy. Among the key relevant 2020 targets are: 33% for electricity consumption from renewable sources; 800MW from combined heat and power; 500MW installed ocean energy capacity; 20% energy savings; 12% renewable share in heating; and 10% biofuels in road transport.

Achieving these targets requires the widescale commercial deployment of renewable and sustainable technologies in the electricity, heating and transport sectors, which, in turn, necessitates underpinning research and development. The investment required depends on the stage of development of the various technologies in each category. Ocean, solar and combined heat and power are at different, but relatively early, stages of feasibility, development and commercialisation in Ireland.

The White Paper on Energy Policy states that over €150m will be directly invested in energy research under the National Development Plan. The Government is committed to an energy research strategy for the medium to long term, which delivers on Ireland's strengths and tackles specific national priorities, while ensuring that Ireland benefits from international energy research and innovation. A comprehensive energy research strategy, which will set Irish energy research priorities, will be developed during 2007 under the auspices of the Irish Energy Research Council.

Particular priority will be given to R&D on renewable technologies, including biomass, ocean, solar and wind, other key priority areas include energy efficiency in transport, the built environment and industry, electricity storage projects and grid integration for renewables. The National BioEnergy Action Plan also highlights R&D priorities for second generation biofuels and research forestry and energy crops.

National Emergency Plan.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

96 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on inter Departmental efforts to create a tsunami warning system for Ireland; if it will be in place before the end of May 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11364/07]

The first meeting of the Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) on a tsunami warning system for Ireland took place on 15th March and the technical group that will advise the Committee met for the first time yesterday (26th March).

These meetings successfully brought together the departments and institutions that will have national roles in the tsunami warning system, from hazard mapping to instrumental detection to emergency response and mitigation. The system will not be operational before the end of May 2007: as noted in the Government Decision of 13th February, a detailed proposal developed by the IDC will be brought to Government for approval later in 2007. Installation of the physical infrastructure is likely to take some years.

Maritime Green Paper.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

97 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will publish the Government’s response to the EU’s Maritime Green Paper; if he has recommended measures in the Government’s response to secure the pay and conditions for workers in the maritime sector across the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11350/07]

The National Consultation on the EU Maritime Green Paper, which I launched on 31 January, concluded recently following a very successful National Conference. The National Conference on the 6th March brought together well over 100 stakeholders from across the various maritime sectors. There were a number of interesting and lively discussions and both Commissioner Borg and I were impressed by the quality of the contributions.

The inter-departmental committee, which has been established to oversee the national consultation and to prepare a Government position on the Green Paper, is currently examining the submissions received, of which there are almost 50, with a view to submitting a draft national position to Government in April. This will facilitate a timely response to the European Commission in April at which time it will be published.

On the specifics of pay and conditions for workers in the maritime sector, this is an issue for my colleagues the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment. Both of their Departments are participating in the ongoing process of drafting a national response and their input, along with the views expressed during the consultation process, will form the basis of the national response on that section of the Green Paper.

As you know the Green Paper cuts across many different sectors and it represents a significant challenge to develop an holistic approach across such a range of issues. However, given the importance of maritime policy for Ireland, Minister Dempsey and I are committed to ensuring that the Irish response to the European Commission is of consistently high quality and makes a significant impact on the development of EU maritime policy.

Electricity Grid.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

98 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the mechanism he will use to arrange for the transfer of the transmission grid assets to Eirgrid; and the tripartite agreements that may have been in place between the Government, the ESB and the ESB unions regarding the future ownership of such assets. [11490/07]

Billy Timmins

Question:

104 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the shape of the proposed restructuring of the ESB is expected to be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11472/07]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

151 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has identified fully the various structures anticipated for the future of generation and transmission of electricity; the way the ownership of the networks are expected to be held; if they will be held by the public or private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11439/07]

John Deasy

Question:

165 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the role he sees for the ESB in the context of generation and transmission of electricity in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11425/07]

Damien English

Question:

176 Mr. English asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the way he anticipates the ownership of the national electricity grid to develop in the future; if ownership is intended to be retained by the public sector or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11475/07]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

182 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals for the future ownership of the ESB; if privatisation is his intention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11454/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

373 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the role he sees for the ESB in the context of generation and transmission of electricity in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11550/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

386 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has identified fully the various structures anticipated for the future of generation and transmission of electricity; the way the ownership of the networks are expected to be held; if they will be held by the public or private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11564/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

399 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals for the future ownership of the ESB; if privatisation is his intention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11579/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

415 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the shape of the proposed restructuring of the ESB is expected to be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11597/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

418 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the way he anticipates the ownership of the national electricity grid to develop in the future; if ownership is intended to be retained by the public sector or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11600/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

428 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans for the future of the ESB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11623/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98, 104, 151, 165, 176, 182, 373, 386, 399, 415, 418 and 428 together.

Government policy in relation to the ownership of the electricity and gas networks is clearly set out in the recent White Paper on Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland. It is the Government's explicit position that the transmission and distribution network assets will remain in State ownership as strategic national assets and that these assets will never be privatised.

As I have also made it very clear to this House on a number of occasions, there are no plans to privatise any part of the ESB and The Government fully supports the continuation of ESB as a strong and commercially viable vertically integrated utility within State ownership. This will continue to be the position. It is equally the case that EirGrid as Transmission owner and operator will remain in State ownership now and in future.

ESB Group will continue to own and run the distribution network and will continue to undertake the major networks infrastructure investment programme to provide enhanced levels of continuity of supply for the economy and the consumer.

In power generation, ESB has been given approval to build the new power plant at Aghada, Co. Cork. The ESB-CER Asset Management Strategy Agreement will see ESB Powergeneration reducing its market share by 2010 and becoming more efficient and commercial in the process. The ESB Group will continue to compete successfully with Viridian, Airtricity and other independents in power-generation and electricity supply in the all-island electricity market. ESB will also continue to develop its renewable energy portfolio on the island.

Over the next five years, ESB Group will, through ESB International, strongly expand its increasingly profitable all-island, UK, European and international business in power generation and supply, renewable energy and consultancy services.

Informed by a wide range of views from interested players, the Government has decided this is needed in order to secure a competitively priced energy supply and a positive investment environment for competition. Further structural change is necessary in Ireland's electricity sector.

The Government's decision to transfer by end 2008 the transmission assets from ESB Group to EirGrid, establishing it as both the owner and the operator of the national transmission system, is a vital part of the further change needed.

Combining the ownership and operation of the transmission system in EirGrid will deliver confidence to all market players that the system is run in a non-discriminatory way. It will underpin the efficient operation of the all-island electricity market. It is also the norm across Europe.

The combining of ownership and operation of the transmission assets will also reduce the amount of heavy regulation on both EirGrid and ESB. It will deliver efficiencies and reduced overheads for EirGrid. The result will be reduced costs for the electricity users over time.

Combining the ownership and operation functions within EirGrid will also enable more efficient and timely integration of renewable energy on to the grid system. This is critical for delivery of our ambitious renewable energy targets.

As well as supporting a strong ESB, the Government is equally firm in its commitment to a strong, independent and forward-looking EirGrid as the State-owned utility charged with the ownership, development and management of the national grid transmission system and as operator, jointly with its Northern Ireland counterpart, of the Single Electricity Market on this island.

EirGrid has specific responsibilities to ensure security of electricity supply, manage national electricity demand, and to ensure fair and transparent access to the grid for all players in Irish power-generation. The proposed restructuring will ensure that it can effectively deliver on those responsibilities.

The mechanisms to implement the successful transfer by end 2008 of the transmission assets will comprise a range of legislative and commercial components. As enshrined in successive Partnership Agreements we will work on the principle that change requires negotiation and agreement. There will be a full process of engagement with the Management and Unions of both ESB and EirGrid over the coming months as we work together on implementation by the end 2008 deadline. The process of discussion will also include the legitimate concerns of the ESOT.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Mobile Telephony.

Seán Crowe

Question:

100 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the discussions he has had with any of the relevant stakeholders in relation to removing all mobile phone roaming charges on the island of Ireland. [11479/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

172 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has reviewed the recent report by European Consumers’ Organisation BEUC and French consumer group UFC Que Choisir (details supplied); if he will direct ComReg to investigate and establish precise and reliable statistics regarding the volumes and revenues of international telecom services by all mobile service providers operating here including all termination and roaming rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11358/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 172 together.

The report by ‘beuc', the European Consumers' organisation, highlights the need to address high roaming charges. Since coming into office I have highlighted the issue of roaming charges.

Following pressure from me, my Northern Ireland counterpart and the regulators, all the Irish mobile phone operators introduced special tariffs to address the cost of roaming on this island. I have strongly supported the European Commission in bringing forward proposals for a regulation on roaming. High charges for roaming within the EU represent a very clear example of a barrier to the single market.

The German presidency compromise proposal is currently the subject of negotiation at EU level. My officials are playing an active role in these negotiations.

While acknowledging that the regulation is still under negotiation, it is likely that National Regulatory Authorities will be responsible for monitoring compliance by operators with the provisions of the Regulation when it enters into force. This will include requesting the companies to supply the necessary data to enable the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), to monitor compliance. ComReg will be independent in exercising this function.

Telecommunications Services.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

101 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the discussions that have taken place between his Department and the Department of Finance regarding investigations into the MANs constructed to date. [11481/07]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

153 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the review of the cost effectiveness and performance of the MANs will be completed and published; when he will decide on progression of a further phase of the MANs; the amount a further phase of the MANs will cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11357/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 153 together.

The 27 Phase One networks under the Metropolitan Area Networks are complete and open for business. They have been handed over to the Management Services Entity, eNet, who manage market and maintain the networks on behalf of the State. My Department is currently undertaking a Value for Money and policy review on this phase. The Value for Money review is led by a Steering Committee, which includes a representative from the Department of Finance. This review will help to inform my decisions on future investment in the Government's broadband infrastructure programme, including a possible third Phase of the Metropolitan Area Networks and on other initiatives of benefit to the communications sector. It is anticipated that the review will be completed and published this year.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

102 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has progressed plans for achieving the 100% broadband enablement of Ireland; if he has had contacts with broadband service providers in this regard; the amount he estimates the 100% enablement will cost; the method through which he will achieve and finance same; if there will be a public tender process; if he will implement a universal service obligation for broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11356/07]

Phil Hogan

Question:

119 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans or proposals to bring about 100% broadband availability throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11437/07]

John Gormley

Question:

123 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will announce a proposed support scheme for the roll-out of rural broadband to all parts of Ireland; and the way he envisages such a scheme will be awarded and financed. [11488/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102, 119 and 123 together.

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. The Government is addressing the infrastructure deficit in the regions by building high-speed, open access, carrier neutral Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 120 towns and cities nationwide, on a phased basis in association with the local and regional authorities. Twenty-seven of these have been completed with the remaining due for completion during 2007 and 2008. These Metropolitan Area Networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

Complementary to the MAN networks, the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) has funded over 120 projects specifically aimed at smaller communities.

However, despite Government and private investment in broadband I am aware that there are still some parts of the country where the private sector is unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. A Steering Committee comprising officials from my Department and ComReg is currently finalising a proposed scheme, entitled the National Broadband Scheme, which will aim to provide broadband to these unserved areas. The Steering Committee has met with Service Providers and key stakeholders about this scheme. The scheme, when it is fully rolled out, will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in unserved areas, including rural areas, are met. Work on the design of an appropriate public tender is underway. It would not be appropriate to estimate the cost of providing full broadband coverage, as the services for this scheme will be procured under a tendering process.

Electricity Grid.

Simon Coveney

Question:

103 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will by direction or legislation speed up and simplify access to the grid for alternative electricity generators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11421/07]

In accordance with the Electricity Regulation Act 1999, I have no function in relation to access to the electricity transmission and distribution systems. These are matters for the system operators subject to directions given by the independent energy regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Telecommunications Services.

John Deasy

Question:

105 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his preferred or chosen options or methodology for use in the context of upgrading, expanding and extending the quality and availability of broadband services throughout all parts of the country; the degree to which he expects annual investment in the infrastructure to ensure provision of a modern telecommunication infrastructure in keeping with the needs of the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11426/07]

Ivor Callely

Question:

108 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the demand and level of use of broadband; the expected developments in this area of communication; if safety measures will be built into the system to address some of the issues of concern; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11245/07]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

158 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the telecommunication deficiencies throughout the country resulting in a lack of broadband services to the commercial and domestic sectors resulting in serious economic disadvantage; if he will address this issue in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11468/07]

Shane McEntee

Question:

179 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in the context of the National Development Plan, current projections in respect of broadband or other investment in the telecommunications sector have been identified as a means of economic development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11445/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105, 108, 158 and 179 together.

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. The Government is addressing the infrastructure deficit in the regions by building high-speed, open access, carrier neutral Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in 120 towns and cities nationwide, on a phased basis in association with the local and regional authorities. Twenty-seven of these have been completed with the remaining due for completion during 2007 and 2008. These Metropolitan Area Networks will allow the private sector to offer world-class broadband services at competitive costs.

Complementary to the MAN networks, the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme (GBS) has funded over 120 projects specifically aimed at smaller communities.

I am aware of the importance of advanced telecommunication services to the continuing economic prosperity of this country and there is no evidence that the commercial sector is at a disadvantage due to a lack of broadband facilities. The Government considers investment in and development of the telecommunications sector including broadband to be an important factor in determining long-term national economic competitiveness. There is provision for investment of €435 million under the Communications and Broadband Programme in the National Development Plan over the period 2007-2013, and this will facilitate e continued growth in the telecommunications sector.

However, despite Government and private investment in broadband I am aware that there are still some parts of the country where the private sector is unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity.

A Steering Committee comprising officials from the Department and ComReg is currently finalising a proposed scheme, entitled the National Broadband Scheme which will address the question of availability of broadband to unserved areas. The Steering Committee has meet with Service Providers and key stakeholders on the National Broadband Scheme. This scheme, when it is fully rolled out, will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in unserved areas are met. Work on the design of an appropriate public tender is underway.

There has been a large increase in the number of operators who offer broadband services. There is also evidence of an increase in the numbers taking up alternative means of accessing broadband, i.e. cable broadband and fixed wireless. The use of fixed wireless local access is increasing, especially in rural areas that cannot obtain DSL connectivity, and the development of Wi-Max offers considerable potential in the future.

Enormous progress has been made in the roll out of broadband in the past two years. The official number of subscribers in October 2004 stood at 63,600. Estimates from ComReg suggest that there were more than 515,000 subscribers at the end of 2006 (final figures for 2006 are expected shortly from ComReg). I recently issued a new challenge to industry to reach 700,000 subscribers by the end of 2007.

The migration to Next Generation Networks is being considered by Service Providers and will generate many issues with wide implications for regulation, competition, investment and service delivery that need to be addressed.

To achieve this migration, I intend to establish a National Advisory Forum to advise me on progress towards Next Generation Networks. The Forum will be charged with having a precise blueprint in place by the end of 2007 on the migration. I would point out that the migration to Next Generation Networks will not be made at the expense of our current broadband rollout.

Mary Upton

Question:

106 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will establish the National Advisory Forum on Next Generation Networks; the persons who will be a member of the Forum and the Forum’s mandate; the regularity with which the Forum will meet; the timeframe for the publication of its first report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11354/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

148 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the measures he will bring forward to facilitate the progression of IP based next generation networks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11353/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 148 together.

I am aware that the development of a world class telecommunications sector is important to the continuing economic and social prosperity of our country. I believe that the migration to and development of Next Generation Networks (NGNs) will provide the necessary platform for the telecommunications sector going forward.

The migration to Next Generation Networks is being considered by Service Providers and will generate many issues with wide implications for regulation, competition, investment and service delivery that need to be addressed.

To this end I consider that it is important that all stakeholders — the industry, the Regulator and the Government work together to ensure that Irish businesses and consumers have choice and that competitive products are being offered.

To help achieve the progression to Next Generation Networks (NGNs) I recently announced my intention to establish a National Advisory Forum which will be tasked with advising me on progress towards NGNs. Details concerning the Forum, including its membership are being finalised. I intend to mandate the Forum to report by the end of 2007 with a blueprint on the migration to NGNs.

Post Office Network.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

107 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he has monitored the gradual closure of post offices throughout the country; if this is in line with Government policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11423/07]

Post office closures are an operational matter for the Board and management of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function.

This Government, as clearly set out in the Programme for Government, and the Board of An Post are committed to the objective of securing a viable and sustainable nationwide post office network.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 105.

Exploration Licences.

Richard Bruton

Question:

109 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his preferred options for the future development of exploration in the oil, gas or other mineral sectors; if he will revise or update the licensing regime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11417/07]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

159 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which commercial finds of oil, gas or other minerals have been identified on or off-shore, on foot of previous or ongoing explorations; his intentions for the development or regulation of such finds in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11420/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 159 together.

It is my objective to ensure that the licensing regime in place maximises the return to the national economy while, at the same time, encouraging exploration for petroleum through an ‘open door' policy in the Celtic Sea and a ‘Licensing Round' system in the Atlantic Margin. This regime must be sufficiently progressive to accommodate both future variations in oil and gas prices and the high cost of deep-water field development.

I am considering the report of the consultants who were engaged to assist with the review of the licensing regime. I will bring my proposals for the future of the licensing regime to Government in the near future and I will then take appropriate steps to give effect to the decisions taken. It is my intention that the consultants report would then be placed in the public domain.

With regard to non-petroleum minerals, it is Government policy to stimulate discovery of economic mineral deposits and to maximise the contribution of the mining sector to the national economy, with due regard to its social and environmental impact. Exploration and development is undertaken by private enterprise and regulated under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999. All extraction of minerals under the Acts is subject to payment of royalties to the State. While it is my intention to consolidate and update the Minerals Development Acts in a new Minerals Development Bill currently being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, I do not propose to change that policy.

There have been four commercial finds of natural gas, namely the Kinsale, Ballycotton and Seven Heads fields in the Celtic Sea off the south coast and the Corrib field in the Slyne Basin off the west coast. There have been no finds onshore that have proved to be commercial.

With regard to non-petroleum minerals, exploration and development is undertaken by private enterprise and regulated under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999. New exploration is continuously undertaken as part of my requirements to holders of Prospecting Licences, of which there are currently 274. Details of these Licences can be found in the six monthly report to the Oireachtas, which I am obliged to lay before the House under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999. The last such report was in respect of the six-month period ended 30 June 2006. I will shortly lay before this House the report for the six months to 31 December 2006.

No new economic deposits of non-petroleum minerals have been discovered in recent years. There have been some encouraging results, however. Exploration adjacent to existing base metal mines at Navan, Co. Meath (Boliden Tara Mines Ltd.) and Galmoy, Co. Kilkenny (Galmoy Mines Ltd.) has discovered additional resources which have the potential to extend the life of those mines. I have granted new State Mining Licences to both companies for extraction of parts of these additional resources.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

110 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will direct ComReg to ensure that the universal service obligation for telecoms services is fully upheld and that no residential public service telephone network provision requests is not granted within a maximum three month time period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11362/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

137 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will direct ComReg to intervene directly on behalf of end users where service contracts or the universal service obligation have been broken and to ensure compliance by undertakings with the terms of those contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11359/07]

Seán Ryan

Question:

180 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will bring forward measures to implement a statutory basis for notice of withdrawal to ensure that all operators provide at least 30 days' prior notice for the withdrawal of electronic communications services or any electronic communications product to an end user; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11361/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110, 137 and 180 together.

I have no function in regulating the provision of services in the telecommunications market. The regulation of telecommunications operators, including the regulation of Universal Service Obligations and quality of service is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 and regulations, which transpose the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications.

The provision of telecommunications services is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

I have no plans to bring forward measures to implement a statutory basis for notice of withdrawal to ensure that all operators provide at least 30 days' prior notice for the withdrawal of electronic communications services or any electronic communications product to an end user.

Broadcasting Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

111 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the type of funding mechanism he foresees for the statutory provision by RTÉ of a television service for Irish emigrants in Britain and elsewhere; the estimated cost of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11487/07]

Section 14(a) of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2006 as passed by Dáil Éireann proposes that the RTÉ Authority may use television licence fee income for the purpose of providing the television and radio service to Irish communities abroad as mandated by section 3(1)(b) of the Bill.

The cost to the RTÉ Authority of providing the service mandated by section 3(1)(b) of the Bill will be determined to a large extent by the Authority’s choice of broadcasting transmission platform.

Dan Neville

Question:

112 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he expects the availability of high quality church broadcasts to be restored throughout the country; if his attention has been drawn to the existence of the technology for such provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11459/07]

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is the statutory body responsible for spectrum management. Information on the operation of the Wireless Public Address System scheme, which was launched by ComReg last year, can be obtained from ComReg directly on 01 8049600, LoCall 1890 229668 or at www.askcomreg.ie.

Electricity Generation.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

113 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the stage of discussions on the creation of a north west European electricity market; the estimate of the percentage of the market the ESB would hold in such a scenario; if this development would entail the incorporation of CER into a regional regulatory body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11332/07]

As a peripheral island energy market, Ireland fully supports the progressing integration of European markets and European energy networks. The Energy Policy White Paper "Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland" sets out the Government's plans for the progressive development of a regional electricity market with UK and North West Europe over the next five years, underpinned by new interconnection.

My Department, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and the Transmission System Operator, EirGrid, along with their UK and French counterparts, are actively working towards the development of a regional electricity market, as part of the EU Commission's initiative to develop regional energy markets through ERGEG (European Regulators Group for Electricity and Gas).

The objective of the ERGEG Regional Initiative is to make concrete improvements in the development of a single energy market in Europe by first integrating national markets in electricity and gas into regional markets. This is achieved through the identification and removal of impediments to trade at a regional level.

The France, Ireland and UK electricity Regional Electricity Market initiative is led by the British Energy Regulator (Ofgem) and aims to integrate national markets in the three countries. The Irish authorities are actively participating through the Regional Coordination Committee and Stakeholder and Implementation Groups. Progress is being made in addressing the key priorities of congestion management and intra day trade, balancing and transparency issues.

This work is a natural progression from the key Government priority to develop with the Northern Ireland authorities the All-Island Energy Market and to deliver the Single Electricity Market (SEM) on November 1st this year. It is complemented by the Government decision to deliver, through the CER and EirGrid, a 500 MW East West Electricity Interconnector by 2012.

Annual electricity consumption in France, Ireland and the UK is around 30% of the EU 25 electricity market. At present ESB has a total installed generation capacity of just over 60% of the generation market in the Republic of Ireland. The CER-ESB Asset Strategy agreement, which includes an agreement for ESB to divest 1,300 MW of its existing capacity, in conjunction with the SEM, will ensure that ESB's share of the all-Island power generation market falls to approximately 40% by 2010.

