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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 4 Apr 2007

Vol. 635 No. 2

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 12, inclusive, answered orally.

Judicial Process.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

13 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the continuing delays in court hearings for criminal trials is unacceptable; the further proposals he has for dealing with the situation; when it is expected that an adequate number of judges will be in situ; the resources that have been provided in respect of each judge; when the lengthy waiting times for court hearings, particularly in respect of criminal cases, will abate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12967/07]

I am firmly committed to ensuring that judicial resources are adequate to the demands placed on them. Since 2002, the number of judges sitting in the High, Circuit and District Courts has increased from 108 to 125, an increase of 17 judicial posts. In addition, the Courts and Court Officers (Amendment) Act 2007 provides for a further 14 judges — 6 Judges of the District Court, 4 ordinary Judges of the Circuit Court and 4 ordinary Judges of the High Court. The additional judges are being appointed to deal with delays and generally speed up the judicial process.

In accordance with section 16(2) of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995, I have requested the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board to furnish me with nominations for these new posts. When these new judges are appointed shortly, it will mean that the number of additional judges sitting in Court since 2002 is 31. I should add that additional staff for the Courts Service have been sanctioned to ensure optimum use of the new judges.

In 2002, in the Central Criminal Court — where the most serious cases are heard — the waiting time between return for trial and trial was 18 months. By comparison, as of 31 December 2006, the waiting time for the hearing of cases was six months. These improvements can be attributed to the decision of the President of the High Court to assign four judges to the Central Criminal Court on an ongoing basis and to the very active management of the court list.

The strict application by the Court of its own ‘ground rules' with regard to adjournments and the continuing good case management and careful scheduling of cases have all contributed to the significant reduction in waiting times and the optimum efficient use of the judicial and other resources allocated to the Court. All cases currently before the Central Criminal Court have dates fixed earlier than the end of June 2007. I am informed that 2006 is the sixth year in a row when the number of completed cases exceeded the number of new cases returned for trial to the Central Criminal Court.

The situation in the Circuit and District Courts varies according to location. While some venues are in a position to schedule cases for the next sittings, others are experiencing delays due to a variety of factors. The Presidents of each of these courts have, at their disposal, unassigned judges who can be used, inter alia, to assist permanently assigned judges where pressure of work demands. I believe that the additional judges to be provided to the Circuit and District Courts will greatly assist in reducing delays in those courts and I will continue to keep the situation under review.

International Agreements.

Dan Boyle

Question:

14 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when, in view of the Government’s decision to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 30 March 2007, the Government will ratify the Convention in order that it can enter into force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12989/07]

I am delighted that Ireland was in the first group of countries to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when it opened for signature in New York on last Friday, 30th March. This UN Convention is a significant human rights convention and represents an important advance for people with disabilities.

In conjunction with its recent approval of my proposal for signature by the State of the Convention, the Government approved the establishment of an implementation group to advise on any changes to the Government's Disability Strategy that may be required to enable the State ratify the Convention. The Implementation Group will consult with representatives of people with disabilities as it carries out its work.

Asylum Applications.

Ivor Callely

Question:

15 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people who sought asylum or leave to remain in Ireland since 1992; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12841/07]

The total number of applications received for Asylum from 1992 to 28 February 2007 is 73,245.

In regard to Leave to Remain, I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to applications for Leave to Remain in the State made pursuant to Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 as amended.

An application for Leave to Remain in the State in these circumstances arises where a non-national is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3 (3) (a) of the Immigration Act, 1999. A person served with such a notice of intent to deport is afforded three options, viz. to leave the State voluntarily; to consent to the making of a Deportation Order; or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons as to why a Deportation Order should not be made and why temporary Leave to Remain in the State be granted instead.

Leave to remain, outside that granted on the grounds of parentage of an Irish born child or marriage to an Irish or EU national, is considered in the context of deciding whether or not to deport a non-national.

In determining whether to make a deportation order or grant temporary leave to remain in the State, I must have regard to the eleven factors set out in Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, and Section 5 (Prohibition of Refoulement) of the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended.

Temporary leave to remain is considered in every case regardless of whether representations are made by, or on behalf of, the persons concerned. Statistics are not maintained in a way which distinguishes between those who have made an application for leave to remain and those who have not. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that many of those who failed the asylum process, and who did not opt to return voluntarily or consent to deportation, nonetheless left the State before a decision to deport or grant leave to remain was made.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Seán Crowe

Question:

16 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí charged with the offence of disclosure of information under Section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 since its commencement; and the number of files sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to the offence. [12979/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

25 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures or protocols in place for ensuring that retired members of An Garda Síochána do not, in their employment, misuse privileged information accessible to them while serving in the force, or access information covered by data protection legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12983/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 25.

Section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 was enacted for the purpose of specifically prohibiting a person who is or was a member of the Garda Síochána or of its civilian staff, from disclosing information obtained in the course of his or her duties. The section provides stiff penalties, fines up to €75,000 and/or up to 7 years imprisonment for conviction on indictment, for persons who contravene its provisions and receive any gift, consideration or advantage as an inducement to disclose any information.

The Deputy will be aware that this provision in its original draft form attracted a considerable degree of public controversy during its passage through the Oireachtas on the grounds that it would be unnecessarily restrictive. However I am satisfied that the provision as enacted struck the right balance and I know that the great majority of members of the force would instinctively cohere with its fundamental policy aspect.

The section came into force on 1 August 2005 and to date there have been no proceedings commenced. In addition to section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act, former Gardaí are also governed by the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and the Data Protection Act.

At an operational level, I understand from the Garda Authorities that members' log-on accounts for the Garda Information System (PULSE/GNIB/FCPS) are disabled upon their retirement. This ensures that they cannot access any of the Garda IT systems.

As an organisation the Garda Síochána takes its responsibility for the control of the information it possesses about individuals very seriously. Where allegations of unauthorised disclosure are made the Commissioner will not hesitate to take the appropriate action.

Drugs in Prisons.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

17 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the tangible results that have been achieved in tackling the significant problem of drugs in prison; when prisons will be free of drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12966/07]

In May of last year I launched the new Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy & Strategy — Keeping Drugs Out of Prisons. This new policy clearly set out the steps required to tackle the supply of drugs into prisons, provide adequate treatment services to those who are addicted to drugs and ensure that developments in the prisons were linked into the community. Since then significant progress has been achieved in implementing this plan.

In line with my policy the Irish Prison Service has intensified its focus on preventing illicit drugs being brought into prisons. The traditional means of effecting supply reduction — staff vigilance, physical searches and supervision of persons entering prisons — continues to be reinforced by means of improved facilities and procedures. Specific measures which have been taken include:

New prison visiting arrangements which involve greater control over the number and identity of visitors, and enhanced supervision of such visits. As a result only identified and known persons are allowed to have visits with prisoners, reducing the likelihood of visitors attempting to pass drugs, and of prisoners being coerced into receiving visits from persons not known to them to facilitate the passing of drugs.

Enhanced perimeter security involving improved netting and closer cooperation with the Garda Síochána to arrest and prosecute persons attempting to convey drugs into prisons. This has resulted in arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of persons attempting to convey drugs into prisons.

Improved technology for searching of cells and prison property which has resulted in the improved detection and seizure of contraband.

Improved prison design aimed at ensuring greater security, for example new prisons are designed to be impervious to attempts to propel drugs into prison yards, and

The introduction of drug detection dogs to monitor all persons entering prisons and to aid searches within prisons.

Drug Treatment Services to prisoners are also being significantly enhanced through the development of new services and programmes for addicted prisoners. These services are being delivered by the Irish Prison Service in partnership with community based services and contracted private services and supported by additional staffing for prison based Drug Treatment Teams. Specific developments include:

A tender for 24 Addiction Counsellors to cover all Prisons has been awarded to Merchants Quay Ireland and Counsellors are already coming on stream. This will, in conjunction with other developments, lead to an increase of nearly 1000 hours per week of prisoner access to addiction counselling.

7 Nurse Officers and 5 Prison Officers have been allocated to Dedicated Drug Treatment Teams in prisons with significant needs, this will improve service quality in prisons which receive a large number of prisoner committals with addictions.

The Dormant Accounts Fund has provided funding for 4 community groups to provide addiction counselling and support to prisoners while in prison and on release in the community, this will build on their success in becoming drug free in prison when the prisoner returns to the community.

Additional Consultant in Addiction and Registrars Prisons Sessions have been established and resourced, significantly improving the quality, coordination and availability of drug treatment in prisons.

An In-reach Hepatitis C Nurse has been contracted from St James' Hospital to provide new treatments to prisoners who suffer from this disease. It is hoped to expand this service to other sites.

Tender for Dedicated Drug Treatment Pharmacy Services will issue this month, again supporting improved quality and availability of treatment services.

These services will be provided on the basis of clinical needs and will be supported by the implementation of a system of Mandatory Drug Testing (provided for in the Prisons Act 2007).

The target is to achieve a prison system free of drugs and to help those addicted to drugs to break the cycle of crime and drug abuse. This target will not be achieved overnight and will require constant vigilance but it has to remain as a key priority of the Prison Service.

Legal Representation.

Liz McManus

Question:

18 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by the author of new research into the operation of Family Law Courts (details supplied) that the high number of lay litigants in contested family law cases should give rise to the cost of legal representation for those who need it; if he will take steps to deal with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12915/07]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to an article in the inaugural edition of the Courts Service Report ‘Family Law Matters' published in February 2007. The article, based on an interview with the manager of the Dublin Circuit Family Law Office, speculated that there has been a huge rise in lay litigants in family law cases over the past few years due perhaps to the costs of legal representation.

There is a number of factors which may lead people to undertake their own litigation, particularly where the divorce is uncontested. Greater access to information, including free information provided by the Courts Service, allows litigants to make informed decisions as to whether or not to seek further legal advice or representation. With consent divorces representing a significant proportion of all divorces, many of the potentially contentious issues will already have been settled in advance of divorce proceedings, often by prior judicial separation or following mediation.

It would be a matter of concern if lay litigants were acting on their own behalf, not because they have freely chosen to do so having regard to all their circumstances, but because they were financially precluded from seeking legal assistance. But it is important to differentiate between the situation of lay litigants making a free and informed choice to save money by representing themselves in straightforward and uncontested proceedings, and the spectre the Deputy raises of vulnerable people being unable to obtain vital legal advice and assistance.

I am satisfied that the Legal Aid Scheme provides effective access to legal advice and representation to persons on lower incomes. The Civil Legal Aid Regulations, which I made in 2006, both simplified the means test rules for qualifying for legal aid and substantially increased the disposable income limits — from €13,000 to €18,000 — and the deductible allowances, including for dependents, childcare and accommodation. Given the significant increase in the Legal Aid Scheme thresholds, enabling more people to qualify for assistance, and given also that many divorces are uncontested and settled by consent, I do not believe that the increase in the number of lay litigants is in itself a cause for concern.

Garda Recruitment.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

19 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the promised additional Gardaí will be recruited in regard to his announcement of 19 December 2006; when the extra Garda Reserve members will be in place; when the proposed civilianisation of Garda posts will take place; the numbers involved in respect of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12913/07]

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 reached.

The Garda Commissioner is proceeding with the recruitment and training of 1,500 members of the Garda reserve. I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are intakes to the Garda College every 4-6 weeks. The total personnel strength of the Garda Reserve including trainees was 123 at 29th March 2007.

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

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

Training for the third group of 35 Reserve trainees commenced on 3rd March 2007 and it is expected that they will be attested in June. It is also expected that further groups of Reserve trainees will commence training on a monthly basis. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the next intake will be on 28th April 2007. Further interviews were held in recent weeks for applicants throughout the country and interviews have now taken place in each of the 26 counties. Applicants will continue to be interviewed on a rolling basis over the coming weeks and months. By June of this year three groups of trainees will have been attested, i.e. 123 Reserve members.

With regard to civilianisation, I am informed that there is currently a campaign underway to recruit 300 civilian support staff into An Garda Síochána to release Gardaí who are employed on clerical duties to operational duties. This process is well underway and interviews are currently being held by the Public Appointments Service to recruit these Clerical Officers. Since the beginning of 2007, 93 Clerical Officers have been appointed to An Garda Síochána. A further 46 have been offered a Clerical Officer post. Preparations are at an advanced stage to commence the recruitment of a civilian Chief Administration Officer in An Garda Síochána, at a grade equivalent to Deputy Commissioner. An Garda Síochána is also in the process of recruiting senior civilian managers as Head of Media and Public Relations, Directors of Strategy, Human Resources and Information Technology. A dedicated Human Resource Directorate has been established within An Garda Síochána to serve the needs of the 2000 clerical, administrative, professional, technical and industrial civilian staff already working in An Garda Síochána and to promote an extensive programme of civilianisation.

Significant progress is being made on recruitment to a range of key specialised civilian posts, including:

31 posts in the Garda Telecommunications area;

28 staff for the Professional Standards Unit, comprising statisticians, analysts and administrative staff;

10 posts in the new Internal Audit Unit;

14 additional teaching/training posts in the Garda College in Templemore; and

29 posts for the new civilian Crime Analysis Service.

The foregoing is in addition to the establishment of the Garda Informations Services Centre which employs over 160 civilians doing work which was previously done by operational Gardai. The success of the incident reporting and data quality review facilities available at the GISC encouraged the Garda authorities to seek opportunities for the devolution of further tasks to the Centre. One such initiative involves the reporting of the outcome of court cases to the GISC, which allows Gardaí to remain operational following completion of their court attendances. The call-taking function of Garda Traffic Watch has already transferred from six Regional Garda Communication Centres to the GISC. Under a further initiative, the logging of driving licence and insurance particulars, a function formerly carried out by Gardaí and civilian personnel in the Fixed Charge Processing System, is now undertaken at the GISC. All of these initiatives are contributing significantly to the release of Garda resources for visible, frontline policing across our communities. It is proposed to carry out a review of the GISC in the summer of 2007 and the outcome of this evaluation will inform future projects.

Garda Information System.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

20 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement detailing the availability of internet facilities to members of An Garda Síochána across the State and the level of e-literacy amongst the force; and if he will make provisions for more facilities and training to ensure that the work of Gardaí will no longer be unnecessarily hindered by the absence of same. [12978/07]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the Garda Information System (GIS) which includes, inter alia, access to PULSE, the Garda National Immigration Bureau Systems and Email is also used to deliver internet access to members where operational needs require.

Training in information technology is provided both in the Garda College and in the Continuous Professional Development Centres around the country and is kept under constant review. All Gardaí graduating from the Garda college receive comprehensive training in the use of the information technology available through the Garda Information System. The Garda College is currently developing an e-learning training programme which will utilise virtual learning environments to deliver various aspects of the overall training requirements for the Force. The system is currently being piloted with student Gardaí in the College.

In addition, internet facilities are currently being rolled out to all Continuous Professional Development Centres in the Force which provides for the continued development training of both student and attested Gardaí throughout their careers. All staff in these centres are proficient in computer applications. A comprehensive programme of training is also provided for all members before any major information system is deployed in the Force. The degree to which internet facilities and additional IT training required is ultimately a matter for Garda management to decide based on operational needs.

Garda Investigations.

Joe Costello

Question:

21 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a Garda investigation has been held into the circumstances in which a newspaper was apparently told that a person (details supplied) was known to the Gardaí, a term often used to describe a person involved in criminal activity; the results of such investigation; if he will confirm that the person was of good character; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12907/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

54 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he made arrangements for an investigation, independent of An Garda Síochána, to be conducted into the source of comments reported in the media that a person (details supplied) was known to Gardaí; if so, the outcome of the investigation including whether disciplinary proceedings have been commenced; if there is an intoxilyser in Harcourt Terrace Garda Station; and the length of time that station has had the facility. [12976/07]

Joe Costello

Question:

83 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Gardaí investigation into the death of a person (details supplied) has been completed; the findings of such investigation; if he will request the Garda Ombudsman Commission to hold an investigation into this death, after it formally commences operations in April 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12906/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 54 and 83 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the incident referred to by the Deputies is under investigation under the direction of a Superintendent and when it is completed an investigation file will be submitted to the Law Officers. As the investigation is still ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on it at this time.

I am also informed that it is not the policy of An Garda Síochána for official spokespersons to comment on the character of an individual. It is to be deeply regretted that some reports from unnamed sources initially attempted — with no foundation whatsoever — to put the character of the person referred to at issue.

I will make a Commencement Order shortly to enable the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to commence taking complaints and undertaking investigations from 9 May 2007. From that date the Ombudsman Commission will be required to investigate any complaint concerning the death of, or serious harm to, a person as a result of Garda operations or while in the custody and care of An Garda Síochána.

Under section 102(6) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may in the public interest request the Ombudsman Commission to investigate any matter where it appears that a member of An Garda Síochána may have committed an offence or behaved in a way that would justify disciplinary proceedings. In addition, under section 102(4) the Ombudsman Commission may in the public interest decide to investigate any such matter, even where no complaint has been made.

It may be that on its own initiative the Ombudsman Commission may on its establishment decide to investigate this matter or, if needs be, I will consider using my own powers to refer the matter to them.

I am further informed that an intoxyliser evidential breath testing instrument is installed and operational in Harcourt Terrace Garda station since 21 December, 2006.

National Disability Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

22 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the role and responsibilities of his Department with regard to the National Disability Strategy and the implementation of the Disability Act 2005; the targets and costing set in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12961/07]

The National Disability Strategy was launched by the Government in September 2004 and underpins the participation of people with disabilities in Irish society by building on existing policy and legislation. The implementation of the Strategy is the agreed focus of disability policy under the Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016. My Department is responsible for the provision of the framework for the implementation of the Strategy including cross-Departmental coordination and reports to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion on progress of the Strategy. The Minister of State at my Department, Frank Fahey, T.D., has acted with special responsibility for disability issues.

The Deputy will be aware that key elements of the Strategy include the Disability Act, 2005 and Sectoral Plans for service provision for people with disabilities. The Disability Act is the cornerstone of the National Disability Strategy and my Department played a lead role in its development and enactment. All sections of the Disability Act have been commenced, with the exception of Part 2 (Assessment of Needs, Service Statements and Redress). Arrangements in relation to the implementation of Part 2 are set out in the sectoral plan of the Department of Health and Children.

Under the Act, six Government Departments were required to draw up plans in key sectors including transport, built infrastructure, housing, training and employment, health and social welfare provision. My Department acted as co-ordinator for the purpose of the Sectoral plans and presented the Plans to the Houses of the Oireachtas for approval; they were published by the Government in December, 2006. Each of the relevant Departments has provided its own targets and costings for the implementation of the Sectoral Plans.

All public bodies, subject to certain considerations, must meet a number of requirements with regard to accessibility under the Act. These accessibility provisions are now supported by the new Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies which I signed into law and launched in July, 2006. The Code of Practice was developed by the National Disability Authority (NDA) in consultation with my Department. The Act also gives statutory effect to the 3% employment target for people with disabilities in the public sector. My Department has a key role in relation to the implementation of these provisions while progress achieved by public bodies in this regard is being monitored by the NDA. Again, under the Act, a Centre for Excellence in Universal Design has recently been established within the NDA with the support of my Department. The Centre has an important role in contributing to the development and promotion of standards in universal design. A budgetary provision of €450,000 has been allocated for the Centre for 2007.

Under the terms of Towards 2016, I established the National Disability Strategy Stakeholder Monitoring Group at the end of last year to monitor progress on the overall implementation of the National Disability Strategy. The Group comprises representatives of stakeholder groups, senior officials and the NDA while my Department also serves as secretariat to the Group.

The National Disability Authority is concerned with the implementation of important aspects of the Strategy and works closely with my Department to meet relevant objectives. The funding provision for the NDA for 2007 is €6.3 million.

The roll-out of the Strategy has been accompanied by a significant increase in the level of investment to expand the range of services and supports available to persons with disabilities. In particular, the Government is committed to a five-year, multi-annual Investment Programme to run until 2009 worth €900 million, targeted at high priority disability support services.

In addition to ensuring the delivery of the key objectives of the National Disability Strategy, my Department has a role in several important functions that are complementary to the Strategy. My Department had a lead role in relation to the negotiation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was adopted by a UN General Assembly in December 2006. Ireland was in the first group of countries to sign the Convention last week. My Department also has a lead role in relation to the ratification process.

My Department also funds certain accessible transport services for people with disabilities, promoted an independent living support programme and provides financial support to People with Disabilities in Ireland (PwDI). The total funding allocation for these initiatives amounts to €3.2 million in 2007. My Department also continues to fund the Enhancing Disabilities Services Programme which I launched in 2005. The Programme comprises a funding package of €15 million over a five year period to support once-off projects which could demonstrate an innovative, efficient, collaborative and cost effective approach to service provision for people with disabilities. The funding allocation for this Programme for 2007 is €3 million.

In 2006, my Department undertook a number of awareness raising initiatives including funding two TV programmes and a National Information Day. The funding allocation to continue such initiatives in 2007 is €434,000.

The Excellence through Accessibility Award was initiated to acknowledge public bodies that provide accessible services to people with disabilities. The NDA, in consultation with my Department, issued guidelines and the first awards ceremony took place in September, 2006 at which four public bodies were presented with awards.

Criminal Assets.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

23 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that the assets of criminal gangs have been fully examined, assessed or targeted; if sufficient resources have been made available to adequately investigate such activity with particular reference to racketeering and money laundering and links with criminals outside this jurisdiction; if action has been taken to reduce the incidents of the use of criminally acquired assets to fund otherwise legitimate businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12997/07]

I have been advised by An Garda Síochána that the Criminal Assets Bureau has sufficient financial and other resources available to it to operate effectively pursuant to its statutory remit. The Bureau also continues to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions in order to fully achieve its objectives pursuant to its statutory remit. The Bureau keeps the allocation of personnel under constant review in light of its workload and a Forensic Analyst and a Professional Accountant have recently been recruited. The matter of resources is kept under constant review.

With regard to the matter of using criminally acquired assets to fund otherwise legitimate businesses, any individuals in local communities who believe they can openly flaunt wealth or assets secured through illegal activities, including drug dealing, will by vigorously pursued by the Gardaí either through the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 or through the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau under its statutory remit. In addition to this, since 2004, an initiative has been in place whereby one member of An Garda Síochána from each Garda Division is trained as a profiler in respect of criminal assets. This Initiative was developed by the Criminal Assets Bureau in conjunction with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. A Divisional Criminal Assets Profiler is now in place in each of the 25 Garda Divisions and a full complement of Divisional Profilers is being maintained.

The Criminal Assets Bureau has been at the forefront of the fight against organised crime, including drug trafficking, in this jurisdiction since its inception in 1996. The significant successes that the Bureau continues to achieve by its operations demonstrates the effectiveness of its approach in pursuing illegally gotten gains. The manner in which the Bureau operates has, in the eleven-year period of its operation, come to be viewed, both domestically and internationally, as a very successful model for targeting persons seeking to derive profits from criminal activities.

Crime Levels.

Mary Upton

Question:

24 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gun murders recorded in 2006; the way this compares with the figures for 2005; the number of gun murders recorded to date in 2007; the steps being taken to deal with these crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12918/07]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

52 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2007; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases where convictions were secured; if he is satisfied with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12920/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gun crimes committed in each of the past five years to date in 2007; the number of prosecutions and convictions arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13366/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number and nature of gun crime reported in the past two years; the number of prosecutions and convictions arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13371/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 52, 129 and 134 together.

I refer the Deputies to my answer to Question No. 60 of today's date.