It is in this context that ESB will continue to compete in the island of Ireland and, eventually, as the regional energy markets progress, the wider single energy market in the EU. The scope for European-wide competition will be determined also by the availability of physical interconnection between systems. Ireland endorses the priority being given to interconnection under the Energy Policy for Europe.

The development of a regional regulatory body is outside the scope of the ERGEG Regional Initiatives. In its recently launched Energy Policy for Europe, the EU Commission addresses the need to balance the role of national energy regulators. The EU Commission has outlined a range of options, including a European network of independent regulators with enhanced powers and a new single body at Community level.

I am supportive, in principle, of measures which deliver more effective and proportionate energy regulation. I welcome the proposal to work towards a level playing field for regulatory authorities across Europe. Varying degrees of independence and the differing mechanisms by which regulatory authorities are funded and resourced need to be analysed in this context. I look forward to further elaboration of the Commission's proposals at an early date.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Postal Services.

Dan Boyle

Question:

115 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the safeguards he will put in place in anticipation of the liberalisation of the postal market after January 2009 to ensure that the universal service obligation is protected without allowing commercial providers to cherry pick lucrative postal areas to the detriment of servicing more costly, remote areas. [11482/07]

The draft third postal directive, which is currently being discussed at the European Council and European Parliament, proposes to maintain the universal service obligation at its current level, a position which Ireland endorses. Maintenance of the universal service and the availability of a high quality postal service to Irish consumers are issues of key importance to Ireland in the context of liberalisation of the postal market.

No decision has been taken yet regarding what measures, if any, will be necessary to safeguard the universal service. I intend to hold a public consultation addressing this and other issues arising from the draft directive.

Fishing Industry Development.

John Perry

Question:

116 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, with regard to the Seafood Strategy Implementation Group which will be tasked with developing and overseeing the National Seafood Strategy, the said group is currently in place; the timeframe in place for the development of the strategy; the approximate timeframe with regard to the fleet decommissioning of €66 million promised in the strategy for the implementation of this programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11410/07]

Following the publication of the report Steering a New Course, a strategy for a restructured, sustainable and profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007-13, I established the Seafood Strategy Implementation Group (SSIG) to oversee that the strategy recommendations are implemented in a coordinated and cohesive manner. Chaired by Dr. Noel Cawley, and consisting of representatives from the various sectors of the industry, the Department and relevant State Agencies, the SSIG has been tasked with developing a detailed implementation plan, overseeing the delivery of the plan and monitoring and reporting to me on the progress of the implementation of the plan. A timescale of two years has been set for this work. The first meeting of the SSIG is scheduled to take place on 28 March.

It is anticipated that funding under the new Seafood Development Programme (part of the NDP 2007-13), which will include a scheme to decommission fishing vessels, will be available in quarter 3 of this year following the necessary EU approvals. In the interim, considerable work is required by all stakeholders to ensure full spend is achieved under the EU funding allocation for 2000-2006.

Alternative Energy Projects.

John Gormley

Question:

117 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the support mechanism he will put in place to encourage the commercial development of new wind, wave or tidal off-shore electricity generation projects; and the level of each power source he envisages might be in place by 2020. [11489/07]

Research and Development and other supports for ocean energy technologies will underpin delivery of the National Ocean Energy Strategy 2006-2020 and our target of 500 MW of installed ocean energy capacity by 2020.

Support for the deployment of wind energy will continue through the Renewable Energy Feed-it Tariff (REFIT) Programme and the Energy RTDI Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

118 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of wind farm projects currently approved, constructed or pending which are awaiting admission to the national grid with particular reference to the need to increase the levels of wind generated electricity in accordance with proposals as set out in the Governments White Paper; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11458/07]

EirGrid publishes details of the wind energy projects which are awaiting a connection offer to connect to the national grid on its website at www.eirgrid.ie. The grid connection application and delivery process is a matter for the appropriate network operator under the supervision of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). I have no statutory function in the matter.

The published data record there are 69 wind energy projects with a capacity of 744MW already connected to the national grid. There are a further 37 projects with a capacity of 547MW contracted for connections and a further 117 projects with a capacity of 1,300MW in the process of receiving connection offers and a further 99 projects with a capacity of 1,933MW at more preliminary stages in the connection process.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 102.
Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Communications Masts.

Liam Twomey

Question:

121 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has studied the report of the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources with particular reference to suggested safety guidelines in respect of the siting of mobile phone masts and the use of handsets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11473/07]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

156 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the report produced by the Joint Committee for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in relation to the location of mobile telephone masts or antennae and the use of mobile telephone handsets has been authenticated by the IMO; if he will implement all or part of the recommendations contained therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11466/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121 and 156 together.

Any authentication by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) of the report, "Non-ionising radiation from mobile phone handsets and masts", published in June 2005 by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is a matter for the two bodies.

The Inter-departmental Committee on the Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF), established in September 2005, has reported to the Government after considering the recommendations contained in the above report.

The Committee was guided by the science-based advice provided by the Expert Group, established by the Committee, who concluded that: "So far no adverse short or long-term health effects have been found from exposure to the radiofrequency (RF) signals produced by mobile phones and base station transmitters. RF signals have not been found to cause cancer."

The Government has decided that the current responsibilities of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in relation to the health effects of EMF will become the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government from 1st May 2007. Furthermore, the Government decided that a single State agency be established to deal both with ionising radiation and non-ionising radiation. This will be achieved by extending the statutory powers of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to include responsibility for matters relating to non-ionising radiation. The details of implementation of the new mandate for the RPII, in particular the powers and functions and the resources necessary to deliver the extended functions, will be presented to Government for approval in due course by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, following detailed consultation with other relevant Government Departments and agencies.

Government has also agreed to establish a national research programme to undertake further scientific research in Ireland on the health effects of exposure to EMF. This research programme will build expertise in Ireland and contribute to global knowledge. The siting of phone masts is a matter for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Exploration Licences.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

122 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals for a licensing regime in respect of oil, gas or other mineral exploration, on or off-shore; if he will make an announcement in this regard in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11447/07]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

139 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will bring forward legislation to amend the regulatory framework for the proposed new licensing terms for the exploration and production of Ireland’s natural resources; the way he proposes to amend the licensing terms; if he will publish the review by consultants (details supplied) on the licensing terms of Ireland’s natural resources; the timeframe for the publication of the updated rules and procedures manuals for both exploration and production activities as promised in the Energy White Paper; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11341/07]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

166 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the Indecon report in relation to the Corrib gas project is concluded and ready for release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11408/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122, 139 and 166 together.

I am considering the report of the consultants who were engaged to assist with the review of the licensing regime. I will bring my proposals for the future of the licensing regime to Government in the near future and I will then take appropriate steps to give effect to the decisions taken. It is my intention that the consultants' report would then be placed in the public domain.

I am also committed to updating the rules and procedures manuals for exploration and production. It is my intention that these manuals will be updated and published by the middle of the year.

With regard to non-petroleum minerals, exploration and development is undertaken by private enterprise and regulated under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999. While it is my intention to consolidate and update the Minerals Development Acts in a new Minerals Development Bill, currently being drafted, I do not propose any change of policy.

Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 102.
Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Fisheries Protection.

John Perry

Question:

125 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if a monitoring requirement involving the need to weigh pelagic landings while in tanker lorries at the pier has been reintroduced; the reason he has taken this action; his views on whether a volume of these landings will be just water in view of the fact that pelagic vessels pay harbour dues based on their landings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11409/07]

Annex III of Council regulation (EC) no. 41/2007 of 21 December 2006 specifies the landing and weighing procedures for herring, mackerel and horse mackerel in ICES zones I to VII.

Responsibility for enforcing this regulation rests with the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) which was established as an independent authority on January 1st 2007. The Authority has autonomy as to how it carries out its control and enforcement duties. In this regard, the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006 provides that the Authority must, in writing, report to the Minister in relation to the performance of its functions on an annual basis and the Minister shall have copies of the report laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

The Act also provides that a Consultative Committee comprising stakeholders will be established to inform the Authority of the concerns and views of the sea-fisheries and seafood sectors regarding the functions of the Authority. I have sought nominations for this Committee and I hope to be in a position to formally appoint the members shortly. This Committee will provide a good opportunity for industry to raise issues in relation to the control activities of the Authority.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

126 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the Broadcasting Bill which emerged from the recent widespread e-consultation process will be published before the general election; if he will issue a directive to the BCI to ensure that general campaigning advertising such as the recent Trócaire campaign will not be subjected to censorship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11366/07]

I regret to say that I have not as yet received the final report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee following the e-Consultation process, so in view of the fact that the committee requested that I give the report full consideration, it is impossible for me to say when the Bill will be published. However, when I receive the report I will endeavour to publish quickly thereafter.

Section 4(7) of the Radio and Television Act 1988 provides that the Broadcast Commission of Ireland, an independent statutory body, has a explicit duty to ensure that commercial and community broadcasters comply with the provisions of section 10(3) of the Radio and Television Act 1988 which requires that "No advertisement shall be broadcast which is directed towards any religious or political end or which has any relation to an industrial dispute". As such I have no statutory function in relation to this matter.

Energy Efficiency Plan.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

127 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the stage of preparation of the National Energy Efficiency Plan; the timeframe for its publication; the key measures contained in the energy efficiency plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11333/07]

My Department is working with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Sustainable Energy Ireland and others to finalise the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan. The Action Plan will be published for consultation next month and will be finalised and submitted to the EU Commission by end June 2007. The measures to be contained in the Plan will fully reflect EU targets and requirements as well as the actions in relation to Energy Efficiency set out in the White Paper on Energy Policy.

Electricity Generation.

Enda Kenny

Question:

128 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his assessment of the electricity generating systems or combination of systems most likely to give the most effective, efficient and reliable supply of electricity to the national grid in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11467/07]

The White Paper on Energy Policy states that a comprehensive cost benefit review of the potential for distributed generation will be completed next year. This will address the implications for the electricity networks as well as all issues inherent in developing distributed generation as a long term alternative or supplement to the existing centralised system.

Fisheries Conservation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

129 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has instigated a review of the impact of restrictions placed on the days on which boats can put to sea, in order to preserve stocks; if same is forcing fishermen to take unacceptable risks; if he will bring forward measures to enhance the safety and livelihood of fishermen working along the Irish coastline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11351/07]

In the context of this question, I assume that the Deputy is referring to the fishing periods specified to Irish fishermen for the targeting of certain species such as mackerel and herring. Their exploitation is largely seasonal, reflecting the normal life cycle, availability and migratory habits of these species in our waters. I have addressed this issue on a number of occasions recently, and have stressed that the management arrangements for these stocks, which are set at national level, are specifically developed and agreed with Irish fishing industry representatives. They are there in order to ensure a fair and equitable share-out of the available quota of these important species so as to protect the livelihood of a greater number of our fishermen.

Given the input of the fishing industry into these measures, I cannot accept that the arrangements force any fisherman to take unacceptable risks in order to exploit the quota allocated to him. In that regard, it is a matter ultimately for the master of each individual vessel to determine the type of fishing operation that is appropriate having regard to the capability of the vessel and the operational and navigational conditions it will have to contend with in order to participate in any given fishery.

At the same time, I am satisfied that, regardless of the legal framework governing the catching and landing of fish, whether demersal or pelagic, there are no circumstances where the control authorities would give precedence to their regulatory responsibilities over consideration for the safety of a fishing vessel or its crew.

All such management measures are subject to ongoing review, in conjunction with the industry, in order to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of promoting sustainable and equitable exploitation of what are increasingly diminishing resources. Safety considerations of course underpin all of the management measures and other requirements imposed on our fishing fleet.

Post Office Network.

Dan Neville

Question:

130 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he has examined the grievances of sub-post masters throughout the country; if he has encouraged the management of An Post to do so in order to alleviate outstanding matters in relation to salary, pension or other costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11460/07]

I have no statutory function with regard to contractual issues relating to sub-postmasters, including salary and pension matters, which are a matter for the Board and management of An Post to decide on.

In relation specifically to the grievances of sub-postmasters throughout the country, I appointed Mr. Eamonn Ryan as facilitator between the Irish Postmasters' Union and An Post. His remit was to address any areas of concern to the postmasters and report on same. The resultant Ryan report contains a number of recommendations which, I understand, are now the subject of ongoing discussions between the IPU and An Post in which Mr Ryan is assisting at my request.

Telecommunications Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

131 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has been contacted by over 150 residents of Kilmoganny, County Kilkenny who have been unable to obtain broadband services in their locality, and have been forced to petition both the Government and Eircom in this regard; the action he proposes to take to make sure that Kilmoganny residents and those living in similar situations across the country can access critical broadband services; when he will bring forward the proposed national broadband scheme to replace the recently disbanded rural group broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11352/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

I have received a copy of the letter and petition, which over 150 residents of Kilmoganny, County Kilkenny who have been unable to obtain broadband services in their locality, have sent to Eircom. The enabling of exchanges is a matter for the service provider, Eircom and I have no function in the matter.

However, a Steering Committee comprising officials from my Department and ComReg is currently finalising a new scheme, entitled the National Broadband Scheme, which will aim to provide broadband to those parts of the country where the private sector is unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. The Steering Committee has met with Service Providers and key stakeholders about this scheme. The scheme, when it is fully rolled out, will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in unserved areas, including rural areas, are met. Areas without any broadband service will be the main priority under this scheme. Work on the design of an appropriate public tender is under way.

Postal Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

132 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has received and reviewed the European Consumers’ Organisation report on the third Postal Directive; if he will support at EU level BEUC’s proposed amendments such as the strengthening of the guarantee for the provision of the universal service obligation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11348/07]

I have not received a copy of the report referred to by the Deputy. As regards the draft third postal directive, the proposal is currently being discussed at the European Council and European Parliament. It is proposed to maintain the universal service obligation at its current level, a position that Ireland endorses.

Energy Regulation.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

133 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to set in place procedures to deliver the benefits of EU competition and regulatory legislation in respect of gas and electricity to the consumer; if he will introduce or amend legislation to discourage the situation whereby energy prices through competition appear to be forced upwards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11451/07]

As stated in the Government's White Paper on Energy, Irish energy policy must be strongly focused on contributing to greater productivity, national competitiveness, a strong economy and the needs of all customers. The Government is also committed to delivery on the All-Island electricity market jointly with Northern Ireland as the logical first step towards creating regional electricity markets between the island of Ireland and Britain. Regionalisation will in due course bring benefits for consumers and for the economy.

The position in law is that sole responsibility for the regulation of electricity and gas tariffs lies with the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. As Minister, I have no function in setting or regulating tariffs.

International energy prices are key drivers over which suppliers have no control as they are driven by volatile international energy markets. The Government policy is to continue to drive down those elements of energy costs which are within our control.

There is an impression that because of price rises sanctioned by the CER, regulation is having the opposite effect as to what was intended. The reality is that electricity and gas prices must be cost-reflective to underpin network investment and reflect the cost of fuel. The Government believes that as a natural monopoly, the networks should be run to minimise the price to consumers and not to maximise profits. Accordingly, the Government is directing the Regulator to revise the rate of return for distribution network charges to a risk related rate of return. The resultant savings, through reduced network tariffs, and a lower State shareholder dividend from the networks business will be passed on in full to electricity consumers. Government is adopting these positive reforms in the interests of consumers and the economy.

As regards market opening and contestability Ireland has been progressively implementing the liberalisation of the gas and electricity markets in line with EU Directives and in the context of the All-Island energy framework. The electricity market has been fully open and contestable since 2005. With regard to gas, the market is currently open for commercial competitive customers and the Irish gas market will be fully open by 1 July 2007.

In light of recent movements in international fuel prices, the CER undertook a review, in the latter part of 2006, of the costs Bord Gáis Éireann (BGÉ) and ESB would face in 2007. On 1 December 2006, as a result of the review, the CER announced its decision to direct both BGÉ and ESB to amend their prices for 2007. As a result, electricity prices increased on average by 12.6% on 1 January, rather than 19.7% as was announced on 10 October 2006 and gas prices decreased by 10% from 1 February 2007 following the increase announced on 1 October 2006. Having regard to the volatility in international fuel costs, I understand that CER is considering whether it will develop a further consultation process on fuel cost variation with interested parties in 2007.

Electricity Generation.

David Stanton

Question:

134 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of electricity generating stations scheduled for closure here; his intentions in regard to future use of these stations; the number and location of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11469/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

412 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of electricity generating stations scheduled for closure here; his intentions in regard to future use of these stations; the number and location of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11594/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 412 together.

I refer the Deputy to the CER-ESB Asset Strategy which was subject of a Memorandum of Understanding on 29 November 2006 and comprises a package of measures to reduce ESB's share of the power generation market in the Single Energy Market to around 40% by 2010. Details of the agreement are available on the CER's website.

The package of measures includes the proposed divestment or closure of 1300 MW of existing ESB power plant by 2010, as well as the immediate sale of 208 MW of peaking capacity plant, including sites and infrastructure, at Rhode, Co. Offaly and Tawnaghmore, Co. Mayo.

Under the agreement that the sites of the former Shannonbridge (with a gas connection) and Lanesboro stations are to be offered for sale with immediate effect to Independent Generators for construction and connection of new power plant. ESB will also make available other sites with a capacity of 300 MW by end June 2007 and a further 700 MW by 2010.

A detailed implementation plan for the Asset Strategy is to be agreed by ESB and CER no later than 30 June 2007. This is to include identification of the particular plants or sites to be closed or divested and the timings of these events.

Proposed Legislation.

Simon Coveney

Question:

135 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will reintroduce the Geological Survey of Ireland Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11477/07]

As I indicated in my reply to a similar question tabled by the Deputy on 19 October 2006, the advancement of legislation to replace the 1845 Act under which the GSI was set up is in abeyance. My Department is, separately, considering whether there is a case for converting the GSI from a division of the Department into a stand-alone agency. I believe that it is important to form conclusions in relation to this issue before proceeding with new legislation.

Broadcasting Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

136 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if it is intended to use the most modern, effective and efficient technology for the broadcasting to overseas locations with particular reference to the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11476/07]

Section 3(1)(b) of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2006, as recently passed by Dáil Éireann, proposes to amend section 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1960 to require the RTÉ Authority to provide television and radio services to Irish communities outside of the island of Ireland.

Paragraphs (a) and (b) of section 16(2) of the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960 empower the RTÉ Authority to establish, maintain and operate transmission infrastructure for the purpose of providing its public service broadcasting services.

As such it is a matter for the RTÉ Authority to decide on the most effective and efficient technologies in delivering on its statutory mandate.

As a general point, the existing corpus of broadcasting legislation as amended by this Bill — in particular, the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960, the Radio and Television Act of 1988 and the Broadcasting Act 2001 — entrust the RTÉ Authority, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and broadcasting contractors with the task of considering the most appropriate broadcasting technologies to meet the broadcasting needs of audiences.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 110.

Fisheries Protection.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

138 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will review the level of funding allocated under the recent hardship scheme for salmon fishermen and the €5 million level of funding designated for the general coastal communities support; his views on extending the deadline for applications for the scheme beyond 31 March 2007; if he has had contacts with the representatives of the salmon driftnet fishermen who have indicated that they intend to defy the introduction of the salmon single stock management regime in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11349/07]

The Salmon Hardship Scheme of some €25 million which I published recently is intended to provide a measure of relief to individuals in line with the level of hardship likely to be experienced based on their recent catch history.

Payments under the scheme are based on the average verifiable catch and on the average net income per salmon in the commercial fishery for the five years, 2001 to 2005. This income calculation is based on the average price obtained per fish each year less the costs incurred by fishermen.

Each individual licence holder who applies to the fund is set to receive six times their average catch multiplied by the average net income per salmon. An additional payment equal to six times the current licence fee will be made in all cases.

An additional €5 million is being provided for the Community Support Scheme, details of which are being finalised at present with a view to publication in the coming weeks.

Both of these figures were recommended by the Independent Group set up to determine and address the hardship likely to be experienced as a result of the Government's decision to align the wild salmon fishery with scientific advice from 2007 onwards.

I believe the overall fund of some €30 million to be a fair and reasonable allocation which does not need to be modified.

The closing date for receipt of applications to the €25 million Salmon Hardship Scheme is the 30th March 2007. However, I am advised that applicants will have until the 31st December 2007 to accept any offer under the scheme, which I believe provides ample time for those concerned to give the scheme due consideration.

While I have not received any direct correspondence stating that driftnet fishermen intend to fish illegally, I am aware of such reports in the media, as are officials from the Regional Fisheries Boards. In addition to their normal activities I am in the process of securing additional resources for the regional boards to enhance their protection and enforcement activities on foot of the significant changes being made to the salmon management regime. Anyone found fishing illegally for salmon will be dealt with to the fullest extent possible under the law.

Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 122.

Broadcasting Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

140 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will publish the Deloitte and Touche and William Fry report on the future of TG4; the way he envisages TG4 will be financed in the long-term; the current arrangements for the independence of TG4; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11344/07]

I intend to publish the Deloitte and Touche report, on the preparation of an implementation plan for the establishment of TG4 as an independent statutory body, in whole or in part, in due course. The report itself contains some commercially sensitive information that may not be published.

The Government agreed, in July 2006, to establish TG4 as an independent body from 1 April 2007, as provided for in Part VI of the Broadcasting Act 2001. A Project Management Group, chaired by my Department, and comprising representatives from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, RTÉ and TG4 was appointed to oversee the establishment of TG4 as an independent body. The Project Management Group has worked to ensure relevant arrangements are in place ahead of separation. TG4 will continue to receive public funds to finance its operations in 2007, along with the income it receives from advertising.

Telecommunications Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

141 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has received any final communication or recommendation in the matter of the provision of the full range of telecommunication services including broadband to the various locations throughout the country including the Black Valley, County Kerry which currently do not enjoy such services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11448/07]

The provision of broadband and other telecommunications services is, in the first instance, an operational issue for the service providers concerned. Responsibility for the regulation of electronic communication service providers rests with the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 and the Regulations, which transpose the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications. Accordingly, I have no function in this matter.

However, despite Government and private investment in broadband I am aware that there are still some parts of the country where the private sector is unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband connectivity. A Steering Committee comprising officials from my Department and ComReg is currently finalising a proposed scheme, entitled the National Broadband Scheme, which will aim to provide broadband to these unserved areas. The Steering Committee has met with Service Providers and key stakeholders about this scheme. The scheme, when it is fully rolled out, will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in unserved areas, including rural areas, are met. Work on the design of an appropriate public tender is underway. Indicative maps are being prepared to help inform the tendering process.

Tax Code.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

142 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention was drawn in advance of the practice by three State companies of channelling revenues through operations in the Netherlands in order to avoid corporation tax; and his views on such a practice in State companies. [11485/07]

I understand that two of the companies alluded to by the Deputy come under the aegis of my Department, namely ESB and An Post.

In accordance with legislation, the body's articles of association and the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, ESB and An Post must seek Ministerial approval for all large projects.

The specific tax structuring of each transaction is a commercial matter for the body itself as long as it is in full compliance with tax legislation and also the "Code of Practice for Governance of State Bodies" as set out by the Department of Finance.

I receive an annual statement from the Chairman of each semi-State body confirming that the company is in full compliance with:

a. Tax Legislation

b. The Code Of Practice

And that the company:

a. Does not engage in any "offensive" tax avoidance schemes, and engages in communications with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in an open and honest manner and that full details of any material transaction, where doubt is cast over the tax treatment, is brought to the attention of the Inspector of Taxes.

This statement was duly received by me from ESB and An Post for the periods in question. The vast majority of multi-national companies, including Irish based companies, use Dutch holding companies to structure their international operations.

Dutch holding companies are popular with multi-national companies from around the globe primarily because of generous provisions in the Dutch tax regime (regarding dividends, capital gains tax and loan interest) and its network of double taxation agreements. This provides a legal tax efficient way of structuring investments by Irish companies and other multi-nationals abroad.

The ESB and An Post transactions, which involve a Dutch holding company, are bone fide commercial transactions. These are transactions to purchase, build or operate power stations, in the case of ESB and other corporate entities, in the case of An Post abroad. They are not created specifically to avoid tax, they are created in the normal course of business by ESB and An Post. I am advised that The Office of the Revenue Commissioners has not sought to unwind any of these transactions.

The structuring of investments so as to minimise a tax bill clearly makes an investment more profitable and thus allows Irish companies to compete on a level playing field with their international counterparts who structure their investments in the most tax efficient manner legally permissible.

It is legitimate and makes full commercial sense for ESB and An Post to structure and finance their international projects in a tax efficient manner. It ensures that they are competitive in bidding for business. Otherwise their cost of funds would be inevitably higher than that of their competitors.

In addition, all value created by ESB and An Post from their international activities (including any theoretical "tax foregone" by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners) is not lost to the State as it is retained within the bodies and ultimately the State as shareholder.

Fisheries Protection.

Willie Penrose

Question:

143 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report to Dáil Éireann on the European Commission’s decision on the herring and mackerel quotas from 2007 to 2012 and on the EU review of the management of deep-sea stocks fisheries including orange roughy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11365/07]

Following police raids in autumn 2005 on fish factories in Scotland, the United Kingdom fisheries control authorities reported that over 41,000 tonnes of mackerel (worth at least €49 million in current prices) had been landed illegally into Scotland in unreported landings by large Irish trawlers over the 2001-2005 period. There were also large scale reported illegal landings by United Kingdom vessels of both mackerel and herring.

As a consequence, in early 2006, the Commission reduced the Irish mackerel quota for 2006 by over 6,500 tonnes to take account of the illegal landings reported in respect of 2005. I and my officials began detailed negotiations with the Commission in 2006 in relation to paying back the 33,486 tonnes of unreported mackerel landed by Irish vessels into Scotland in the 2001-2004 period.

My objective in these negotiations was to deliver pay back arrangements that minimised the impact on the majority of fishermen who had little or nothing to do with the illegal fishing, to set the reductions at reasonable levels and to spread those reductions over 6 years from 2007 to 2012. They were successfully concluded in January this year. Ireland's 2007 mackerel quota has been reduced by 3,687 tonnes as a result and quotas for 2008 to 2012 will be reduced by 4,178 tonnes annually to take account of the required pay back.

The Irish herring quotas are set on an annual basis at the December EU Council meeting. The Irish quotas for 2007 were set at just over 34,000 tonnes in all areas. As Ireland was not implicated in the undeclared landings of herring into Scotland, no deductions were applied by the Commission to these quotas.

In January this year, the European Commission adopted a review of deep-sea species management measures that have been in place since 2002, when quotas were introduced for these species. The review report concluded that the implementation of the measures had been too poor to adequately protect deep sea stocks and that further cuts are inevitable.

The main conclusions can be summarised as follows. Many deep-sea stocks have such a low productivity rate that current catch levels are probably too low to allow economically viable fishing. Also, it takes such a long while for stocks to recover (as such species take a long while to grow and live a long time) that any reduction in fishing must be considered as a permanent measure and not just a way to increase catches in the longer term. The 2005 quotas were not fully used (percentage take up per fishing zone ranged from 13-61% for deep-sea sharks, 10-98% for scabbardfish, 13-75% for tusk, 8-79% for grenadier, 23-76% for orange roughy, and 5-98% for blueling). For the long-term management of deep-sea stocks, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) must be complemented by other measures, such as fishing restrictions. The Commission was critical of member states in relation to the implementation of protection measures for orange roughy (there is a prohibited fishing zone, located to the west of the United Kingdom and Ireland).

The findings of the Review have been communicated to the Parliament and Council and, together with the scientific advice, will likely inform future policy decisions on the management and exploitation of deep-sea species.

TACs and Quotas for deep sea species are set for two years at a time. Ireland's total deep-sea quotas, set at the November 2006 EU Fisheries Council, amount to 902 tonnes for both 2007 and 2008, compared to 1,416 tonnes in both 2005 and 2006. Ireland's catches of orange roughy had decreased to 96 tonnes in 2005 and in 2006 were just 38.4 tonnes. Ireland's quota for this stock is 49 tonnes in both 2007 and 2008.

However, quotas for other deep-sea stocks of importance to Ireland such as black scabbard and roundnose grenadier were unchanged for 2007 and 2008 and there remain good fishing opportunities for Ireland's fishing vessels targeting deep-sea stocks.

Multimedia Activities.

Ivor Callely

Question:

144 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his Department’s understanding of the use of multimedia activities particularly Internet and video games by young people here; the mechanisms available to address some of the age inappropriate material; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11244/07]

I understand the Deputy is interested in the protection of young people from the inappropriate use of multimedia activities particularly internet and video games. I have no function in relation to malevolent internet activities or video games — these areas come under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Obviously the role of parents in these matters cannot be emphasised enough, and their supervisory role is key.

Broadcasting Services.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

145 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department has engaged in discussions with the UK Government or Northern Ireland Office regarding the transmission of RTÉ programmes on the Northern Ireland free to view digital service and the possible inclusion of BBC channels on the proposed new digital service in this jurisdiction; and his views on the possibility of such a development occurring. [11480/07]

My Department is engaged in general discussions around digital broadcasting issues with other bodies on an ongoing basis. The issues around transmission of RTÉ and BBC channels on both sides of the border continue to be explored between both UK and Irish regulators and Departments. The new framework for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) set out in the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill will allow for additional television broadcasting opportunities in Ireland.

Energy Regulation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

146 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will bring forward measures to give the energy regulator, CER, co-competition powers with the Competition Authority over the oil and liquid fuels market to ensure a strongly competitive retail petrol and diesel market; if he will direct CER to investigate and report on pricing policies in the oil and liquid fuels market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11342/07]

The Irish oil industry is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated. There is free entry into the market. The Competition Authority is a statutory independent body with a specific role in the enforcement of competition law. The National Consumer Agency has specific responsibilities for protecting the rights of consumers. Its function is to ensure that competition works optimally for the benefit of consumers throughout the country. The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is the independent body statutorily responsible for overseeing the liberalisation of Ireland's electricity and gas sectors. The CER has no role in regard to the oil industry.

There are no proposals to bring forward measures to give the CER a role in regard to the Irish oil industry, given the roles and responsibilities of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.

Question No. 147 answered with QuestionNo. 85.
Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 106.

Postal Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

149 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will issue direction or instruction in regard to the future of the postal service with particular reference to the need to retain the optimum number of post offices and sub-post offices, sufficiently and strategically located to meet the service requirements and competition in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11461/07]

While the Programme for Government clearly sets out this Government's commitment to the objective of securing the largest, most economically sustainable nationwide post office network possible, decisions made in regard to the retention of the optimum number of post offices are for the Board and management of An Post to make. I have no statutory function in regard to this matter.

Telecommunications Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

150 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on his new indicative target of 700,000 broadband subscribers by the end of 2007; the targets the Government should set for broadband roll-out to 2010; the measures he will introduce to achieve this objective; if he has had contact with broadband service providers in relation to achieving the new 700,000 target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11355/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

Enormous progress has been made in the past 2 years in the roll out of broadband. The official number of subscribers in October 2004 stood at 63,600. Since then I have issued challenges to industry to break the 500,000 subscribers barrier. I am delighted to say that the next report from ComReg will show that this barrier has not only been reached but has been exceeded with more than 515,000 subscribers at the end of 2006. Final figures for 2006 are expected shortly from ComReg. To continue this impetus I recently issued a new challenge to industry to reach 700,000 subscribers by the end of 2007.

I am confident that this challenge will be met. There has been a large increase in the number of operators who offer broadband services. In addition, the take-up of alternative means of accessing broadband, i.e. cable broadband and fixed wireless by broadband subscribers has begun to take off. The use of fixed wireless local access is increasing, especially in rural areas that cannot obtain DSL connectivity, and the development of Wi-Max offers considerable potential in the future.

It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. The Government has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These include investment in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) in over 120 towns and cities; the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme and the new National Broadband Scheme which is currently being finalised and which will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in unserved areas are met.

The migration to Next Generation Networks is being considered by Service Providers and will generate many issues with wide implications for regulation, competition, investment and service delivery that need to be addressed.

To achieve this migration, I intend to establish a National Advisory Forum to advise me on progress towards Next Generation Networks. The Forum will be charged with having a precise blueprint in place by the end of 2007 on the migration. I would point out that the migration to Next Generation Networks will not be made at the expense of our current broadband rollout.

Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Exploration Licences.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

152 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the stage of the negotiations for new exploration contracts in Irish waters for 2007 and 2008; when he expects to amend the general terms of such contracts to insure that future discoveries will lead to a greater return to the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11486/07]

My Department is at present considering two applications for new exploration licences. I have also announced the fact that a licensing round will be held later this year in which applications will be invited for frontier exploration licences over the Porcupine Basin.

In relation to the licensing regime, I am considering the report of the consultants who were engaged to assist with the review of the licensing terms. I will bring my proposals for the future of the licensing regime to Government in the near future and I will then take appropriate steps to give effect to the decisions taken. I have signalled that it is my intent that any adjustment of the licensing terms would apply to licences awarded this year.

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Mobile Telephony.

Shane McEntee

Question:

154 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has satisfied himself that the development of and investment in the mobile telephone services here are sufficient to meet the expected challenges of targets in respect of the development of such services in the context of the national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11446/07]

Liam Twomey

Question:

160 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has issued directives or guidelines with a view to ensuring that mobile telephony here is of a quality and standard equal to that available throughout Europe without exception; if such targets have been identified by him in the context of the national development plan for implementation by the service providers within the lifespan of the plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11474/07]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

175 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the availability of high quality mobile telephony to date, is in accordance with the economic projections in the national development plan with particular reference to the achievement of 100% service in all areas throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11427/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154, 160 and 175 together.

I have no function in regulating the provision of services in the telecommunications market. The provision of telecommunications services, including the quality and standard of mobile services is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully-liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, in accordance with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Act of 2002 and the transposed EU regulatory framework for Electronic Communications Networks and Services. In a fully liberalised market, I have no powers to directly influence the behaviour of private sector companies.

ComReg sets out the obligations on mobile network operators with regard to population coverage. These obligations are set down in the licence conditions for each operator. All four mobile network operators have complied with these targets to date.

The mobile network operators in Ireland, Vodafone, O2, Meteor and 3, are all investing significantly in their networks and ComReg estimates that a combined sum of more than €600m is spent annually on mobile networks in Ireland. The National Development Plan did not set any specific targets in respect of mobile phone services in the Irish market.

Postal Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

155 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of postal units that have closed down since 1997 and their locations; the breakdown of these closures on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11345/07]

I have no function in this matter. Matters relating to post office closures are for the board and management of An Post. I have received data from An Post showing the breakdown of Post Office closures from 1997 to date, by location and by county. This information is as follows:

Munster

Cork (50)

Clare (8)

Kerry (8)

Limerick (21)

Tipperary (29)

Waterford (5)

Ballinascarthy

Caher

Ballyhar

Ardpatrick

Aglish-Birr

Ballyduff Mallow

Ballygarvan

Carron

Bonane

Brittas

Ahenny

Bonmahon

Ballylickey

Doolin

Brandon

Castletown Conyers

Ballinderry

Halfwayhouse

Ballyvourney

Kilnaboy

Dunquin

Clarina

Ballingarry-Roscrea

Old Parish

Belvelly

Kilnamona

Kells-Killarney

Dromacomer

Ballinure

Villierstown

Berrings

Liscannor

Kilmorna

Effin

Ballycommon

Burnfort

Lisdeen

Kilmorna

Feohanagh

Bouladuff

Butlerstown

Ogonnelloe

Park Road

Garryfine

Burncourt

Cahermore

Glenroe

Capparoe

Carrigrohane

Holycross Kilmallock

Carrigatoher

Church Cross

Janesboro T.S.O. Limerick

Clonakenny

Churchtown-Mallow

Killoscully

Coalbrook

Coolea (Cúil Aodha)

Kilmeedy

Crosspatrick

Courtmacsherry

Knockaderry

Cullen Tipperary

Currabeha

Knockainey

Cureeney

Dennehys Cross T.S.O.

Lackamore

Dovea

Derinacarah

Martinstown

Drombane

Dromagh

Meanus

Dromineer

Farnanes

Mountcollins

Horse and Jockey

Glantane

Patrick St. T.S.O. Limerick

Kilcommon

Glenlough

Strand

Kilross

Gortroe

Lisronagh

Johnstown-Cork

Loughmore

Keimaneigh

New Inn

Kilbrin (Castlecor)

Ninemilehouse

Kilcorney

Portroe

Kildinan

Puckane

Killavullen

Rossadrehid

Kilmacsimon Quay

South Lodge

Kilmurry

Knockraha

Lisbealad

Lissacreasig

Meelin

Mogeely

Mount Uniacke

Mountpleasant

Poulanargid

Ringaskiddy

Shanlaragh

Sherkin Island

Taur

Templemartin

Trafrask

Tullylease

Vicarstown

Washington St T.S.O.

Waterfall-Bantry

Western Road T.S.O.

Ulster

Cavan (21)

Donegal (23)

Monaghan (14)

Ardlogher

Ballinamore

Aghabog

Ballyhugh

Ballybeg

Bradox

Carrickaboy

Ballyheerin

Broomfield

Carrigan

Bridgetown -Donegal

Coolderry

Cloverhill

Cavangarden

Corduff-Dundalk

Crosserlough

Clooney

Creighanroe

Dernacrieve

Cranford

Donaghmoyne

Derrylane

Doaghbeg

Doohamlet

Doogarry

Drimfries

Doohat

Drumanespic

Glenmaquin

Drumacrib

Grousehall

Glenvar

Laragh

Gubaveeney

Inch Lifford

Loughmourne

Kildorough

Kilraine

Swan’s Cross Roads

Kill Monaghan

Letterbarrow

Tyholland

Lisgrey Crossroads

Loughros Point

Lisnageer

Meenbanad

Moneygashel

Portnablagh

Mountain Lodge

Portsalon

New Inn (Kells)

Rann na Feirsde

Redhills

Ray

Tunnyduff

Tamney

Teelin

Tievemore

Leinster

Carlow (5)

Dublin (20)

Kildare (6)

Kilkenny (7)

Louth (12)

Laois (7)

Ballickmoyler

Aerphort B.A.C.

Brannockstown

Ballyfoyle

Corcreaghy

Ballyfin

Corries Cross

Brittas

Broadford Naas

Coolbawn Portlaoise

Dowth

Camross

Garryhill

Clontarf T.S.O.

Calverstown

Dungarvan

Dromin

Clough

Grangeford

Donnycarney T.S.O.

Kilmead

Johnswell

Drumcar

Coolrain

Killerig Cross

Killiney T.S.O.

Rathmore Naas

Knocktopher

Drumturk

Luggacurren

Kilsallaghan

Suncroft

Maddockstown

Edmondstown

Pike Of Rushall

Lower Baggot St T.S.O.

Owning

Hackballscross

The Heath

Manor Street T.S.O.

Kilcurley

Merrion T.S.O.

Readypenny

Newtownpark T.S.O. Blackrock

Smarmore

Oldtown Dublin

Togher Drogheda

Portobello Bridge T.S.O.

Tullyallen

South Anne St Branch Office

St. Margaret’s

Temple Bar T.S.O.

Terenure T.S.O.

The naul

The Ward

Upper Drumcondra T.S.O.

Walkinstown Sth T.S.O.

Leinster

Longford (6)

Meath (11)

Offaly (8)

Westmeath (19)

Wicklow (10)

Wexford (16)

Abbeylara

Castlerickard

Ballinagar

Ballinagore

Albert Ave. T.S.O.

Annaghcross

Barry

Castletown Navan

Brosna Birr

Ballymanus

Ballinglen

Arthurstown

Dring

Donaghpatrick

Cadamstown

Bracklyn

Ballycooge

Askamore

Esker

Drumone

Cloneygowan

Bunbrosna

Clash

Ballycarney

Killashee

Garadice Naas

Fortel

Castletown Mullingar

Delgany

Barntown

Killoe

Loughan

Rahan

Coralstown

Grangecon

Castletown Gorey

Meath Hill

Killurin-Tullamore

Crookedwood

Kilranelagh

Inch

Rathcore

Shannon Harbour

Dalystown

Mullinacuffe

Kilcotty

Rathfeigh

Drumcree

Redcross

Kildavin

Ross

Drumraney

Valleymount

Killanne

Wilkinstown

Fardrum

Leskinfere

Fore

Monamolin

Gaybrook

Parkbridge

Horseleap

Strahart

Knockdrin

Templeshambo

Monilea

Tomhaggard

Moyvoughley

Rosemount

The Pigeons

Connaught

Galway (20)

Leitrim (18)

Mayo (31)

Roscommon (12)

Sligo (12)

Ballyshrule

Annaghmore

Ballyheane

Boholas

Achonry

Boyounagh

Aughamore

Ballynastangford

Clooneyquinn

Ballintrillick

Brierfield

Bornacoola

Ballysakerry

Cootehall

Carrowneaden

Burrin

Buckode

Bellacorick

Corrigeenroe

Castlegal

Camus

Corriga

Blacksod

Four Mile House

Curry

Cashel Galway

Corry

Brickens

Mount Talbot

Drumfin

Cloghan’s Hill

Eslin Bridge

Bunnacurry

Moyne Castlerea

Drumnacool

Clonfert

Foxfield

Callow

Rahara

Gleneask

Clontuskert

Glenade

Callow Ballina

Runnarodden

Graniamore

Cloonminda

Glenboy

Clogher Claremorris

Scramogue

Kilfree

Errislannon

Gortgarrigan

Cloondaff

Tibohine

Moneygold

Gurtymadden

Gorvagh

Cloontia

Whitehall

Sooey

Kilchreest

Gurteen (Leitrim)

Corroy

Kiltormer

Leckaun

Cregganbaun

Kylemore

Lissinagrough

Cuilmore

Levally

Lough Allen

Derreens

Moyglass

Tawnylea

Dooega

Ower

Tullycooley

Drummin

Rosscahill

Dugort

Toomard

Glenisland

Keenaghbeg

Killasser

Killateeaun

Kilsallagh

Kincun

Murrisk

Newtown Cloghans

Shraheens

Srah

Straide

Tagheen

Question No. 156 answered with QuestionNo. 121.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Pat Breen

Question:

157 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to surpass Kyoto and subsequent EU emission guidelines by way of home produced alternative energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11415/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

364 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to surpass Kyoto and subsequent EU emission guidelines by way of home produced alternative energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11540/07]

I propose to take Question Nos. 157 and 364 together.

I recently published the National Bioenergy Action Plan which is an important milestone in the Government's ambitious and comprehensive energy policy. The Plan sets out a cohesive strategy for the development and deployment of indigenous bioenergy resources, in the electricity, heating and transport sectors. The Plan will be underpinned by existing support programmes as well as additional support necessary to realise ambitious targets up to 2020 and will fully reflect EU developments.

The National Bioenergy Action Plan, with its wide ranging and targeted action points, is only one component of our rapidly evolving energy and climate change policies. The publication of the White Paper on Energy provides a comprehensive roadmap for the development of the entire energy sector. That policy addresses the key challenges of climate change, competitiveness and security of energy supply with a view to providing a long-term vision for alternative energy development. The White Paper on Energy Policy supports the targets and strategic approach in the Bio Energy Action Plan with the objective of delivering a fully integrated approach to the sustainable use of bioenergy resources.

The Government's commitment to a cleaner, greener environment is strongly reflected in the pace of our renewable energy policy development. Our targets are ambitious but achievable and our policies and programmes to meet those goals are already firmly established.

In the last two years alone, the Government has introduced a range of renewable energy support programmes valued at over €400m. The programmes are designed to be accessible to all energy users, from householders, to community and voluntary groups, the commercial and industrial sector and renewable electricity producers. They are backed up by strong investment in energy research and development, as well as the €10m "Power of One" energy efficiency campaign.

I have increased the EU target for renewable energy sourced electricity from 13.2% to a national target of 15%, which approximates to 1650MW, by 2010. The current installed capacity is over a Gigawatt. This consists of approximately 774MW of wind powered plant, 236MW of hydro powered plant with the balance (c. 34MW) made up of different biomass technologies. In the White Paper the 15% target has been further increased to 33% of gross electricity consumption from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 105.
Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 109.
Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 154.

Post Codes.

Enda Kenny

Question:

161 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which research was done into the possible use of post codes; the cost of such studies; if recommendations were made or adopted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11442/07]

David Stanton

Question:

168 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to postcodes; if introduction is anticipated in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11470/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 168 together.

The National Postcode Project Board has now presented to me for my consideration, its recommendation as to the most appropriate postcode system for Ireland, the costs and benefits arising from its introduction along with a detailed implementation plan. As part of its analysis, the board's advisors, recruited by ComReg, carried out an extensive consultation with stakeholders both within the postal sector and outside it with a view to arriving at a postcode model that best meets the needs of the various stakeholders. They also measured the likely costs and benefits of the introduction of such a postcode. I am currently considering the report with a view to bringing proposals to Government at a later date.