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 Deputies directly to them.

Question No. 25 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

Proposed Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

26 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to publish the Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill; if he will include powers to control charges imposed by estate agents having regard to recent reports that this sector was planning to increase its fees by up to 33%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12932/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 31 on 22 February 2007. I have nothing further to add to that reply.

Port Status.

Joan Burton

Question:

27 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to private airports here; the private airports that have port of entry status; his proposals to grant port of entry status to private airports without such status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10233/07]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answer to Questions Nos. 193 and 194 of 6th March, 2007. The position as set out in that answer has not changed.

Section 6 of the Immigration Act 2004 provides, inter alia, that a non-national (other than a seaman) coming by sea or air from outside the State shall not, without the consent of the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform, land elsewhere than at an approved port. A non-national who lands in the State in contravention of this provision shall be deemed to be refused permission and shall be guilty of an offence.

The most recent list of approved ports is set out in the Immigration Act 2004 (Approved Ports) Regulations 2004. These are as follows.

Carrickfinn Airport

Galway

Cobh

Galway Airport

Connaught Airport

Greencastle

Cork

Moville

Cork Airport

Rosslare Harbour

Dublin

Shannon Airport

Dublin Airport

Sligo Airport

Dún Laoghaire

Waterford

Farranfore Airport

Waterford Regional Airport

As I set out in my answer to the Deputy's previous Questions there is no distinction in Immigration legislation between privately and publicly owned ports nor between airports and seaports. Apart from the general application of the criminal law and its enforcement by an Garda Siochána and such general legal provisions applicable to an airport in the same way as to any other location, my role as regards the operation of such ports is in relation to immigration matters only. I have no function as regards the general operation of an airport, including its licensing or the approval of traffic volumes or air safety. Such matters are appropriate to the Department of Transport and the Irish Aviation Authority. There is also a central role for local authorities in respect of planning.

Applications for approved port status in respect of private or publicly owned airports are considered in the context of overall Government policy in the airport sector and generally will fall to be considered once these policy aspects in regard to any particular area have been determined.

Drugs Trade.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

28 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken, other than producing more legislation amending his earlier legislation, in anticipation of the expected impact in summer 2007 from the 49% increase in poppy production in Afghanistan in Spring 2006. [12977/07]

As is reflected in the Deputy's question, recent international data from the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) suggests that the level of heroin production, particularly in Afghanistan, has significantly increased in recent times. The UNODC also highlight that there is a significant surplus of heroin supply exceeding worldwide demand for the drug. That Office continues to spearhead international efforts aimed at addressing what are, as I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, complex issues which give rise to the continued high levels of opium production in that region. Undoubtedly such production has a direct effect on the amount of heroin in circulation globally.

So this problem is by no means unique to Ireland as drug misuse remains one of the most complex social ills faced worldwide . However we are responsible for what happens in our own jurisdiction and we must constantly strive to ensure that the measures and policies we have in place address the problem and are flexible enough to be able to respond to what is a global and dynamic issue.

As I have said on the record on many occasions previously, while our drug law enforcement response is of course a vital feature of our overall response in addressing the issue we cannot just look at the issue from a supply reduction perspective only. Rather, we must examine the drugs problem in the wider context in which it takes place and take cognisance of the fact that the demand for and the use of illegal drugs is what fuels the drugs trade. The measures that we have in place to address the problem must take account of this.

The Government remains resolutely committed to tackling the problem through our National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. The National Strategy addresses the problem under pillar headings of education and prevention, supply reduction, treatment and rehabilitation and research and is firmly founded on the principle that drug misuse needs to be addressed in an integrated manner across these headings through a co-operative approach involving the statutory, community and voluntary treatment sectors.

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, under the stewardship of my colleague and Minister of State Mr. Noel Ahern, T.D., is the lead Government Department in co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy. My Department's remit in this area, while not exclusively, is primarily in the area of drug supply reduction, and drug law enforcement remains a key feature of the Government's drug policy framework.

I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Siochána will continue to direct its drug law enforcement activities in a focused way through intelligence driven operations at national, regional, divisional and district level co-ordinated by the Garda National Drugs Unit in conjunction with other specialist Garda units and local Garda management. Underpinning this approach, An Garda Siochána will continue to invoke a number of broad strategic responses in addressing the issue. These include the following;

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

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

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

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

Significant drug seizures including the considerable increase in the amount of heroin continuing to be seized in recent times in this jurisdiction have been made as a result of this approach. Such measures will continue to be vigorously pursued by An Garda Siochána.

The record level of resources, both in financial and personnel terms, being made available to An Garda Siochána this year is proof of the Government's commitment and determination to ensure that the Garda authorities will continue to implement targeted, intelligence and high intensity operations against organised crime with a special focus on drugs crime.

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

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Dan Boyle

Question:

29 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the facility for access by persons with disabilities to his Department Headquarters on St Stephen’s Green; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12990/07]

At present, due to the nature of the steps to the front of the building at 94 Stephen's Green, which are consistent with the building's age and character, access by persons with a physical disability is facilitated via the car park entrance at the side of the building. A planning application has been lodged with the Local Authority to erect/install a wheel chair ramp at the front of the building.

Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

30 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to the establishment of the Garda Ombudsman Commission; the number of staff recruited to date; when he expects that the Commission will begin dealing with complaints from the public; his views on the long delay in getting the office up and running, in view on the fact that the legislation was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas in July 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12919/07]

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has undertaken an extensive programme of work in order to commence operations and significant progress has been made in this regard. A new building has been sourced in Dublin City Centre and is currently being fitted out. The recruitment and training of staff is far advanced and 58 of the 81 staff approved for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission are currently in place.

The Garda Ombudsman will be open to deal with complaints from the general public on 9th May 2007.

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

Having regard to the timelines noted in the Report of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 Implementation Review Group (the Hayes Report) and that the time required by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Independent Police Complaints Commission in England and Wales to commence operations was up to 15 months, I am satisfied that the Commission's progress in becoming operational is in line with general expectations.

Prison Building Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

31 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a review of the spending approval procedures has been implemented in relation to the approval given by his Department for the purchase of the Thornton Prison site; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a 120 acre site nearby at Corrstown which was on the shortlist of possible sites has now sold for €100,000 an acre, half the Thornton price; the measures his Department has implemented since the purchase of Thornton to ensure value for taxpayers’ money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10215/07]

A 120 acre site at Corrstown was one of a number of sites selected for a detailed examination and rejected by the Mountjoy Complex Replacement Site Committee which consisted of officials of the IPS, the Dept of Justice Equality and Law Reform, one of the Commissioners for Public Works and an outside valuer. The examination by consulting engineers led to its being rejected as being unsuitable for the development of a major prison complex. The road access was not acceptable for a prison development, the shape of the site was not compatible with the intended campus layout and the land was undulating and would require considerable excavation to allow for necessary development.

The purchase of a site that was not fit for purpose would not have represented value for the taxpayer's money regardless of the price paid.

The spending approval measures applied in the case of the Thornton site have been scrutinised in detail, fully comply with Government guidelines and delivered an excellent site which will provide good long term value for the taxpayer.

No land that was suitable for a prison and which was nearer to Dublin was identified by the committee as available for purchase at a lesser price and no such land has, to the knowledge of the Department or the IPS changed hands at less than €200,000 per acre since the purchase of Thornton.

Community Policing.

Denis Naughten

Question:

32 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he is taking to improve community policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12838/07]

Community policing is a central feature of the policing policy of An Garda Síochána. Community Policing Units are established throughout the country, and members are encouraged to engage with the local communities where they are working. Current policing policy is predicated on the prevention of public order offences; the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property; and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of a quality policing service. In addition to the dedicated Community Policing Units, all Gardaí have a responsibility to respond to community policing issues as they arise. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the number of personnel engaged in dedicated community policing on 29 March, 2007 was 521 (all ranks).

The Garda Siochana Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a joint policing committee in each local authority administrative area, to provide a forum where a local authority and the senior Garda officers responsible for the policing of that area, with the participation of Oireachtas members and community interests, can consult, discuss and make recommendations on matters affecting the policing of the area. Twenty two joint policing committees are being established by local authorities and the Garda Commissioner in a pilot phase, and I intend that following a time-limited and focused evaluation they will be established in all local authority areas by the end of 2007.

The Garda Síochána rely on the ongoing and active support of public to enable them to be at their most effective in their functions. The joint policing committees have a central role in achieving this by mobilising the resources of the local authority, the community and individual residents.

The Garda Síochána support and foster a number of crime prevention measures which have direct value for residents of local communities. The Neighbourhood Watch Scheme which was established in 1985 by the Garda Síochána as a crime prevention measure for urban areas. There are approximately 2,600 Neighbourhood Watch schemes in operation throughout the country. Since its establishment, the Garda authorities have sought to encourage the active participation of the public in Neighbourhood Watch by encouraging and supporting communities to establish and maintain such initiatives. An Garda Síochána has been a strategic partner in driving and supporting Neighbourhood Watch through its Community Relations Section and local Garda management and has deployed Crime Prevention Officers and Liaison Gardai to assist schemes. A strategic review of the Scheme by An Garda Síochana is currently nearing completion.

The Community Alert programme is a community based crime prevention initiative in rural communities which was set up by Muintir na Tíre in association with An Garda Síochána in 1985. It is a national movement with a network comprising of approximately 1,250 local Community Alert groups dedicated to improving the quality of life of people in rural communities who are vulnerable, in particular the elderly, by crime prevention, neighbourliness and self reliance, general community safety and well-being, accident prevention, promotion of personal safety, with an awareness of social inclusion. My Department has for some time funded the work of Development Officers working to expand and strengthen Community Alert.

I am strongly of the view that community organisations have, through their support and co-operation with the Garda Síochána an important role to play in crime prevention and the promotion of community safety, and I very much support the work in this area being carried out by Muintir na Tíre through Community Alert.

I recently determined priorities for the Garda Siochana for 2007 under section 20 of the Garda Siochana Act 2005. These priorities include:

an increase in public confidence in law enforcement through significantly increased high visibility policing in the community;

monitoring and improving response times to emergency calls while ensuring that persons reporting any crime are dealt with sympathetically and efficiently;

using the civilianisation process and the outsourcing of appropriate services to increase the number of Gardai on operational duties; and

taking effective steps to protect vulnerable people living in isolated areas.

I am 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 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, 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 its highest level ever.

The Garda Reserve will supplement the strength of the Garda Síochána in policing local communities and will be a valuable additional support for them. It will enhance its capacity to respond to emerging policing challenges and will reinforce its links with local communities.

Anti-Racism Measures.

David Stanton

Question:

33 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the role his Department has in working to reduce racism in society here; the way his Department interacts with the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism and the Equality Authority in relation to same; the progress of the National Action Plan against Racism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12962/07]

One of the key objectives of my Department is to promote a fair, tolerant and caring society. This includes the development of a broad framework of policies and measures to create and promote an inclusive society and to combat discrimination including racism.

In point of fact, Ireland is already to the fore in its promotion and protection of the principles of equality and freedom from discrimination as a result of the ground-breaking legislation which was enacted in this regard with the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000. This legislation prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination in the areas of employment and access to goods and services on nine grounds; gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the Traveller community.

Amendments to both these Acts were made in the Equality Act 2004 which gives effect in domestic law to Ireland's obligations as a member of the European Union to implement Community initiatives provided for under Council Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC, adopted under Article 13 of the EC Treaty, and Council Directive 2002/73/EC adopted under Article 141 of the treaty. These Directives, commonly known as the Equality Directives, provide for equal treatment on the grounds of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. There is, therefore, a broad legislative infrastructure in place under which discrimination can be dealt with.

There are also in place effective institutional structures, in the shape of the Equality Authority and the Equality Tribunal, to ensure effective implementation of the statutes. At a general level within society, it is the role of the Equality Authority to promote the awareness of the overall equality framework, of which anti-racism measures are a constituent part. The Authority works at many levels and with many bodies towards the elimination of racial discrimination within society. Furthermore, the Equality Tribunal is the main body for investigating and mediating on cases of discrimination and harassment.

Developing reasonable and common sense measures to accommodate cultural diversity in society and to combat racism are key ongoing priorities for the Government. Among the measures taken by the Government was the very successful "Know Racism" campaign which brought together representatives of Government, the Social Partners, Community, Voluntary and Farming sectors and key bodies such as the Equality Authority and the NCCRI and the Garda Síochana to raise awareness of racism and promote respect for diversity. This work continues, for example, in campaigns like the Anti-Racism Workplace Week which runs every November and is organised by the Equality Authority.

Arising from commitments given by the Government at the 2001 UN Conference Against Racism in Durban and reaffirmed in Sustaining Progress, the Taoiseach and I launched the National Action Plan Against Racism (NPAR) in January, 2005. The Plan provides strategic direction to combat racism and to develop a more inclusive, intercultural society in Ireland. The development of the Plan was preceded by a 12 month consultation process involving a wide range of stakeholders, including Government, the social partners, NGO's including representatives of minority ethnic groups and the travelling community. There are five primary objectives underpinning the NPAR:

Effective protection and redress against racism, including a focus on discrimination, threatening behaviour and incitement to hatred

Economic inclusion and equality of opportunity, Including focus on employment, the workplace and poverty

Accommodating diversity in service provision, including a focus on common outcomes, education, health, social services and childcare, accommodation and the administration of justice

Recognition and awareness of diversity, including a focus on awareness raising, the media and the arts, sport and tourism

Full participation in Irish society, including a focus on the political level, the policy level and the community level.

In relation to specific measures taken under the NPAR, I would refer the Deputy to my replies to Question No. 79 of 7 December, 2006 and Question No. 34 of 22 February, 2007.

The NPAR has received international recognition drawing praise from the United Nations Committee for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) in its Concluding Observations on Ireland's national report on the implementation of the UNCERD.

The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) was established in July 1998. The NCCRI is an independent body and is funded by my Department. The Committee provides a forum for Government departments, agencies and non-governmental organisations to develop a constructive dialogue on issues which arise in relation to opposing discrimination in our society. Its overall aim is to provide an ongoing structure to develop programmes and actions aimed at developing an integrated approach to anti-discrimination issues, particularly racism and to act in a policy advisory role to the Government. The NCCRI works proactively with Government in this area and has been a key partner in the development of the National Action Plan against Racism.

The Director of the NCCRI and Chief Executive of the Equality Authority are both members of the Strategic Monitoring Group for the NPAR.

I am satisfied that the policies and strategies in place are effective and take into account the considerable economic, social and cultural change that we have undergone and will continue to experience in the future.

Departmental Investigations.

Seán Ryan

Question:

34 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a report (details supplied); the main findings of the report; if he has not received the report, when he expects to do so; the reason for the delay in completing the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12926/07]

I can inform the Deputy that I have recently received the report of Mr Mellett into the death of Mr Douch and am in the process of studying its findings. In that context, I have been in consultation with the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions and am also considering their views on the matter.

Gender Pay Differentials.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

35 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to ensure full gender pay equality; the reason his work on this matter to date has failed; the action he is taking within his Department and its agencies to ensure that full gender pay equality exists; if an independent survey has been undertaken by his Department or any of its agencies on this subject; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8343/07]

It is generally acknowledged that the reasons behind the gender pay gap are varied and complex. Consequently the Government has adopted a multifaceted approach across a number of areas in order to address the closure of the pay gap.

The Consultative Group on Male / Female Wage Differentials, set up under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, was chaired by my Department and reported to Government in November 2003 on actions required to address the gender pay gap. Their research found that increased labour market participation by women was an important step in reducing the pay gap. The report contained a number of recommendations addressing a wide range of Government policies including:

taxation

statutory minimum wages

education and training and

the development of family friendly policies.

We have acted on these recommendations and the indications are that Ireland has made considerable progress in relation to the gender pay gap with a significant narrowing of the gap in recent years. Recently published Eurostat figures indicate the Irish gender pay gap to be 9%, which is well below the EU average of 15%. It compares well with many other countries including Germany (22%), the United Kingdom (20%) and Sweden (16%). While Eurostat note that the statistical survey from which the figures are extracted —Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) — are provisional and subject to further quality assessment, it is informative to note that the Irish gender pay gap has, according to Eurostat, fallen from 22% since 1999.

The recent reductions in the gap are attributable to a number of factors including;

the introduction and regular revision of the National Minimum Wage

the implementation of legislative provisions

the introduction of the Equal Opportunities Child-care Programme

part-individualisation of the taxation system

increases in child benefit payments and

the continued strength of the Irish economy and the underlying strong demand for labour.

My Department has provided funding of over €25m, under the Equality for Women Measure (EWM) in the National Development Plan 2000-2006, to more than 100 organisations for the delivery of positive action projects for women in their communities, in work, in decision making areas, in education and in training. The projects have included proposals aimed at addressing the glass ceiling (the barrier to career advancement) and horizontal segregation in the labour force.

To build on the work already done, funding of over €126 million is being provided under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 for measures to improve gender equality. The aim is to continue to address the need for measures to improve equality between men and women and to tackle educational and social barriers to women entering and progressing within the workforce with particular focus on disadvantaged women.

This multifaceted response which the Government is taking in addressing the gender pay gap will be developed further in the National Women's Strategy which I expect to publish very shortly. The Strategy's development was overseen by an Inter-Departmental Committee of Senior Officials, under the chairmanship of my Department and was the subject of a consultation process with the social partners. One of the Strategy's main objectives will be to reduce the gender pay gap.

With regard to research on this subject, I can inform the Deputy that other than the Consultative Group on Male/Female Wage Differentials, my Department has commissioned the ESRI to undertake a number of pieces of research on the gender pay gap. The first study in 1994 quantified for the first time the size of the gap across the whole economy. A further ESRI study in 2001, entitled ‘How Unequal', focussed on quantifying the gender pay gap at national level in Ireland and identified how it relates to patterns of labour market participation. The latest ESRI research, entitled "Degrees of Equality : Gender Pay Differentials among Recent Graduates", published in 2005, examined the gender pay gap among male and female graduates who had left third level education in 2001. The study suggested a need to focus on the processes of early career integration and career choices.

In an international context, my Department represents Ireland on a number of EU committees relating to gender matters which play an important role in researching the causes of the gender pay gap and in advising on measures to reduce it. In this regard, my Department led an EU project in 2001 – 2002 along with Northern Ireland, Sweden and Finland. Ireland's research, conducted by Indecon International Economic Consultants, described in detail the extent of the gender pay gap and gender segregation in the IT, Electrical and Electronic, Retail, Food, and Local Government sectors of the Irish economy.

As the Deputy will realise, the work of the Government and my Department in this complex matter has produced considerable success and I expect that with a continued focus on addressing the component causes of the gender pay gap we will continue to reduce it in the coming years.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

Liz McManus

Question:

36 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons given anti-social behaviour warnings since the new system came into operation on 1 January 2007; the number of anti-social behaviour orders sought in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12914/07]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 12 of today's date.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

37 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take following the recommendation from the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs that the Criminal Assets Bureau should be able to take possession of pubs and clubs in which drugs are repeatedly sold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12993/07]

The recommendation, which was made in a Report of the Committee published last month, along with the other recommendations made by the Committee which affect my Department, are being examined in my Department.

Telecommunications Interception.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

38 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if any member of Dáil or Seanad Éireann has or has had their telephones intercepted under the legislation in the past five years; if so, the number of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13037/07]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

126 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of communication interceptions made since the introduction of the legislation; if he will he provide the information listed on a yearly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13338/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 126 together.

The interception of telecommunications is governed by the provisions of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993.

It is not the practice and it would be contrary to the public interest to disclose details of any authorisations to intercept, including their number. I am sure that, on reflection, the Deputy will appreciate that that practice, which has been followed by my predecessors, arises for sound security reasons and that it would be regrettable for anyone to seek to take advantage of that to make suggestions for which there is no basis.

Prison Medical Service.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

39 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the delay in finding a replacement to fill the part-time psychologist position at the Midlands Prison which has been vacant since summer 2006, leaving one full time psychologist to cater for in excess of 450 prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12995/07]

The Irish Prison Service Psychology Service is currently at its highest ever level of staffing, with 16 posts filled. This represents nearly a 100% increase in the number of psychologists working in the IPS since 2002. A significant factor in this increase has been the broadening of the recruitment base of the service, to allow for the recruitment of counselling and forensic psychologists, as well as clinical psychologists, to the IPS.

Historically however, the Irish Prison Service has encountered great difficulty in filling psychology posts in certain geographical areas. One of these is the midlands area. Neither the recruitment competition undertaken by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) in June 2006, nor the subsequent competition, undertaken by the Prison Service in September 2006, seeking to recruit a psychologist to work on a contract basis, were successful in filling a post in the midlands area.

Given this situation, the Prison Service has had to consider alternative means of enhancing psychology service provision to the Midlands Prison. With this in mind, a Clinical Psychologist, who has recently taken up a post in Limerick Prison, will be providing an outreach service to the Midlands Prison commencing later this month. This will support the psychologist currently operating in the prison.

The experience of Midlands Prison is indicative of the tight labour market for psychologists in which the Prison Service continues to operate. In the market for psychologists the Prison Service is in competition with other public bodies when trying to attract recruits. Prison presents a very challenging environment to work in and understandably many psychologists prefer to work in less stressful settings. In light of the failure of both general and contract recruitment efforts for services to this particular prison the Director General of the Irish Prison Service is now considering alternative approaches for improving service levels there.

Prison Building Programme.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

40 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a recent newspaper report (details supplied) which says that a site adjacent to Thornton Hall was sold for around €100,000 per acre, approximately half the price paid for the Thornton Hall site; if he will confirm that this site was also short listed for the possible prison; the reason this site was rejected; his views on whether the Thornton Hall site represents value for the taxpayers money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12903/07]

A 120 acre site at Corrstown was one of a number of sites selected for a detailed examination and rejected by the Mountjoy Complex Replacement Site Committee which consisted of officials of the IPS, the Dept of Justice Equality and Law Reform, one of the Commissioners for Public Works and an outside valuer. The examination by consulting engineers led to its being rejected as being unsuitable for the development of a major prison complex. The road access was not acceptable for a prison development, the shape of the site was not compatible with the intended campus layout and the land was undulating and would require considerable excavation to allow for necessary development.

The Committee concluded the purchase of a site, that was not fit for purpose, would not have represented value for the taxpayer's money regardless of the price paid. The Thornton site in contrast is an excellent site which provides good value for the taxpayer.

No land that was suitable for a prison and which was nearer to Dublin was identified by the committee as available for purchase at a lesser price and no such land has, to the knowledge of the Department or the IPS changed hands at less than €200,000 per acre since the purchase of Thornton.

Garda Strength.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

41 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of An Garda Síochána, the number of juvenile liaison officers and the percentage of the Force this represents in respect of 2007 and each year since 2002; the reason there has been no increase in the number of JLO’s despite the increase in the overall strength of the Force; his plans to increase the number of JLOs in view of the proven success of their work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12930/07]

As the Deputy is aware the allocation and deployment of members of An Garda Síochána is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. In that context, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of An Garda Síochána as at 30 March 2007 was 13,173. I also understand that the Commissioner is making arrangements for the recruitment of an additional 28 Juvenile Liaison Officers over the period 2007-2010 inclusive.

The information sought by the Deputy is given below.

Year

Strength

No. of JLO’s

% of Total

2002

11,895

93

0.8

2003

12,017

93

0.8

2004

12,209

94

0.8

2005

12,259

95

0.8

2006

12,990

95

0.7

2007

13,173

95

0.7

In addition to this the National Juvenile Office has a staff of 1 Superintendent (Director of the Diversion Programme) 1 Inspector, 3 Sergeants and 1 Garda.