Energy Resources.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

162 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans for the future development of the Corrib gas field with particular reference to the early availability of supplies throughout the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11456/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

377 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects supplies from the Corrib gas field to be available to the gas grid and through same to the towns and villages in the region throughout the west and north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11554/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 and 377 together.

In so far as my Department is concerned all necessary consents and approvals have been given for the development of the Corrib Gas Field. With these in place it is now up to the developer to proceed with the development of the field. Certain development works have commenced and are ongoing.

On foot of the recommendation of the Corrib mediator, Mr. Peter Cassells, the developer, Shell, has committed itself to modifying the route of the onshore pipeline. RPS consultants have been appointed by Shell to manage this process. I understand that public consultation is now under way to help choose the optimum route.

Progress on the development works will be the principal factor that will determine when the gas will come ashore. I understand that the developers anticipate first gas in late 2009. The transmission and distribution of gas throughout Ireland including throughout the western region, is a matter for the gas supply industry; I am aware that Bord Gáis Éireann has announced that it will be piping gas to several towns in the West and North West.

The Corrib field, when it is developed, will bring significant volumes of gas into the Irish system, which will reduce our dependence on imports and will enhance the security of our energy supply into the future. Having regard to the uncertainty relating to future oil and gas supplies, this project is of vital national importance. Delivery of Corrib gas also has the potential to bring significant benefits to North West Mayo and the region as a whole.

Question No. 163 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Proposed Legislation.

Seán Ryan

Question:

164 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on introducing legislation to incorporate Regtel into ComReg in order to properly regulate the content, promotion and pricing information for all premium rate telecom services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11360/07]

I have no function in this matter. Premium Rate Services are commercial products in a commercial market. Responsibility for the regulation of the content and promotion of Premium Rate Telecommunications Services including subscription based services is a matter for Regtel, an independent self-regulatory body established in 1995 to regulate these services. Regtel does not report to me as Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and I have no plans to amend its status. In addition, the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg has no role in relation to content. The area of consumer protection within which Regtel operates falls mainly under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the National Consumer Agency.

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 98.
Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 122.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

167 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals in regard to future legislation for local and community radios with particular reference to the need to retain local interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11478/07]

The draft general scheme of the Broadcasting Bill proposes the establishment of a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to regulate the three principal categories of broadcaster — public service broadcasters, commercial broadcasters and community broadcasters.

Head 2 of the draft general scheme proposes the following legal definition of a community broadcaster:

"a broadcaster providing a broadcasting service that:

a. is provided for local or community interest purposes;

b. is not operated for profit or as part of a profit-making enterprise; and

c. is representative of the locality or community of interest concerned."

As the deputy will be aware, the draft general scheme was submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources for the purposes of public consultation under the eConsultation initiative in September 2006.

It is understood that the Joint Committee will shortly report its findings on the outcome of the consultation process to the Houses of the Oireachtas. I propose to introduce the consequent Broadcasting Bill into the Houses of the Oireachtas during the course of 2007 in the light of the outcome of the Joint Committee's findings.

Question No. 168 answered with QuestionNo. 161.

Telecommunications Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

169 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans or proposals to encourage the separation of the retail and wholesale structures in the telecoms sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11449/07]

I have no function in this matter. The provision of telecommunications services is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), the independent regulator. Any proposal by Eircom to separate its retail and wholesale arms would primarily be a matter for the company subject to compliance with any regulatory requirements which would be a matter for ComReg to determine.

Fuel Poverty.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

170 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will bring forward measures to address the skyrocketing levels of fuel and energy poverty in society here; when he will publish the 2006 Fuel Poverty Action Research Project; his views on a formal mechanism to review utility prices on an ongoing basis in the context of fluctuating prices on global oil and gas markets and the impact of utility prices on low income families and senior citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11336/07]

As reflected in the White Paper on Energy Policy, the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 sets the overall policy framework for tackling poverty and social inclusion up to 2016 and includes measures targeted at fuel poverty.

The White Paper sets out a range of actions under the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion to systematically tackle fuel poverty through existing Schemes and new measures as required. An Inter Departmental/Inter Agency Group will be established this year to oversee and drive coordinated delivery of all fuel poverty initiatives and programmes under the office of Social Inclusion.

The 2006 Fuel Poverty Action Research Project will be completed by the end of this year. This Project aims to improve energy efficiency in 300 houses in Cork and Donegal and will monitor and report on outcomes in terms of improved cost efficiency, household comfort and health levels. It is intended to extend the initiative to other areas in light of the results of the pilot project.

The Statutory responsibility for the regulation of electricity and gas tariffs lies with the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent body. As Minister, I have no function in setting, regulating or reviewing these tariffs.

However, I am of the view that the best way to reduce energy prices in the medium term is to introduce more competition in the market. The Government is pursuing this objective with the creation of the Single All-Island Electricity Market and the development of further interconnection with Northern Ireland and Great Britain. In addition, the White Paper commits to the creation of a landbank of power generation sites, the transfer of the electricity transmission assets to EirGrid and the operation of the distribution network business under a risk related rate of return. These actions will address the structure of the market and ensure that the benefits of competition result in lower prices for the consumer.

Postal Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

171 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that An Post and the postal union representatives are anxious to ascertain Government policy in respect of future structure and delivery of postal services and facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11413/07]

As set out clearly in the Programme for Government, this Government and the Board of An Post continue to be committed to the objective of ensuring a viable and sustainable nationwide post office network into the future. In the face of growing competition, I believe that there will continue to be a key national role for An Post in the delivery of mails and parcels.

Full market opening in the postal sector is due to take place in 2009, subject to political agreement. The Government is confident that once the initial challenges presented by liberalisation have been overcome, full competition in the postal market will ultimately be good for both An Post and Irish consumers.

It is imperative however, that the company restructure itself effectively and that management and trade unions in An Post work together to transform the company into an efficient and modern service provider by implementing the agreed restructuring programme.

The draft third postal directive proposes that the existing universal service standards be maintained. This issue is of particular importance to Ireland so as to ensure that all consumers have access to a high quality postal service. I recently outlined my views on these and other matters arising from the draft directive at a conference organised by the An Post group of unions regarding liberalisation and the future of the postal service.

Question No. 172 answered with QuestionNo. 100.

Electricity Interconnector.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

173 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in regard to the provision of an east west electricity interconnector; when the facility will be built and by whom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11444/07]

Tom Hayes

Question:

174 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans for the construction and operation of the proposed east west electricity interconnector; if the precise location has been identified or agreed; if the facility is expected to be privately, publicly or semi-state owned or operated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11436/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 and 174 together.

The Government is committed to deliver enhanced interconnection on the island of Ireland as well as with Britain as a priority. The Government's Energy Policy White Paper, "Towards a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland", underlines this commitment. This is also the way forward envisaged at European level.

On foot of a Government decision, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is arranging the design of a competition to secure the construction of a single 500 megawatt interconnector between Ireland and Great Britain at the earliest possible date before 2012. While work is progressing on final route selection and technical specification of the interconnector, the CER is also finalising the competition structure, working on the associated competition documentation and related contractual arrangements and going to market as soon as possible within 2007. The Government decision provides that the interconnector will, as a key strategic asset, remain in public ownership and will be owned by EirGrid.

While it is too early to say precisely when the project will be completed, the CER and EirGrid are committed to providing the new interconnector by the timeline the Government has set. In this regard, the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure Act) 2006, which provides for a streamlined planning process for strategic infrastructure developments, includes special provisions designed to expedite the planning process for electricity interconnector projects.

To underpin the development process, new arrangements have been made in respect of the construction and governance under licence of interconnector operators by the CER in the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006. In particular, the Act provides that the CER may, with Ministerial consent, secure the construction of an interconnector by one or more means, including by competitive tender. Such consent will be contingent on final Government approval.

Question No. 175 answered with QuestionNo. 154.
Question No. 176 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Postal Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

177 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will issue a directive to ComReg to ensure that the postal universal service obligation is upheld and that the next day delivery rate target of 94% is met; if he has received information from ComReg or An Post regarding the conflicting accounts of the actual next day delivery rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11346/07]

Matters relating to quality and levels of postal service are a matter in the first instance for the management and board of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function. An Post operates within a regulatory framework as enshrined in EU and Irish law and therefore the universal service obligation is a statutory requirement for An Post, as the designated universal service provider. This is set out in Statutory Instrument 616 of 2002 European Communities (Postal Services) Regulations.

The Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, in accordance with the regulations, is responsible for the monitoring, measurement and regulation of the postal sector including measuring the levels of service to be achieved by An Post and ensuring that the company abides by its statutory universal service obligations.

To further facilitate ComReg's performance in this regard, the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2007, once enacted, will enable amendments to the current postal regulations to permit ComReg to apply to the High Court for the application of a financial penalty to An Post in the event that An Post fails to comply with a direction issued by the regulator in respect of either An Post's domestic quality of service standard or quality of service corrective action.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Willie Penrose

Question:

178 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will confirm the recent comment by a senior adviser from Sustainable Energy Ireland that Ireland’s real target for renewable energy for electricity for 2020 is 6% rather than 33% as outlined in the recent Energy White Paper; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11331/07]

The Government's White Paper on Energy Policy has set a target for Ireland of 33% of gross electricity consumption from renewable energy sources by 2020. That is the real target and that is the challenge to be met.

In 2005 the contribution by renewable energy sources to gross electricity consumption was nearly 7%. For 2006 it is estimated to have reached over 8% and will increase further in 2007. We are well on track to achieve 15% of gross electricity consumption from renewable energy sources by 2010 and 33% by 2020.

Question No. 179 answered with QuestionNo. 105.
Question No. 180 answered with QuestionNo. 110.

Post Office Network.

Liz McManus

Question:

181 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has had recent contacts with the Irish Postmasters Union; if he will address the threat to the maintenance of a competitive and nationwide postal network; if he will bring forward a national postal strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11347/07]

I have met with the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU) on a number of occasions as have some of my Cabinet colleagues in recent times. I also addressed the IPU Annual Conference in 2005 and 2006.

While the Government continues to be committed to the objective of securing and maintaining the largest economically sustainable post office network possible, the development and continued viability of An Post and the post office network is, in the first instance, a matter for the board and management of the company. Consequently, the way forward is for An Post to enhance existing services and, building on existing strengths, to develop new product offerings. There is an urgent need for An Post to diversify its own income streams and those of the postmasters.

It was with this in mind that Government approval was secured, in September of last year, for An Post to enter a joint venture agreement with Belgian Bank, Fortis, to set up a retail banking business. The venture is due for launch later this year.

Key to the Government approval of this joint venture is that it not only offers a real opportunity for the growth and development of An Post and the post office network but that it will, in time, greatly benefit the income streams of postmasters.

I have no plans at the moment to publish a national postal strategy.

Question No. 182 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Telecommunications Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

183 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the steps he will take to provide a State controlled broadband and telephone network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11246/07]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband and telephone is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

The role of Government is to implement regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of affordable, high quality telecommunications services, by competing private sector service providers.

The Government has recognised, however, that a lack of investment by the private sector in the necessary telecommunications infrastructure has acted as an impediment to the speedy rollout of competitive, affordable broadband services in Ireland, principally in the regions.

In partnership with local and regional authorities, the Government is funding the construction of high-speed, open-access telecommunications networks, known as Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), in around 120 towns and cities nationwide. This is complemented by the Group Broadband Scheme for smaller towns and rural communities.

It is planned to address the question of availability of broadband to the remaining areas via a new National Broadband Scheme which, when it is fully rolled out, will ensure that all reasonable requests for broadband from houses and premises in unserved rural areas are met. A Steering Group comprising representatives of the Department and ComReg is currently finalising the outline of the new scheme, which will supersede the Group Broadband Scheme. Work on the design of an appropriate public tender is under way.

Energy Resources.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

184 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the Government failed to propose an overall renewable energy target for 2020 and beyond in Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11335/07]

The White Paper "Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland" establishes ambitious targets for renewable energy in each of the three energy sectors — electricity, heat and transport. The targets are as follows: Renewable energy sources will provide 33% of our electricity used by 2020; Biofuels will provide at least 10% of transport energy use by 2020; Further actions in the transport sector will be set out in the Sustainable Transport Strategy later this year.

Renewable heat will comprise 12% of heating requirements by 2020. Heads of Government agreed at the European Council to set binding EU target of 20% for renewable energy in the total energy mix. In that context Ireland and other Member States will discuss and agree with the Commission respective shares towards that overall EU contribution.

Electricity Grid.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of applications for admission to the National electricity grid; the expected generation capacity and its source; if the indicators are in accord with the projections set out in the National Development Plan or the Government’s White Paper on Energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11430/07]

The grid connection application and delivery process is a matter for the appropriate network generator under the supervision of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). I have no statutory function in the matter.

However, I am advised that applications for connection to the national grid from conventional fossil fuel or renewable generators are received on a continuous basis by EirGrid, the independent State company, which operates Ireland's transmission system. Connections by renewable generators are processed together in batches under criteria decided on by the CER.

EirGrid and the operator of the distribution system, ESB Networks, are currently processing connection offers to over 120 renewable generators, equivalent to over 1,300 MW of renewable capacity. It is expected that these connection offers will roll out from April to December of this year, increasing the amount of renewable generation connected to the network over the next few years. It means that Ireland is on course to meet the White Paper's target of 15% or electricity consumption coming from renewable energy sources by 2010, and it will also assist in Ireland working towards the White Paper's target of 33% of consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

In addition, applications for grid connection of two conventional CCGT generating stations in the South West, with a combined export capacity of around 860MW, have also been received by EirGrid and offers have recently issued to the developers — BGÉ and ESB Power Generation.

The published data record there are 69 wind energy projects with a capacity of 744MW already connected to the national grid. There are a further 37 projects with a capacity of 547MW contracted for connections and a further 117 projects with a capacity of 1,300MW in the process of receiving connection offers and a further 99 projects with a capacity of 1,933MW at more preliminary stages in the connection process.

Question No. 186 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Tom Hayes

Question:

187 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the extent to which he proposes to encourage the use of home produced alternative fuels for home heating purposes with particular reference to the need for eco friendliness in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11435/07]

The Government is committed to developing domestic scale renewable heat technologies.

The Greener Homes Scheme is designed to support and stimulate the use of renewable energy sources in the domestic heat sector. The Scheme provides support to homeowners to invest in a range of renewable energy heating technologies including solar technology, wood biomass boilers and stoves, and heat pumps. The programme provides grants of up to €6,500 for householders depending on the individual technology used. Over 13,000 grant applications have been received since the programme was launched.

Statutory Instruments.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

188 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach the laws and statutory instruments introduced on foot of European Communities treaties or on foot of Acts, or provisions of Acts, adopted by any institution of the European Communities or other body competent under those treaties since 1972 for breach of which a penalty up to and including a maximum fine of €500,000 or a term of imprisonment not greater than three years may apply. [11058/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Statutory Statistical Inquiries

Statutory Orders

National Employment Survey

S.I. No. 057 of 2007: European Communities (Statistics) (National Employment Survey) Regulations 2007 S.I. No. 159 of 2006: European Communities (Statistics) (National Employment Survey) Regulations 2006

Quarterly Stocks and Capital Investment Inquiry Accounts

S.I. No. 247 of 2006: European Communities (Statistics) (Business Accounts Surveys) Regulations 2006

Labour Cost Survey and Earnings, Hours and Employment costs survey

S.I. No. 354 of 2006: European Communities (Statistics) (Labour Costs Surveys) Regulations 2006

Annual Census of Building Construction Communities

S.I. No. 774 of 2005: European Communities (Statistical Classification of Building and Construction Activities) Regulations 2005

Aviation Statistics (sent only to Eurostat)

S.I. No. 715 of 2003: European Communities (Statistics in respect of Carriage of Passengers, Freight and Mail by Air) Regulations 2003

Statistics of Port Traffic

S.I. No. 205 of 2001: European Communities (Statistics in respect of Carriage of Goods and Passengers at Sea) Regulations 2001

External Trade

S.I. No. 136 of 1993: European Communities (Intrastat) Regulation 1993

Stardust Disaster.

Finian McGrath

Question:

189 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation regarding the Stardust relatives requests; and if he will assist them in all of their needs. [11108/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Victims Committee has been advised that an external and independent examination of their submission is to be carried out by an eminent legal person. The arrangements for this examination are the subject of ongoing communication. The Deputy will also be aware that my Department is assisting the families of the unidentified victims and the results of DNA testing are awaited in this regard.

Sexual Offences.

Joe Costello

Question:

190 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the report in a national newspaper regarding a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; if the details are substantially correct; if the Gardaí have been informed; if the person is on a register of sex offenders; if not, the steps he proposes to take to rectify the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11069/07]

The Sex Offenders Act, 2001 sets out the obligations on persons convicted of a range of sexual offences. A convicted sex offender must notify his/her name(s), date of birth and current home address to the Garda Síochána within seven days of the conviction for the sexual offence concerned or, where the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, from the date of full release from prison.

Thereafter, the offender must notify the Gardaí of any change of name or address within seven days of that change. Notification of any address where the offender spends either as much as seven days or two or more periods amounting to seven days in any twelve month period must also be given to the Gardaí.

If the offender intends to leave the State for a period of seven days or more s/he must inform the Gardaí of this fact and the address at which s/he intends to stay and also notify the Gardaí of his/her return. If s/he did not intend to stay away for more than seven days but did, s/he must inform the Gardaí within a further seven days.

The provisions of the Act extend to any sex offenders entering this jurisdiction from abroad who have an obligation to register in their own countries.

The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit of An Garda Síochána monitor and manage the notification provisions. There are nominated Garda Inspectors in each Garda Division who have responsibility for the monitoring of persons subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001 in their Divisions, including the person referred to by the Deputy.

The address provided by a person subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001 is always checked by An Garda Síochána under the direction of the local Inspector with responsibility for the monitoring of sex offenders and if child protection issues are identified the local Health Service Executive is informed, as provided for in the Children First Guidelines.

The Sex Offenders Act, 2001 makes it mandatory for a convicted sex offender to inform their employer or future employer of their conviction if their job entails having unsupervised access to children. The Act also allows for a Chief Superintendent of An Garda Síochána to request the court to make a sex offender order, whereby a sex offender can be prohibited from behaving in a particular way, where such behaviour is perceived by the court as having a potential danger to the welfare of children. It should be noted that Garda clearance is now required for potential employees in a number of occupations which entail access to, or authority over, children.

I share the desire of local communities that the strongest possible protection is afforded to children. This desire is also shared by An Garda Síochána, who pursue all cases which come to their attention of persons who do not fulfil the obligations placed on them by the Act.

Furthermore, based on five years' experience in the operation of the Act, I am proposing a series of changes to the Act with the aim of strengthening the protection it offers to the community. These will include raising the penalty for failure to register from 12 months to five years' imprisonment, thus making it an arrestable offence, and giving probation officers power to prosecute offenders who fail to comply with the terms of a post release supervision order.

Garda Investigations.

Joe Costello

Question:

191 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); if there are criminal charges pending against the person; if his office can make an ex gratia payment as the person is now destitute; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11070/07]

The position remains as set out in my replies to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 201 and 277 of 14 and 27 February, 2007, respectively.

The Garda investigation into matters relating to the bank robbery in question remains ongoing. The issue of whether prosecutions will arise from the incident remains a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

There is no basis for the making of an ex gratia payment by my Department to the person in question.

Residency Permits.

Billy Timmins

Question:

192 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to persons (details supplied); if this can be dealt with as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11086/07]

I understand from the Immigration Division of my Department that the marriage certificate and all other original documentation submitted have been returned to the persons concerned and a decision on the residency application will issue in due course.

Crime Prevention.

Finian McGrath

Question:

193 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will put in a safety and security plan at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 9 to deal with anti-social activity. [11087/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is in the Clontarf Garda Sub-District and is patrolled by uniformed and plain-clothes personnel, the Community Policing Unit and Mountain Bike Units, supplemented by the District Detective and Drugs Units and the Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel.

Local Garda management is aware of the problems with anti-social behaviour being experienced by local residents. The incidence of crime in the area and the allocation of personnel resources are kept under constant review by local Garda management.

Current policing policy in the area is predicated on the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property, the prevention of public order offences and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of the quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of the policing service in this area.

I am assured by the Garda authorities that they will continue to give the matter referred to by the Deputy their ongoing attention.

On-line Banking.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

194 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation regarding guidelines being drawn up by his Department for victims of phishing in relation to victims in the State of online banking swindles; the advice he would give to such victims in order for them to recover their lost money; the other measures being taken by his Department to combat this type of crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11088/07]

The act of "phishing" constitutes a number of offences contained in the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. In addition, a provision to give the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime the force of law in Ireland is included in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The Government has approved the drafting of the Bill along the lines of a General Scheme and the General Scheme has been forwarded to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting of the Bill.

I am aware of a number of initiatives taken by Departments, Agencies and the industry itself in relation to "phishing" and I have outlined some of them below.

I understand from An Garda Síochána that they have received in excess of 25 complaints from members of the public relating to fraudulent withdrawals from their bank accounts, offences which are committed using a technique known as "phishing" which is a term used to describe the theft or attempted theft of personal information using e-mail and "bogus" websites. It is a relatively recent phenomenon.

The primary function of An Garda Síochána is the investigation of the criminal conduct through which the monies have been lost by the injured parties as opposed to the recovery of funds. However, criminal courts invariably make orders restoring funds which have been identified as the proceeds of crime following conviction of the offender.

I understand that An Garda Síochána is working with the Banking Industry to counteract this phenomenon. All the Banks offering on-line banking services have posted warning notices on their websites to the effect that this activity is occurring and that members of the public should not respond to any request relating to their personal banking security details.

A High-Tech Crime forum has also been established with all relevant stakeholders including An Garda Síochána and the Financial Services Industry, including the banking sector. This forum facilitates the rapid dissemination of information related to "phishing" and other methods being used in an attempt to compromise banking services.

Victims of "phishing" attacks are advised by An Garda Síochána and the industry to report any such attacks immediately to An Garda Síochána for investigation. Every assistance is given by An Garda Síochána to injured parties and their representatives in their efforts to recover moneys.

Garda investigations to date have resulted in a number of persons being prosecuted for theft offences, related to "phishing" incidents where the proceeds of fraudulent withdrawals have been transferred to an apparently legitimate account which has been used to facilitate the withdrawal of stolen funds. A number of other similar investigations are ongoing.

An Garda Síochána have advised that, through the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigations, it has participated in a number of initiatives, by various Government Departments and the Financial Institutions, whose primary aim is to raise public awareness of this type of criminality, and include:

A website entitled ‘Safecard', which was launched in partnership with the Irish Payment Services Organisation, addresses many issues around payment card fraud, in particular the issue of identity theft. The Garda website (www.garda.ie) also contains advice to members of the public on how to avoid this type of criminal activity.

The ‘Make ITSecure' Programme, in conjunction with the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources which, inter alia, produced advice booklets, including one on Identity Theft, for the public and which have been distributed to every Garda Station.

I also understand that the Financial Regulator in June 2004 published a factsheet informing consumers as to how to protect themselves from fraud and this is available from the Financial Regulator's website. All the information and communication from the Financial Regulator has reinforced the same warnings — that no bank would ever ask their customers to confirm any of their financial information by email or by entering details into a website.

I am sure that the Deputy is already aware that the Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs and the Consumer Protection Agency (under the auspices of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment) on 15 March 2007, World Consumer Rights Day, advised of their forthcoming launch of their Scams Awareness Campaign. The Campaign is to be formally launched on April Fool's Day, 1st April next. "Scammers" have many ways of targeting people in Ireland including phone calls, e-mail, post and door-to-door visits. Their material, including information in relation to phishing, can be viewed on their website at consumerconnect.ie. Similar material on European wide scams can be viewed on the European Consumer Centre website at www.ecc.dublin.ie.

Subsidiary Protection.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

195 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received an application for subsidiary protection from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; when the application will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11089/07]

The position is that the person concerned made an application for Subsidiary Protection under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006) on 26 January 2007. His application was refused by my Department on 14 March 2007.

The applicant instituted Judicial Review proceedings on 22 March, 2007 challenging the Subsidiary Protection refusal and accordingly, as the matter is sub judice, I do not propose to comment further.

Residency Permits.

Mary Upton

Question:

196 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will address the serious concerns of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11090/07]

I understand from the Immigration Division of my Department that the persons concerned have recently been granted permission to remain in the State and that all original documents submitted have been returned to them.

Citizenship Applications.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

197 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of a request for permission to remain lodged by a person (details supplied). [11101/07]

The person in question submitted a request in July 2006 to remain in the State on the basis of his parentage of his Irish citizen children. Since the closure of the IBC/05 Scheme in March 2005, there has been no separate process for applying for residency in the State on the sole basis of parentage of an Irish born child.

My Department is currently appealing a related matter to the Supreme Court. The matter will be further considered in the light of the findings of the Court.

Garda Training.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

198 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a list of all available courses at Garda headquarters or Templemore Training College; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11102/07]

The list hereunder provides details of Training Courses that are delivered at the Garda College and Garda Headquarters.

Senior Management Development

Course Title

Garda Executive Leadership Programme

Sergeants’ Development Programme — Human Rights Input

Inspectors’ Development Programme — Human Rights & Diversity Awareness Input

Cultural Diversity Awareness Training

Cultural Diversity Awareness Train the Trainer Course

Course Title

First Steps Human Rights Training for Teacher Trainers

Training in Human Rights, Diversity and Refugee Law for Immigration Officers

Effective Business Writing

Management and Supervisory Training

Course Title

B. A. in Police Management

Chief Superintendents Development Programme

Superintendents Development Programme

Inspectors Development Programme

Sergeants Development Programme

CEPOL — Information Seminar, Instruments and Systems of European Police Co-operation

CEPOL — Economical and Financial Organised Crime

On-Scene-Commanders

Joint Leadership GRID® with Police Service of Northern Ireland

Continuous Professional Development (C.P.D.) Courses

Continuous Professional Development (C.P.D.) Courses are delivered at the Garda College C.P.D. faculty at the Abbey Court Hotel, Nenagh, and at Divisional Centres and Harcourt Square.

Course Title

A.E.D. (Defibrillator) Adult Heart Saver First Responder

Airport Police

Alcometer /Drager

Ampel Probe

Audio Visual Course

Covert Human Intelligence Sources Course

Covert Human Intelligence Sources Pre selection

Chief Superintendents Authorisation to Drive

Children First

Comm. Relations/Radio

Command & Control System

Core Programme 2006

Core Programme 2007

Coroners Course

Crime Prevention

Criminal Intelligence Officers

Criminal Intelligence Officers (Relief)

Cultural Diversity Training

Dept of Agriculture

Dublin Port Tunnel

Emergency Response Unit Rope Access

Early Evidence Kits Instruction

Equality Advisors Family Friendly/Work Life Balance

Evidential Breath Testing (EBT)

Evidential Breath Testing (EBT) Supervisor

Family Liaison Officers

Fixed Charge Penalty System

Fire Safety Awareness

First Aid

First Responder AED re validation

Forensic Collision Investigation Course (part I)

Forensic Collision Investigation Course (part II.

Forensic Medical Examination

Fraud Induction Course

Garda Immigration Officers (GNIB)

Garda Welfare

GISC Castlebar PULSE

Health & Safety Risk Assessment

Heavy Goods Vehicles

Human Rights

Inter-Cultural / Ethnic Liaison Courses

Interviewing of Children

Juvenile Liaison Officer

Juvenile Liaison Officer Advanced Mediation

Luas Bye Laws

Microsoft Office Specialist Excel

Microsoft Office Specialist PowerPoint

Microsoft Office Specialist Trainers

Microsoft Office Specialist Word

Neighbourhood Watch talk

Pre-Retirement

Pre-Retirement Officers

Prisoner Recording Computer Course

Probationer Garda

Procurement Course

PULSE Courses

Schools Programme

Serious Crime Investigation

Sex Offenders Review

Sexual Crime Course

Speed Detection Equipment Inst & Refresher

Stinger Training

Students Phases

Telephone Analysis

TETRA Radio

Traffic Corps General

Traffic Corps Inspectors

Traffic Corps Supervisors

Traffic Road Show

Trafficking in Human Beings

Trainers Induction

Tutor Garda

Overseas Missions

Ultralyte Speed Gun

Specialist Training

Course Title

Firearms Training Garda Headquarters

Detective Training Unit Garda Headquarters

Detective Training

Scenes of Crime Fraud Investigation

Fraud Investigation

Driving School Garda Headquarters

Course Title

Standard Car Course

Advanced Car Course

Instructors Car Course

Van/Personnel Carrier

4 × 4 Jeep

4 × 4 Jeep and Trailer

Heavy Goods Vehicle

Standard Bike Course

Advanced Bike Course

Instructors Bike Course

Refresher Bike Course

Motorcycle Familiarisation

Firearms Training Garda College

Course Title

38 Smith and Wesson

Sig 226

Uzi

Benelli Shotgun.

HK33E Rifle

FATS — Judgemental

Refresher Firearms

Conversion

Observer Marksmanship

Driving School Garda College

Course Title

Standard Car Course

Advanced Car Course

Instructors Car Course

Van/Personnel Carrier

4 × 4 Jeep

4 × 4 Jeep and Trailer

Heavy Goods Vehicle

Standard Bike Course

Advanced Bike Course

Instructors Bike Course

Refresher Bike Course

Motorcycle Familiarisation

Tactical Training Unit Garda College

Course Title

Public Order Instructors

Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Training (C.B.R.N.)

Divisional Search

Rope Access

Method of Entry

Retractable Baton

Manual Handling

Pre-Selection ERU

Student Probationer Training

Course Title

Student/Probationer Education Training and Development Programme

Certificate in Education and Training for Garda Teacher/Trainers

Occupational First Aid

Refresher Occupational First Aid

Prison Building Programme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

199 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the construction of the education unit at St. Patrick’s Institution was completed; the projected and actual cost; the number of people and their capacity, employed in the running of the facility; the activities that have taken place there to date; when they commenced; the number of young offenders who have used same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11111/07]

The construction of the education unit at St. Patrick's Institution was completed in April 2003. The Project was budgeted at €8m including VAT. The final account amounted to €7.5m including VAT.

The facility consisted of a dedicated educational unit, a recreational sports hall, counselling rooms as well as other ancillary services, thereby creating a self-contained facility. However, the negotiations on the staffing and operation of the new Education Unit were deferred pending the advancement and roll-out of the wider change agenda comprehended by the Agreed Proposal for Organisational Change in the Prison Service as a whole. Following the successful implementation of this comprehensive and fundamental change package for the Prison Service in early 2006, discussions resumed on the staffing and operational requirements of the new Unit.

I have asked Prison Service management to give priority attention to bringing these talks to a conclusion. It is intended in any event to proceed with the opening of the school element of the facility on a phased basis in the week commencing Monday 2nd April, 2007.

Prison Service Property.

Billy Timmins

Question:

200 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of funding received for the sale of grounds of Shanganagh Castle; the use same was put to; the position in relation to the house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11112/07]

Approximately 21 acres of land was sold for €9m to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in 2005. The remaining 6.3 acres including the buildings, were subsequently sold by public tender competition in October, 2006 for €20.6m. The Irish Prison Service no longer has any interest in the lands at Shanganagh Castle.

The proceeds from the sale of the lands at Shanganagh Castle went into the Central Fund and cover 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.

Asylum Support Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

201 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements being put in place to allow a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny to stay in Kilkenny after a hostel closes; if persons living in the hostel who want to remain in Kilkenny will be accommodated by arranging private rented accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11149/07]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department has a contract in place for the accommodation of asylum seekers at the Ormonde Hostel in Kilkenny until 9th May, 2007. After that time the premises will no longer be available for this purpose as the contractors have decided not to renew the contract. Obviously this decision is regrettable for the RIA but also for the residents of the centre who will have to be moved to alternative suitable accommodation.

All State service providers (e.g., HSE, Department of Social and Family Affairs) have been advised of the closure of this centre so that they can prepare for the necessary adjustments to the provision of their services. In addition, the local support group, who have provided on-going support and assistance to the many residents who have resided at the centre since it first opened in December 2000, has also been advised of the closure.

The Deputy will appreciate that the residents of this accommodation centre are involved in a process to determine the outcome of their claim for asylum in the State. Under a Government decision it was decided that all applicants for asylum would have their needs met through the system of direct provision. Direct provision is the means by which the State discharges its obligations to provide for the basic requirements of asylum seekers and represents, for the most part, a cashless system with suitable accommodation being provided on a full board basis. This system does not provide or arrange for private rented accommodation. In the event of a positive determination of refugee status, the residents will be free to reside in Kilkenny or anywhere else in the State.

In the meantime, residents will be offered alternative RIA accommodation nearer to the date of closure. As the availability of accommodation at any one time is governed by a range of factors, including the numbers and class (i.e., single/families/couples) of persons requiring accommodation, the RIA is not in a position to offer specific accommodation to the residents of this centre at this time.

Citizenship Applications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

202 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding family reunification for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow who was married in August 2005. [11171/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question is the subject of a Family Reunification application.

The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996.

When this investigation is completed, the Commissioner will prepare and forward a report to my Department. The application will then be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

Asylum Applications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

203 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding an application for asylum for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow who has been resident here since 2001. [11172/07]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

Registration of Title.

Michael Noonan

Question:

204 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application to the land registry by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11173/07]

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

In order to be of assistance I forwarded the Deputy's query to the Authority for its attention and direct reply. I understand that a reply has already issued.

I would also like to refer the Deputy to my letter of 26 May, 2006 to members of the Oireachtas regarding a new service for T.D.s and Senators concerning the current status of applications of this type. As outlined in my letter, the service was introduced, inter alia, to provide a speedier and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions.

Garda Recruitment.

Finian McGrath

Question:

205 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 was discriminated against due to political or other campaigns led by their father; and if he will investigate this complaint. [11180/07]

Recruitment to An Garda Síochána is a matter in the first instance for the Public Appointments Service and then for the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. I have no function in the process.

The Public Appointments Service is located in Chapter House, 26-30, Abbey Street Upper, Dublin 1, and can be contacted at Lo-Call 1890 44 99 99 or by email at info@publicjobs.ie.

Deportation Orders.

Joe Costello

Question:

206 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider granting leave to remain in the State to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11192/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the person concerned was the subject matter of an Adjournment Debate in the Dáil on Thursday evening, 22 March 2007. During this debate it was indicated on my behalf that I had directed my officials to look again at the circumstances surrounding the proposed deportation. In the meantime an application for revocation of his deportation order was received from his legal representatives on 23 March 2007. This is currently being examined in my Department and a decision will issue to the applicant in due course.

Residency Permits.

John McGuinness

Question:

207 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if their case will be dealt with soon as they have spent four years in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11205/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the application for family reunification under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 by the person in question is under consideration by my Department.

I expect that a decision will be reached in this matter shortly.

Crime Levels.

Tony Gregory

Question:

208 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incidents of vandalism to property and vehicles in the Oxmanstown area of Dublin 7 during January, February and March 2007 already complied by the Bridewell Community Policing Unit; the number of detections each month; and the number of charges brought. [11225/07]

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.

Tony Gregory

Question:

209 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of break-ins in Cabra Dublin 7 in 2007; the number during the same period in 2006 as compiled by the Cabra Garda station, community policing unit; the number of detections to date in 2007; and the number of charges brought. [11226/07]

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.

Citizenship Applications.

Joe Costello

Question:

210 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the discrepancies in correspondence (details supplied) in the reply to Parliamentary Question No 213 of 12 December 2006 and the correspondence from the Garda National Immigration Bureau, dated 26 February 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11229/07]

In answer to Question No. 213 on 12 December 2006, I informed the Deputy that the applicant in this case did not satisfy the residency requirements for Citizenship at the date of application. Initially, it appeared to officials processing the application that the applicant had accumulated sufficient reckonable residency to enable her submit a fresh application. However, on further examination, it became apparent that this was not the case and the applicant was so informed on 26 February 2007.

Garda Deployment.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

211 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí allocated to Tallaght Garda Station; the number of the allocation who are deployed as community Gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11274/07]

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 13,178 following the attestation of 273 new members on Wednesday 14 March, 2007. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) on 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,476 (or over 23%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training on 14 March, 2007 was 14,258. Furthermore, I should say that on 19 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 of Tallaght Garda Station on 31 December, 1997 and 23 March, 2007 was 133 and 177 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 44 (or33%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of the Community Policing Unit at Tallaght Garda Station on 23 March, 2007 was 21.

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.

Garda Equipment.

John Perry

Question:

212 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of breathalysers and intoxilysers available to An Garda Síochána in each Garda division in County Sligo and north Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11293/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are three types of breathalysers in use by An Garda Síochána, the blow in the bag alcolyser and the alcometer, both of which are used for roadside breath testing, and the intoxilyser. The alcolyser and alcometer test for the presence of alcohol in the breath. The intoxilyser is an evidential breath testing instrument and tests the driver's breath for the level of alcohol.

I am further informed that currently there are nineteen alcometers in use in the Sligo / Leitrim Garda Division, in addition to the alcolyser type breathalysers, which are on issue to every Garda Station. Intoxilysers are installed in Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Stations, which are Divisional and District Headquarters respectively.

If a person is arrested on suspicion of drink driving they may be tested at any Garda Station where an intoxilyser has been installed or at a Garda Station equipped for the taking of a urine or blood specimen by a designated registered medical practitioner.

Crime Levels.

John Perry

Question:

213 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of arrests made for drunk and disorderly, common assault and public order offences in 2003, 2004, 2005 and the first four months of 2006 in each of the Garda districts of County Sligo and north Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11294/07]

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.

Garda Deployment.

John Perry

Question:

214 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations in County Sligo and north Leitrim which are without a full-time Garda presence; the stations where this is the case; the number of Garda stations in County Sligo and north Leitrim which have closed since 1997; the number which are due to be closed in the coming five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11295/07]

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 13,178 following the attestation of 273 new members on Wednesday 14 March, 2007. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) on 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,476 (or over 23%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The combined strength (all ranks), of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training on 14 March, 2007 was 14,258. Furthermore, I should say that on 19 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 of the Sligo-Leitrim Division on 31 December, 1997 and on 23 March, 2007 was 257 and 288 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 31 (12%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends 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.

Garda Management also state that there have been no Garda Stations in the Sligo/North Leitrim area closed in the past 10 years and currently there are no proposals to close any Garda Station in that area.

In relation to your question as to the number of Garda Stations in County Sligo and North Leitrim which are without a full-time Garda presence and the stations where this is the case, I will forward this information to the Deputy when it becomes available to me.

Community Service Orders.

John Perry

Question:

215 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons in County Sligo and north Leitrim on community service orders in 2005 and 2006 and those who completed the full number of hours specified in the order. [11296/07]

The Deputy will be aware that under the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act, 1983, a Court may make a Community Service Order as an alternative to a sentence of imprisonment or detention in respect of any individual over the age of 16 years who has been convicted of a criminal offence and who consents to the Order being made. The Community Service Order requires an offender to perform unpaid work for between 40 and 240 hours, usually to be completed within 12 months. The Probation Service has responsibility for the supervision and management of Community Service Orders.

I can advise the Deputy that the number of persons on Community Service Orders in Co. Sligo in 2005 and 2006 was 4 and 6 respectively. There were no Orders made for North Leitrim in 2005 or 2006.

I can further advise that the 2005 Orders have been successfully completed. With regard to 2006, 2 Orders have been completed and the remaining 4 Orders which were made in June, July and November of 2006 are ongoing.

Garda Investigations.

Seán Crowe

Question:

216 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn by the Garda Commissioner to an incident (details supplied); and the reason after almost three months none of the victims or witnesses were asked to make a statement in relation to the incident. [11312/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the incident referred to by the Deputy was attended to by the Garda authorities.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that members of An Garda Síochána called to the injured parties and witnesses. The incident remains under investigation.

The Deputy will be aware that it is not the practice to comment on ongoing Garda investigations, which are operational matters for the Garda authorities.

Garda Operations.

Damien English

Question:

217 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Garda stations in Dublin that are equipped to test arrested persons for alcohol in cases of suspected drunken driving; and the Garda stations in Dublin that are not equipped for such tests. [11377/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that evidential breath testing instruments have been installed in every Garda Division in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and are located at the following Garda stations:

Store Street

Santry

Blanchardstown

Dún Laoghaire

Harcourt Terrace

Bray

Terenure

Store Street, Santry, Blanchardstown and Dun Laoghaire are Divisional Headquarters stations.

The installation of further evidential breath testing equipment is currently under consideration.

Instruments to test for the presence of alcohol in the breath are available in the following stations:

Station

Fitzgibbon Street

Kevin Street

Bridewell

Kilmainham

Whitehall

Pearse Street

Ballymun

Donnybrook

Dublin Airport

Irishtown

Coolock

Crumlin

Malahide

Sundrive Road

Swords

Tallaght

Raheny

Rathfarnham

Howth

Rathmines

Clontarf

Dalkey

Cabra

Kill o’ Grange

Finglas

Cabinteely

Ballyfermot

Shankill

Clondalkin

Enniskerry

Rathcoole

Greystones

Lucan

Dundrum

Ronanstown

Stepaside

Leixlip

Blackrock

If a person is arrested on suspicion of drink driving they may be processed at any Garda station where evidential breath testing equipment has been installed or at a Garda station equipped for the taking of a urine or blood specimen by a designated registered medical practitioner.

Garda Equipment.

Damien English

Question:

218 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Garda stations in Louth and Meath that are equipped to test arrested persons for alcohol in cases of suspected drunken driving; the Garda stations in Louth and Meath that are not equipped for such tests. [11378/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that evidential breath testing instruments (intoxilysers) have been installed in the following District Headquarters Garda Stations in Louth and Meath:

Dundalk

Drogheda

Trim

Kells

Ashbourne

The installation of further evidential breath testing instruments is currently under consideration.

Instruments to test for the presence of alcohol in the breath are available in the following stations:

Drogheda District

Kells District

Trim District

Castlebellingham

Athboy

Ballivor

Clogherhead

Crossakiel

Enfield

Dunleer

Nobber

Kilmessan

Laytown

Oldcastle

Longwood

Dundalk District

Navan District

Balbriggan District

Blackrock

Navan

Balbriggan

Carlingford

Collon

Garristown

Dromad

Slane

Lusk

Hackballscross

Ardee

Rush

Louth

Duleek

Skerries

Omeath

Ashbourne District

Dunshaughlin

Dunboyne

Kilcock

The use of the above listed intoxilysers are available to these stations.

If a person is arrested on suspicion of drink driving they may be processed at any Garda station where evidential breath testing equipment has been installed or at a Garda station equipped for the taking of a urine or blood specimen by a designated registered medical practitioner.

Legislative Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

219 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to draw up guidelines or legislation to govern the operation of the free travel area with Britain as operated at airports here; if he will segregate the arrival of passengers from Britain as the British do for Irish passengers at British airports; and if his attention has been drawn to the free travel area implementation difficulties for Gardaí at airport immigration points due to the increased numbers of non-Irish citizens living here and of the difficulties experienced by some Irish citizens due to the lack of a clear implementation policy. [11386/07]

Ireland and the United Kingdom operate a "Common Travel Area" which permits passport free travel for citizens of both jurisdictions if travelling within this zone.

An immigration officer may ask a passenger travelling from the United Kingdom for evidence in support of a claim that he or she is a person entitled to avail of the Common Travel Area arrangement i.e. an Irish or British citizen and is thus exempt from immigration control.

The issue of immigration facilities at Irish ports and airports in general was discussed in my Department's publication "Outline Policy Proposals for an Immigration and Residence Bill" (April 2005). It was acknowledged in the discussion document that such facilities do in some respects fall short of what is needed for effective checking of arrivals. I understand senior Garda management within the Garda National Immigration Bureau frequently meet with the appropriate port of entry authorities in order to reduce as far as possible, delays experienced by passengers arriving in Ireland, within the immigration facilities currently provided.

In addition, the Deputy may wish to note that I intend to bring forward a number of legislative proposals for inclusion in the forthcoming Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill which will also be of interest. It is my intention to provide that, for purposes of prescribing a port as an approved port for immigration purposes, the operator will be required to provide such facilities as are necessary for the purpose of carrying out immigration functions.

Prisoner Releases.

Finian McGrath

Question:

220 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation regarding a person (details supplied) due for release in January 2008; if he will assist them in applying for a degree course in music; and if he will support their family on this matter. [11405/07]

The person referred to by the Deputy is serving a four year sentence with the final two months suspended for the Membership of an Unlawful Organisation. He is serving this sentence under maximum security conditions in Portlaoise Prison and is not due for release until 5 January, 2008.