The Garda Commissioner has informed me that 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.

Departmental Investigations.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

42 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report he sought from the Garda authorities into the handling of a case (details supplied); the terms of reference of the inquiry he has asked to be carried out; when he expects to receive this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12909/07]

The substantial dossier handed over by legal representatives of the person central to the case referred to by the Deputy contains details of allegations of a substantial number of serious offences perpetrated against that person and other persons over a prolonged period.

The dossier has been carefully considered by officials in my Department. As part of that consideration it was forwarded to the Garda authorities for examination and report. The Garda authorities have now completed their examination and submitted a report to my Department.

I have considered this matter in the light of the report and the recent verdict of an inquest jury. As a consequence, I have asked Mr Patrick Gageby SC to conduct a review of the Garda files in this case, and he has agreed to do so.

Discussions are currently taking place between officials of my Department and Mr Gageby and the legal representatives of the person referred to on the terms of reference of the review. I expect to finalise the terms shortly and the review to get underway soon thereafter. I will be requesting a report as soon as possible.

Garda Strength.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

43 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recruits who have graduated from the Garda Training College as full Garda members since 6 June 2002; the number of gardaí who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the force since 6 June 2002; the number of fully qualified gardaí at the latest date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12931/07]

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.

I am further informed that a total of 3,440 recruits have been attested to the Force since 6 June, 2002. 2,031 members (all ranks) have resigned, retired or otherwise left An Garda Síochána since 6 June 2002.

Garda Deployment.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

44 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is intended to act on the recommendation made in the recent report of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs that Garda management should provide the optimum number of personnel needed in drug units at Garda district and divisional level to reflect the evolving drug markets and local drug prevalence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12917/07]

I can inform the Deputy that senior management from both An Garda Síochána and my Department report directly on an ongoing basis to my colleague Minister of State, Mr. Noel Ahern T.D. at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in relation to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the recent joint report of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and National Drug Strategy Team to which she refers.

As the Deputy will appreciate, policing operations and the deployment of Garda resources are matters for the Garda authorities. It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within divisions on a priority basis in accordance with overall policing requirements.

In December, 2006, as part of a package of anti-crime measures, I secured Government approval for the continuation of the existing Garda recruitment programme to achieve a total Garda strength of 15,000.

Additional Garda resources are coming on stream all the time, with an accelerated intake of approximately 1100 new recruits per annum into the Garda College which will continue until the target of 15,000 is met.

These additional resources will facilitate the Garda Commissioner in the allocation of additional manpower to areas most in need, including areas with a significant drug problem.

Human Rights Issues.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

45 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the Government’s continued resistance to signing and ratifying the Convention on Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12994/07]

The Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Enterprise, Trade and Employment have previously set out the Government's position in this matter in reply to previous Parliamentary Questions. The Government believes that it is not appropriate at this time for Ireland to become party to this UN Convention.

The Convention is a broad instrument covering many different fields and would require a significant commitment across Government Departments to implement legislation which would reflect the Convention's nuances on legal and illegal workers. The Convention covers such areas as authorisation to stay and to work, education, training and integration, family reunification, social security, transfer of income and taxation, housing, health and medical care and electoral matters.

My own Department is concerned that a significant portion of this UN Convention does not distinguish between legal and illegal, or documented and undocumented migrants. In effect the Convention obliges countries to provide entitlements to workers about whom they have no information and who have entered a state illegally. I would have grave concerns as to the effect of this provision on encouraging illegal immigration into this State, in spite of the perceived safeguard in Article 68. I would suggest to the Deputy that it is highly significant that no EU Member State has yet signed or ratified the Convention. Its provisions for combating illegal immigration, which effectively amount to only one article, are largely untested.

My Department is also mindful of the common travel arrangements with the UK and Ireland's position within the EU. In respect of the Common Travel Area, we would have serious concerns about entering into a largely untested international migration treaty which could have possible negative effects on illegal immigration flows between the two jurisdictions. Similarly we could not conceivably enter into a migration treaty to which none of our EU partners are party. Such an action may prejudice our position on participation in future EU migration policy initiatives, in particular those which may deal with illegal immigration.

The rights of legal migrant workers and their families are already comprehensively protected by existing legislation, the Constitution and existing international treaties to which the State is already party. I am not aware of any significant human rights deficit affecting migrant workers in Ireland which requires remedy by ratification of this UN Convention.

Domestic Violence.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

46 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a progress report on a promise made (details supplied) during a Sinn Féin Private Members’ business debate on domestic violence that the Government will establish a Domestic Violence Agency. [12980/07]

Taking into account the considerations of the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women and the Inter-Departmental Committee on the National Women's Strategy, arrangements are being made in my Department for the establishment of an Office to provide a co-ordinated "whole of Government" response to violence against women. The details regarding these arrangements will be announced shortly.

Garda Deployment.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

47 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the €3.85 million cost of security at Shannon Airport in 2006 was a justified burden for the Government to impose through its foreign policy choices on the Irish taxpayer. [12982/07]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that Garda policing arrangements at Shannon Airport in 2006 cost approximately €3.85 million, a figure which includes normal salaries.

The Garda Síochána is statutorily required to provide policing services for the State with the aim of preserving public order and protecting life and property. In this regard, Garda resources are allocated by the Commissioner, according to, inter alia, assessed threat, so it is the latter which ultimately determines the associated costs. In this context, the continuance of the ongoing policing arrangements at Shannon Airport are considered essential for the integrity of the airport itself and of both its employees and clients. In the circumstances, I do not accept the premise of the Deputy's question. Accordingly, I remain satisfied that Garda policing arrangements at Shannon Airport continue to be both necessary and appropriate.

Garda Inspectorate.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

48 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the report of the Garda Inspectorate on the study it carried out into the findings of the Barr Report on the shooting of Mr. John Carty; if the recommendations made in the report will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12908/07]

I welcome the Garda Síochána Inspectorate Review of Garda Síochána Practices and Procedures for Barricade Incidents. The review makes a significant contribution towards the enhancement of the capacity of the Garda Síochána to manage barricade incidents. In particular, it affords an opportunity to learn from the experience of the shooting at Abbeylara so that such deaths can, to the extent humanly possible, be avoided in the future.

The Garda Commissioner has also welcomed the report, and has already established an implementation group, headed by an Assistant Commissioner, to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.

The report acknowledges that considerable progress has been made by An Garda Síochána since the Abbeylara incident in 2000. Indeed, significant developments are currently under way on key issues in the report. In relation to digital radio, for example, implementation of the new digital radio service has already commenced and the preferred bidder is now installing the service in a large area in North Dublin to demonstrate the performance of the system. Over 2,500 protective vests, providing ballistic and anti-stab protection, have been issued to Gardaí in recent months. Distribution is continuing and every Garda will have this protection by the middle of this year. On tactical firearms training, 250 acres of land have been purchased near the Garda College at Templemore for this and other training purposes. A firing range will also be built as part of the new Forensic Science Laboratory at Garda Headquarters.

In the past week I secured Department of Finance sanction for the Commissioner to advertise for state-of-the-art modular live firing ranges that can be delivered within months. I understand that the Commissioner is drawing up urgent plans for a firing range at the major site recently acquired near Templemore for the new Garda centre of excellence.

The Garda Inspectorate recommended that a second tier response capability should be established for rapid deployment to critical incidents in regional areas pending the arrival and full deployment of the ERU. In this respect the Commissioner had already moved to form Regional Primary Response Teams for this purpose in each of the regions outside Dublin. These teams will be drawn from the existing Regional Public Order Units and the Gardaí involved will receive additional relevant training to fulfil this role.

With regard to the Inspectorate's recommendations on less lethal weapons, I have authorised the Commissioner to add Conductive Electric Devices (sometimes referred to as the brand name ‘TASER') to the less lethal weapons already available to the ERU for use where necessary to avoid the use of firearms. I have also authorised the availability to the new Regional Primary Response Teams of the three less lethal weapons already available, that is bean bag shot, pepper spray and pepper spray shot.

The Inspectorate recommended that pepper spray should be made available to all Gardaí on operational duty and the Garda Commissioner is currently assessing the operational case for such availability.

These and other developments will substantially develop the capacity of the Garda Síochána to respond to barricade incidents, but clearly the questions raised by the Abbeylara incident require the comprehensive implementation of all of the recommendations of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. The Garda Commissioner has committed himself to this, and implementation is under way.

Violence Against Women.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

49 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will publish the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women’s strategic plan; the groups involved in drafting this plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12935/07]

My Department commissioned consultants to draw up a new strategic action plan to guide the work of the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women (NSC). The consultants commissioned to draw up the plan were Centre for Corporate Community. The NSC also set up it's own Advisory Body, comprising NSC members, to provide them with guidance on the Strategic Plan.

The draft strategic plan was considered by the NSC at it's meeting on 21st February, 2007. The Advisory Body raised a number of concerns regarding the plan and it was agreed that the plan required further consideration by the NSC.

When the NSC has completed its deliberations, a decision will be made regarding publication of the plan.

Prison Accommodation.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

50 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the efforts being made to alleviate the ongoing problems of overcrowding in Cork Prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12996/07]

The total number of prisoners in custody on 2 April, 2007 was 3,283 compared with a bed capacity of 3,416. This represents an occupancy level of 96%.

The prison system is, of course, subject to peaks and troughs. Numbers are particularly high when the courts are at their busiest, giving rise to a high number of committals. This is not unusual at this time of year. As a result, almost all of the closed institutions, including Cork Prison, come under pressure. In order to address this problem, the Irish Prison Service approves regular transfers out of affected prisons to other locations in order to prevent unacceptable occupancy levels.

In the long term, the Deputy will be aware of my intention to replace Cork Prison with a new facility in the Munster area, which will make a substantial contribution to addressing accommodation issues for prisoners in the province.

Garda Equipment.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

51 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason it has taken a total of six years to reach the point whereby the Tetra consortium have been awarded the tender to pilot the national digital radio system for An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12986/07]

The new Digital Radio Service for An Garda Síochána is currently being implemented. This is a nationwide system that will be used by An Garda Síochána and by the other emergency services. It will enable instant and secure communications not only between Garda members but also with the emergency services, and where necessary with the PSNI. It will also provide Gardaí with a key safety feature – the ability to summon assistance at the push of a button and identify the location of that person.

Following the completion of the Garda pilot which confirmed that a specific technology being tested — Tetra — was suitable for the Force, the Garda Authorities prepared a detailed business case with various procurement options for nationwide deployment of a digital radio system for the Force. In consultation with the Department of Finance it was decided to both broaden the scope of the project to include the other emergency services and also to procure the service by way of an outsourced service provision model. I believe the approach adopted of using the outsourced service provision model is the best approach in ensuring value for money for the project as it has the effect of spreading the cost across the various Government organisations. Once these decisions were taken, specifications of requirements covering all emergency services were drawn up including specification of the functionality required, detailed coverage required including in-building and outdoor coverage, vehicular and sea and air support coverage. A tender competition in accordance with EU procurement law was then carried out and a preferred bidder — Tetra Ireland — has been selected.

I am on record as saying that the process has taken much longer than I would have liked. However, I think the Deputy will agree that a service providing Gardaí and other emergency services with critical support, sometimes in life or death situations, is important to get right. The process of implementation is now underway and while the exact timeframe for rollout will be subject to contract negotiations and successful completion of an initial phase of the project, it will be completed within a 2 year timeframe. Indications from the preferred bidder are that rollout will be achieved in a shorter timeframe and as the rollout progresses and radio coverage is available, Garda Divisions will migrate onto the new service.

Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Jack Wall

Question:

53 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount paid out either in respect of court awards or out of court settlements for claims taken against members of the Garda in respect of assault, unlawful arrest, or other breach of a citizens right in respect of each year since 2002 to date in 2007; the number of cases in which awards were made by the courts; the number of cases which were settled out of court; the number of such cases pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12933/07]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to Court awards and out of court settlements in actions taken against members of An Garda Síochána in respect of assault, unlawful arrest or other breaches of citizens' rights is set out in the following table in this answer.

As of 31st December, 2003, there were approximately 750 civil actions taken against members of An Garda Síochána on hand. A detailed breakdown of these actions in the form of the number of allegations of assault, unlawful arrest and other breaches of citizens' rights is not readily available. However, a database introduced in 2002 for the purposes of recording civil actions taken against members of An Garda Síochána, indicates that in 2003 — the first complete year for which a detailed breakdown is available — of the 142 actions initiated or received in that year by my Department, there were 34 cases of alleged assault recorded and 38 cases of alleged unlawful arrest recorded. The remaining 70 cases recorded included allegations of defamation and harassment. In 2004, 127 actions were initiated/received. They included 40 cases of alleged assault and 26 cases of alleged unlawful arrest. In 2005, 109 actions were initiated/received. They include 46 cases of alleged assault and 18 cases of alleged unlawful arrest. In 2006, 139 actions were initiated/received. They included 46 cases of alleged assault and 24 cases of alleged unlawful arrest. In 2007 to date, 38 actions have been initiated/received which includes 11 cases of alleged assault and 6 cases of unlawful arrest.

Civil actions may be taken by the general public against the State for compensation for alleged wrongs and personal injuries inflicted on them by Garda members in the performance of their duties. Since the introduction of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 the plaintiff no longer needs to name the individual garda in question. The highest percentage of these types of civil actions against An Garda Síochána is in relation to assault and unlawful arrest. The majority of these cases have been settled for less than €25,500. Settlement of cases takes place on the advice of the Chief State Solicitor, the Attorney General and State Counsel.

The Garda Commissioner has informed me that incidents which result in claims against the State in respect of the actions of Gardaí are examined as appropriate with a view to identifying and implementing operational strategies to eliminate or reduce similar claims in the future. The Garda Commissioner has also informed me that the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 1989 are invoked in appropriate cases where the actions of individual Garda members come into question.

Claims by Civilians following actions by Gardaí in the performance of their duties

Year

(Total Amount)

Assault

Unlawful Arrest

Other

2002

1,240,388.40

Awards

1,270.00 (1)

3,809.21 (1)

56,500.00 (2)

Settlements

166,924.48 (6)

106,835.58 (10)

185,078.82 (11)

Costs

230,769.67

148,714.19

340,486.45

Total

398,964.15

259,358.98

582,065.27

2003

1,276,127.55

Awards

11,000.00 (1)

10,000.00 (2)

4,870.00 (2)

Settlements

75,000.00 (4)

303,011.00 (5)

112,814.84 (4)

Costs

145,561.70

71,794.28

542,075.73

Total

231,561.70

384,805.28

659,760.57

2004

938,799.09

Awards

15,000.00 (1)

3,215.06 (1)

Settlements

198,697.48 (5)

73,007.00 (5)

50,500.00 (3)

Costs

231,646.62

100,019.36

266,713.57

Total

445,344.10

173,026.36

320,428.63

2005

4,870,233.53

Awards

1,000.00 (1)

2,025,321.00 (3)

85,125.00 (2)

Settlements

130,250.00 (7)

1,569,114.00 (9)

58,000.00 (2)

Costs

137,447.90 (10)

658,508.78 (10)

205,466.85 (15)

Total

268,697.90

4,252,943.78

348,591.85

2006

1,951,984.94*

Awards

18,076.32 (1)

41,443.80 (3)

Settlements

386,200.00 (17)

622,000 (15)

606,500.00 (8)

Costs

187,797.28 (11)

60,983.61 (10)

28,983.93 (3)

Total

592,073.60

724,427.41

635,483.93

2007 as at 30/03/07

513,297.28*

Awards

72,500.00 (1)

70,000.00 (1)

Settlements

126,500.00 (3)

8,500.00 (2)

75,000.00 (3)

Costs

53,514.55 (3)

57,432.04 (3)

49,850.69 (5)

Total

252,514.55

65,932.04

194,850.69

*(Provisional).

The number of cases settled / or awards by the Courts are shown in brackets
Question No. 54 answered with QuestionNo. 21.

Garda Disciplinary Proceedings.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

55 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position, in regard to the new draft Garda Discipline Regulations, which he originally said would be introduced prior to the Dáil Éireann summer recess in 2006 of their consideration by the Garda Conciliation Council; when it is expected that the new regulations will be in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12929/07]

The new draft regulations have been put into the Garda Conciliation Council for discussion with the Garda Representative Associations and, in recognition of the fundamental changes now proposed, I have made available additional time beyond the original target date of the Summer recess. I am informed that the Garda Representative Associations have engaged positively in those discussions. I expect that the discussions can be concluded quickly and effectively, and I look forward to bringing final proposals to Government for approval in the coming weeks.

Garda Communications.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

56 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations that are equipped with broadband; the number of Garda stations that are equipped with e-mail facilities; if e-mail facilities are restricted to use by a certain rank of Garda; if so, the rank and the reason the restriction applies; if there are plans to introduce broadband and e-mail facilities to all stations and ranks in view of the usefulness of such services in transmitting digital images, scanned documents and so on; if his Department has considered the status of broadband access and e-mail use in other European police services when considering its position on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12846/07]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the Garda Wide Area Network (WAN) is used to deliver access to the Garda Information System (GIS) which includes, inter alia, access to PULSE, the Garda National Immigration Bureau Systems and Email. The Garda WAN provides network performance levels equivalent to that available via broadband service providers and where the extension of the Garda WAN to specific stations is not economically viable, broadband technology (where this is available) is utilised by the Garda Authorities. Access to the GIS is currently available in over 320 locations.

All Gardaí have access to internal email facilities via the GIS. Access to external email is available to all Gardaí from the rank of Inspector upwards. External email is also made available to Sergeants, Gardaí and civilian staff as operational needs require. I am further informed by the Garda Authorities that a pilot exercise is currently underway to assess how best to maximise the use and facilities of email by the Force.

An Garda Síochána constantly monitor developments in policing methods in jurisdictions across the EU through their involvement in peer group meetings and international policing organisations.

Drugs in Prisons.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

57 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether prisoners who are on methadone maintenance programmes before they start their prison sentence are adequately catered for in prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7696/07]

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

Those who have begun to tackle addiction prior to imprisonment will continue to receive support during their time in prison. For those who enter prison with addiction problems, the time spent in prison is an opportunity to deal decisively with both their addiction and offending behaviour. For a number of years it has been Irish Prison Service Healthcare policy, in consultation and liaison with community treatment agencies, that people entering prison on a recognised methadone maintenance programme, should continue on such treatment while remaining in prison, as long as this remains a clinically indicated course. As outlined above the policy currently being rolled out envisages further development in the range of therapeutic avenues available to prisoners to address their substance misuse. Specific developments include:

A tender for 24 Addiction Counsellors to cover all Prisons has been awarded to Merchants Quay Ireland and Counsellors are already coming on stream. This will, in conjunction with other developments, lead to an increase of nearly 1000 hours per week of prisoner access to addiction counselling.

7 Nurse Officers and 5 Prison Officers have been allocated to Dedicated Drug Treatment Teams in prisons with significant needs; this will improve service quality in prisons which receive a large number of prisoner committals with addictions.

The Dormant Accounts Fund has provided funding for 4 community groups to provide addiction counselling and support to prisoners while in prison and on release in the community, this will build on their success in becoming drug free in prison when the prisoner returns to the community.

Additional Consultant in Addiction and Registrars Prisons Sessions have been established and resourced, significantly improving the quality, coordination and availability of drug treatment in prisons.

A Consultant led Infectious Disease Service has been contracted from St James' Hospital to provide treatments to prisoners who suffer from these disease. It is hoped to expand this service to other sites, and a

Tender for Dedicated Drug Treatment Pharmacy Services will issue this month, again supporting improved quality and availability of treatment services.

The policy envisages a multifaceted approach towards tackling the problems associated with substance misuse in the prison environment. There is particular focus on the need to assist prisoners who indicate a serious desire to tackle their drug problem and the policy states that appropriate treatment for substance misuse related problems should be available regardless of where a prisoner is located.

I have obtained significant extra resources to facilitate this and the policy is in the process of being rolled out on a phased basis. While it is intended that any treatment which is clinically indicated as being appropriate and necessary should be available to prisoners this provision will require the coordinated input and co-operation of various agencies, both internal and external. In particular it will require the co-operation of relevant community agencies to ensure the continuity of such treatment on release.

Garda Investigations.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

58 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in the Garda investigation into recent allegations that a 14 year old boy in the Dublin area had been sexually abused by a number of men; if the Garda investigation has been concluded; if a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12912/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the incidents referred to are under investigation and on completion of this investigation a file will be submitted to the Law Officers. As the Garda investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Garda Deployment.

Willie Penrose

Question:

59 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí currently assigned to community policing; if he will confirm that this represents less than 4% of the overall strength of the force; his plans to increase the number of community gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12921/07]

Community Policing is a central feature of current policing policy and members of Community policing units are encouraged to engage with the local communities where they are assigned. Current policing policy is predicated on the prevention of public order offences; the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of a quality policing service. All Gardaí have a responsibility, inter alia, to be involved in Community Policing issues as they arise. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the total strength (all ranks) of dedicated Community Gardaí as at 29 March 2007 was 521, i.e. 4% of the overall strength of the Force. The total personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána as at 29 March 2007 was 13,172. This represents a percentage of 3.95% of the total strength of the Force.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that it is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his/her Division. Garda Personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

60 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied at the extent to which persons involved in gun crime including homicides have been detected, charged and sentenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12998/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all incidents of crime involving firearms are subject to a rigorous investigation. The identification of all evidence available is a key element of the investigation and prosecution process. I am assured that all resources necessary, including national specialist units, are deployed in the investigation process.

When such an investigation is completed an investigation file is prepared for consideration by the Law Officers who direct what charges, if any, are to be preferred against those suspected of being involved in the commission of the crime. Every effort is made to ensure that all suspected offenders are prosecuted but prosecutions can only be taken where the evidence sustains the taking of a prosecution.

All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation by An Garda Síochána. While the term "gangland murders" tends to be widely used in the media in referring to the nature of certain unlawful killings and speculation in this respect is understandable, it does not reflect the manner in which An Garda Síochána classifies crime or particular offences. Caution is necessary in ascribing particular motives to any particular incident as, potentially, this might jeopardise the procedures which need to be followed for the proper investigation and prosecution of offences.

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

Under the Operation, 74 arrests have been made in connection with murder and 914 in connection with serious assaults. There have been 643 firearms seized or recovered and 26,497 searches for drugs.

The personnel strength of the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation has been augmented to address the problem of organised criminal activity. Enforcement by the Unit has resulted in arrests, seizure of firearms and substantial quantities of drugs and the disruption of criminal activities.

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

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

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

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

The recruitment of the seven senior civilian posts recommended by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and Senator Maurice Hayes;

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

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

No limit on funds available for the Witness Protection Programme.

As a result of the Criminal Justice Bill 2007 which is currently before the Oireachtas the law enforcement agencies will be in a much better position to ensure that those involved in gun crime will be made accountable for their actions.

I would also like to inform the Deputy that I regularly meet the Garda Commissioner regarding all policing matters in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling crime under continued review.

Garda Inspectorate.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

61 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in implementing the recommendation of the recent report of the Garda Inspectorate, published on 7 November 2006; if a timetable has been set for the implementation of these recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12923/07]

Very significant progress has been made since November 2006 with regard to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report referred to by the Deputy. I can confirm that an additional Deputy Commissioner was appointed in charge of Strategy and Change Management on the 17th January 2007 and preparations are at an advanced stage to commence the recruitment of a civilian Chief Administration Officer in An Garda Síochána, at a grade equivalent to Deputy Commissioner. The positions of Assistant Commissioner — Professional Standards Unit and Assistant Commissioner — Strategy will be filled in the near future once the interview process has been completed.

An Garda Síochána is also in the process of recruiting senior civilian managers as Head of Media and Public Relations and Directors of Change Management, Human Resources and Information Technology. A model of succession planning for senior members of An Garda Síochána is also being developed as recommended.

A dedicated Human Resource Directorate has been established within An Garda Síochána to serve the needs of the 2,000 clerical, administrative, professional, technical and industrial staff already working in An Garda Síochána and to promote an extensive programme of civilianisation.

In addition to these measures, significant progress is being made on recruitment to a range of key specialised civilian posts. Candidates have been short-listed for interview for 31 new civilian posts in the Garda Telecommunications area and candidates have been invited to interview for the three senior posts for the new civilian Crime Analysis Service, which will have a complement of 29 Analysts.

There is currently a campaign underway to recruit 300 civilian support staff into An Garda Síochána to release Gardai who are employed on clerical administrative duties to operational duties. This process is well underway and interviews are currently being held by the Public Appointments Service to recruit these Clerical Officers. Since the beginning of 2007, 93 Clerical Officers have been appointed to An Garda Síochána. A further 46 have been offered a Clerical Officer post.

On foot of the recommendations contained in this report a new organisational structure has been designed for An Garda Síochána and a transition process to enable the implementation of the new organisational structure has commenced.

The report also recommends a proposed new senior management structure of three Deputy Commissioners (one of whom would be a civilian). Another report produced by the Advisory Group on Garda Síochána Management recommended the creation of a Board of Management chaired by the Commissioner with three Deputy Commissioners (one of whom would also be a civilian). I have addressed these recommendations in the drafting of the Criminal Justice Bill 2007, which is currently before the House. Section 38 of the Bill inserts a new Chapter 3A into the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to provide for the establishment and functions of a such a Board, i.e, a Garda Síochána Executive Management Board. The Board will consist of executive members and three non-executive members. The executive members will be the Garda Commissioner as chairperson, the Deputy Garda Commissioners and a member of the civilian staff of the Garda Síochána, at a grade equivalent to that of a Deputy Garda Commissioner.

The three non-executive members will be appointed by the Government on the nomination of the Minister. They will be persons with expertise in the strategic and financial management of organisations, the management of their human resources or their planning and review functions, or persons with other relevant experience. The non-executive members will serve in an advisory capacity, providing advice in relation to annual policing plans, budgetary matters, allocation of resources, technology and equipment, setting of targets, training, development and leadership and other related matters.

The function of the Board will be to keep under review the performance by the Garda Síochána of its functions and the arrangements and strategies in place to support and enhance the performance of those functions. The Board will also keep under review the corporate governance arrangements and structures within the Garda Síochána, the arrangements for recruitment, training and development and the mechanisms for the measurement of performance and accountability.

The Board will supply reports on the performance of its functions at six-monthly intervals to the Minister and they will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

Data Protection.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

62 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm that more than 10,000 requests were made by the Garda during 2006 under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 for access to personal telephone records; his views on the view of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner that such a number of applications suggests that innocent people are having their private records pored over; the breakdown of the requests submitted in regard to those arising from investigations into terrorist offences, drugs offences and other serious offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12902/07]

The retention of and access to telecommunications traffic and location data are governed by the provisions of Part 7 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005. It is not the practice and it would be contrary to the public interest to disclose the details of data access requests, including their number or the types of offences to which they relate.

I do not accept — and, in fact, categorically reject — any suggestion that the provisions of the 2005 Act are being improperly used or that innocent persons have reason to fear for their privacy by virtue of the operation of that Act.

It is important to bear in mind that requests by the Garda Síochána for access to call data — and I emphasise that this does not involve access to the content of telephone calls — are made in the context of investigations into criminal activity. In this regard, Part 7 of the 2005 Act provides that data access requests to telecommunications service providers may only be made for the purposes of:

the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of crime; or

the safeguarding of the security of the State.

The Garda Síochána makes such requests only where these conditions apply. Furthermore, these requests are filtered by senior Garda officers before the telecommunications service providers are requested to disclose the data; not all requests by investigating Gardaí result in requests to the telecommunications service providers. It should also be noted that Garda investigations into murders, gun-related crime, so-called 'tiger' kidnappings and drug-related crime tend to generate large volumes of requests, as do investigations into nuisance, obscene or threatening telephone calls.

Finally, Part 7 of the 2005 Act introduced for the first time robust accountability arrangements and counter-balancing safeguards to protect personal data. These arrangements include a statutory complaints procedure overseen by a Judge of the Circuit Court, as well as a statutory oversight procedure overseen by a Judge of the High Court.

Garda Strength.

Willie Penrose

Question:

63 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda Reserve at the latest date for which figures are available; the number he expects will be in place by 1 June 2007; when he expects that the promised full complement of 1,500 will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12922/07]

Ivor Callely

Question:

119 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of personnel in the Garda Reserve force; the progress to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13296/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 119 together.

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

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

Training for the third group of 35 trainees commenced on 3rd March 2007 and it is expected that they will be attested in June. It is also expected that further groups of Reserve trainees will commence training on a monthly basis. By June of this year there will be three groups of trainees who will have been attested, consisting of up to 123 members.

Further interviews were held in recent weeks for applicants throughout the country and interviews have now taken place in each of the 26 counties. Further interviews will take place over the coming weeks and months.

As the nature of the Reserve is that participation is purely voluntary, I cannot definitively say what any particular future monthly intake of volunteers will be, or exactly when the overall target of 1,500 members will be met. Garda Reserve trainees have work, family and other commitments which they will have to balance with their service with An Garda Síochána. An Garda Síochána is offering maximum flexibility in this regard to accommodate those who wish to put themselves forward for service.

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

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

Garda Investigations.

Ivor Callely

Question:

64 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to fraudulent Internet schemes such as PIPS; the mechanisms in place to address such abuse of the Internet; the need for cross-Department co-operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12842/07]

I have been advised by the Garda Authorities that to date, a total of 15 complaints have been received at Kells Garda Station in relation to the operation of a People in Profit System (PIPS). The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is assisting in the investigation of these complaints. Gardai have made enquiries with the Malaysian Authorities and are awaiting a response.

An Garda Síochána has 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", a term used to describe the theft or attempted theft of personal information using e-mail and bogus web sites. It is a relatively recent phenomenon.

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 been established with all relevant stakeholders including An Garda Síochána, the Financial Services Industry and the Banking Sector. This Forum facilitates the rapid dissemination of information related to "phishing" and other methods being used to compromise banking services. Victims of "phishing" are advised by An Garda Síochána and the industry to report any such activity immediately to An Garda Síochána for investigation. Every assistance to recover monies is given by An Garda Síochána to injured parties and their representatives.

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

An Garda Síochána, through the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, has participated in a number of initiatives by various Government Departments and the Financial Institutions which have as their primary aim the raising of public awareness of this type of criminality. These include:

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

The ‘MakeITSecure' Programme, in conjunction with the Department of Communications, 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.

National Drugs Strategy.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

65 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the continued rise in the use of cocaine reported by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs; if the Garda is taking new steps to halt the spread of cocaine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12916/07]

The Government is fully aware of and views with concern the increased prevalence of cocaine usage in recent times in Ireland as is identified in the recent joint report by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the National Drugs Strategy Team.

Efforts to tackle the problem are broadly based under the Government's National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 and include measures aimed at both supply and demand reduction, including awareness initiatives.

This Department's remit under the Strategy, although not exclusively, is primarily in relation to drug supply reduction.

This increasing use of cocaine is, of course, a matter of concern and the Garda authorities have taken a number of measures to address the problem on the supply reduction side.

The Garda National Drugs Unit and local drugs units conduct intelligence-driven operations to target individuals suspected of involvement in the distribution of cocaine.

Drug units and community policing personnel are engaged in intelligence gathering on individuals and groups suspected of involvement in the sale and distribution of the drug. There is also targeted patrolling by uniform and plain-clothes personnel of problem areas in order to detect and disrupt persons involved in such activity.

Garda strategies for dealing with drug offences are designed to undermine the activities of organised criminal networks involved in the trafficking and distribution of illicit drugs.

These strategies include:

gathering intelligence on individuals and organisations involved in the distribution of drugs (including the support structures underpinning this activity);

conducting targeted operations on criminal networks based on intelligence gathered;

working in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies both within and outside the jurisdiction to address the national as well as international aspects of drug trafficking and distribution.

National units, such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation all have specific roles in reducing drug supply and seizing the ill-gotten gains of drug traffickers. All of these units operate under the direction of the Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services.

These strategies continue to result in operational successes as evidenced by the ongoing high levels of drugs being seized by the Gardai. The trafficking and distribution of all illicit drugs, including cocaine, at local, national and international levels is constantly monitored by the Gardaí.

Sentencing Policy.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

66 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will facilitate the introduction of sentencing guidelines for the Judiciary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12985/07]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

70 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if in view of the serious public concern regarding the imposition of a three-year suspended jail sentence in a rape case, he has plans for the introduction of sentencing guidelines for persons convicted of such serious crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12911/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 70 together.

I cannot comment on individual cases. However, the following are my general remarks on sentencing.

The question of consistency in sentencing and the appropriateness of sentences in particular cases is undoubtedly an issue which raises concerns from time to time. The Courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. As the Deputies will be aware the traditional approach to sentencing is for the Oireachtas to lay down the maximum penalty appropriate to a particular offence and for the courts having considered all the circumstances of the case, to impose an appropriate penalty up to that maximum. This approach reflects the doctrine of the separation of powers. The Executive lays down the possible punishment range but it is for the Courts to decide the punishment to be applied to the offender taking account of the seriousness of the crime and all the circumstances of the case and of the offender. There is a small number of situations, however, where statute has intervened to create exceptions to this approach. To add to those exceptions I have provided in the Criminal Justice Bill 2007 for mandatory minimum sentences of at least three quarters of the maximum sentence permissible under the law where a person who has been convicted of a "scheduled offence" (a list of specified offences typically associated with organised crime) re-offends within 7 years of release from prison. In order for this provision to apply the conviction for the first offence must have been on indictment and must have attracted a sentence of at least 5 years imprisonment. Where the second offence carries a potential maximum of life imprisonment, a sentence of at least 10 years must be imposed.

During my Second Stage speech on the Criminal Justice Bill, I made my views on sentencing clear to the House. My preference lies in the development of an effective sentencing jurisprudence from the courts themselves and I reiterate my strong view that collectively and individually the independence of the judiciary is an important value which is enhanced rather than damaged by collective measures taken by the judiciary to ensure consistency, rationality and coherence in sentencing.

As regards consistency in sentencing, the Deputy should be aware that section 36 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act, 1961 makes provision for meetings of District Court Judges to discuss, inter alia, the avoidance of undue divergence in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Court and the general level of fines and penalties. While there is no similar statutory provision in the case of other Courts, it is understood they hold similar meetings.

For my part, the Courts and Court Officers Act, 1995 enables me, as Minister, to provide funds for judicial training courses arranged by the judiciary. In this regard, funds are made available to the Judicial Studies Institute, which was established by the Chief Justice for the purposes of judicial training. I understand that the issue of sentencing has been examined by the Institute in the context of its training programme.

The complex question of sentencing policy was addressed at length by the Law Reform Commission in 1996 in a Report which specifically recommended against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines. Their Report pointed out a number of differences of opinion among members of the Commission in relation to some of the recommendations in the Report which tends to underline the obvious complexities which arise in relation to sentencing policy.

I should also mention that under the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, the Director of Public Prosecutions may, where it appears to him that a sentence imposed on indictment is unduly lenient, apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal to review the sentence. The issue of extending the power to the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal against lenient sentences in serious cases before the District Court was referred by the Attorney General to the Law Reform Commission for consideration. The Law Reform Commission report of November 2006 recommends that it is not appropriate to confer such a power at this time but noted that this is a matter which should be kept under review.

A very significant step in the area of sentencing was the decision by the Board of the Courts Service to establish a Steering Committee to plan for and provide a sentencing information system. The Committee, which is composed of four members of the Judiciary and an academic expert, reviewed systems of this nature around the world and decided to establish a pilot project in the Circuit Court in Dublin. I understand that two researchers have begun to collect and collate information on sentencing outcomes in cases on indictment in designated courts in accordance with criteria specified by the Committee.

The objectives of the project are to:

identify criteria and other information employed by the judiciary in sentencing for particular offence types in criminal proceedings,

record and retrieve such information in individual cases,

design and develop a database to store the information retrieved and enable its retrieval in accordance with various search criteria,

share or disseminate the information, utilising information and communications technology, via a judges' intranet or other means, and

assemble appropriate material on sentencing for a benchbook and website.

The work of the committee is still under way and I look forward to seeing the outcome of the research. It is right that we have a systemic form of information as a reference point for Judges.

Violence Against Women.

Jack Wall

Question:

67 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has communicated with the NDVIA on his Department’s ongoing review of the work of the NDVIA; when this review will be completed; when he will make a decision on the long-term funding of the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12934/07]

My Department is in the process of completing its examination of the final report of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency (NDVIA) on its pilot project.

Following delivery of the report, my Department, in consultation with the NDVIA, made available further funding for the project on an interim basis. However, the Deputy will appreciate that no decision can be made on funding for the longer term, until the review has been completed.

A related matter is that arrangements are being made in my Department for the establishment of an Office to promote a co-ordinated "whole of Government" response to violence against women. The details regarding these arrangements will be announced shortly, and the form that the response takes will substantially shape national policy in the area for the future.

Legislative Programme.

John Gormley

Question:

68 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his proposals for an Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill will include a marriage bar for certain foreign nationals who wish to marry each other or Irish and EU or EEA citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12987/07]

The Scheme for the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill which I published in September 2006 contains provisions regulating marriage of foreign nationals in the State. It is incorrect to represent this as a "marriage bar": it is a regulatory process.

Immigration Controls.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

69 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation with arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania, including the number of people who have arrived from each country; if data is being collected on the purpose and dispersal of these new arrivals; and the procedures in place to integrate these new arrivals and the services that are available to them. [13039/07]

I assume the Deputy is referring to arrivals since 1 January 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union. In terms of immigration procedures and controls, all European Union citizens coming to Ireland, including Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, are covered by the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) (No.2) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 656 of 2006). Those Regulations transposed into Irish law the European Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

In summary, the Regulations mean that visa requirements will no longer apply to Bulgarian and Romanian nationals and they will be able to enter the State on production of their passport and/or national identity card and they may reside here for up to 3 months without conditions. That is the situation which applies to all EU citizens. After 3 months, any EU citizen in the State must be either;

in lawful employment or

self-employed; or

enrolled on a course of study or vocational training and have comprehensive sickness insurance; or,

be self-sufficient and have comprehensive sickness insurance.

The only restriction on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, in contrast with other EU citizens, is that in accordance with the Government's decision of 24 October 2006 they continue to require employment permits in order to participate in the Irish labour market unless they were already granted the right to work here for an uninterrupted period of 12 months or longer and availed of that right, or are otherwise exempt.

The Regulations do not provide for the registration of EU citizens with the immigration authorities i.e. the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service or the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Consequently, data are not available on the number of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, or other EU citizens, arriving in the State.

In terms of integration and services, it should be noted that Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are present in the State on the same basis as other EU citizens, apart from the labour market restriction. EU citizens to whom the Free Movement Regulations apply can carry on in a self-employed capacity, any business, trade or profession, have access to training and education in the State and are generally entitled to receive the same medical care and services on a like basis with Irish citizens.

Question No. 70 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Garda Investigations.

Séamus Pattison

Question:

71 Mr. Pattison asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda has concluded its investigations, initiated as a result of a complaint made by the Secretary General of his Department, into the alleged leaking of a draft copy of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Dean Lyons case; if a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12905/07]

I have been advised by the Garda Commissioner that the Garda investigation into this matter is currently ongoing on conclusion of which, an investigation file will be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Anti-Racism Measures.

Seán Crowe

Question:

72 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the integration policy being prepared by the Reception and Integration Agency; when it will be made public; and the form it will take. [13038/07]

As in all countries, integration policy is constantly being developed and updated in line with changing demographics and the emerging challenges of multicultural societies. Building on the integration frameworks set out in the National Action Plan against Racism, integration policy is now being further developed to ensure that these challenges are fully met.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of which the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is a part, has intensified its policy development process and is involved in a range of ongoing strategic studies geared to informing policy development in this area.

These initiatives are being reinforced by a series of stakeholder dialogues taking place throughout this year. The first of these took place last February with a major conference on integration policy in Dublin Castle attended by a wide variety of Irish stakeholders and international experts.

In March of this year, the Government approved the establishment of a cross-Departmental group chaired by the Department of An Taoiseach to assist the INIS in carrying out a review of existing integration policy and to provide an initial assessment of future policy options. The group has already had its inaugural meeting and it is expected that an initial report will be submitted to Government within the next two months.

Pension Provisions.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

73 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a decision has been made on the request of Circuit Court Judge, Brian Curtin, for early retirement on health grounds under Section 6 of the Courts (Establishment and Constitution) Act 1961; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12925/07]

The former Judge Brian Curtin resigned as a Judge of the Circuit Court on 13 November 2006. Subsequent to his resignation, an application was made on his behalf for payment of pension on grounds of permanent infirmity. In accordance with standard public service procedures, the application was referred to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for consideration. The CMO has advised that the judge was incapable of discharging his duties and that his infirmity was likely to be permanent. Mr Curtin's solicitor has been informed that payment of retirement benefits has been authorised in accordance with the relevant provisions.

Garda Transport.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

74 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cars in the Garda fleet; the person who has the contract for maintenance of the fleet; if that contract has been evaluated against value for money; and if it is intended to purchase more Garda cars. [12981/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of cars in the Garda fleet at present is 1,631.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Fleet Management Section to develop policies which will ensure that vehicles are maintained in a proper roadworthy condition. The policy for maintenance of the fleet is, where feasible, to use main dealers for a particular make. This will ensure, as far as is possible, that the maintenance of the vehicle complies with standards set by the manufacturers.

I am further informed that the standard of servicing, cost and value for money are kept under constant review. A request for tenders for the maintenance of the Garda fleet is currently in the final stages of preparation and it is expected that tenders will be invited in the next couple of months.

The Garda Fleet is currently undergoing a major investment programme and an expansion in specific areas which will target organised crime, public order and traffic in particular. The total spend for 2006 on the purchase of 1,378 new vehicles to upgrade the fleet was €27.45 million resulting in the renewal of over half of the entire Garda fleet in just a single year. Further investment is planned for this year including the purchase of cars and additional motorbikes which will make a significant contribution to traffic law enforcement.

Garda Deployment.

Denis Naughten

Question:

75 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he is taking to improve rural policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12839/07]

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

Proposed Legislation.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

76 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the review of the Domestic Violence Act 1996; if he will publish amending legislation on domestic violence in this session; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12936/07]

While the operation of the law on the protection of persons in relationships, whether through the operation of the Domestic Violence Acts or otherwise, continues to be kept under review in my Department, I have no plans at present to amend the relevant legislation.

Domestic violence is a crime and, too often in our society, it is a hidden crime. Government policy fully recognises the need to punish offenders and to support and protect victims. It is for this reason that there is a very substantial range of law that can apply to violence in the home.

Comprehensive protection is afforded to victims of domestic violence in our civil and criminal law statutes, by means of: the Domestic Violence Acts 1996 and 2002; the Criminal Law (Rape) Amendment Act 1990; the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997; the Sex Offenders Act 2001; the Criminal Justice Act 2006 and; the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act 2006.

Garda Investigations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

77 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda Superintendent appointed to carry out an investigation into the circumstances in which the Gardaí failed to act on information supplied through Interpol from the Austrian authorities regarding the alleged involvement of people based here in a global child pornography ring, has been concluded; if it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12904/07]

As I informed the house in response to Priority Question No 2 of 22 February last a Garda Chief Superintendent has been appointed to carry out a fact finding investigation into the full circumstances of the failure to react to the Interpol communication and the subsequent Garda statement to the effect that such a document had not been received. In addition, the investigation is looking at measures to ensure that the very high volume of information received from international sources is handled effectively. As this investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Departmental Transport.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

78 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will ensure that the Ministerial and Government fleet are converted to environmentally friendly and more fuel efficient alternatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11339/07]

State cars are placed at the disposal of Government Ministers, and others, pursuant to a long standing arrangement and are supplied to the following: The President, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, 13 Government Ministers, the Chief Whip, the Ceann Comhairle, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chief Justice, former Taoisigh and Presidents.

The Ministerial fleet contains five hybrid — petrol and electric — cars at present. The requirements for the Ministerial fleet are subject to continuous review and assessment in order to ensure that the most suitable vehicles are purchased having regard not only to emissions and fuel efficiency, but also to the overall cost and bearing in mind the function of the vehicles and their suitability for the specific transport requirements.

Garda Management.

Mary Upton

Question:

79 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in implementing the recent report of An Garda Síochána Advisory Groups, published on 7 November 2006; if a timetable has been set for their implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12924/07]

Very significant progress has been made since November 2006 with regard to the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report referred to by the Deputy. I can confirm that an additional Deputy Commissioner was appointed in charge of Strategy and Change Management on the 17th January 2007 and preparations are at an advanced stage to commence the recruitment of a civilian Chief Administration Officer in An Garda Síochána, at a grade equivalent to Deputy Commissioner.

An Garda Síochána is also in the process of recruiting senior civilian managers as Head of Media and Public Relations and Directors of Change Management, Human Resources and Information Technology. A model of succession planning for senior members of An Garda Síochána is also being developed as recommended.

A dedicated Human Resource Directorate has been established within An Garda Síochána to serve the needs of the 2,000 clerical, administrative, professional, technical and industrial staff already working in An Garda Síochána and to promote an extensive programme of civilianisation.

In addition to these measures, significant progress is being made on recruitment to a range of key specialised civilian posts. Candidates have been short-listed for interview for 31 new civilian posts in the Garda Telecommunications area and candidates have been invited to interview for the three senior posts for the new civilian Crime Analysis Service, which will have a complement of 29 Analysts.

There is currently a campaign under way to recruit 300 civilian support staff into An Garda Síochána to release gardaí who are employed on clerical duties to operational duties. This process is well under way and interviews are currently being held by the Public Appointments Service to recruit these Clerical Officers. Since the beginning of 2007, 93 Clerical Officers have been appointed to An Garda Síochána. A further 46 have been offered a Clerical Officer post.

The report also recommends the creation of a Board of Management chaired by the Commissioner with three Deputy Commissioners (one of whom would be a civilian). Section 38 of the Criminal Justice Bill 2007, which is currently before the House, inserts a new Chapter 3A into the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to provide for the establishment and functions of such a Board, i.e, a Garda Síochána Executive Management Board. The Board will consist of executive members and three non-executive members. The executive members will be the Garda Commissioner as chairperson, the Deputy Garda Commissioners and a member of the civilian staff of the Garda Síochána, at a grade equivalent to that of a Deputy Garda Commissioner.

The three non-executive members will be appointed by the Government on the nomination of the Minister. They will be persons with expertise in the strategic and financial management of organisations, the management of their human resources or their planning and review functions, or persons with other relevant experience. The non-executive members will serve in an advisory capacity, providing advice in relation to annual policing plans, budgetary matters, allocation of resources, technology and equipment, setting of targets, training, development and leadership and other related matters.