I have recently considered applications for temporary release from this person in relation to a degree course in music. In view of the very serious nature of his offence and the fact that he is not due for release until next year, I was not prepared to negative the recommendation from the Irish Prison Services and accede to this request.

Garda Staff.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

221 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of civilians working with An Garda Síochána in Garda stations and otherwise; and if there is a process in place whereby they can be transferred on request from one station to another. [11406/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government is undertaking the single largest expansion of An Garda Síochána in the history of the State. This historic expansion is supported by greatly increased civilian support, and in recent months we have launched a new recruitment drive aimed at increasing the civilian strength by a further 300 staff. In total, there are now 1,150 civilians employed in clerical or administrative posts in An Garda Síochána, including Garda Stations.

Staff who wish to transfer between stations may apply for transfer to a location. Lists are maintained from which staff may be assigned to vacancies as they arise.

Garda Equipment.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

222 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of speed cameras which will be introduced nationally as a result of the introduction of the new system; the number of speeding infringements it is estimated will be detected annually under the proposed system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11493/07]

Following a call for expressions of interest, a number of candidates have been awarded pre-qualification status. A detailed Request for Tender will issue to the shortlisted candidates in the near future.

It is currently estimated that checks will be conducted by both mobile and fixed cameras at approximately 500-1,000 locations throughout the State. It is also expected that there will be monitoring locations in every county, although the number of locations will vary, based on the results of analysis of speed-related collisions. Respondents to the Request for Tender will be invited to make proposals to meet these requirements, including details of the number of cameras they propose to provide. Following an evaluation process the successful candidate will be selected on the basis of the tenders received and it is only at that stage the number of safety cameras to be introduced will be known.

It is not possible to estimate the number of infringements that may be detected as a consequence of the engagement of a private service provider for the operation of safety cameras. It is expected that the operation of the safety cameras will bring about a change in driver behaviour and an improvement in the compliance culture, with the overall objective of reducing road deaths and injuries. The service provider will be engaged on the basis of hours spent carrying out speed checks and not on the number of detections made.

Asylum Applications.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

223 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an asylum application appeal which was lodged in October 2005 in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11496/07]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Citizenship Applications.

Damien English

Question:

224 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application by a person (details supplied) submitted in 2004 will be decided on. [11516/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation on behalf of the person in question was submitted to the Citizenship Section of my Department on 20 May 2004.

Officials in the Citizenship Section inform me that processing of this application has commenced and that the case file will be presented to me for my decision in the near future.

I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when the matter has been finalised.

Visa Applications.

Damien English

Question:

225 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 242 of 27 February 2007, if a person (details supplied) can now qualify for long term residency as evidence from the Office of the Revenue Commissioners shows that this person has been in continuous legal employment in this State since 1 July 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11517/07]

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

Long term residency is granted on the basis that a non EEA national has completed five years (60 months) legal residence in the State on Work Permit conditions which is reflected in the corresponding Stamp 1 endorsements in a person's passport and not by the dates of commencement and expiry of each Work Permit. Subsequently, in calculating the reckonable period of 60 months legal residence, the Immigration Division of my Department only takes into consideration time spent in the State legally on work permit conditions. However, periods of time, where a person has not had legal residence (ie: having an up to date endorsement on Work Permit conditions in their passport) cannot be counted towards an application for long term residency.

On foot of a Parliamentary Question put down for answer on the 27th February, 2007 (PQ No. 242) the Immigration Division contacted the person concerned in writing as she did not meet the qualifying criteria for long term residency and her permission to remain had not been renewed since 9th May 2006.

In light of the particular circumstances, she was granted permission to remain in the State on the 26th February 2007 for a 4 month period to allow a prospective employer obtain a work permit on her behalf.

Enquiries made with the Garda National Immigration Bureau indicate that the person concerned has not attended her immigration office to regularise her immigration status in line with the permission to remain granted, as outlined above. She should now make arrangements to attend at her local immigration office to have the appropriate permission to remain endorsed in her passport.

It is open to her to resubmit her application for Long Term Residency when she has completed 60 months legal residence in the State as per endorsements in her passport.

Garda Investigations.

Joe Higgins

Question:

226 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received representations regarding the investigation into the murder of a person (details supplied); and his views in relation to same. [11536/07]

I can confirm that I have received representations on the matter referred to by the Deputy.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a murder investigation was conducted by An Garda Síochána into the suspicious death of the person referred to in 1993. However, no person has been made amenable for the death to date.

I am further informed that the investigation of the death is currently under review by a dedicated team of Gardaí, with assistance from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. This includes a review of the original investigation file and the statements of witnesses at that time. An Garda Síochána have made a renewed appeal through the media for witnesses to come forward.

Overseas Students.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

227 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason he issued a directive to bar secondary school students who are non-EU nationals from State funded schools in view of the small number of students involved; and if he will reconsider this decision and allow students currently attending State funded schools such as a school (details supplied) in County Dublin to finish their leaving certificate exams as the people affected cannot afford private schooling. [11537/07]

One of the main principles of Ireland's immigration system is that persons coming to Ireland should not be an undue burden on the resources of the State.

The established policy in relation to the attendance of overseas students in Irish primary and second level schools is that visas should only be granted to those who are attending fee paying schools, on the basis that to do otherwise would give rise to additional demands on the State. For students coming from countries that are not visa required, the position must be consistent with that for visa applicants in that students should only be granted residence permits where they are attending fee paying schools.

In recent months the immigration authorities have become aware of a number of students who have been placed in State second level schools by companies operating in the overseas student sector. When the matter came to light, the students concerned were permitted to complete the school year with a view to their transferring to a fee paying school thereafter. I believe that these are the cases to which the Deputy refers.

It is clearly undesirable that access to the State's education sector can be offered to clients by commercial interests and I am satisfied that actions to restrict such access are justified. However I am very conscious also of the needs of the children involved. With this in mind, sympathetic consideration will be given where a student is well advanced in their education in Ireland and particular where they are preparing for examinations.

In co-operation with the Department of Education and Science, my Department is now carrying out a review of the State's general policy in this area.

Residency Permits.

Billy Timmins

Question:

228 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for long term residence for a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if this will be dealt with as speedily as possible as they are in the State for five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11616/07]

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

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

Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

An application for long term residence from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in October 2006. I understand that applications received in June 2006 are currently being dealt with.

Garda Retirement.

John McGuinness

Question:

229 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on extending the age of retirement for chief superintendents or in cases where the Garda expresses a wish to continue in the service beyond the stated retirement age; if consideration will be given to that person’s request; if there are legal barriers preventing him from granting such extensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11629/07]

I understand that a review of the retirement age for existing Chief Superintendents and Superintendents has been undertaken by the Garda Commissioner. I have not yet received a report on the matter.

The current position is that Section 4 of the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2004 provides that a person who is appointed as a new entrant to the Garda Síochána after 1 April 2004 shall cease to be a member on attaining the age of 55 years but may be allowed to remain in the Force until 60 subject to medical certification and the Commissioner's satisfaction as to fitness to continue. No new entrant can remain in the Force beyond the age of 60.

The retirement age for existing members of An Garda Síochána at Chief Superintendent rank is governed by the Garda Síochána (Retirement) (No. 2) Regulations, 1951, and is set at 60 years of age.

There is no legal provision to extend the service of any member of the Garda Síochána beyond the limits set out in the Regulations.

Asylum Applications.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

230 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on raising the limit on the number of programme refugees received per annum which stands at 200 (details supplied). [11639/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

231 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Government has received a request to raise the limit on the number of programme refugees received per annum. [11640/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 231 together.

Ireland is one of 8 European countries that participates in a programme which resettles refugees on humanitarian grounds in co-operation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In 2005, I increased the quota from 10 cases (approximately 40 persons) per annum to 200 persons to be implemented on a phased basis over 3 years. Admissions for 2005 and 2006 were 116 and 198 persons respectively. The UNHCR have been advised that Ireland will accept the full quota of 200 refugees for 2007.

I have no plans for a further increase in the resettlement quota at this time but my Department is in regular contact with the UNHCR regarding ongoing developments in this area.

Palestinian Refugees.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

232 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Government has received requests to invite Palestinian refugees in Iraq to resettle here as part of a humanitarian programme; the Government’s response, if they have received such a request; and if they have not their response if they were to be asked. [11641/07]

No request has been submitted to my Department to resettle Palestinian refugees in Iraq. I should explain to the Deputy, however, that under the resettlement programme, the UNHCR prepare an assessment of global resettlement needs and submit their priorities to an international group of resettlement countries of which Ireland is a member. As part of these priorities, and along with many other prioritised groups, I understand that a group of Palestinians in Iraq have been identified as being in need of resettlement.

Any resettlement response from Ireland will be considered in this overall context.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard Allen

Question:

233 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the pilot programme that has been set up in conjunction with a service (details supplied) in Cork entitled Strengthening Families Programme. [11654/07]

I can advise the Deputy that a programme entitled, ‘The Strengthening Families Programme' is being piloted in Cork by an inter agency group which includes; the Probation Service, Arbour House Youth Drug and Alcohol Services, Homeless Services and Community based Drugs Task Force. However, I am advised that the community based project referred to by the Deputy is not involved in the administration of this programme.

The programme, which commenced in January 2007, is being run over 14 weeks with 11 participant families and comprises 3 modules namely: Parenting Skills Training; Teens/Children Skills Training; and Family Life Skills Training.

I am further advised that the programme goal is to enhance and protect the family by encouraging and supporting parents and their children to develop good parenting and communication skills.

Deportation Orders.

Mary Upton

Question:

234 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the decision of his Department which led to a deportation order dated 6 May 2005 in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8. [11668/07]

The applicant instituted Judicial Review proceedings on 3 June 2005 challenging the Deportation Order made in respect of him on 6 May 2005. These proceedings were determined on the 28 February 2006 and his leave application to apply for a Judicial Review was refused by the High Court.

The person concerned also made an application for Subsidiary Protection under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006) on 26 January 2007. His application was refused by my Department on 14 March 2007.

The applicant instituted Judicial Review proceedings on 22 March, 2007 challenging his Subsidiary Protection refusal and accordingly, as the matter is sub judice, I do not propose to comment further.

Proposed Legislation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

235 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to introduce legislation equivalent to the British Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974; if he will outline any practical difficulties that might be involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11674/07]

The UK Act to which the Deputy refers provides a framework by which certain criminal records may be expunged. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a person convicted of all but the most serious criminal offences and who receives a sentence less than 30 months in prison (including suspended), benefits from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, if they are not convicted again during a specified period.

The effect of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, 1974 is that once a conviction is spent, meaning the rehabilitation period is finished, the rehabilitated person shall be treated, in law, as a person who has not been convicted or charged with the offence.

In general there is no provision in Irish law allowing for the expunging of criminal convictions from the Garda criminal records. However, with the introduction of the Children Act, 2001 provision was made for a limited "wiping of the slate" in respect of most offences committed by persons under 18, once certain conditions have been met. The provision in the Children Act, which came into operation on 1 May 2002, limits, as far as possible, the effects of a finding of guilt, where the relevant conditions have been met, by treating the person for all purposes in law as a person who has not committed, been charged with, prosecuted for, found guilty or dealt with for an offence.

The Second Programme of the Law Reform Commission for the period 2000 to 2007 proposes, as part of an examination of the law on privacy, to consider longevity of criminal records and expunging of certain offences from the records. I understand that the Law Reform Commission intends to prepare a Consultation Paper examining the complex range of issues surrounding the matter of ‘spent convictions'. Such Consultations Papers normally encompass an analysis of legislation and practice in other jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom. I understand that the Law Reform Commission will publish this paper within the first half of this year. Such papers are normally followed by a final report from the Commission. I expect that we will await the findings of the ultimate Law Reform Commission Report before proceeding with legislative proposals on this issue.

In a broader context, the Deputy may wish to note that the Council of the European Union has adopted a Council Decision on the exchange of information extracted from the criminal record and a proposal for a Council Framework Decision on the organisation and content of the exchange of information extracted from criminal records between Member States is currently under discussion.

Criminal Prosecutions.

John Gormley

Question:

236 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prosecutions in relation to fireworks for the past six years from 2000 to 2006 inclusive; the number of these that were successful prosecutions; the outcome of these successful prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11701/07]

I understand from the Garda Authorities that there have been 31 proceedings commenced and five convictions recorded for offences under the Explosives Act 1875 and the Criminal Justice Act 2006 relating to fireworks for the period 2000 to 2006 inclusive. Of those persons convicted, two were sentenced to imprisonment, one received a community service order and two were fined.

Conscious of the difficulties which the illegal use of fireworks presents each year and the distress they cause to people, I introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, a number of amendments to the Explosives Act 1875. These amendments provide for new offences, governing the illegal possession and use of fireworks, and increased penalties.

Under these new provisions it is an offence: to possess a firework with intent to sell or supply, without a licence; to throw an ignited firework at any person or property; and to light unlicensed fireworks in a public place.

The penalty for such offences is a fine of up to €2,500 or six months imprisonment or both on summary conviction and a fine of up to €10,000 or five years imprisonment or both on conviction on indictment. Furthermore, the simple possession of fireworks without a licence is also an offence for which a person may be liable to a fine of up to €10,000.

Garda Stations.

Enda Kenny

Question:

237 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if information has been forwarded to him from the Garda authorities in respect of Garda stations in County Mayo equipped with green man communications that are obsolete and the progress being made to provide alternative working equipment to these stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11702/07]

I refer the Deputy to my letter to him dated 6 March 2007, which issued in response to his original question on this matter (Question No. 337 of 31 January 2007 — ref. 1925/07). The information sought by the Deputy is contained therein.

Crime Levels.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

238 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of homicides committed arsing from the use of firearms in each year from 1997 to date in 2007; and the number of convictions in each year arising from such homicides. [11706/07]

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.

Missing Persons.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

239 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the funding made available by his Department to the Irish Missing Persons’ Helpline; his views on whether an all Ireland integrated missing persons’ helpline should be established; the progress made on this matter since his reply to Parliamentary Question Nos. 196 and 221 of 21 November 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11707/07]

I have already indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 121 on 8 February 2007 that Missing in Ireland Support Services (MISS) have made a grant application to the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime in 2007. The Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime is an independent body and considers each application on its own merits. The Commission is currently considering the application from the MISS. In that context I understand that the Commission is currently in discussion with MISS with regard to the establishment of a Helpline and the supports necessary to set up such a Helpline.

North-South linkages between services supporting victims of crime are being developed and such linkages may encompass services in relation to missing persons.

Residency Permits.

Damien English

Question:

240 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Meath can apply for an extension for permission to remain in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11708/07]

The person concerned currently has permission to remain in the State until 4 August 2007 as a dependant of her Irish partner.

Prior to the expiry of this permission to remain it is open to her to seek to extend this permission to remain at her local immigration office. She should be in a position to provide details of her future intentions in the State and supply supporting documentation.

Citizenship Applications.

John Perry

Question:

241 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons (details supplied) meet the residency criteria for the certificate of naturalisation as they have resided here for six years which can be proved and they are now ineligible due to Department delays in processing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11789/07]

In response to Question No. 251 on 17 October 2006, I informed the Deputy that applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons concerned were received in the Citizenship section of my Department on 11 July, 2006.

On examination of the applications, a determination was made that the applicants did not meet the statutory conditions relating to reckonable residency. The Deputy will be aware that reckonable residency is time spent in the State for which permission to remain has been granted.

There is no question of delays in processing giving rise to ineligibility in this case, rather the applicants, by not having at least five years permission to remain at the date of application, failed to fulfil the residency requirement.

Garda Stations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

242 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the reason for delay in the refurbishment of the Garda station at Tallaght, Dublin 24; when the works are expected to be complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11143/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works operate the Garda Accommodation programme from a prioritised list provided by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Authorities. Financial resources are set aside based on planned works arising from this list.

The Garda Authorities have sanctioned approval to upgrade the mechanical and electrical systems to the cell area and also to upgrade the public office area of the existing station. Tender documents are being prepared with a view to placing a contract in the near future.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

243 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance the Government’s plans to build a new Garda station or otherwise acquire accommodation for Gardaí in Tallaght, Dublin 24; when this new accommodation is expected to be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11144/07]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

251 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if it is the intention of the Government to provide new accommodation for Gardaí at Tallaght, Dublin 24; the arrangement that is expected to be involved; when this new accommodation is expected to be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11140/07]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

252 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if it remains the intention of the Government to replace the existing Garda station at Tallaght, Dublin 24; his plans in regard to the provision of accommodation for Gardaí there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11141/07]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

253 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if the Government are contemplating a partnership arrangement to replace the Garda station at Tallaght, Dublin 24; when new accommodation will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11142/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 and 251 to 253, inclusive, together.

The Commissioners of Public Works are reappraising the site of the existing Garda Station at Tallaght with a view to maximising the development potential for the State. Planning is now underway for a major development of the site to include all Garda requirements for Tallaght and a new Courthouse. It is expected that a Part 9 planning process will be initiated shortly.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard Allen

Question:

244 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance when a decision will be made on the application made by a person (details supplied) in County Cork for the primary medical certificate for a disabled driver in view of the fact that a decision was made to refuse but an independent appeal was lodged against the decision to refuse in November 2006 but the person has heard nothing since. [11311/07]

As the Deputy is aware, the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, which determines appeals from a refusal of a Primary Medical Certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme, is independent in the execution of its functions. Queries in respect of the appeal should be addressed by the person concerned to the Secretary to the Board, Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, c/o National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin, telephone: 01-2355279.

Drainage Schemes.

Willie Penrose

Question:

245 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if he will take steps to enlarge pipes at a location (details supplied) in County Longford as the current pipes are unable to take all the water during heavy rain and areas are being subjected to severe flooding. [11395/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works have not been made aware of the flooding in the area concerned. I will arrange to have the matter investigated at an early date.

Garda Stations.

James Breen

Question:

246 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Finance when the Garda barracks in Crusheen, County Clare will be reopened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11688/07]

The Commissioners for Public Works are currently in negotiations with the landlord regarding the renewal of the lease on the Garda Station. Crusheen Garda Station will re-open following the execution of the lease.

Pension Provisions.

David Stanton

Question:

247 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that sufficient funds are in place to pay public service pensions into the future; the cost of same each year since 2000; the estimates required for the next ten years for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11783/07]

As Minister for Finance I have primary responsibility for civil service pensions. Other Ministers have primary responsibility for pensions in their own respective areas.

The following figures show Net civil service expenditure for the years 2001 to 2006 and projected expenditure for each year to 2016.

Actual Expenditure

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

118,593

159,399

175,141

194,494

216,475

223,211

Forecast Expenditure (constant 2007 prices)

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

€’000

253,000

265,000

275,000

288,000

303,000

320,000

339,000

364,000

388,000

410,000

The civil service superannuation schemes are funded on a pay as you go basis from monies voted each year by the Oireachtas during the Estimates campaign. Civil service superannuation payments are met from Vote 7, Superannuation and Retired Allowances. The vast majority of other public service superannuation schemes are also funded on a pay as you go basis from monies voted each year by the Oireachtas for the respective areas, such as the Education and Science Vote, the HSE Vote, the Justice and Defence Votes.

In general terms, expected increases in numbers of retirees and in life expectancy have highlighted a potential sharp rise in the cost of public service pensions in the decades ahead. Against this background, the Government set up a Commission on Public Service Pensions to examine and report on public service pensions having regard, amongst other things, to present and future costs of those pensions. The Commission published its final report in 2001.

Since then, and based largely on the recommendations of this Commission, the Government has embarked on a substantial program of public service pension reform.

The key cost-containment change in this reform program, implemented in 2004, was the raising of the general pension age for new workers in public service employment from 60 to 65 years. When fully realized around mid-century, it is expected that annual savings across the public service of some €350 million will flow from this change.

The 2004 legislation which implemented the pension age increase (Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004) also abolished the long-standing mandatory retirement age of 65 years for new-entrant public servants.

Ireland's demographic profile, with one of Europe's youngest populations, allowed the 2004 Act to confine these changes to new entrants. The savings which the pension /retirement age changes will produce are therefore timed to peak at the time of real need — towards mid-century — when we will have a large number of pensioners relative to workers, and a correspondingly large pensions bill.

An earlier measure to help make provision for the expected increase in pension costs was the establishment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund in 2001 under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000. The Fund was established in order to meet as much as possible of the cost of social welfare and public service pensions from 2025 until at least 2055. The Act requires the payment of 1% of GNP annually into the Fund until at least 2055. These moneys are invested by the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, which controls and is responsible for the investment of the Fund. The market value of the Fund at end-2006 was estimated to be €18.8 billion.

Finally, the future cost of public sector pensions is being considered in the context of the Green Paper on pensions policy, publication of which is expected shortly.

Garda Stations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

248 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list of all Garda stations in the Dublin region which applied for major works to be carried out in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11102/07]

The following Garda Stations in the Dublin region have been listed in the past 2 years on the Garda Building Priority list for major capital expenditure. The Garda Building Priority list is compiled by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Garda Authorities and advised to the Commissioners of Public Works.

Finglas, Dublin 11

Kill O'Grange, Co. Dublin

Ballymun, Dublin 11

Dundrum, Dublin 14

Irishtown, Dublin 4

Tallaght, Dublin 24

Kevin Street, Dublin 8

Swords, Co. Dublin

Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

Waste Management.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

249 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that residents who pay property management companies for waste management charges are unable to claim tax relief unlike those who are not subject to property management company charges and that this discriminates against such residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11083/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that individuals may claim tax relief in respect of the cost of ‘service charges' (i.e. charges in respect of the provision of water for domestic purposes, domestic refuse collection or disposal or domestic sewage facilities) the details of which are contained in Revenue's Explanatory leaflet and claim form IT 27 Tax Relief for Service Charges which is available on Revenue's website at www.revenue.ie.

Where the management fee payable by residents to a management company set up to manage an apartment or other residential complex identifies an element in respect of such ‘service charges', that element may, subject to the conditions outlined in Revenue's Explanatory Leaflet, qualify for tax relief up to the limits set out in that Leaflet.

Licensed Premises.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

250 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list of all licensed premises in the Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11103/07]

My Department will forward to the Deputy a comprehensive and up-to-date list of premises in Dublin City and County on the Licence Register, as held by the Revenue Commissioners, on 21 March 2007.

The list, amounting to 970 licences, includes all "publicans ordinary premises", "hotels" and "hotels with public bar".