The function of the Board will be to keep under review the performance by the Garda Síochána of its functions and the arrangements and strategies in place to support and enhance the performance of those functions. The Board will also keep under review the corporate governance arrangements and structures within the Garda Síochána, the arrangements for recruitment, training and development and the mechanisms for the measurement of performance and accountability. The Board will supply reports on the performance of its functions at six-monthly intervals to the Minister and they will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

80 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will use the powers available to him under Section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2003 to provide for the traceability of alcohol sold for consumption off premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12910/07]

The position is that section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 provides for the making of regulations specifying particulars which are adequate to enable the licensee and the licensed premises concerned to be identified to be affixed to containers in which alcohol is sold for consumption off licensed premises.

While the labelling of containers in which alcohol is sold with a view to combatting under-age consumption is an attractive idea, significant challenges would need to be overcome in order to render it effective in practice. These challenges arise under two headings.

Firstly, practical difficulties will be encountered where several individual containers are packaged together for sale, e.g. an enclosed six-pack of bottles; a plastic-wrapped tray of cans; or a nailed wooden box containing bottles of wine. This raises the important issue of whether the label should be attached at the point of sale or earlier in the supply/ distribution chain. Attaching labels at an early stage would be simpler but this would create logistical difficulties for importers and distributors and lead in turn to increased distribution costs. Moreover, in the case of imports from EU countries, such additional labelling requirements could be regarded as infringing internal market rules relating to free movement of goods.

Also, it would be naive to overlook the possibility of labels being removed, or rendered non-legible, after sale. The possible transfer of the contents from a labelled container to another unmarked container cannot be ruled out either.

Secondly, from an enforcement perspective it is clear that possession by an underage person of a labelled container does not in itself constitute proof that the alcohol in the container had been illegally supplied to that person by the licensee whose particulars appear on the container. It may have been taken from the family home or have been sold to a person over the age of 18 in good faith before being passed on to the underage person. Indeed, a labelled container may have passed through several hands before finding its way into the hands of an underage person.

Issues relating to the evidential value of being found in possession of a labelled container were raised during consultations on implementation of section 22 of the 2003 Act and the matter was subsequently raised with the Office of the Attorney General. The Attorney General's Office has expressed serious doubts about the evidential value of possession of a labelled container and doubt is, therefore, cast on the utility of any regulations that might be made under section 22 of the 2003 Act.

One option that could possibly be considered in the context of future legislation would be a presumption that any alcohol container found in the possession of an underage person had been purchased by that person from the licensee identified on the container until the contrary was proved. However, the Attorney General's Office has also advised that such a proposal would raise serious constitutional issues and would run the significant risk of being found to be inconsistent with Article 38 of the Constitution.

For these reasons, I do not, as I have already stated on a number of occasions, intend to make regulations under section 22 of the 2003 Act at this time. I will, however, give serious consideration in the context of future legislation to any reasonable and workable proposal that would deal with this matter without giving rise to the difficulties that I have already outlined.

Commissions of Investigation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

81 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a response from the Garda Commissioner to the copy sent to him of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case; if disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against the Gardaí involved in the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12928/07]

Seán Ryan

Question:

82 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action taken on foot of the report of the Commission of Investigation in the Dean Lyons case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12927/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 82 together.

I published the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case on 1 September 2006. I sent a copy of the Report to the Garda Commissioner for his consideration. An Assistant Commissioner has been appointed to assess the impact of the recommendations of the report for An Garda Síochána with a view to recommending remedial action where necessary. This assessment is ongoing and a report is expected to be submitted shortly.

I also sent a copy to the Expert Group which I established in the light of concerns arising from the Dean Lyons case. The Group will be reporting to me on the adequacy of Garda training, protocols, regulations and procedures, in assessing the fitness of persons to be interviewed and on the recording of any bona fide reservations of an individual member of a Garda investigation team as to the truthfulness or accuracy of self-incriminating statements. The work of the Expert Group is still ongoing. I have already stated publicly that I will publish the report of the Group.

Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 21.

Departmental Staff.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

84 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the average annual salary of a lawyer in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; the salary scales in respect of legal staff, including the starting salary, the average annual salary of non-legal DPP staff, and the annual cost of running the DPP in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13182/07]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

85 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the average annual salary of a solicitor in the Office of the Chief Prosecution Solicitor; the salary scales in respect of solicitors, including the starting salary, the average annual salary of non-legal CPS staff, and the annual cost of running the CPS in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13185/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 85 together.

The average annual salary of lawyers in the Office of the Director of Public is currently approximately €81,210. The current average salary of other staff is approximately €36,870. I propose to circulate with the official report tables which detail all salary scales of professionally qualified legal grades, i.e. solicitors and barristers, within the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. All points on the scales are shown, including the starting points.

The Deputy has asked for details in respect of the Office of the Chief Prosecution Solicitor. It would be more correct to refer to the Solicitors Division of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Chief Prosecution Solicitor leads the Solicitors Division. I can inform the Deputy that the average annual salary of lawyers in the Solicitors Division of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is currently approximately €71,290. The current average salary of other staff in the Solicitors Division is approximately €35,910. The running costs of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the period sought were as follows:

Year

Amount €

2002

23,436,000

2003

26,205,000

2004

28,661,000

2005

30,159,000

2006

31,484,000

2007

6,827,000*

*Estimated to end of March 2007.

The running costs of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions are calculated on a whole Office basis and are not apportioned across the three Divisions of the Office separately. I am therefore not in a position to give figures for the running costs for the Solicitors Division or either for the other two Divisions.

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions

01 Dec 2006

€157,785.00MAX

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Professional Officer Grade II

01 Dec 2006

See below

€116,462.00

€122,095.00

€127,732.00

€133,367.00MAX

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Chief Prosecution Solicitor

01 Dec 2006

€141,451.00MAX

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Principal Prosecution Solicitor

01 Dec 2006

See below

€86,530.00

€90,100.00

€93,680.00

€97,250.00

€100,299.00MAX

€103,512.00LSI1

€106,722.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Professional Officer Grade III

01 Dec 2006

See below

€86,530.00

€90,100.00

€93,680.00

€97,250.00

€100,299.00MAX

€103,512.00LSI1

€106,722.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Senior Prosecution Solicitor

01 Dec 2006

See below

€80,408.00

€83,815.00

€87,202.00

€90,617.00

€93,493.00MAX

€96,477.00LSI1

€99,457.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Prosecution Solicitor (AP1)

01 Dec 2006

See below

€67,283.00

€70,405.00

€72,997.00

€75,575.00

€78,161.00

€79,668.00MAX

€82,243.00LSI1

€84,808.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Professional Officer Grade IV

01 Dec 2006

See below

€67,823.00

€70,849.00

€73,890.00

€76,931.00

€79,941.00

€81,880.00MAX

€84,519.00LSI1

€87,152.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Prosecution Solicitor

01 Dec 2006

See below

€31,453.00

€34,312.00

€37,958.00

€40,745.00

€43,519.00

€46,312.00

€49,095.00

€51,862.00

€61,755.00

€64,066.00

€66,376.00

€68,688.00

€71,000.00

€72,337.00MAX

€74,667.00LSI1

€77,003.00LSI2

Salary Scales for staff appointed on or after the 6 April 1995

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Director of Public Pros. — PPC

01 Dec 2006

€207,613.00MAX

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Deputy Director of Public Pros. — PPC

01 Dec 2006

€166,093.00MAX

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Professional Officer Grade II — PPC

01 Dec 2006

See below

€122,594.00

€128,522.00

€134,455.00

€140,384.00MAX

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Chief Prosecution Solicitor — PPC

01 Dec 2006

€148,895.00MAX

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Principal Prosecution Solicitor — PPC

01 Dec 2006

See below

€91,091.00

€94,842.00

€98,611.00

€102,372.00

€105,577.00MAX

€108,955.00LSI1

€112,334.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Professional Officer Grade III — PPC

01 Dec 2006

See below

€91,091.00

€94,842.00

€98,611.00

€102,372.00

€105,577.00MAX

€108,955.00LSI1

€112,334.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Senior Prosecution Solicitor — PPC

01 Dec 2006

See below

€84,639.00

€88,229.00

€91,794.00

€95,385.00

€98,413.00MAX

€101,554.00LSI1

€104,691.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Prosecution Solicitor (AP1) — PPC

01 Dec 2006

See below

€71,395.00

€74,112.00

€76,834.00

€79,554.00

€82,275.00

€83,864.00MAX

€86,564.00LSI1

€89,271.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Professional Officer Grade IV — PPC

01 Dec 2006

See below

€71,395.00

€74,574.00

€77,780.00

€80,979.00

€84,156.00

€86,190.00MAX

€88,966.00LSI1

€91,747.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Prosecution Solicitor — PPC

01 Dec 2006

See below

€33,116.00

€36,116.00

€39,955.00

€42,887.00

€45,809.00

€48,746.00

€51,675.00

€54,592.00

€65,002.00

€67,437.00

€69,866.00

€72,303.00

€74,736.00

€76,138.00MAX

€78,595.00LSI1

€81,058.00LSI2

Grade Title

Date Effective

Salary

Prosecution Solicitor Contract

01 Dec 2006

See below

€31,453.00

€34,312.00

€37,958.00

€40,745.00

€43,519.00

€46,312.00

€49,095.00

€51,862.00

€61,755.00

€64,066.00

€66,376.00

€68,688.00

€71,000.00

€72,337.00MAX

€74,667.00LSI1

€77,003.00LSI2

Equality Issues.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

86 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he has raised or proposes to raise, in the context both of his commitment to a structured dialogue with the churches and of a constitutional requirement that the State must not impose disabilities or make discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status; the extent to which reference should continue to be made in statute law or statutory instruments to the religious profession, status or belief of citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13322/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

91 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he has raised or proposes to raise, in the context both of his commitment to a structured dialogue with the churches and of a constitutional requirement that the State must not impose disabilities or make discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status, the question as to whether the State should continue to make special and separate provision in its arrangements for input by church bodies, in relation to the ownership and management of institutions funded by the State providing for the education or the health needs of citizens. [13324/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

92 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he has raised or proposes to raise, in the context both of his commitment to a structured dialogue with the churches and of a constitutional requirement that the State must not impose disabilities or make discrimination on the ground of religious profession, belief or status, the question as to the reason the rules for national schools continue to provide, under an agreement made in 1937 between the Roman Catholic bishops and the INTO, a system whereby national school teachers are employable by reference to their religion and are transferable to other schools by reference to various Departmentally maintained panels all of which are based on considerations as to religious profession, belief or status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13325/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86, 91 and 92 together.

The process of structured dialogue between the Government and the churches, faith communities and non-confessional organisations in Ireland was inaugurated with a gathering of dialogue partners at Dublin Castle on 26 February, 2007. This will soon be followed a series of bilateral meetings with the dialogue partners.

I believe that we have a political and civic culture in Ireland that, while holding no institution or individual above the law, respects the place of religious belief and practice. It will be open to all partners as the dialogue continues to express their views on subjects of mutual interest and to bring forward proposals for change. I am aware from the preliminary consultations with bodies on the dialogue process that the issues raised by the Deputy are likely to be of interest to partners in the process.

The secretariat for the dialogue process will be provided by my Department, but it is not envisaged that this process should in any way displace the existing relationships between Departments of State and the dialogue partners nor diminish the responsibility, in the first instance, of Ministers with regard to issues arising in relation to their assigned functions. If the issues suggested by the Deputy should arise, they will be addressed through the appropriate channels. Similarly, the detailed aspects of the issues raised by the Deputy should be addressed to the relevant Ministers.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

87 Mr. Cuffe asked the Taoiseach the number of private rental properties and landlords in the Council of Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, the four Dublin County Councils and the State in the figures available from the Central Statistics Office from the most recent period for which figures are available. [13393/07]

The number of occupied housing units which are rented from private landlords is given in the following table for the counties requested in respect of the 2006 census.

Private rented unfurnished

Private rented furnished or part furnished

Total Private Rented

State

16,621

128,696

145,317

Dublin

5,474

52,439

57,913

of which

Dublin City

3,186

33,395

36,581

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

1,093

6,482

7,575

Fingal

677

6,930

7,607

South Dublin

518

5,632

6,150

Appointments to State Boards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

88 Ms Enright asked the Taoiseach the number of nominations from each gender to State boards for which his Department has responsibility in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13166/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the following tables.

Title

Year

Male

Female

National Statistics Board

February 2006-to date

5

2

February 2004-February 2006

4

3

August 2001-February 2004

3

4

Title

Year

Male

Female

*Law ReformCommission

2007

2

3

2006

2

3

2005

2

3

2004

2

3

2003

2

3

2002

2

3

*Denotes position at year end.

Title

Year

Male

Female

National Economic & Social Council

September 2006-to date

New Council awaited

September 2003-September 2006

26

6

January 2002-March 2003

25

5

Title

Year

Male

Female

National Economic & Social Forum

2007

New Forum awaited

December 2006

28

34

September 2006

27

35

July 2005

26

36

September 2005

27

35

October 2005

26

36

2004

25

37

2002-2003

35

27

Title

Year

Male

Female

National Centre for Partnership and Performance

2006 to date

9

5

2002-2005

11

5

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

89 Mr. Gilmore asked the Taoiseach the appointments to State boards, other bodies under the aegis of his Department, or other public appointments of any kind, which will be due to be made by him between 29 March 2007 and 4 July 2007. [13212/07]

In respect of the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), nominations have been sought from the social partners and appointments to the constituent bodies (National Economic and Social Council [NESC], National Economic and Social Forum [NESF] and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance [NCPP]) will be made once that process is complete.

Appointments to the newly announced Climate Change Commission, to be attached to NESDO, will be made in consultation with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. There are no further appointments to State boards or other bodies under the aegis of my Department falling to be made between 29 March, 2007 and 4 July, 2007.

Equality Issues.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

90 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach the circumstances in which legislation promoted by his Department was approved that continues to allow for separate provision to be made in law for citizens on grounds of religious faith or lack of religious faith; if he has satisfied himself that adequate effort was made in statute law revision measures promoted by his Department to remove from statute law separate arrangements for persons by reference to their religious identity, for example, references to Jews, Quakers, Moravians, Christians, Catholics, and so on. [13323/07]

The Statute Law Revision Bill 2007 is currently before the Oireachtas. The Bill will repeal more than 3,000 statutes enacted before 6 December, 1922. Included in the statutes for repeal are many statutes which differentiate between people on the basis of their religion.

This Bill is a statute law revision measure. As such, it repeals only statutes which are appropriate for repeal, namely, those statutes which have ceased to have legal effect or which are obsolete. Statutes which have some continuing legal effect may not be repealed by statute law revision measures. The current Bill will retain in force more than 1,000 statutes which have (or may have) some continuing legal effect.

A small number of the Acts which will be retained relate to particular religions. The majority of these are statutes relating to the Church of Ireland which date from a time when that was the established church in Ireland. These statutes are being retained because they may have some continuing effect on matters such as the administration of particular churches, or of particular trusts, or of parish boundaries which relate to land ownership. In consultation with the Church of Ireland, these have been selected for retention until alternative arrangements may be made for such matters.

Other retained statutes which refer to named religions are statutes which were enacted at certain points in time to overcome religious discrimination which had previously affected those religions. These include laws making arrangements for validating marriages of people of certain faiths and providing for the giving of evidence by people whose faiths did not permit the making of traditional-form oaths. These various statutes will all be repealed in due course, but only in the context of more wide-ranging repeal and re-enactment measures relating to the relevant areas of law, such as oaths and marriages.

The Government, at my request, has agreed that all of the statutes which will be retained in force by the current Bill will be proposed for repeal in subsequent legislation. That subsequent legislation must first replace with modern legislation those statutes which have continuing legal effect. My ultimate objective is to repeal all legislation enacted before Ireland achieved independence.

Questions Nos. 91 and 92 answered with Question No. 86.

Appointments to State Boards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

93 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of nominations from each gender to State boards for which his Department has responsibility in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13164/07]

I assume that the Deputy is seeking the number of appointments to State Boards from each gender rather than the number of nominations and I set out that information in the table below. The information is collated on a half-yearly basis. The latest information available is up to December, 2006.

Year

Female

Male

2002

55

97

2003

16

23

2004

30

44

2005

38

81

2006

14

28

Garda Investigations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

94 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) who died in Garda custody; and the reason the case has taken so long. [13176/07]

A Detective Superintendent from outside the relevant Garda Division was appointed immediately after the incident to carry out a detailed investigation into all the circumstances surrounding the person in question's arrest, detention and removal to hospital. The Garda authorities submitted a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions on the matter and furnished a copy to me also. The Director issued instructions that no prosecution should ensue.

An inquest into this tragic death is ongoing at present. As a Coroner's Inquest is an independent inquisitorial process, I am not in a position to comment on the length of time the case is taking. As I stated previously, when the inquest has been completed and a verdict returned I will consider the matter further. A Civil Action has been initiated by the family and this is currently being dealt with by my Department.

Children in Care.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

95 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of Garda time employed in searching for and returning children who have been reported missing from the custody of the Health Services Executive; the steps that have taken to deal with the number of such children reported missing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13177/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Missing Persons Bureau attached to Garda Headquarters is responsible for data relating to missing persons. The District Officer (Superintendent) in the area where the person has been reported missing takes direct responsibility for all issues connected with the investigation in relation to the missing person.

Where any young person under 18 years of age is reported missing the Juvenile Liaison Officer for the area in which the young person resides is notified as soon as possible. The Juvenile Liaison Officer will on receipt of such information immediately communicate any information which he/she believes may be of benefit in tracing such missing persons.

Where the missing person is traced the Juvenile Liaison Officer will, unless otherwise directed, visit that young person and their parents, guardians or other responsible adults and offer appropriate assistance.

The Garda authorities are currently engaged with the Health Service Executive (HSE) in developing a protocol on handling cases where children who are the responsibility of the HSE are reported missing. It is the aim that this protocol will minimise the risk of harm to children when they are missing.and reduce the number of reports of children missing annually.

The calculation of the amount of Garda time employed in the search for and return of children who have been reported missing from the custody of the HSE would require a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources. However I am assured that the Garda authorities are satisfied that adequate resources are available for the investigation and monitoring of incidents where such persons are reported missing.

Garda Equipment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

96 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the non-lethal weapons available for use by members of An Garda Síochána; the number of each category of weapon and its function; if a weapon is routinely carried by a member; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13178/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that three types of less lethal weapons are currently available for use by the Garda Síochána Emergency Response Unit. These are bean bag shot, OC pepper spray and OC pepper spray shot.

I announced yesterday that I have authorised the addition of Conductive Electric Devices to the range of less lethal weapons available to the ERU. These devices are sometimes referred to by the brand name "TASER".

Following the establishment by the Garda Commissioner of regional primary response teams in each Garda region outside Dublin to act as initial responders to critical incidents pending the deployment of the ERU, I have authorised the deployment to these regional teams of the three less lethal weapons already available to the ERU – bean bag shot, OC spray and OC spray shot. These new regional teams will be drawn from the regional Public Order Units and will receive additional specialist training.

The function of these less lethal weapons is for use in circumstances where necessary to avoid the use of firearms. The use of firearms is permitted only to repel serious attacks on Gardaí, members of the public or property, or in the arrest or re-arrest of persons involved in serious offences. Strict conditions are laid down, including a requirement in all cases that all other means of achieving the purpose in question have been exhausted, before firearms may be used. The test which currently applies to the use of less lethal weapons that their use is necessary to avoid the use of firearms is, therefore, a high one.

Less lethal devices are not routinely carried by the Garda members authorised to use them as their deployment is intended for critical incidents. I do not propose for Garda operational reasons to disclose the number of less lethal devices available to the Gardaí but I am advised by Garda management that sufficient stocks are available and requirements are constantly reviewed to take account of operational needs.

Ministerial Appointments.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

97 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is expected that an Inspector of Prisons will be appointed. [13179/07]

The current Inspector of Prisons' term of office is not due to expire until the 24th April, 2007.

As the Deputy will be aware Part 5 of the Prisons Act, 2007, which, amongst other things, provides for the statutory appointment of an Inspector of Prisons, has recently been passed by both houses of the Oireachtas. It is my intention to commence this section of the Act from 1 May, 2007 and to make an appointment soon after that date.

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

98 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community Gardaí who live in the community that they serve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13180/07]

I am 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.

Community Policing is a central feature of current policing policy and members of Community policing units are encouraged to engage with the local communities where they are assigned. Current policing policy is predicated on the prevention of public order offences; the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of a quality policing service. All Gardaí have a responsibility, inter alia, to be involved in Community Policing issues as they arise.

Garda management state that the total personnel strength (all ranks) of Community policing on 29 March 2007 was 521. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the information sought by the Deputy in relation to the number of Community Gardaí who live in the communities they serve is not readily available and can only be obtained by the disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

99 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of horses kept and maintained by An Garda Síochána; the cost of the Garda Mounted Unit; the number of members assigned to the unit and their respective ranks; and the number of civilian personnel assigned to the unit. [13181/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that there are a total of ten horses attached to the Garda Mounted Unit at present. The cost of running the Garda Mounted Unit in 2006 was approximately €1.19 million. The total number of personnel assigned to the Garda Mounted Unit as at the 30th March 2007 was 17, comprising 2 sergeants, 13 Gardaí and 2 civilian personnel.

Garda Equipment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

100 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations equipped with e-mail facilities; the number of uniformed members of An Garda Síochána who have individual access to e-mail; the cost of providing e-mail to members; and the estimated cost of providing e-mail to every member. [13183/07]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the Garda Wide Area Network (WAN) is used to deliver access to the Garda Information System (GIS) which includes, inter alia, access to PULSE, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) Systems and email. Access to the GIS is currently available in over 320 locations.

All Gardaí have access to internal email via the GIS. Access to external email is available to all Gardaí from the rank of Inspector upwards. External email is also made available to Sergeants, Gardaí and civilian staff as operational needs require. I am further informed by the Garda Authorities that a pilot exercise is currently underway to assess how best to maximise the use and facilities of email by the Force.

With regard to the question of costs, the Garda authorities inform me that because email was delivered as part of the overall infrastructure underpinning the Garda information systems, the specific cost for delivery of email is not available.

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

101 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of dogs in the Garda Dog Unit; the cost of running the unit; the number of members assigned to the unit and their respective ranks; and the number of civilian personnel in the unit. [13184/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that there are 26 dogs attached to the Garda Dog Unit, 13 of which are general purpose search dogs. The remaining dogs perform specialised search functions related to searches for drugs, firearms and explosives, tactical searches and victim recovery. Although the Garda Dog Unit is primarily based in the Dublin Metropolitan Region it has a national remit and regularly conducts searches in other Garda Divisions.

The cost of running the Garda Dog Unit in 2006 was approximately €1.43 million. The total personnel strength of the Garda Dog Unit as at 30 March 2007 was 16, comprising two sergeants and 14 Gardaí. There are no civilian personnel are attached to the Garda Dog Unit at present.

In addition, a pilot project has been established in the Cork City Division and in the Limerick Division, with a view to full regional expansion of the unit. At present one Garda and two dogs are allocated on a pilot basis to each of these Divisions.

Garda Remuneration.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

102 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the average annual salary of a member of An Garda Síochána; the salary scales in respect of each rank, including the starting salary for a new member; the cost of putting a new recruit through the training process prior to their investiture; and the other average annual human resources costs associated with members. [13186/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the average salary of a Garda member, on the mid point of the Garda pay scale and including rent, boot, uniform and unsocial hours allowances, is €55,636. The salary scale in respect of each rank is as set out in the attached tables. The starting salary for a new member on attestation is €25,288.

The pay and allowances made in respect of Garda trainee on Phases I-III of the Garda Training Programme is €17,416. In addition, the annual cost of running the Garda College, which is responsible for the training of Student Gardaí is approximately €33.4 million. Moreover, a separate budget is provided on an annual basis for Garda training including external training courses. The 2007 training budget amounted to €3.3 million.

Garda

PPC Scales 01/12/2006

Modified Scales 01/12/2006;

On attestation

25,288

24,449

After 22 Weeks

27,800

26,882

After 1 Year

29,340

28,366

After 2 Years

31,936

30,884

After 3 Years

35,399

34,231

After 4 Years

37,689

36,443

After 5 Years

39,761

38,442

After 6 Years

41,753

40,371

After 7 Years

41,753

40,371

After 8 Years

41,753

40,371

After 9 Years

41,753

40,371

After 10 Years

41,753

40,371

After 11 Years

43,486

42,046

After 12 Years

43,486

42,046

After 13 Years

43,486

42,046

After 14 Years

43,486

42,046

After 15 Years

43,486

42,046

After 16 Years

43,486

42,046

After 17 Years

45,439

43,936

Sergeant

PPC Scales 01/12/2006

Modified Scales 01/12/2006

On appointment

45,879

44,363

After 1 Year

46,998

45,441

After 2 Years

48,164

46,575

After 3 Years

49,436

47,799

After 4 Years

49,436

47,799

After 5 Years

49,436

47,799

After 6 Years

50,726

49,046

After 7 Years

50,726

49,046

After 8 Years

50,726

49,046

After 9 Years

50,726

49,046

After 10 Years

50,726

49,046

After 11 Years

50,726

49,046

After 12 Years

52,830

51,081

Inspector

PPC Scales 01/12/2006

Modified Scales 01/12/2006

On appointment

53,118

51,359

After 1 Year

54,026

52,239

After 2 Years

55,529

53,693

After 3 Years

57,233

55,340

After 4 Years

57,233

55,340

After 5 Years

57,233

55,340

After 6 Years

58,942

56,991

Superintendent

PPC Scales 01/12/2006

Modified Scales 01/12/2006

On appointment

72,932

70,520

After 1 Year

75,558

73,059

After 2 Years

77,823

75,250

After 3 Years

80,085

77,437

After 4 Years

82,357

79,631

LSI

85,445

82,619

Chief Superintendent

PPC Scales 01/12/2006

Modified Scales 01/12/2006

On appointment

87,881

84,974

After 1 Year

91,910

88,869

After 2 Years

96,556

93,363

After 3 Years

102,955

99,547

LSI

105,712

102,216

PPC Scales 01/12/2006

Modified Scales 01/12/2006

Assistant Commissioner

132,102

127,732

Deputy Commissioner

153,473

148,396

Commissioner

213,365

206,626

Domestic Violence.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

103 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of funding for awareness programmes to tackle domestic violence that has been set aside for each of the years 2002 to date in 2007 in line with An Agreed Programme for Government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002; the number of such programmes that have been run; the success of such programmes; his views on whether they have had an impact on the level of domestic violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13187/07]

The following funding has been made available by my Department since 2002 for awareness programmes to tackle domestic violence.

Year

Direct Advertising

Grants

Number of Projects/ campaigns

2002

30,000

69,000

8

2003

6,500

100,000

16

2004

89,000

87,000

13

2005

133,000

94,000

31

2006

387,000

289,000

40

2007

18,000

12,000

2

The amount of the awareness funding programme for 2007 will, when fully allocated, exceed that of 2006. The information available is that awareness campaigns have led to increases in the levels of reporting of domestic violence.

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

104 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members assigned to the Garda Water Unit and their respective ranks; the number of civilian personnel in the unit; and the annual cost of running the unit. [13188/07]

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.

The total personnel strength (all ranks) of the Garda Water Unit as at the 30 March 2007 was three (3) Sergeants and fifteen (15) Gardaí. There are no civilian personnel attached to the Garda Water Unit.

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

The cost of running the Garda Water Unit in 2006 was approximately €1.78 million.

Courts Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

105 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is expected that there will be a general reform of the courts system in line with An Agreed Programme for Government Between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002. [13189/07]

The reform of the courts system referred to in the Agreed Programme for Government is well underway. In this regard, I am happy to acknowledge the remarkable development of the courts system since the creation of the Courts Service less than ten years ago.

Notable achievements include the great progress in improving the overall stock of Courthouses around the country. Many of our county town courthouses have been refurbished and other major upgrading works have been completed in places such as Cork, Limerick, Dundalk and Castlebar. Approval has been given to the Court Service to proceed with nine "greenfield" court projects, by way of Public Private Partnership (PPP), as part of a new envelope of €50m for such projects. Construction will begin later this year on a new Criminal Courts Complex for Dublin, which will also be developed as a PPP project.

The increasing workload of the courts demand the provision of adequate judicial numbers. Since 2002, the number of judges sitting in the High, Circuit and District Courts has increased from 108 to 125, an increase of 17 judicial posts. In addition, the Courts and Court Officers (Amendment) Act 2007 provides for a further 14 judges — 6 Judges of the District Court, 4 ordinary Judges of the Circuit Court and 4 ordinary Judges of the High Court. I am confident that the additional judicial resources provided for in the new legislation will have a positive impact on delays and generally speed up the judicial process.

Another notable example of the ongoing reform of the courts was the establishment of the Commercial Division of the High Court, which has its own list based on a general value threshold of €1m. The scope of the commercial list includes business transactions of a very wide variety where the value of the claim is €1m or more. Also included are judicial review cases which relate to major commercial matters. Once entered, cases take 8-9 weeks to reach the hearing date, and are concluded in an average of 11 weeks.

I might also mention the important initiative to tackle the so-called compensation culture in the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 and the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

Specific mention is made in the Agreed Programme for Government to weekend and night courts. At present, the District Court in Dublin sits each Saturday and on Bank Holidays. Provincial District Courts sit outside of normal hours at weekends and at night to deal with emergency matters, as required. Experience of the operation of court sittings continues to be reviewed. This is being done in conjunction with legislative measures aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the courts.

The issue of merging the criminal jurisdiction of the Circuit Court and the Central Criminal Court was examined by the Working Group on the Jurisdiction of the Courts established by the Courts Service (the Fennelly Report). They recommended the retention of the Central Criminal Court and the Circuit Criminal Court as separate jurisdictions. There have been significant improvements in relation to delays in cases coming to trial in the Central Criminal Court. In 2003, the average waiting time for a trial in the Central Criminal Court was 18 months. Since then, the average waiting time has been halved and significantly, the Central Criminal Court now sits outside Dublin, where required. The issue will be kept under review in light of the changing circumstances.

Finally, I should add that a Group has been established to consider the question of a general Court of Appeal. The Group is reviewing and considering the necessity for a general Court of Appeal for the purposes of processing certain categories of appeals from the High Court. The Group will also make such other recommendations as are appropriate for the purposes of ensuring greater efficiencies in the practices and procedures of the Superior Courts.

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

106 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members assigned to the Garda Air Support Unit and their respective ranks; the number of civilian personnel in the unit; the number of aircraft available for use by the unit; and the annual cost of running the unit. [13190/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the current strength of the Garda Air Support Unit is one (1) Inspector, five (5) Sergeants and nineteen (19) Gardaí. At present there are no civilian personnel attached to the Unit.

There are three (3) aircraft, one (1) fixed wing plane and two (2) helicopters available to the Unit with a third helicopter due for delivery later this year.

The annual cost of running the Garda Air Support Unit excluding capital purchases is approximately €1.66 million.

Deportation Orders.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

107 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of non-Irish citizens released from prison and subsequently deported in each month of 2006 and 2007. [13191/07]

I can inform the Deputy that the information sought is at present being compiled by the Irish Prison Service and the Garda National Immigration Bureau. The provision of the relevant data is complicated by the need to cross reference and check information emanating from their two separate databases. Following this exercise, the information will be matched against the database in the Repatriation Unit of my Department. I can assure the Deputy that this information will be conveyed to him at the earliest possible date.

Prison Education Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

108 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the skills programmes that have been put in place in prisons to enhance employment prospects for prisoners on release in line with An Agreed Programme for Government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats 2002. [13192/07]

The Irish Prison Service places strong emphasis on the provision of vocational training for prisoners. Training activities are chosen to give as much employment as possible for those in prison and to give opportunities to acquire skills which will help them secure employment on their release. The Work and Training programme covers the services necessary for the smooth operation of the prison such as catering and laundry, as well as workshops covering metalwork, printing, computers, Braille, woodwork, construction, clothing manufacture, craft, farming, horticulture, indexing, painting and decorating, upholstery, baking, electronics etc. The programme provides work and training opportunities for prisoners whilst ensuring a high quality of service delivery within the prison. Where appropriate, training is arranged outside the prison environment with external providers and community organisations such as PACE. In this way courses which cannot be made available within the prisons, such as heavy goods vehicle licence courses, can be undertaken by prisoners prior to release giving them the skills to move directly into employment on release. Community assistance programmes and community project work are also carried out.

The Proposal for Organisational Change agreed with the Prison Officers Association provides for a significant shift of resources into vocational training programmes. This involves the provision of dedicated new staffing and funding for the expansion of work training in the prison system, which will result in an increase in the number of authorised work training staff posts from c. 215 to c. 250. Since the conclusion of the Agreement, progress has been made in filling Industrial Manager and Industrial Supervisor posts. Competitions are also ongoing to complete the complement of work and training personnel in all institutions.

During 2006, new workshops and activities were developed in a number of institutions and a refurbishment and equipment replacement programme was implemented in other workshops. Approximately €2m was spent in 2006 on structural works on the kitchens and laundries in a number of institutions which will facilitate the delivery of accredited training to prisoners.

E-College, a FÁS distance learning delivery programme has been piloted in the Training Unit and is currently being extended to St Patrick's Institution. STEPS, a group motivational developmental programme, has been run for a second time in Wheatfield prison. BREAKTHROUGH, another group motivational programme, has recently been delivered in St Patrick's Institution. A three year national apprenticeship professional cookery course commenced in Castlerea Prison in January 2007.

€250,000 has been secured from the Dormant Accounts Fund in 2006 for employability support projects. Under this initiative, two Business in the Community Ireland (BITC) Training and Employment Officers (TEO) will provide full-time information and career guidance and a dedicated training, education and employment placement service to prisoners in the Mountjoy and Midlands campuses. The two TEOs will take up their positions shortly. An EQUAL project is also being funded to develop a self-employment programme which will equip prisoners with the necessary information and skills to set up their own business.

Garda Stations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

109 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations that still operate green men; the location of these stations and their respective distances from the nearest full-time station. [13193/07]

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

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

110 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of dedicated community Gardaí. [13194/07]

Community Policing is a central feature of current policing policy and members of Community policing units are encouraged to engage with the local communities where they are assigned. Current policing policy is predicated on the prevention of public order offences; the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of a quality policing service. All Gardaí have a responsibility, inter alia, to be involved in Community Policing issues as they arise. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength engaged in dedicated Community Policing on 29 March, 2007 was 521 (all ranks).

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that it is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his/her Division. Garda Personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Garda Stations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

111 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations that are not open and staffed 24-hours a day; the location of these stations and their respective distances from the nearest full-time station. [13195/07]

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

Prison Education Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

112 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners with limited educational accomplishment in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13196/07]

Information relating to those prisoners with the lowest levels of educational accomplishment on committal in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007 are set out in the table below. These figures are based on prisoners' self report information which is recorded in relation to each prisoner on their committal. Following on from this each student coming into the Prison Education Centre will have an individual interview to assess his/her educational needs and interests. Those with literacy difficulties are prioritised and slotted into class almost immediately. Given the stigma often attached to literacy problems and low levels of educational attainment, it is not possible to state definitively the level of literacy in the prison population as many prisoners are unwilling to come forward and share such information. Every effort is made to publicise education and literacy classes and encourage as many prisoners as possible to avail of them.

Education Level

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Illiterate

3

3

3

3

3

3

Primary Level

18

18

21

19

20

18

Secondary Level (no certificate)

15

18

21

25

20

20

Total percentage*

36

39

45

47

43

41

*Figures based on non-repeat committal information in each year.

Appointments to State Boards.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

113 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the appointments to State boards, other bodies under the aegis of his Department, or other public appointments of any kind, which will be due to be made by him between 29 March 2007 and 4 July 2007. [13210/07]

As the Deputy will appreciate, vacancies arise and fall to be filled on State Boards and other bodies under my Department's aegis on an ongoing basis. Having reviewed the vacancies which exist or are scheduled to arise during the period in question, the information requested is as follows:

State Board/Body

Vacancies Existing/Envisaged 29 March, 2007-4 July, 2007

Equality Authority

12

Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal

7

Censorship of Publications Board

5

Refugee Appeals Tribunal

1

Interim Legal Costs Regulatory Board

5

Audit Committee of the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform

4

Parole Board

1

Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention

1

Irish Legal Terms Advisory Committee

6

Garda Síochána Complaints Board

9

A vacancy also exists on the Board of the Private Security Authority for a Departmental representative which will fall to be filled in due course.

The question of appointments to the Prison Visiting Committees and of Peace Commissioners during the period in question remains under consideration.

I can further inform the Deputy that an appointment has been made to Loughan House Place of Detention Visiting Committee during the period in question (on 29 March, 2007).

Overseas Students.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

114 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that non EU citizens studying at Irish universities have been asked to withdraw their children from State schools; the legislation that governs this decision; the reason established practice has been changed; and his views on whether this is an acceptable way to treat what are in many cases highly qualified post graduate students and researchers attending universities here and paying the full economic cost. [13275/07]

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.

In line with this general principle, 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.

The child of an adult student attending an Irish university would be present in the State as a dependant of that parent. That parent would be expected to have sufficient resources to provide for him/herself and any family members while they are in the State. If the child were to be permitted to attend State schools it would be in conflict with the condition of self-sufficiency. The fact that a parent is attending university and paying the costs of that course of study should not in itself permit their child to access State education services.

This policy has not changed in recent times.

In terms of legislation, the basic tenet that a foreign national and any accompanying dependants, should not be an undue burden on the State is reflected in section 4 of the Immigration Act 2004 where it is included as one of the reasons why an immigration officer might refuse a person permission to land or be in the State. That provision was stated in the Aliens Order 1946.

I do not have the details of the specific cases to which the Deputy may be referring but I am generally aware that cases are coming to light of overseas children being placed in state schools in circumstances where this would be contrary to general immigration policy. I have scope, however, to make exceptions to the general policy where it is justified and individual cases can be looked at on their merits, taking account the potential disruption to the education of the parent and child of a negative decision.

A review of the general policy in this area is now underway.

Prisoner Releases.

Ivor Callely

Question:

115 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the percentage of prisoners that are offered temporary release; comparative figures for the period 1994 to 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13292/07]

The number of persons on temporary release on 30 March, 2007 was 165 persons. This equates to 4.7% of the total prisoner population, and stands in stark contrast to the position which obtained under the Rainbow Government when the numbers on temporary release stood at around 20% of the prison population. Comparative figures for the dates requested are set out in the following table.

Date

Number on Temporary Release

Percentage of Prisoner Population

%

30 March, 1994

611

22.2

30 March, 1995

552

20.2

30 March, 1996

477

17.9

30 March, 1997

569

19.2

Crime Levels.

Ivor Callely

Question:

116 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress to address the problem of re-offenders committing an offence while on bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13293/07]

I am proposing a number of amendments to the law on bail in the Criminal Justice Bill 2007 which is currently before this House.

As the Deputy will be aware, the bail system operates under a general presumption in favour of granting bail, on the basis that the person is innocent before the law until proven guilty.

Two statutes are particularly relevant to the operation of the arrangements for bail. The Bail Act 1997 amended the bail regime generally and gave effect to the terms of the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution. Section 2(1) of the Act provides for the refusal of bail to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person. For this purpose a serious offence is defined as one which caries a penalty of at least 5 years imprisonment on conviction and which is listed in the Schedule to the Act (e.g. murder, manslaughter, sexual offences, drug offences). The Act was brought fully into operation on 15 May 2000.

Furthermore, the Criminal Justice Act 1984 provides that any sentence of imprisonment passed on a person for an offence committed while on bail shall be consecutive on any sentence passed on him or her for a previous offence.

Part 2 of the Criminal Justice Bill 2007, currently before this House, introduces several initiatives designed to improve the operation of the bail system and to provide the prosecution authorities with more opportunity to oppose bail applications where there is considered to be a likelihood of the applicant offending while on bail. Section 6 provides that the applicant for bail may be required to provide a statement on his or her assets and income, as well as details of criminal convictions (including convictions for any offences committed while previously on bail) and previous bail applications. Section 7 provides that a Chief Superintendent may give his or her opinion that the applicant, if given bail, is likely to commit a serious offence and that the application should therefore be refused. Sections 11 to 13 provide that a person granted bail may be subject to electronic monitoring if the bail is conditional on the person being or not being in certain places at certain specified times. Section 19 provides the prosecution with a right of appeal against the grant of bail or in respect of any conditions attaching to bail, where it is granted. Such a right is not currently available to the prosecution. This section also allows the High Court to transfer bail applications to the Circuit Court in cases where the case is triable by the Circuit Court.

The net effect of the changes being introduced by Part 2 of the Criminal Justice Bill 2007 is that the prosecution authorities will be in a position to mount a more effective challenge to bail applications where there is a likelihood of the applicant committing serious offences if given bail. These changes will help redress the balance while respecting the general presumption referred to at the outset.

The numbers of headline offences, by group, committed by persons on bail have been featured in the Garda Annual Report since 2004, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library. 2004 was the first year information relating to the offences committed by persons on bail was published. Comparable statistics for years prior to 2004 are not readily available and would require a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources to extract the data from manual records.

Stardust Disaster.

Ivor Callely

Question:

117 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has met with the families bereaved by the Stardust disaster; if he will meet with their committee; if he has been fully briefed by his Department on all matters relating; if he will make the brief he has received available to this Deputy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13294/07]

I can inform the Deputy that there has been extensive contact with the Stardust Victims Committee in recent years, leading to their lodging a comprehensive submission last July in which they set out their concerns regarding the original inquiry. This was followed up by a meeting on 18 September last at which the Taoiseach and I, together with senior officials and the Director of the Forensic Science Laboratory, met with representatives of the Victims Committee. The purpose of the meeting was to hear from the Committee in person on their detailed submission so as to properly inform the analysis of its contents. The meeting concluded with an indication by the Committee that it would follow up with some final observations, which could be added to the material already under examination.

The extent of the detail and the complexity of the issues, however, were such that the examination of the technical and legal questions arising required more time than was originally anticipated. This examination concluded in December and a considered written response issued to the Committee's solicitor on the 15th of that month. This correspondence informed the Committee that their submissions has received very careful attention but that the analysis and advice available to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste remained that new material had not been presented which would justify the holding of another inquiry or which would have led to a different conclusion had it been available at the time of the original inquiry.

Notwithstanding this position, and taking into account the evident and sincere concerns of the families in question, the Committee's solicitor was also informed that the Taoiseach would be willing to arrange for an external and independent examination of the Committee's submission by an eminent legal person. The precise arrangements and mechanisms of this examination are currently the subject of discussions with the Committee's solicitor. All of the relevant information will be put before the person in question for consideration and a full opportunity will be provided to the Victim's Committee to present and explain the points made in their submission.

Rather than continue to debate the details of that submission, or the advice received by me with respect to its merits, I believe it is now preferable to allow these issues be explored in the forthcoming independent examination.

Garda Operations.

Ivor Callely

Question:

118 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the success of Operation Anvil; the outcome to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13295/07]

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

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

The most recent figures available to me, up to 27 March, 2007, show the massive effect which Operation Anvil has been having since its inception in May 2005. In the Dublin Metropolitan Region there have been 3,971 arrests for serious crimes, comprising of 74 arrests for murder, 2,042 arrests for burglary, 941 arrests for robbery and 914 arrests for serious assaults. There have also been 2,279 arrests for theft offences. In addition 30,330 searches have been carried out, comprising 26,497 for drugs, 2,290 for thefts and 1,543 for firearms. Also 643 firearms have been seized and there have been 10,520 seizures under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act. 54,526 checkpoints have been carried out and property to the value of €17.2m has been recovered.

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

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

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

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

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

The table below shows the successes of Operation Anvil.

Operation Anvil in the Dublin Metropolitan Region up to 27 March 2007

Arrests

Murder

74

Burglary

2,042

Robbery offences

941

Serious assaults

914

Theft from shops*

1,723

Theft from MPV*

139

Theft other*

417

Total Arrests

6,250

Searches

Drugs

26,497

Thefts

2,290

Firearms

1,543

Total Searches

30,330

Seizures

Firearms

643

Section 41 (Road Traffic Act)

10,520

Total Seizures

11,163

Number of Checkpoints Performed

54,526

Value of property recovered

€17,223,730

*These statistics commenced from 25 September 2006.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Drugs in Prisons.

Ivor Callely

Question:

120 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if prisons here are drug free; if the authorities are aware of high abuse of illegal drugs in the prison system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13297/07]

On 2 May 2006, I launched the Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy & Strategy, entitled Keeping Drugs out of Prison. This policy fulfils the commitment in the Programme for Government to publish the plan to end all heroin use in Irish prisons as well as my own commitment to achieve a drug-free prison system. The implementation of this Policy & Strategy has seen an intensification of efforts in the prison system to eliminate the availability of illicit drugs within prisons.

It has provided for a range of new measures aimed at eliminating the supply of drugs into prisons, notably: enhanced visit security, the introduction of passive drug detection dogs and mandatory drug testing. At the same time, it has provided for continued investment in services within prisons to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population and meeting prisoners' treatment and rehabilitative needs.

The intended introduction of mandatory drug testing across the prison system will provide a more accurate indication of the extent of drug abuse amongst prisoners. Deliberations are at an advanced stage in relation to the provision of this service.

Proposed Legislation.

Ivor Callely

Question:

121 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress of the working group to consider options for legislative proposals for Government of couples in caring relationships and civil partnerships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13298/07]

The Options Paper prepared by the Working Group on Domestic Partnership was published on 28 November 2006. I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 14 and 30 of 7 December 2006. The position is as set out therein.

Garda Deployment.

Ivor Callely

Question:

122 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Garda personnel levels, supports, Garda motorcycles and Garda cars or vans available in the HJ and R districts of the DMA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13299/07]

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

Asylum Support Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

123 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of asylum seekers in accommodation offered by the RIA; the locations of such centres; the budget of the RIA to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13300/07]

The Reception and Integration Agency is currently providing accommodation and ancillary services for 5785 asylum seekers.

The accommodation portfolio of the Reception and Integration Agency comprises 2 reception centres, 47 accommodation centres and 9 self catering centres. Details of this accommodation portfolio are below.

The 2007 budgetary provision for the Reception and Integration Agency in respect of accommodation and ancillary services is €70 million.