Questions Nos. 251 to 253, inclusive, answered with Question No. 243.

Schools Building Projects.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

254 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if a suitable site for the proposed new community school in Skibbereen in west Cork, for which advertisements first issued in July 2003, has been identified; and if so, if arrangements have been made to purchase same. [11159/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland act as agents for the Department of Education and Science in the acquisition of sites for schools. The Commissioners in consultation with the Department of Education and Science are currently examining the feasibility of using the existing Rossa College site for the amalgamation project.

Decentralisation Programme.

John McGuinness

Question:

255 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the status of the plan to decentralise the Health and Safety Agency to Thomastown, County Kilkenny; if the site is purchased; if planning permission has been granted or sought; if the land is zoned for the type of development being proposed; the steps taken or being taken by the Office of Public Works to finalise the deal and to expedite the development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11162/07]

Under the Government's Decentralisation Programme it is proposed to relocate posts in the Health and Safety Authority to Thomastown, County Kilkenny.

The Commissioners of Public Works have informed me that they have signed a contract for a suitable site in Thomastown. It is a condition of the contract that the site in question has the appropriate zoning. It is expected that the sale will close shortly. The Commissioners have already invited expressions of interest from interested developers. It will be a matter for the preferred bidder to apply for planning permission for the proposed development.

The Health and Safety Authority has already relocated 19 people to an advance location in Kilkenny City. By the end of this year this will have grown to around 30 people.

Provided there are no planning difficulties, it is expected that the permanent building in Thomastown will be completed in 2009.

Tax Collection.

Joan Burton

Question:

256 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Revenue Commissioners investigations into artificial transactions where builders, owning sites, use their own building companies to carry out a development and the invoiced amount to the owner from their company is at or below cost; if the Revenue Commissioners will tax such transaction as income, as the provision of the building service has not been provided at arm’s length, and as such below the normal cost; the number of such cases under investigation by the Revenue Commissioners; the total value of the tax at risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11163/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not undertaking any specific investigation into individuals who enter into building contracts with companies that they own.

Whether a transaction is artificial or is a genuine business transaction, at arm's length or otherwise, is a question of fact having regard to the facts and circumstances of each case.

As to an income tax charge, directors of companies are ‘office holders' and, as such, are treated in like manner as employees for income tax purposes. Office holders and employees are chargeable to income tax in respect of all salaries, fees, wages, perquisites or profits from their office or employment. The question of whether anything received by an office holder or employee from their office or employment comes within any of these descriptions — in particular, whether it is a perquisite or profit — and the quantum of same is a question of fact having regard to the facts and circumstances of the arrangements in place surrounding the provision of the advantages to an office holder or employee.

On a slightly separate note, as regards the individuals acquiring properties in such manner, there is the possibility that such individuals could be held to be carrying on a separate trade of dealing in property the profits of which attract income tax rather than capital gains tax.

In the case of VAT, Section 80 of the Finance Bill 2007, as passed by Dail Eireann, permits the Revenue Commissioners, where they consider it necessary in order to ensure correct collection of the tax, to determine that VAT will be charged on the open market value of a supply. They can do this in circumstances where the supply is being made for a consideration other than market value where the parties are connected.

The section may be applied by Revenue to prevent the value of a supply being manipulated by the connected parties in order to gain a VAT saving, for example where a building service is supplied to a land owner and the finished building will be used for VAT exempt activities, such as short-term letting of residential accommodation. Open market value is defined as the value at which the supply could reasonably be expected to be made between unconnected parties dealing at arms length. Where there is no comparable market value, the open market value of a supply of services means an amount not less than the cost to the supplier of providing the service.

The Revenue Commissioners have advised me that the scenario described by the Deputy appears to indicate a situation in which the issue of a determination under the proposed section would be considered.

Waste Management.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

257 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that residents who pay waste management charges to property management companies are unable to claim tax relief on these charges; his views on whether this discriminates against such residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11186/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

258 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if property management companies can claim tax relief on waste management services; and, if so, the value of the tax relief paid to such companies over the past three years. [11187/07]

With the Deputy's permission, I will take Questions Nos. 257 and 258 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that individuals may claim tax relief in respect of the cost of ‘service charges' (i.e. charges in respect of the provision of water for domestic purposes, domestic refuse collection or disposal or domestic sewage facilities) the details of which are contained in Revenue's Explanatory leaflet and claim form IT 27 Tax Relief for Service Charges which is available on Revenue's website at www.revenue.ie.

Where the management fee payable by residents to a management company set up to manage an apartment or other residential complex identifies an element in respect of such ‘service charges', that element may, subject to the conditions outlined in Revenue's Explanatory Leaflet, qualify for tax relief up to the limits set out in that Leaflet.

As regards companies (including management companies), I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, whilst there is no specific tax relief in respect of service charges and other expenditure, a company within the charge to corporation tax may claim a deduction, in computing its profits, in respect of expenditure wholly and exclusively incurred for the purposes of its trade. This is subject to any express prohibition in the legislation in respect of certain types of expenditure (e.g. business entertainment expenses which are prohibited by virtue of the provisions of section 840 TCA 1997).

In the case of a property management company, it is likely that expenditure on waste management services would meet the wholly and exclusively criteria and would be deductible in computing the profits of the company for tax purposes. However, to the extent that a property management company recovers any costs directly from the tenants in question in relation to service charges, such amounts should be ‘added back' in the preparation of the company's tax computation/return.

As the cost of all the items laid out by a company for its business are not separately captured on the tax return form, the value in tax terms of deductions claimed by management companies in respect of service charges is not available.

Ordnance Survey Maps.

John Dennehy

Question:

259 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Finance if he will make arrangements for Ordnance Survey Ireland maps on CD which are available to schools for geography lesson purposes, available to scouts troops for educational purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11329/07]

I am informed by Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) that it developed a specific digital mapping product to address the particular requirements of the educational sector. The development of this product was possible as a result of the collaborative involvement of a number of software providers who contributed their data or expertise at significantly discounted rates. By agreement, this product and associated third party data/software, is licensed for exclusive use in educational establishments only, and as a result is provided at a significant discount to these licensed institutions. OSI does not have sole discretion as to the distribution of this product and under the terms of its agreements with the relevant software parties is bound to confine the distribution of this product to educational establishments only.

In relation to other products however, Ordnance Survey Ireland currently offers significant discounts to scouting organisations on a range of products of value to their members, the principal products being the Discovery Series of maps and the recently launched range of Hill walking DVDs.

State Property.

John McGuinness

Question:

260 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the delay in transferring a garden (details supplied) in County Carlow to the State in view of the fact that the person bequeathed the property to the State eight years ago; the contact made with the executor over the eight years to resolve the issue; if there is something specific that is delaying the process; if he will expedite the completion of the transaction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11379/07]

Agreement had been reached between the State and the late owner of the property concerned regarding its acquisition without encumbrances. However, a number of complex legal issues have arisen since the death of the owner. My Office has been in close contact with the executor seeking to resolve these issues. The matters are being vigorously pursued by the OPW in consultation with the Office of the Chief State Solicitor with the object of completing the acquisition as soon as possible.

Financial Services Regulation.

Michael Ring

Question:

261 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the collection of levies from intermediary firms for the Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau was put out to public tender; the position regarding the situation; the reason a company (details supplied) are making those collections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11383/07]

The Financial Services Ombudsman's Bureau is an independent body established under the Central Bank Act 1942 (as amended). The Financial Services Ombudsman Council was established under the same Act to, inter alia, prescribe guidelines under which the Financial Services Ombudsman is to operate, determine the levies and charges payable and keep under review the efficiency and effectiveness of the Bureau. As Minister for Finance, I have no function in relation to the operation of the Ombudsman's Bureau. However, my Department has been advised that the contract referred to in the Deputy's question was awarded following a public tendering process.

Tax Certificates.

Jack Wall

Question:

262 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can be furnished with a P21 statement for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11634/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE balancing statement form P21 for 2006 issued to the taxpayer on 22 March 2007.

Tax Code.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

263 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance if rent of €175 per month paid to Threshold housing agency by a person (details supplied) in County Galway can be offset against their income tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11651/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that relief from income tax in respect of rent paid for residential premises is available unless the person/entity entitled to the rent is a housing authority.

In this case, the rent is not actually being paid to Threshold but to Tuam Community Council Housing Aid Society. The claim for rent relief was erroneously disallowed on the mistaken understanding that this body came within the meaning of "housing authority".

Arrangements have now been put in place to process the claim without delay.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

264 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance when the Office of Public Works will relocate to Claremorris, County Mayo under the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11652/07]

The decentralisation of the Office of Public Works (OPW) to Claremorris will take place in two phases.

The first phase deals with the setting up of an advance office in Claremorris and in this regard, OPW has secured leased accommodation and arrangements are now being made to have the building fitted out for official use. It is expected that the accommodation for the advance office will be ready for occupation in the second quarter of 2007. The advance office will have of the order of 30 administrative posts.

OPW has acquired the site for the main decentralised office in Claremorris. The indicative timeframe for the completion of the construction of this building is in early 2009.

Tax Code.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

265 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost to the Exchequer of reducing the rate of VAT on condoms to 13.5%, 4.8% or zero. [11663/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information to be furnished by taxable persons on VAT returns does not require the yield from the supply of particular products to be identified. Consequently, the information requested is not available.

I would add that under EU VAT law, with which Irish law must comply, it is not possible to introduce new zero rates of VAT, as we can only retain the zero rating that was in existence on 1 January 1991. Therefore it would not be possible to apply the zero rate of VAT to condoms.

However, Member States are permitted to apply the reduced VAT rate to goods or services listed in Annex III of the EU VAT Directive. In Ireland the reduced VAT rate is 13.5%. Certain pharmaceutical products including condoms are included in Annex III.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Phil Hogan

Question:

266 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is insufficient numbers of speech therapists, occupational therapists and child psychologists posts in the south east region; the further reason there is no co-ordinator for autism services in this region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11114/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, a sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This sum incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

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

General Register Office.

Michael Ring

Question:

267 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the late birth registration of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo cannot proceed based on the evidence supplied by their sibling in view of the fact that it is impossible for the person to obtain death certificates in respect of their parents when the applicant has no knowledge whatsoever of their parents exact whereabouts prior to their deaths; and if there is hope of getting this person’s birth properly registered. [11384/07]

An tArd-Chláraitheoir, the Registrar General, is the person with the statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration system in Ireland. I have made enquiries with an tArd Chláraitheoir and the position is as set out below.

Where it is established that a birth has not been previously registered, it is possible under the provisions of the Civil Registration Act, 2004 to effect the registration, provided the particulars required by law to be registered are available. In cases where the parents or any other qualified informant with knowledge of the required particulars failed to register a birth within 12 months of the event, the consent of the Superintendent Registrar of births, deaths and marriages is required to effect registration. Where the parents are deceased, or are incapable, or cannot be found and where no qualified informant with sufficient knowledge of the required particulars can be found, an tArd-Chláraitheoir may cause the birth to be registered on production of adequate evidence of the details of the birth.

In relation to the birth referred to by the Deputy, I am informed by an tArd-Chláraitheoir that he is currently considering evidence presented to him and will communicate his decision in the matter to the person (details supplied) in due course.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

268 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation to date regarding the multi-annual capital programme for disability specific services within the overall system of five year multi-annual capital envelopes that was introduced in Budget 2004; the situation regarding the multi-annual funding package for current expenditure; the overall spend by the State on disability services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11685/07]

Between 1997-2007 the Government has invested additional funding of €926m in health funded support services for people with disabilities of which additional revenue and capital funding of €603m has been provided for services for persons with intellectual disability and autism. Approximately €323m in additional revenue and capital funding has been provided for services for people with physical or sensory disabilities.

In the Estimates for 2006 the Government published a multi-annual investment programme for disability specific services which would have total cumulative value close to €900m for the period 2006 to 2009. This funding was in addition to the €85m capital and revenue funding provided for disability services in 2005. By the end of this programme these monies are expected to provide 1,290 additional new residential places, 430 new respite places and 2,540 new day places for Intellectual Disability Services and 380 new residential and 1,200,000 extra hours for Physical and Sensory Disability Services.

Under the multi-annual investment programme 2006-2009 €45m capital monies has been allocated in each year of the programme to disability services. The allocation of both the revenue and capital funding under the investment package is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Responsibilities.

Michael Ring

Question:

269 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government transferred a responsibility (details supplied) to her Department. [11085/07]

Responsibility for this issue remains a matter for the relevant local authority: it has not been transferred to my Department.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

270 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has taken into account the importance of the pharmacy in the health system, where the average pharmacy is open for 55 hours per week, and is one of the most accessible health services; her views on whether this matter with the pharmacists needs an urgent resolution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11098/07]

Joe Costello

Question:

290 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children her view on a letter in relation to a pharmacy (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11228/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

338 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to ensure that a fair and reasonable negotiation mechanism is agreed between the Health Service Executive and the IPU in order to progress the delivery of the community drugs schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11695/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 270, 290 and 338 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department and the HSE have been reviewing the pharmaceutical supply chain, with a view to seeking value for money in the State's drugs bill in order to better fund existing and innovative therapies without compromising continuity of supply or patient safety. The review of the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, IPHA, and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland, APMI, Agreements, with the proprietary and generic supplier representative bodies, was completed in mid-2006 and the new agreements are in place.

Following completion of the manufacturer agreements and in line with the process agreed by the Cabinet Committee, the State entered talks with the wholesaler representative body, the Pharmaceutical Distributor's Federation, PDF. As wholesale margins are not addressed in the new IPHA and APMI Agreements, the State intended to negotiate, for the first time, direct formal arrangements with the wholesale sector, to address the cost of wholesale supply to hospital and community through fair, transparent and accountable cost structures. In particular, the State wished to examine the high margin, relative to the EU, for wholesale supply to community pharmacy and the wholesalers' claim that they supply hospitals at a loss. However, while PDF was willing to negotiate new arrangements for hospital supply, it refused to negotiate a new margin for community supply. This refusal was based on legal advice that such negotiation would interfere with agreed trading terms of third parties, community pharmacists, and expose PDF to prosecution.

Subsequent advice to the HSE indicated that the PDF position was too narrow. As wholesalers and pharmacists are undertakings for the purposes of competition law, PDF and the IPU are associations of undertakings and collective negotiation of fees, prices or margins on behalf of their members breaches section 4.1 of the 2002 Competition Act. The position is as follows.

Section 4.1 prohibits all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which have the object or effect of restricting or distorting competition, including agreements to fix prices, unless the agreement, decision or concerted practice meets certain conditions. I have been advised that those conditions are not met in this case.

Wholesalers and pharmacy contractors are undertakings. Therefore, PDF and the IPU are associations of undertakings and come under Section 4.1 of the Act.

The coming together of wholesalers under PDF or pharmacy contractors under the IPU to negotiate prices would be a breach of Section 4.1.

Acting in contravention of Section 4.1 is a criminal offence and would expose those parties and their officials to the risk of criminal prosecution.

In light of the implications for GP and dental contract negotiations, the Department sought the Attorney General's views. The Attorney General and Senior Counsel engaged by the Attorney General confirmed the HSE advice. Given this position, it is not possible for the State to negotiate with PDF or the IPU on fees or margins and such negotiations places these bodies at risk of prosecution.

As with the rest of the supply chain, the State has been examining how to improve value for money and transparency and fairness in relation to the cost of service provision in community pharmacy. The State intended to address the review through negotiation with the IPU, as in the past. This is no longer possible for fees, although contractual matters other than fees may be negotiated. Accordingly, the negotiating team re-examined, in light of the legal position arising from the wholesaler legal advice, how best to address the review of pharmacy contractor services. The HSE wrote to all community pharmacy contractors in January, setting out the situation in detail and stating that the HSE is constrained from negotiating fees with the IPU for the reasons outlined, and the IPU was fully briefed. A meeting was held on 21 February between the negotiating team and the IPU, to agree a procedure to examine available options for advancing contractual negotiations in compliance with Irish and EU competition law. Following that meeting, agreement was reached on talks to examine options for contract review that would comply fully with competition law. The talks will be chaired by Mr Bill Shipsey, SC. It is expected that the talks will begin within the next few days.

The State continues to recognise the IPU as the representative body for its members, but negotiations with the Union must comply with the law. The legal issues that emerged during the wholesale sector review were raised by the wholesaler representatives. Once the State became aware of these issues, it was no longer possible to continue as intended. There is, and will continue to be, ongoing dialogue with the IPU as the representative body for pharmacists, within the constraints of the competition legislation and the negotiating team will consider, in the context of competition law and in particular the relevant Competition Authority guidelines, all available options for advancing the process agreed by the Cabinet Committee on Health. I am satisfied that the Cabinet Committee process for review of the supply of drugs to the State is progressing effectively, within the constraints of relevant legislation.

Hospital Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

271 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that St. Vincent’s Hospital no longer provides clean prep to be used at home before endoscopic procedures and that it must be purchased at a pharmacy on prescription from a general practitioner at a cost of €11 to €12; and the reason it is not covered by the medical card. [11099/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Pat Breen

Question:

272 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an enhanced subvention will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11100/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

273 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive occupational therapist did not call to assess a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person claims to have received a notification in March 2006 that the occupational therapist would be calling. [11131/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

Mobility Allowance.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

274 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for an application form under the mobility allowance scheme to issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [11132/07]

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

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

275 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will urgently arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be admitted for hip replacement surgery under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person’s consultant advised them that he would schedule them for surgery without delay on medical grounds as this person suffered from polio and despite this commitment, no surgery appointment has been issued and the person is in excruciating pain. [11133/07]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

276 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for nursing home subvention in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [11134/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

277 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of positions of employment (details supplied) in place in the southern Health Service Executive in County Cork per region. [11165/07]

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive 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 to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Liam Twomey

Question:

278 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department will meet the legal costs of the diocese of Ferns as incurred through its co-operation with the Bermingham and Ferns Inquiries, which resulted in the publication of the Ferns Inquiry Report on 25 October 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11166/07]

Liam Twomey

Question:

279 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost incurred by the Ferns Inquiry to date; the expected final cost; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11167/07]

Liam Twomey

Question:

280 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will list, for the purposes of meeting their legal costs, those parties that cooperated with the Ferns Inquiry and those parties that did not cooperate. [11168/07]

Liam Twomey

Question:

281 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the individual parties, arising from their cooperation with the Ferns Inquiry, that have had their legal costs paid to date; the amount of these costs; the criteria used by her Department in order to differentiate between those parties that are to be paid their legal costs, including when they might expect to be paid, and those that are not; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11169/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 to 281, inclusive, together.

The total cost of the Bermingham and Ferns Inquiry as of 1st January 2007 was: Bermingham Inquiry, €424,737.58; Ferns Inquiry, €2,068,498.85; Total, €2,493,236.43.

The Ferns Inquiry in its report stated "that it was satisfied that, it received co-operation from all the agencies involved with the issue of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Ferns". One individual has had their legal costs of €1,815.00 met by the Department in respect of their attendance at the Inquiry as a witness in relation to an allegation of abuse against a third party. Payment to this person was made on the basis of advice received from the Inquiry Team.

A number of other parties including the Diocese of Ferns have advised the Department of legal costs incurred in relation to their engagement with the Inquiry. It would be inappropriate to list these parties in the context of the report's approach generally to those who engaged with the Inquiry. Officials of the Office of the Minister for Children are considering the issue of legal costs in relation to both the Bermingham Inquiry and the Ferns Inquiry and it is expected that Government will take decisions on these matters in the coming weeks.

Child Care Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

282 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason an organisation (details supplied) is not in receipt of State funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11179/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that Barnardo's is in receipt of Government funding.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

283 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the 50% reduction in service provided by a clinic (details supplied) in Dublin 15, if she will take action to remedy this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11188/07]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

284 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm the number of children in second and fourth class catchment area for a clinic (details supplied) in Dublin 15 who qualify for a scheduled dental appointment; and the number who have availed of this appointment since May 2006. [11189/07]

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

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

285 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether patients who go from having private health insurance to being medical card holders are being or should be discriminated against or treated differently by general practitioners. [11190/07]

Under the Health Act, 2004, the Health Service Executive, HSE, has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for ensuring arrangements are in place to ensure appropriate service delivery for general medical services, GMS, scheme — medical card and GP visit card — patients.

The GMS scheme provides for a choice of doctor for medical card and GP visit card holders. Where a patient fails to secure their GP of choice, s/he may be assigned to a GMS contracted GP by the HSE. Under the GMS contract between the HSE and a GP, a GP shall ensure that no discrimination or differentiation is exercised as between the treatment of eligible and private patients within the practice and take reasonable steps to ensure no such discrimination is perceived.

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

286 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application for domiciliary allowance which was submitted in January 2007 to the Health Service Executive by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [11194/07]

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

287 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 the matter. [11197/07]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed 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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

John McGuinness

Question:

288 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the special aids and shoes which were recommended by a specialist in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow some time ago will be provided by the Health Service Executive; and if she will expedite a response from the HSE. [11198/07]

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

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

289 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in arranging a meeting between a senior decision maker relative to funding and representatives of a project (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if a date for the meeting has been agreed; if separate funding will be put in place immediately for the printing of promotional brochures for the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11204/07]

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

Question No. 290 answered with QuestionNo. 270.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

291 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 can expect to be assessed and adequate treatment given to them. [11234/07]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

292 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children the facilities for children who have been diagnosed with Asberger’s syndrome in the Health Service Executive and a clinic (details supplied); the waiting list for same and if it is expected that the waiting time will be reduced. [11235/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, a sum of €75 million for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This sum incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multidisciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

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

Medical Cards.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

293 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children if a pre-operation preparation (details supplied) will be included on the list for medical card holders. [11236/07]

There is a common list of reimbursable medicines for the General Medical Services and Drug Payment schemes. This list is reviewed and amended monthly, as new products become available and deletions are notified. For an item to be reimbursed, it must comply with published criteria, including authorisation status as appropriate, price and, in certain cases the intended use of the product. In addition, the product should ordinarily be supplied to the public only by medical prescription and should not be advertised or promoted to the public. Products are considered for reimbursement on application by a supplier.

An application to have Klean-Prep included on the common list was received by my Department in 1998 and again in 2001. Following careful consideration, and with particular attention to the indications for which the product is prescribed, the application was rejected on each occasion on the grounds that the product was more suited for use in a hospital setting. It is therefore a matter for each hospital to make the product available to patients who require it.