RIA Accommodation Portfolio as at 3 April 2007

County

Location

Address

Type

Clare

Knockalisheen A/S Centre

Meelick

SYS

Roscommon

Clare Lodge

Ennis

HOS

Ashbourne Hse Hotel

Glounthaune

HOT

Cork

Kinsale Road Acc. Centre

Cork City

SYS

Glenvera Hotel

Wellington Road

HOS

Millstreet Accommodation Centre

Millstreet

FC/NH

Davis Street Apartments

73-75 Davis Street, Mallow

Self Catering

Donegal

Cliffview

Donegal Town

HOS

Dublin

Camden House

Camden Street, Dublin 2

HOS

The Towers

The Ninth Lock, Clondalkin

HOT

Camden Hall

Camden Street, Dublin 2

HOT

70 Lower Camden Street

70 Lower Camden Street

HOS

14 Gardiner Place

Dublin 1

HOS

Horse and Carriage

Aungier Street, Dublin 2

GT

Newlight House

St. Margaret’s, Finglas

GT

10 North Frederick Street

Dublin 1

HOS

Viking Lodge

Francis Street, Dublin 8

HOT

Georgian Court

77-79 Lower Gardiner St. Dublin 2

GT

Hatch Hall

28 Lower Hatch Street, Dublin 1

FC/NH

Glenview House

Tallaght

Self Catering

Harbour View

Grand Canal Place, Dublin 1

Self Catering

James Street Apartments

143 James St., Dublin 8

Self Catering

Portobello Harbour

7 Portobello Harbour, Dublin 8

Self Catering

Tathony House

Bow Lane West, Dublin 8

Self Catering

Watergate House

11-14 Usher’s Quay, Dublin 8

Self Catering

Balseskin

St. Margaret’s, Finglas

Reception

Kilmacud House

Upr. Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan

Reception

Galway

Eglinton Hotel

The Proms, Salthill

HOT

Great Western House

Eyre Square

HOS

Kerry

Atlas House

Killarney

HOT

Atlas House

Tralee

HOS

Johnston Marina Hotel

Tralee

HOT

Linden House

Killarney

GT

Park Lodge

Killarney

HOT

Westward Court

Tralee

HOS

Kildare

Eyrepowell Hotel

Newbridge

HOT

Kilkenny

Ormonde Acc. Centre

John’s Green

HOS

Leitrim

Sliabh an Iarainn

Ballinamore

HOT

Limerick

Clyde House

St. Alphonsus Street

HOS

Westbourne Holiday Hostel

Dock Road

HOS

Mount Trenchard

Foynes, Co. Limerick

FC/NH

Longford

Richmond Court

Richmond Street

HOT

Louth

Carroll Village

Dundalk

Self Catering

Mayo

Railway Hotel

Kiltimagh

HOT

The Old Convent

Ballyhaunis

FC/NH

Meath

Mosney Accommodation Centre

Mosney

HC

Monaghan

St. Patricks

Monaghan

FC/NH

Roscommon

Station Road Apartments

Station Road, Ballaghdereen

Self Catering

Sligo

Globe House

Chapel Hill

HOS

Tipp. South

Bridgewater House

Carrick-On-Suir

FC/NH

Waterford

Ursuline Complex

Ballytruckle Road

FC/NH

Viking House

Coffee House Lane

GT

Atlantic House

Tramore, Co. Waterford

HOT

Ocean View

Tramore, Co. Waterford

HOT

Westmeath

Athlone Accommodation Centre

Athlone

MOB

Wexford

Old Rectory House

New Ross

HOT

Wicklow

Beechlawn

Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow

GT

The Warrens

Wicklow Town

GT

Explanation

SYS = System Built; HOS = Hostel; HOT = Hotel; FC/NH = Former Convent/Nursing Home; GT = Guest House; Reception = Reception Centre; MOB = Mobile Home Site.

Citizenship Applications.

Ivor Callely

Question:

124 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people that have applied for naturalisation during the period 2000 to 2005; the comparison figure for 1980 to 1985 and 1990 to 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13301/07]

The statistics required by the Deputy are set out in tabular form below. These figures illustrate a significant increase in the volume of applications for naturalisation received in recent years.

I should point out that prior to 1997, each application was assigned a registration number, a record of which was then manually entered into ledgers. Some such registration numbers were subsequently cancelled or the applicant assigned a different number and this may result in minor discrepancies in the data provided.

Year

Applications for naturalisation received

Year

Applications for naturalisation received

Year

Applications for naturalisation received

1980

163

1990

372

2000

1,004

1981

187

1991

648

2001

1,431

1982

251

1992

473

2002

3,574

1983

228

1993

255

2003

3,580

1984

228

1994

283

2004

4,074

1985

246

1995

295

2005

4,523

Asylum Applications.

Ivor Callely

Question:

125 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people who were refused asylum or leave to remain here since 1992; the costs involved in the processing of such decisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13302/07]

The information sought by the Deputy in regard to the number of applications for asylum which were refused since 1992 is set out in tabular format below.

Asylum Application and Appeal Statistics — 1992 to 2007 (28/02)

Year

No. of asylum applications received

No. of asylum applications refused at first instance*

No. of asylum appeals refused

1992

39

12

3

1993

91

14

17

1994

362

21

14

1995

424

29

54

1996

1,179

41

218

1997

3,883

349

384

1998

4,626

1,158

210

1999

7,724

4,796

634

2000

10,938

6,291**

1,153

2001

10,325

6,505

1,460

2002

11,634

7,466

3,599

2003

7,900

7,847

3,767

2004

4,766

6,460

5,394

2005

4,323

4,787

3,406

2006

4,314

3,847

1,615

2007(28/02)

717

535

234

Total

73,245

50,158

22,162

*Includes some withdrawn cases.

**This includes 425 recommendations made by ORAC in the period 20 Nov 2000 to 31 Dec 2000.

In regard to Leave to Remain, I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to applications for Leave to Remain in the State made pursuant to Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 as amended.

An application for Leave to Remain in the State in these circumstances arises where a non-national is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3 (3) (a) of the Immigration Act, 1999. A person served with such a notice of intent to deport is afforded three options, viz. to leave the State voluntarily; to consent to the making of a Deportation Order; or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons as to why a Deportation Order should not be made and why temporary Leave to Remain in the State be granted instead.

Leave to remain, outside that granted on the grounds of parentage of an Irish born child or marriage to an Irish or EU national, is considered in the context of deciding whether or not to deport a non-national.

In determining whether to make a deportation order or grant temporary leave to remain in the State, I must have regard to the eleven factors set out in Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, and Section 5 (Prohibition of Refoulement) of the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended.

Temporary leave to remain is considered in every case regardless of whether representations are made by, or on behalf of, the persons concerned. Statistics are not maintained in a way which distinguishes between those who have made an application for leave to remain and those who have not. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that many of those who failed the asylum process, and who did not opt to return voluntarily or consent to deportation, nonetheless left the State before a decision to deport or grant leave to remain was made.

The Department's expenditure for the years 2000-2006 on its asylum and immigration functions is shown below.

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform expenditure on the asylum and immigration process 2000-2006

Year

€m

2000

10.4

2001

31.68

2002

45.46

2003

120.47

2004

128.28

2005

136.85

2006

139.89*

*Provisional outturn.

Costs incurred by the Exchequer in the provision of services to asylum seekers in 2000-2005**

Year

€m

2000

179.32

2001

226.26

2002

341.99

2003

353.17

2004

376.74

2005

307.85*

*Does not include the cost of medical screening and maternity care.

**Some Departments do not provide statistics on asylum seekers only so their statistics also include the cost of providing services to non-nationals generally.

The Department's provisional costs in 2006 were €139.89m for asylum and immigration services including the cost of accommodation for asylum seekers.

Included in the Department's expenditure is the total cost of running the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration service (INIS), including processing of visa and citizenship applications and the operation of the repatriation process, as opposed to specifically the administration of the asylum determination process. Since 2004, INIS has reassigned approximately 120 staff from the asylum determination process to providing mainstream frontline services such as visa processing, citizenship and general immigration functions. The 2006 cost also includes expenditure on elements of a suite of information technology for projects which will improve efficiently and customer service in asylum and immigration processed once completed.

Significantly, the cost of providing accommodation services to asylum seekers in 2006 was almost €6m below the equivalent cost in 2005; i.e. €78m as opposed to €84m.

The overall cost to the Exchequer of providing services in 2006 (across all Government Departments) to asylum seekers and immigrants more generally is not yet available.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 38.

Youth Diversion Projects.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

127 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support an application for a Garda Youth Diversion Project for Lucan, County Dublin in order to provide an effective response to the needs of marginalised youth in the area. [13346/07]

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development and promote civic responsibility. The Garda Youth Diversion Projects are funded by my Department and administered through the Community Relations Section of An Garda Síochána. It is my intention to ensure that 100 projects will be established nationwide before the end of 2007.

The Garda Commissioner brings forward proposals to me for the establishment of new Garda Youth Diversion Projects following periodic assessment of applications received from community groups etc. The locations for new Projects are selected on the basis of factors including an increase in the level of juvenile crime in the area and the number of young people referred to the Juvenile Diversion Programme. Should an application be received for a Garda Youth Diversion Project in the Lucan area it will be given due consideration by the Garda Commissioner.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of organised criminal gangs or their families currently operating in the country and who are known to the Gardaí; the number of such persons that have been prosecuted in the past year; the extent to which their assets have been investigated or are under investigation; the extent to which adequate resources are available to the Gardaí to pursue such inquires; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13365/07]

An Garda Síochána, as part of its contribution to the Europol Organised Crime Report which was recently refined to become the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA), undertakes an annual assessment of organised crime in Ireland. The most recent assessment was completed in November 2006.

This analysis concludes that the nature of organised crime gangs continues to be the same as in previous years. There are two categories of organised crime groups operating in this jurisdiction. The first category consists of individuals/groups that are well established and tightly structured involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures and criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland.

Because of the relative fluid nature of those involved in serious/organised crime in Ireland it is not possible to easily place them in a particular group and therefore it is not possible to provide an accurate and definitive number for the various groups operating here.

The Criminal Assets Bureau, under the Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services, works closely with other national units and senior investigating officers in all Garda Divisions to ensure, wherever possible, that assets derived from criminal activity, including drug-related crime, are subject to post-conviction confiscation, pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act 1993, civil restraint pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2005 and the relevant Revenue and Social Welfare legislation.

An Garda Síochána will continue with intelligence-led operations against selected targets to combat the criminal activities of these groups.

In relation to the resources available to the Gardaí, I wish to inform the Deputy that An Garda Síochána has never been better resourced than it is now. 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, 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 Garda Budget now stands at €1.4 billion, which represents an 11% increase on 2006.

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

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Garda Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the full extent of the technology currently available to the Gardaí is adequate to meet the scale of requirements in the fight against crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13367/07]

With the huge increase in Garda resources facilitated by this Government, I am satisfied that it has enabled a major investment by the Force in technology to meet the challenges of modern society.

This year an unprecedented level of resources is being invested in technology for the Gardaí to assist them in the exercise of all their functions. The capital allocation for Information Technology and Communications alone for 2007 amounts to €44 million. This coupled with the significant level of funding already invested in technology over the past number of years enabled a large number of important initiatives in the area of IT and telecommunications to be undertaken.

An Garda Síochána have set-out their targets in the fight against crime in their Corporate Strategy and Annual Policing Plan for 2007. In the area of technology this is underpinned by their Information and Communications Technology Plan. Implementation of a number of major systems identified in the plan is already well underway. Chief among these is the provision of a new National Digital Radio Service which will provide the force with not only secure radio communications but also access to mobile data such as photographs etc. Other projects currently underway include a Major Incidents System which will involve the capture of all incident information, exhibit tracking as well as supporting incident room management. A new Automated Number Plate recognition system (ANPR) is also being developed. Other systems under development include a new Automated Fingerprint Information System (AFIS), an automated Ballistics Identification System (ABIS) and Financial Management Systems as well as significant investment in the continued support and maintenance of existing systems.

The above mentioned investment is just one element of the Government's overall commitment to An Garda Síochána including increasing the strength of the Force to 15,000, a major programme of civilianisation and an increase in the overall Garda budget to over €1.4 billion in 2007. This unprecedented investment in resources by this Government provides a firm platform to take on the challenges of policing in a modern diverse society.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number and location of Garda stations throughout the country, excluding divisional headquarters that are open to the public on a 24 hour basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13368/07]

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

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the deployment of Gardaí in terms of ratio to the population has been improved in line with demographic trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13369/07]

I am 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.

The national population in 1996 was 3,626,087 while the Garda strength was 10,285. This established a ratio of 1 Garda member for every 335 persons. If the population increased to 4.5 m by 2012, a Garda strength of 13,433 would be required to maintain this 335:1 ratio. Under the current Garda recruitment programme approved by the Government, the strength of the Force will have increased to 15000 by 2012. Based on a population assumption of 4.5 million, this represents a ratio of 1 Garda for every 300 persons.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Central Statistics Office are presently examining the 2006 Census of Population figures in relation to Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS). It is not expected that these SAPS figures will be available until October 2007. It is therefore not possible to provide an accurate ratio of the extent to which the deployment of Gardaí in terms of ratio to the population has improved in line with demographic trends at present.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that it is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his/her Division. Garda Personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of the permanent and full time Garda Síochána as of 30 March 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13370/07]

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.

I am 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 as at 30th March 2007 was 13,172.

The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, the overall strength of the organisation may fluctuate due, for example, to retirements, resignations etc.

Question No. 134 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which custodial procedures in respect of high risk criminals are breached throughout the prison service with particular reference to overcrowding and the concentration of an unacceptable number of such prisoners at any location; his proposals to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13372/07]

High risk criminals are dispersed throughout the prison system. However, a substantial number of them are held in Portlaoise prison, which is currently operating at 63% of its capacity. I have been advised by the Irish Prison Service that custodial procedures are not breached with respect to high risk criminals.

The decision to locate an individual at a particular institution is normally taken following a risk assessment which takes cognisance of intelligence held on him/her derived from previous periods of detention, Garda Reports and knowledge of associates, alliances etc.

As regards occupancy levels throughout the prison system in general, the total number of prisoners in custody on 2 April, 2007 was 3,283 compared with a bed capacity of 3,416. This represents an occupancy level of 96%.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the full extent of cell occupation throughout the prison service; the number of cells not designed to cater for more than one person, which have in excess of that number; the number of prisoners accommodated in breech of safety or security conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13373/07]

The total number of prisoners in custody on 2 April, 2007 was 3,283 compared with a bed capacity of 3,416. This represents an occupancy level of 96%.

In relation to the number of cells not designed to cater for more than one person, it is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy in the time available as the information is not readily available. However, my Department is currently compiling the data which will then require collation. Once this information is sourced, I will furnish the information to the Deputy.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes committed by members of organised criminal gangs since he linked the incidence of such activity to the sting of a dying wasp; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13374/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that as part of their contribution to the Europol Organised Crime Report, which was recently refined to become the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA), An Garda Síochána undertakes an annual assessment of organised crime in Ireland. The most recent assessment was completed in November 2006.

The analysis concludes that the nature of organised crime gangs continues to be the same as in previous years. There are two categories of organised crime groups operating in this jurisdiction. The first category consists of individuals/groups that are well established and tightly structured involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland.

However, because of the relatively fluid nature of those involved in serious/organised crime in Ireland, it is not possible to provide an accurate estimate as to those crimes committed by such groupings. An Garda Síochána will continue with intelligence-led operations against selected targets to combat the criminal activities of these groups.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes including anti-social behaviour incidents reported to or through each Garda station in County Kildare in each of the past three years; the number of prosecutions and convictions that followed therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13375/07]

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 Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will carry out a revision of Garda strength and deployment in respect of division, district and station throughout County Kildare with particular reference to increasing Garda strength in reasonable ratios to the population which has increased dramatically in the past 10 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13377/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will increase Garda strength at the various stations throughout County Kildare in line with the population increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13378/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 140 together.

I am 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.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Carlow/Kildare Division on 31 December 1997 and on 2 April 2007 was 281 and 390 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 109 (or 38.7%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

The national population in 1996 was 3,626,087 while the Garda strength was 10,285. This established a ratio of 1 Garda member for every 335 persons. If the population increased to 4.5 m by 2012, a Garda strength of 13,433 would be required to maintain this 335:1 ratio. Under the current Garda recruitment programme approved by the Government, the strength of the force will have increased to 15,000 by 2012. Based on a population assumption of 4.5 million, this represents a ratio of 1 Garda for every 300 persons.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Central Statistics Office are presently examining the 2006 Census of Population figures in relation to Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS). It is not expected that these SAPS figures will be available until October 2007. It is therefore not possible to provide an accurate ratio of the extent to which the deployment of Gardaí in terms of ratio to the population has improved in line with demographic trends at present.

I should also add that it is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his/her Division. Garda Personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Garda Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which it is intended to increase or improve the facilities available to the Gardaí in County Kildare including patrol cars, motorcycles and information technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13379/07]

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

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations throughout County Kildare open and operational on a 24 hour basis; his plans to increase this number in line with demographic trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13380/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make extra provision for the opening of Garda stations throughout County Kildare on a 24 hour basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13381/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together.

I am 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.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Carlow/Kildare Division on 31 December, 1997, and on 2 April, 2007, was 281 and 390 (all ranks) respectively. This represents an increase of 109 (or 38.7%) in the number of personnel allocated since that date.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that currently there are 5 Garda Stations in the Carlow/Kildare Division open on a 24 hour basis (Naas, Kildare, Newbridge, Carlow and Baltinglass).

The extension of the opening hours of other stations in the Carlow/Kildare Division would necessitate the employment of additional personnel on indoor administrative duties who may be more effectively employed on outdoor policing duties.

I should also add that it is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his/her Division. Garda Personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

144 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm plans for funding for closed circuit television systems in Tallaght including estates in Tallaght west (details supplied); the schedule being followed in this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13456/07]

I launched the Community-based CCTV Scheme in June 2005, in response to a demonstrated demand from local communities across Ireland for the provision of CCTV systems. The Scheme is designed to provide financial assistance to qualifying local organisations towards meeting the capital costs associated with the establishment of local community CCTV systems.

The Scheme offers both pre-development grants of up to €5,000 to enable qualifying applicants to investigate the need for CCTV in their area and to complete a detailed proposal, and substantial grants of up to €100,000 from my Department to install a CCTV system in their area. In addition, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs provides successful applicants from RAPID areas with a further grant to a possible maximum of €100,000. Pobal has been engaged to administer the Scheme on behalf of this Department and it carries out thorough assessments of all applications received.

The first round of the Scheme concluded in September 2005 and 24 successful groups received Stage 1 grants totalling €115,665 with payments being made in 2006. Pobal invited all groups who received Stage 1 grants to submit Stage 2 proposals by 31st January 2007. Twenty of these groups submitted proposals and I announced in recent days that eleven groups had been approved to receive grants totalling in excess of €1 million from my Department, to be matched in RAPID areas by funding in the order of €960,000 provided by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The final amounts of funding involved for each project will be determined subject to the finalisation of contracts for each scheme.

Three proposed projects in the Tallaght area are included in the eleven groups that have been approved for grants from my Department. They are:

Jobstown Community Development Group, Tallaght,

Getting Tallaght Working Ltd., T/A Partas in Killinarden, and

Getting Tallaght Working Ltd., T/A Partas in Brookfield & Fettercairn.

As these three areas are RAPID areas, the projects will be entitled to seek matching funding from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The approval for funding now enables these Community groups in the Tallaght area and, indeed, groups in the other areas of the country involved to install and operate their own CCTV systems under the guidance of An Garda Síochána and the Local Authorities. Pobal will continue to monitor progress on behalf of the Department as these projects are implemented.

Community-based CCTV schemes are an important and effective way for local people and organisations to work together in partnership with the Gardaí and local authorities to help make local communities safer.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when the new Garda Station in Leixlip will open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13376/07]

Construction of the new Garda Station in Leixlip is under way and completion is expected in Autumn 2008.

Appointments to State Boards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

146 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance the number of nominations from each gender to State boards for which his Department has responsibility in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13161/07]

The following tables give details of the number of nominations from each gender to State Boards for which my Department has responsibility for each of the years 2002 to 2007.

Year 2002

Board Name

Male Nominees

Female Nominees

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

None

1

Civil Service and Teachers Arbitration Board

3

None

Adjudicator for Civil Service and Teachers Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme

None

1

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

2

1

Central Bank of Ireland

3

None

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority Interim Board

8

1

Valuation Tribunal

4

None

Ordnance Survey Ireland

10

None

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

4

3

An Post National Lottery Company

3

None

Year 2003

Board Name

Male Nominees

Female Nominees

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

None

2

Civil Service and Teachers Arbitration Board

3

None

Adjudicator for Civil Service and Teachers Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme

None

1

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority

11

1

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority

8

2

National Development Finance Agency

4

2

Valuation Tribunal

None

1

An Post National Lottery Company

3

None

Year 2004

Board Name

Male Nominees

Female Nominees

Public Appointments Service

4

5

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

None

1

Civil Service, Teachers and Permanent Defence Forces Arbitration Board

4

None

Adjudicator for Civil Service, Teachers and Defence Forces Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme

None

1

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

1

1

Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel

13

8

Financial Services Consultative Industry Panel

15

5

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

9

1

Credit Union Advisory Committee

5

2

Valuation Tribunal

None

1

An Post National Lottery Company

1

1

Year 2005

Board Name

Male Nominees

Female Nominees

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

None

1

Civil Service, Teachers and Permanent Defence Forces Arbitration Board

4

None

Adjudicator for Civil Service, Teachers and Defence Forces Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme

None

1

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

9

4

Financial Services Consultative Industry Panel

1

1

National Development Finance Agency

2

None

Valuation Tribunal

3

1

Review Body on Higher Remuneration

2

None

An Post National Lottery Company

3

None

Year 2006

Board Name

Male Nominees

Female Nominees

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

None

1

Civil Service, Teachers, Gardaí and Permanent Defence Forces Arbitration Board

5

None

Adjudicator for Civil Service, Teachers, Gardaí and Defence Forces Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme

1

None

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

2

None

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority

2

None

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority

2

None

Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel

11

8

Financial Services Consultative Industry Panel

14

4

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

8

1

Credit Union Advisory Committee

5

2

National Development Finance Agency

1

None

Valuation Tribunal

5

None

Ordnance Survey Ireland

3

None

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

None

2

Public Service Benchmarking Body

6

1

Committee for Performance Awards

2

1

An Post National Lottery Company

3

1

Year 2007

Board Name

Male Nominees

Female Nominees

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

None

1

Civil Service, Teachers, Gardaí and Permanent Defence Forces Arbitration Board

5

None

Adjudicator for Civil Service, Teachers, Gardaí and Defence Forces Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme

1

None

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

None

1

Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal

4

3

National Development Finance Agency

1

None

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

147 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the appointments to State boards, other bodies under the aegis of his Department, or other public appointments of any kind, which will be due to be made by him between 29 March 2007 and 4 July 2007. [13207/07]

The following vacancies have arisen recently or are due to arise in the coming months on State boards, State bodies or other entities under the aegis of my Department and I would envisage that the majority of the vacancies will be filled by 4 July.

Name of Body

No. of Vacancies

Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI)

7

State Claims Agency (SCA) Policy Committee

5

Valuation Tribunal

4

Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeal Board

1

Decentralisation Implementation Group

1

Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel

1

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee

2

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

2

Civil Service Arbitration Board

4

Civil Service Adjudicator

1

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

148 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if a person paying rent to a housing association similar to those (details supplied) is entitled to claim tax relief on their rent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13394/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, in specific terms, they are not in a position to state whether tax relief would be available in respect of rent paid to a voluntary housing association such as "Clúid" or 'Respond' without knowing the precise details of the tenancy and/or other arrangement entered into by the individual concerned.