People who experience undue financial hardship in obtaining any particular product should contact the local area of the Health Service Executive. Any further application by a supplier to have Klean-Prep included on the common list will be considered in the usual way.

EU Directives.

Richard Bruton

Question:

294 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the EU restrictions on working hours of doctors and nurses have been implemented; and the period of derogation that remains to Ireland in respect of the working hour directive. [11242/07]

The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) was transposed into Irish law on 1 August 2004. It specifies that non-consultant hospital doctors' (NCHDs') working hours should be reduced as follows:

maximum of 58 hours per average working week from 1/8/04;

maximum of 56 hours per average working week from 1/8/07; and

maximum of 48 hours per average working week from 1/8/09 onwards.

In addition, there are also provisions for minimum daily and weekly rest periods and for compensatory rest periods

11 hours rest per 24 hours, or compensatory rest must be given immediately; and

weekly rest period of at least 35 consecutive hours, or fortnightly rest period of at least 59 consecutive hours.

Many NCHDs are already compliant with the 58-hour week, but the most significant challenge is to achieve full compliance with the requirements for rest and breaks.

In order to achieve compliance with the Directive the Task Force on Medical Staffing made a series of important recommendations including

the changes required in NCHD work patterns;

the need for a significant increase in the number of consultants;

the need for a revised contract for medical consultants;

reform of medical education and training; and

the reorganisation of acute hospital services.

Health Service employers have established a number of pilot groups — local implementation groups (LIGs) — throughout the country. These groups include representatives from management, medical grades, nursing grades, the social care professions and the training bodies. The pilot groups will examine local issues and develop plans for EWTD compliance. A National EWTD Implementation Group (NIG), chaired by Dr. Cillian Twomey, has been established to give guidance to the LIGs. A Nursing and Midwifery Expert Group has also been established to interface with the NIG on the implications for nurses of any changes proposed.

The LIGs have presented proposals to the NIG on options for the reduction of NCHD hours. So far 16 pilots have begun and a further 3 have been formally approved. When the work of these pilot sites is complete, by the end of this year, the outcomes will be evaluated by the NIG with a view to the broader application of similar arrangements. The hours worked by nurses in the public health service are within the limits set by the EWTD.

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

295 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there has been a suggestion that the laboratory in Beaumont Hospital which currently analyses the results of smear tests has a question mark over its future, despite the fact that there is a shortage of capacity to undertake this analysis here; and if she will make arrangements to secure its future. [11243/07]

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

Jack Wall

Question:

296 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a family (details supplied) in County Kildare can have two separate consultations for their children that are in mainstream education and their child that is in an autistic school has had no consultations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11248/07]

The statutory position governing the eligibility of children to dental treatment under the Health Service Executive (HSE) service is Section 66 of the Health Act 1970, the Health (Amendment) Act 1994 and the Health (Dental Services for Children) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 248 of 2000). Responsibility for delivery of health services is a matter for the HSE.

Children in specific classes in national school, usually second, fourth and sixth class, are targeted for preventive measures under the school based approach; the children in these classes are screened and referred for treatment as necessary; the programme has been specifically designed to ensure that children are dentally fit before they leave national school. The screening provided in second, fourth and sixth classes ensures that follow up appointments for examination, treatment or orthodontic review are made, as necessary, with the Dental Surgeon in the clinic designated for the particular school(s). Children who have attended national school retain eligibility to dental treatment up to their 16th birthday.

The Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 contains provision for the amendment of Section 66 of the Health Act, 1970 to provide for a health examination and treatment service for pupils attending any primary school. The Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 also contains provision for the amendment of the Health (Amendment) Act 1994 to provide dental health services to children attending any primary school. My officials are currently in discussion with the Health Service Executive with a view to ensuring an early commencement to the relevant sections of the Act.

Mental Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

297 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for children to access mental health services; and the number of in-patient places available for children. [11253/07]

The report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, entitled "A Vision for Change", was launched in January 2006. It provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over the next 7 to 10 years. "A Vision for Change" recommends that child and adolescent mental health services should provide mental health services to all aged 0-18 years.

Currently there are 10 child and adolescent psychiatric in-patient beds in the public sector for the under 16 age group, 4 at St. Anne's in Galway and 6 at Warrenstown House in Dublin. A further 12 beds will be provided this year in these units i.e. 6 additional beds in each unit. There are also 12 dedicated beds in the private sector (St. John of God, Stillorgan, Dublin). Four purpose built, 20 bed Child and Adolescent Units will be developed in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick in line with ‘A Vision for Change'. These projects are at an advanced planning stage and have secured funding through the HSE Capital Programme 2006-2010.

As an interim measure pending the development of child and adolescent in-patient units, the provision of an additional 24-32 dedicated adolescent psychiatric beds, primarily for the 16 and 17 year age group, across the four HSE administrative areas is being progressed by the HSE. Dedicated child and adolescent multidisciplinary teams will be provided for these additional beds and training will be provided for staff in the identified units.

The Mental Health Commission acknowledges that the admission of children to adult units is undesirable, however, in situations where there is no available alternative, such admissions may be necessary. The Commission has issued a code of practice relating to the admission of children under the Mental Health Act 2001 to ensure that the best interests of children are protected at all times.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive is, therefore, the appropriate body to consider the issue of waiting times raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

298 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a nursing home subvention has not been granted to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11267/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

299 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on a nursing home subvention in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11268/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

300 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not entitled to a digital hearing aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11269/07]

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

Hospital Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

301 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is proposed to make a further decision on the future of the site of St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin 6, before July 2007; if so, if she will undertake to postpone such a decision until after July 2007 in order that the matter may be dealt with by the incoming Government; if she will ensure that the site of St Luke’s Hospital will stay in use within the health service and not be sold to private developers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11276/07]

It is my objective, and that of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and St. Luke's Hospital to see the earliest delivery of the Government's Plan for Radiation Oncology. I am determined that the HSE will deliver on this Plan in 2011 as originally scheduled. The HSE and my Department are considering options to speed up the pace of delivery. This is a challenging timetable and I will provide the HSE with the necessary support to deliver on it.

As regards the future use of the site and facilities at St. Luke's Hospital, my objective is to ensure that these resources are utilised in the best interest of the health services. I will discuss this issue in due course with the HSE and the Hospital Board.

Hospital Staff.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

302 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for the provision of an additional rheumatologist based at Tallaght Hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the sole rheumatologist based there has to cover a catchment area between Tallaght and Naas General Hospital with a population estimated to be 450,000, while the estimated requirement, confirmed in a Comhairle Na nOspidéal report, is one rheumatologist per 70,000 of the population; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11303/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Cregan

Question:

303 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the progress that has been made regarding the nationalisation of contracts for the providers of private transport to persons attending various Health Service Executive facilities. [11310/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

304 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is a 22 month delay in the former East Coast Area Health Board region for couples wishing to start the process of inter-country adoption; her plans to increase the number of social workers to reduce the waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11313/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE) 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.

The Government did allocate €1 million to the HSE in additional ongoing funding commencing in 2005 to assist in tackling inter-country adoption waiting times. I understand that this additional funding is being used to pilot measures which will, for example, allow for more flexible working arrangements within the HSE with a view to addressing waiting times. The registered Adoption Society, PACT, has also received significant additional funding to allow them to expand their inter-country adoption services.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

305 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be reimbursed the costs of an art-assist machine by the Health Service Executive. [11315/07]

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

Ambulance Service.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

306 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide a helipad service for use in an emergency or any situation at St. James’s Hospital, Dublin, where none exists at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11319/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

307 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide a helipad service for use in an emergency or any situation at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, where none exists at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11320/07]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

310 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide a helipad service for use in an emergency or any situation at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, where none exists at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11323/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 307 and 310 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Sudden Cardiac Death.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

308 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to fund the training of persons to become proficient in the use of defibrillators which are available in many communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11321/07]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

314 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide and fund the advanced course for persons in the use of defibrillators in communities where defibrillators are provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11327/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 308 and 314 together.

The Report of the Task Force on Sudden Cardiac Death was published in March 2006. It makes recommendations on the prevention of sudden cardiac death and on the detection of those at high risk. Among the recommendations of the Task Force is that training initiatives should be prioritised. I understand that the HSE, which has overall responsibility for the implementation of the report's recommendations, has set up working sub groups to address the recognised priority areas in the SCD report one of which is First Responder development.

Progress has already been made in this area. The process for appointing a national community first responder co-ordinator plus four HSE area community first responder co-ordinators has begun. A similar process for appointing six community resuscitation training officers to ensure that all health care professionals receive ongoing basic life support (BLS) training, has also begun.

A draft guide giving information and advice for community first responder programmes has been produced and is being developed further. Support has also been given to the MERIT project that provides automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and AED and BLS training to GPs and GP practices throughout the country.

Funding the training in the use of AEDs will be decided by the HSE and will be guided by the priorities identified in the report. My Department will continue to monitor the progress being made by the HSE in implementing the recommendations of the Task Force.

Ambulance Service.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

309 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the provisions that are currently in place to ensure the safe transfer by emergency helicopter or emergency air ambulance to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11322/07]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

311 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the provisions that are currently in place to ensure the safe transfer by emergency helicopter or emergency air ambulance to St. James’s Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11324/07]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

312 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the provisions that are currently in place to ensure the safe transfer by emergency helicopter or emergency air ambulance to the Mater Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11325/07]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

313 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for the introduction of the helicopter emergency medical service; the progress to date; when it is expected to come on stream; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11326/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 309, 311, 312 and 313 together.

A Service Level Agreement for the provision of air ambulance services by the Air Corps was prepared and signed in September 2005. The signatories to the agreement are the Departments of Health and Children, Defence, the Health Service Executive, the Defence Forces and the Air Corps.

The agreement sets out the range of services to be provided by the Air Corps, specifically:

Inter-hospital transfer for spinal and serious injury and illness

Air Transport of neonates requiring immediate medical intervention in Ireland

Air Transport of patients requiring emergency organ transplant in the UK

Air Transport of Organ Harvest Teams within Ireland

Air Transport of patients from offshore islands to mainland hospitals where the Coast Guard service is not available.

A Steering Group comprising representation from each of the signatories to the Service Level Agreement has been established. The Group is monitoring the operation of the agreement and will amend, if necessary, the provisions of the agreement to take account of service developments, including the new fleet replacement programme currently being put in place by the Air Corps. The Air Corps introduced two new EC 135 helicopters into service in 2006 and intend to introduce a further six AB 139 helicopters into service (4 in 2007 and 2 in 2008). Each of the new helicopters has a specific air ambulance capability. The new fleet will also have a far greater flying capacity than was previously available.

The Department of Defence has advised that patients requiring transfer to St James's, Beaumont or the Mater Hospitals by air ambulance are flown to either Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell, the Phoenix Park or Dublin Airport. They are then transported by a ground ambulance to the appropriate hospital.

Question No. 310 answered with QuestionNo. 307.
Questions Nos. 311 to 313, inclusive, answered with Question No. 309.
Question No. 314 answered with QuestionNo. 308.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

315 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an X-ray; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11375/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

316 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a housing aid for the elderly application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11376/07]

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 the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Willie Penrose

Question:

317 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason funding has not been provided to a unit (details supplied) in County Longford in order to enable it to function and get up and running and provide a necessary service in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11394/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, a sum of €75 million for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This sum incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing the level and range of multidisciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism.

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

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

318 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted to the National Rehabilitation Hospital at Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin, for necessary rehabilitative treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11397/07]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

319 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application for the housing aid for the elderly will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11501/07]

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 the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

320 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card which has been submitted in recent weeks in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be investigated. [11520/07]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed 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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

321 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be assessed by the regional autistic spectrum disorders team, to which they have been referred. [11521/07]

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

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

322 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in having a copy of the medical records of a person (details supplied) in County Cork made available to them without charge. [11522/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael Noonan

Question:

323 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if acute asthma is included as an ailment for entitlement to domiciliary care allowance in circumstances where a child of three years of age suffers with this ailment and whose mother has to provide a level of care and attention significantly above what would be required for a healthy child of three years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11524/07]

Domiciliary Care Allowance may be paid, as the Deputy is aware, in respect of eligible children from birth to the age of 16 who have a severe disability requiring continual or continuous attention which is substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age. Eligibility is determined primarily by reference to the degree of additional care and attention required rather than to the type of disability involved.

Hospital Staff.

Enda Kenny

Question:

324 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who have graduated through hospital attendant positions to qualified carers in hospital situations; when it is intended to remunerate these persons at their new level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11610/07]

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the number of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive 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 to best meet the requirements of the Actual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

325 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of times the Orthodontic Review Group has met; if she has been furnished with a report; and when a report will be issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11611/07]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) established an Orthodontic Review Group in 2006. The Group was broadly representative of the orthodontic profession and also included representation from the HSE, my Department and the dental schools. The terms of reference for the group were:

to review the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee Reports;

to examine the recommendations within the operational remit of the HSE and to establish their status;

to conduct an analysis of the HSE's existing orthodontic delivery structure and capacity;

based on that analysis, to make recommendations in that regard; and

the recommendations thus made to be costed and a timeframe for their implementation proposed.

The Group met five times. The Report of the Orthodontic Review Group has recently been published and I have received a copy of it.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

326 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a breakdown of the figure in her departmental Estimates of a 3% increase for health services for the mid-west region and the areas on which it is to be spent; if so, if she will apply that breakdown; if not, if she will forward the question to the Health Service Executive; if the figure for disability services will be supplied; the amount of that figure that has been allocated to autism specific services including new services for children with autism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11628/07]

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

Child Care Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

327 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the Irish Montessori Education Board’s submission to access capital grants under NCIP; and if she will work with them on this matter. [11635/07]

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

The child care Directorate of my Office received the submission referred to by the Deputy earlier this month, and officials in the Directorate are currently giving it attention. I understand that their review of the points made in the submission will be completed shortly, and they will contact the Irish Montessori Education Board in due course.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

328 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the minority report of the Health Service Executive’s review of orthodontic services has been omitted from the HSE official report; if she will ensure that it will form part of that report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11636/07]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) established an Orthodontic Review Group in 2006. The Group was broadly representative of the orthodontic profession and also included representation from the HSE, my Department and the dental schools. The terms of reference for the group were:

to review the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee Reports;

to examine the recommendations within the operational remit of the HSE and to establish their status;

to conduct an analysis of the HSE's existing orthodontic delivery structure and capacity;

based on that analysis, to make recommendations in that regard; and

the recommendations thus made to be costed and a time-frame for their implementation proposed.

As the publication of the report is a matter for the HSE, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Pat Breen

Question:

329 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that allegations made by senior consultant orthodontists that children suffered irreversible damage to their teeth, gums and faces following the cessation of the orthodontic regional training programmes in 1999 will be investigated independently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11637/07]

No complaints regarding individual patients have been received by my Department regarding alleged irreversible damage to children's teeth. Any such damage, if it occurred, is a matter for consideration by the Dental Council as it is the appropriate statutory regulatory body for complaints of that nature.

Hospital Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

330 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements in place to cover the cost of the treatment of public patients in the new radiotherapy unit at the Mid-West Regional Hospital; if money has been refunded to the Mid-West Hospitals Trust to cover costs already incurred for the treatment of public patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11638/07]

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

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Damien English

Question:

331 Mr. English asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of practising general practitioners in the north east region that participate in the doctor on call scheme; the number of non-practising general practitioners that participate in this scheme; if she is satisfied that adequate resources are assigned to this service; her plans to provide additional resources to this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11646/07]

Out of hours co-operatives allow general practitioners to put in place arrangements to provide services to their patients, while their surgeries are closed in the evenings, on weekends and bank holidays. The development of GP co-operatives is in line with the overall health service policy of strengthening primary care services and ensuring that to the greatest extent possible, people's care needs are met in the primary care setting.

Out of hours co-operatives are now in place in all Health Service Executive (HSE) areas, providing coverage in all or in part of all counties. Between 2000 and 2006, approximately €139 million was allocated to the HSE for out of hours GP co-operatives. In 2007, the HSE Vote includes almost €34 million in baseline funding for these services and a further €3 million to meet the full year cost of Co-op developments commenced in 2006. These figures do not include the fees of the participating doctors.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for this service, it is the appropriate body to provide the information sought 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.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

332 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to an application (details supplied) to have a portion of land currently owned by the Health Service Executive at Brigid’s Hospital, Ballinasloe made available for the provision of accommodation for the elderly by way of a voluntary housing project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11653/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Paul McGrath

Question:

333 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide young children suffering from hearing deficiencies with digital hearing aids rather than analog hearing aids as is the current practice in view of the fact that the digital variety are far superior and that since her Department last examined the issue, three years ago, the price of digital hearing aids has reduced; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the existing provider of the analog hearing aids for children has informed the NRB and consequently the Health Service Executive that within two years they will cease to manufacture analog hearing aids in favour of manufacture of the superior digital hearing aids; her views on representations made directly to her Department from the Department of Education and Science urging her to cease the practice of providing analog rather than digital hearing aids citing the improvement that such a change would make in terms of a child’s progress within the education system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11664/07]

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

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

334 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an appointment in the regional hospital in Galway; the status attached to this request for an appointment; and when they will be seen. [11666/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

335 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Health and Children the date that a community group (details supplied) in County Mayo submitted their application for staff funding under the equal opportunities child care programme 2000 to 2006; and the reason the application was refused. [11667/07]

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

As part of the process of closing the EOCP, which is EU co-funded and subject to agreed timescales which must be observed if financial penalties are not to accrue to the State, it was necessary for all grant applicants to have proceeded to contract stage by 31 December 2006. The Group in question submitted their application to Pobal, which is engaged to assess all grants on behalf of my Office, on 18 October 2006. However, as information necessary to complete the assessment was not received from the Group until 6 December 2006, it was not possible to complete the assessment and appraisal process and proceed to contract by 31 December 2006. As a result, it was necessary in this case to decline grant funding under the EOCP.

Details of a new staffing grant scheme under the NCIP are expected to be announced later this year at which stage the position regarding grant funding for this Group will be reviewed. Officials in my Office will be in contact with the Group in due course to inform them of the outcome of that review.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

James Breen

Question:

336 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a bed in the Dun Laoghaire rehabilitation unit in view of the fact that they are on a waiting list for the past six weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11687/07]

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

Ambulance Service.

John McGuinness

Question:

337 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an ambulance suitable for wheelchair users and the elderly will be made available for the transport of those that use the day care centre at St. Columba’s Hospital, Thomastown, County Kilkenny; if the current vehicle is unsuitable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11690/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 338 answered with QuestionNo. 270.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

339 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in having a person (details supplied) in County Cork called for surgery. [11760/07]

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.

Hospital Services.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

340 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding for day to day expenditure is made available to Mallow General Hospital directly or otherwise; and if capital expenditure for Mallow General Hospital is made directly or otherwise. [11762/07]

The HSE has responsibility for the day to day funding in the health sector, including the hospital referred to in the Deputy's question. It also has responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects under its Capital Investment Programme.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

341 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money made available to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office to carry out it’s functions each year since it was established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11763/07]

The Ombudsman for Children was appointed in December, 2003 and the Office was established in March 2004. The funding made available to the Office of the Ombudsman for Children for the years 2004-07 is set out as follows.

Year

€000

2007

2,100

2006

1,263

2005

1,019

2004

276

Hospital Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

342 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a dialysis service will be offered through the Wellstone Clinic to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11778/07]

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.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

343 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether better access to neurological medical care for persons with the acquired brain injury advocacy association is needed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11779/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Procedures.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

344 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether better rehabilitation planning and service availability is urgently needed for persons with the acquired brain injury advocacy association; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11780/07]

My Department is currently examining the development of a rehabilitation action plan for people with disabilities including those with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).

In the last two years the Health Service Executive (HSE), and the voluntary sector funded by the HSE, have undertaken specific actions in regard to service provision for people with ABI, such as the expansion of neurological services and the planned development of the rehabilitation capacity in the National Rehabilitation Hospital and Merlin Park Hospital. The issue of ABI, and service planning and provision for people with ABI has been, and continues to be a matter for discussion and examination between my Department and the HSE.

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

345 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the proposals to close down all of the existing children’s hospitals in Dublin in favour of the development of proposed facilities at the Mater Hospital site; if her attention has further been drawn to the strong opposition to such a proposal, the likely serious damage to the availability and accessibility of hospital facilities for children, the limited capacity of the Mater Hospital site, and that a much greater site is available to the National Children’s Hospital; if she has consulted with those who disagree to the relocation of the NCH to the restricted Mater Hospital site; if she has examined and compared the expected costs in the event of the relocation to the Mater Hospital site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11792/07]

The development of the National Paediatric Hospital is being overseen by a joint HSE/Department of Health and Children Transition Group.

The current stage of the process involves the preparation of a high level framework brief for the new hospital. The brief is being developed for the Transition Group by Rawlinson Kelly & Whittlestone Ltd (RKW), an established UK-based health care planning company. RKW will be advising on a range of issues which will help to inform the design of the new hospital. They will be advising, for example, on the preferred model of care, on the core services to be delivered at the new hospital, and on the additional range of services to be provided outside of the main hospital through the urgent/ambulatory care service, and on the location(s) for this service, taking account of international best practice in the planning of children's hospital services.

RKW is consulting widely in the course of its work, and in this context the input of all stakeholders will be of benefit in ensuring the delivery of our shared objective of providing a world-class hospital for the children of this country.

Fisheries Protection.

Damien English

Question:

346 Mr. English asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the provisions in place to prevent the importation of live non-native fish species, some of which are being used for live fishing bait, into the State; if his Department plans to bring in new measures to tackle this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11510/07]

Under EU legislation, the importation of live fish for aquaculture purposes requires the certification of clearance from a fish health perspective for each consignment. It may also be noted that any aquaculture activity may only be carried out in the State under licence, which specifies the species which may be farmed. This framework is due to be strengthened shortly with the adoption of a new EU Regulation dealing specifically with the introduction of non-native species for the purposes of aquaculture.

Under EU legislation, the importation of live tropical and coldwater ornamental fish requires the certification of clearance from a fish health perspective for each consignment, and the procedures in this regard are being updated at present following on from Commission Decision 2006/656/EC.

I have been advised that officials from the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board had become aware of information suggesting that visiting fishermen were bringing in fish to be used as bait but none of the inspections carried out following such information found any evidence to the fact.

Inland Fisheries.

Damien English

Question:

347 Mr. English asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has satisfied himself that a proposed culling of pike at Lough Sheelin by the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board is in the best interest of promoting angling as a tourist pursuit here, specifically in the north east region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11515/07]