In general terms, Section 473 TCA 1997 provides tax relief at the standard rate of tax (currently 20%) to individuals who pay for private rented accommodation that is used as their sole or main residence. The maximum tax relief available is as follows:

(a) for married persons jointly assessed to tax and widowed persons—

(i) if aged under 55, the maximum relief is €3,600@20% = €720

(ii) if aged 55 or over €7,200@20% = €1,440

(b) for single individuals—

(i) if aged under 55, €1,800 @ 20% = €360

(ii) if aged 55 or over €3,600 @ 20% = €720

However, the relief is not available in respect of rent paid on: a tenancy for a freehold estate or interest, or a tenancy for a definite period of 50 years or more; tenancies held from local authorities, Government Departments or the Office of Public Works, and tenancies in relation to which exists an agreement that the rent paid may be treated as consideration or part consideration for the purchase or future purchase of the property.

In addition, the term ‘rent' does not include payment that relates to the provision of goods and services nor does it include any right or benefit other than the bare right to use, occupy and enjoy residential premises. Also, the term 'rent' does not include payments that qualify for right of reimbursement or subsidy from a third party.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, in relation to the case giving rise to the Deputy's query, on receipt of the details of the individual's tenancy and/or other arrangement with the housing association, they will examine the matter and determine whether or not relief for rent paid is due.

If there is an entitlement to the rent relief, such entitlement is claimed by way of completion of a form Rent 1 (which is available from the Revenue website www.revenue.).

Tax Collection.

John Perry

Question:

149 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if he will waive the liabilities for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo as they are experiencing financial difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13395/07]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an Inland Revenue Affidavit was received in the case of the named estate. So that the amount of Probate Tax liability can be established, a Probate Tax Form [form PT1] was requested from the Solicitor on 15th February 2007 but this has not yet been returned. It is not possible to determine the liability to Probate Tax until Form PT1 is received.

In addition insufficient information is available to determine whether there is a Capital Acquisitions Tax liability in respect of the beneficiaries or any other tax liability in respect of the estate. No request has been received to waive liability.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

150 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason no specialised treatment is provided for people in Kerry with special needs once they leave the formal education system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13145/07]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

151 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients currently awaiting orthopaedic appointments at Kerry General Hospital; the consultant rheumatology patient ratio; the number of patients on waiting lists for neurology, urology, ophthalmology and plastic surgery consultation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13146/07]

Statutory responsibility for the collation, management and publication of data on waiting times for surgical procedures rests with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). My Department has, therefore, asked the Chief Executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested on neurology, urology, ophthalmology and plastic surgery waiting lists.

As the NTPF would not be in a position to comment on the consultant rheumatology patient ratio at Kerry General Hospital (KGH), my Department requested the information from the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE has advised that a visiting consultant Rheumatologist attends KGH on one day per month and typically sees eight new patients per session. In 2006, there were 546 Rheumatology out-patient consultations at KGH of which 47 were new patients. At present, there is no in-patient Rheumatology service in Kerry. Patients requiring in-patient treatment are referred as appropriate to Cork University Hospital.

The following table sets out the waiting list for both Orthopaedic Out-patient and In-patient waiting times and for Out-patient Rheumatology consultations at KGH as at end February, 2007. KGH is working closely with the NTPF towards reducing waiting times for both in-patient and out-patient services.

Adults < 3 months

Adults > 3 months

Children < 3 months

Children > 3 months

Orthopaedic In-patient waiting list

26

22

1

0

Orthopaedic Out-patient waiting list

89

586

7

28

Rheumatology Out-patient waiting list

8

253

Appointments to State Boards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

152 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of nominations from each gender to State boards for which her Department has responsibility in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13163/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is presently being compiled by my Department and will be forwarded to her as soon as it is finalised.

Missing Persons.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

153 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps that have been taken to deal with the number of children reported missing from the custody of the Health Services Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13171/07]

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

Mental Health Services.

John Gormley

Question:

154 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps that have been taken to establish a National Mental Health Service Directorate within the Health Service Executive, as outlined in the mental health policy A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13172/07]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change", which was launched in January 2006, provides a framework for action to develop modern, high quality mental health services for a seven to ten year period. The Government has accepted the Report as the basis for the future development of our mental health services.

Implementation of the individual recommendations of "A Vision for Change", is a matter primarily for the HSE. In July 2006, the HSE established an implementation group to ensure that mental health services develop in a synchronised and consistent manner across the country and resource service managers and clinicians in making the recommendations in "A Vision for Change" a reality.

The HSE has informed my Department that it is currently examining how best to give effect to the recommendation contained in "A Vision for Change" to establish a National Mental Health Service Directorate. Proposals are being developed which will take account of the HSE's existing management structures and the existence of the Expert Advisory Group on Mental Health.

John Gormley

Question:

155 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to ensure that feedback from mental health service users on the effectiveness of services is taken into account in the implementation of the mental health policy A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13173/07]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change", which was launched in January 2006, provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health services for a seven to ten year period. "A Vision for Change" recommends that a National Service User Executive be established to inform the HSE, the Mental Health Commission, inter alia, on issues relating to service user involvement and participation in planning, delivering, evaluating and monitoring services. The interim National Service User Executive (iNSUE) was established on 31 January 2007.

The Health Service Executive proposes to replace the interim NSUE with a substantive NSUE before the end of this year. The interim group will design the structure and format, constitution and standing orders and set out a programme of work.

In July 2006, the Health Service Executive established "A Vision for Change" implementation group to ensure that mental health services develop in a synchronised and consistent manner across the country and to resource service managers and clinicians in making the recommendations in "A Vision for Change" a reality. There are two service user and carer organisation representatives on the implementation group.

John Gormley

Question:

156 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the efforts being led by her Department in adopting an interdepartmental approach to the delivery of the targets outlined in the mental health policy entitled A Vision for Change; when such a plan will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13174/07]

The Government is committed to the full implementation of "A Vision for Change" and has accepted the Report as the basis for the future development of our mental health services.

In March 2006, I appointed an independent monitoring group to monitor progress on the implementation of the recommendations of "A Vision for Change". The group will monitor and assess progress on the implementation of all the recommendations including those which fall under the responsibility of the HSE, government departments and other relevant agencies. The group is to submit its first annual report before mid 2007.

My Department has been in contact with other government departments in relation to the implementation of the recommendations which fall under their responsibility and will report to the independent monitoring group.

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

157 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people currently holding full medical cards, per county; the number of people currently holding general practitioner only medical cards, per county; the number of people holding medical cards in June 2002, per county; and the number of people holding medical cards in June 1997, per county. [13197/07]

I attach a table for the Deputy showing the total number of people currently holding medical cards and GP visit cards; the total number of people holding medical cards in June 2002, and the total number of people holding medical cards in June 1997. The most recent monthly figures for medical card and GP visit card holders as supplied by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to my Department are as at 1st March, 2007.

As the HSE has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, and as the detailed information sought by the Deputy is not available in my Department, the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive has been requested to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

1st March, 2007

June 2002

June 1997

Medical Card Holders

1,228,468

1,207,096

1,244,459

GP Visit Card Holders

58,712

N/A

N/A

There are a number of contextual factors which must be taken into account in interpreting these data.

The Health Strategy Quality & Fairness committed to making improvements in the income guidelines in order to increase the number of persons on low incomes eligible for the medical card and to give priority to families with children. In November, 2004 I set out my priorities for new health initiatives in 2005 including the provision of medical cards to an additional 30,000 people and GP visit cards to 200,000 people. Funding of €60 million was provided to the HSE for these measures. The two initiatives were intended to assist those on low and moderate incomes in accessing GP services and to help remove disincentives to people taking up work or progressing to better paying work. Following the enactment of the necessary legislation and the conclusion of negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation, the first GP visit cards were issued by the HSE in November, 2005.

Taking holders of medical cards and GP visit cards together, some 1.287m persons (30.39% of the national population) now have access to general practitioner services free of charge.

In recent years there have been significant improvements to the way in which people's eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is assessed. Since the start of 2005, the income guidelines used in the assessment of medical card applications have increased by a cumulative29%. Other significant changes in 2005 mean that, on a standardised basis nationally, assessment is now based on an applicant's and spouse's income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child-care and travel to work. Initially the GP visit card guidelines were 25% higher than the medical card guidelines however in June, 2006 I agreed with the HSE to further increase the income guidelines for GP visit cards and they are now 50% higher than those used for medical cards.

The HSE (and before 2005 the health boards) have undertaken a substantial programme of work in recent years to improve data quality in the GMS client database. For example, in 2003 and 2004, work carried out by the health boards led to a deletion of approximately 104,000 inappropriate entries where, for example, there were duplicate entries for the same person, the expiry date on the card had passed, the person had moved away or was deceased. This exercise did not involve any reduction in the actual number of people who held medical cards but rather resulted in a more accurate picture of the number of individuals in receipt of GP services under the GMS Scheme.

Appointments to State Boards.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

158 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the appointments to State boards, other bodies under the aegis of her Department, or other public appointments of any kind, which will be due to be made by her between 29 March 2007 and 4 July 2007. [13209/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is as set out below. It should be noted that the details presented represent both current vacancies on the boards of bodies under the aegis of my Department, which are in the process of being filled, in addition to those vacancies which are due to occur before 4 July 2007. I would envisage filling each of these vacancies in a timely fashion to allow for the work of the boards in question to continue uninterrupted subject to the availability of suitable candidates willing to serve in these positions.

Dublin Dental Hospital Board (14)

Health Research Board (10)

Irish Medicines Board (1)

National Cancer Registry Board (2)

National Council on Ageing and Older People (1)

National Social Work Qualifications Board (17)

National Treatment Purchase Fund (1)

St Luke's Hospital Board (2)

Voluntary Health Insurance Board (1)

Hospital Accommodation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

159 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients at St. Bridget’s Hospital, Ballinasloe; if the number of patients has been cut back in recent years; if staffing levels have been cutback; her plans for the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13224/07]

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 of all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive is, therefore, the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

160 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a project (details supplied) in County Donegal; the services that will be available when the project is completed; if services such as BreastCheck, X-ray facilities, kidney dialysis and others will be available; and when exactly it is expected to be open. [13225/07]

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that it provided information in relation to the project named by the Deputy in response to a previous parliamentary question. My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated further and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Billy Timmins

Question:

161 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if they will be seen as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13229/07]

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.

Transport Costs.

John McGuinness

Question:

162 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if the cost of transport to attend a hospital in Dublin will be refunded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, as the ambulance service could not meet their needs due to their health condition; and if she will expedite the matter. [13282/07]

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.

Health Service Staff.

John McGuinness

Question:

163 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 136 of 1 March 2007, if she will request the Health Service Executive to address the issues raised in the question and explain the reason this person (details supplied) is effectively being locked out of their employment; the reason requests by them to return to work have been ignored by management; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13283/07]

My Department understands from the Health Service Executive that while it (the Health Service Executive) has a role in the funding of the organisation (details supplied) it is a matter between the person (details supplied) and the Voluntary Organisation (details supplied).

The Health Service Executive understands that normal industrial mechanisms will be used to resolve same.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

164 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate an application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork for enhanced nursing home subvention which was lodged with the health boards two years ago. [13284/07]

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

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

165 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork in need of orthodontic treatment to be admitted for pre-orthodontic surgery as soon as possible. [13285/07]

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.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

166 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate an application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork for a medical card which has been refused; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person is in receipt of invalidity pension and has been unable to work for a long number of years owing to injuries received in a road traffic accident and that their spouse is no longer employed. [13286/07]

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 theDeputy.

Hospital Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

167 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in having an admission date arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is in need of surgery. [13287/07]

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.

Ambulance Service.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

168 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason her Department and the Health Service Executive have not applied to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs for additional finance for ambulance transport when there are persons all over County Mayo without an ambulance transport system to take them to essential hospital appointments, in situations where there are no other transport options available, in view of the fact that the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has publically stated that finance for such projects is available by his Department for CLÁR and Rapid areas once a proposal has been submitted; when such submissions will be submitted by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13314/07]

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.

EU Health Insurance.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

169 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 691 of 31 January, 2007, the reason there is still no information on ehic.ie regarding the public health systems in Bulgaria and Romania; and if she will ensure that this unsatisfactory position is immediately addressed. [13315/07]

In regard to the public health care system of Romania, my Department has requested the Romanian authorities to provide the relevant information for inclusion on www.ehic.ie and a reply is awaited. It is hoped that information will be available about health care in Romania shortly. In regard to Bulgaria, information on its public health care system has been sent by my Department to the HSE for inclusion on the website. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to theDeputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Finian McGrath

Question:

170 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will clarify the powers of the Health Service Executive in relation of the home ownership of patients in their care. [13336/07]

There is no provision whereby the HSE may seek to sell the home of a person in long stay care. The Deputy will be aware that at present, some individuals find it necessary to sell their home in order to pay for long-term care. However, I recently announced a Nursing Home Support Scheme, to be implemented from 2008, under which there will no need for individuals to take this course of action. The new scheme will ensure that no-one has to sell their home during their lifetime to pay for their care costs.

Under the new scheme individuals will make an immediate contribution towards the cost of their care amounting to up to 80% of their disposable income. Depending on the amount of disposable income a person has, there will also be a deferred charge of up to 5% of their assets per annum. The charge is deferred because it will not have to be met during a person's lifetime. In the case of the principal private residence it will be capped at 15%. Finally, for individuals whose spouse and certain dependants are living in the residence, the charge will be further deferred during their lifetime. The Health Service Executive has responsibility for provision of long-term care and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Appointments to State Boards.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

171 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has signed the statutory instrument to establish the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board; when she will sign the instrument in question; the remit of the new board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13339/07]

A joint Health Service Executive/Department of Health and Children Transition Group was established to advance the development of the national tertiary paediatric hospital. The next stage of the process, which is being overseen by the Transition Group, 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, taking account of international best practice in the planning of children's hospital services. RKW's report is expected to be completed this month.

The Transition Group is also at an advanced stage of drafting the Statutory Instrument which will establish the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board on a legal basis. The draft proposals have been sent to the relevant parties for comment. The Board, which will be chaired by Mr Philip Lynch, will be responsible for designing, building and equipping the new hospital in accordance with the high level framework brief currently being prepared.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

172 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an appointment for knee surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13343/07]

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.

David Stanton

Question:

173 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children awaiting assessment for speech therapy services; the number of children awaiting such services to be provided; the number of children receiving speech therapy in the southern region of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13350/07]

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.

Data Protection.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

174 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if legislation exists or is needed to govern the provision of medical information by non-medical professionals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13351/07]

The Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 provide a statutory framework for the collection, use, disclosure, transfer and security of personal information. Under the Data Protection Acts, personal health information is identified as belonging to the category of sensitive information for which additional safeguards apply.

The National Health Information Strategy (2004) placed considerable emphasis on the privacy, confidentiality and security of health information in the context of developing a health system wide information governance framework. My Department is currently, in the initial stages, of preparing proposals for a Health Information Bill which will underpin the new framework. As part of that process, it is intended that there will be a wide-ranging public consultation exercise when the proposals have been drawn up.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Billy Timmins

Question:

175 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to hospitals (details supplied) in County Wicklow; the waiting lists for each of the hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13354/07]

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

176 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if cancer screening will be provided for people over the age of 64, both male and female; if she will remove the inequality that exists in relation to the screening services provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13360/07]

Evidence based population screening programmes are an essential element of the National Cancer Control Strategy which I published last June. As the Deputy is aware, on 1 January this year, I established a National Cancer Screening Service Board which amalgamates BreastCheck and the Irish Cervical Screening Programme, both of which will be rolled out nationally this year. The total allocation to the new Service in 2007 is €33m. This is a 71% increase on the 2006 allocation to the Programmes and includes an additional €8m for BreastCheck and an additional €5m for the Irish Cervical Screening Programme. The Service will also advise on the implementation of a national colorectal screening programme.

The Irish Cervical Screening Programme Phase One currently offers free cervical screening to women aged between 25 and 60 years in the Mid-Western Region. The National Programme will provide screening every three years for women aged 25-44 years and screening every five years for women aged 45-60 years. Under the National Breast Screening Programme, screening is offered free of charge to all women in the Eastern, North Eastern, Midland and parts of the South Eastern areas in the 50-64 age group.

When the national roll-out of the BreastCheck programme is sufficiently developed and it is assured that a quality service is being delivered at national level, consideration will be given to including older women and thereby continuing the screening of women in the programme who have reached 65 years of age. Any woman irrespective of her age or residence who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

177 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene with Crumlin Hospital and have an appointment brought forward for a person (details supplied) as their condition has deteriorated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13397/07]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

178 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when the results of a blood test will be supplied to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [13403/07]

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 address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

179 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a group (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded a grant; the outcome of the review in this case; and if funding been provided in view of the fact that there is only two to three months before the break-up of play-schools for the summer months and many of these children will lose out on play-school prior to junior infants if funding is not immediately provided. [13455/07]

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

As part of the process of closing the EOCP, the final date for reaching contract stage, for Groups applying for funding under this programme, was 31 December 2006. As the Deputy will be aware, the EOCP is co-funded by the European Union and timescales agreed with the Commission must be observed as financial penalties will accrue to the State if they are not. The Group in question submitted an EOCP staffing grant application to Pobal, which is engaged to assess EOCP and NCIP grants on behalf of my Office, in October 2006. Final information required to complete the assessment was received by Pobal from the Group on 6 December 2006.

As it was not possible at that stage for the application to be brought through the assessment and appraisal process and to contract stage by 31 December 2006, it was recommended by the Programme Appraisal Committee that the Group's application under that Programme be declined and that the application be considered in the context of the forthcoming NCIP staffing grant scheme. The Secretary General of the Department concurred with this recommendation.

In certain circumstances, including where an application is linked to a previous EOCP capital grant, applications for staffing grant assistance are continuing to be considered under the EOCP and, subject to the outcome of a review in each case, the applicants will be advised of the position as soon as possible. In the case of other Groups such as that referred to by the Deputy, which have been declined staffing grant funding under the EOCP as a result of being unable to meet the contractual deadlines of that Programme, and whose applications were not linked to a previous EOCP capital grant, the review of their applications for staffing grant funding will be undertaken as soon as the details of the new NCIP staffing grant scheme are announced. In each case, the review will be undertaken as quickly as possible to facilitate the Group concerned. Officials in my Office will be in contact with the Group in due course to inform them of the outcome of that review.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

180 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide a weekend consultant led palliative care service at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13457/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

181 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide a palliative care unit at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13458/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 181 together.

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.

Telecommunications Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

182 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he expects the proposed national broadband scheme to be rolled out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13149/07]

Willie Penrose

Question:

188 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to provide broadband for the Ballymahon and Keenagh area of County Longford, and in particular to ensure that rural dwellers can avail of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13460/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 188 together.

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband by private sector companies is a matter for the companies themselves operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, 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. In that regard my Department has undertaken initiatives to address the gaps in 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. My Department has also provided grant-aid under the recently concluded Group Broadband Scheme.

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 the proposed National Broadband Scheme, which will aim to provide broadband to these unserved areas. The scheme when it is fully rolled out, should 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.

Appointments to State Boards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

183 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of nominations from each gender to State boards for which his Department has responsibility in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13155/07]

In the time available, it has not been possible to identify and assemble the information requested. My Department is compiling the data sought by the Deputy in this regard and I shall forward it to him as soon as possible.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

184 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the appointments to State boards, other bodies under the aegis of his Department, or other public appointments of any kind, which will be due to be made by him between 29 March 2007 and 4 July 2007. [13201/07]

The number of current vacancies as of 29th March 2007 or falling due on or before 4th July 2007 is 56 in all State Boards, State Bodies or other like entities. I intend to fill any vacancies that arise, in the normal way.

Energy Resources.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

185 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the grant aid available in establishing a wind turbine business; and the regulations relevant to such an establishment. [13273/07]

Support programmes for the establishment of new manufacturing businesses are in the first instance a matter for my colleague Deputy Micheál Martin, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Energy Review.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

186 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the person who will carry out the review of security of oil supplies to Ireland which is to be completed in 2007 as outlined in section 3.7 of the recent Energy White Paper; the scope and purpose of the report; when work is expected to start and to be completed on the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13347/07]

My Department will be proceeding to tender shortly for the review of the future security of Ireland's access to crude oil and oil products.

The review will assess over the medium to longer term, Ireland's security of access to commercial oil supply including the necessary risk analysis. It will also address contingency planning. It is expected that the tender will be awarded by June next with a target date of end year for completion of the review.

Energy Resources.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

187 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will publish a Handbook on Oil Supply Disruptions Contingency Measures as proposed in section 3.7 of the Energy White Paper; if he will provide further details on the authors, the purpose of the handbook and the regulations in place to enforce such contingency measures should they be needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13348/07]

The Handbook on Oil Supply Disruption Contingency Measures will be published and placed on the Department's website by the end of April. The Handbook was compiled by officials of my Department in consultation with the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), the Irish Petroleum Industry Association (IPIA) and other Departments.

As a member of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Ireland is obliged to maintain contingency arrangements for dealing with oil supply disruptions. The purpose of the Handbook is to clearly set out the legislation and national and international procedures, which underpin and inform decisions in the event of an oil supply disruption. The Handbook will be regularly reviewed and updated.

There are legislative measures in place to deal with an oil supply disruption. Ireland would respond to an oil supply disruption by either the drawdown of NORA stocks or by the use of demand restraint measures or a combination of both. Under the Fuels (Control of Supplies) Acts 1971 and 1982, the Government may make an order empowering the Minister to provide for the regulation or control of the acquisition, supply, distribution or marketing of specified types of fuels, for the maintenance of certain types of fuels and to provide for the control, regulation, restriction or prohibition of the import or the export of specified types of fuels. The National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007 provides for Ministerial powers to authorise the draw down of NORA stocks in the event of an oil supply crisis.

Question No. 188 answered with QuestionNo. 182.

Fisheries Protection.

Martin Ferris

Question:

189 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the fact that the rod ban implemented on the Shannon in Limerick City includes all fish species and not just salmon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13472/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

190 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether the ban on salmon fishing on the Shannon in Limerick City is simply a cost saving exercise and will have no impact on fish stocks. [13473/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

191 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the ban on fishing on the Shannon is opposed by a group (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will take action to support their call for the ban to be revoked. [13474/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

192 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will immediately lift the ban on rod fishing imposed on the Shannon River from Plassey to Thomond Bridge in Limerick City, which is in effect from 1 March 2007. [13475/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

193 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the section of the Shannon from Plassey to Thomond Bridge, that is covered by the ban on fishing, especially the part at the long shore, is fished by local people many of them young and from the neighbouring estates of Moyross, Ballynanty, Kileely, Thomondgate and St. Mary’s Park, all of which are in areas covered by the Government’s rapid programme, and that this will aggravate the situation where there are very few leisure and sports facilities. [13476/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 to 193, inclusive, together.

A variety of conservation measures have been adopted for the protection of wild salmon stocks in the River Shannon.

The Shannon Fisheries Region (Prohibition of Angling with Rod and Line) Bye-law No. C.S.289, 2007 prohibits angling for all species of fish in a section of the Lower River Shannon from Plassey Bridge to Thomond Bridge during the period commencing 1 March to 30 September.

This bye-law was introduced at the request of the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board, which advised me that wide scale illegal fishing takes place in this area.

I am advised that the Shannon Fisheries Board considers that it would be problematic to implement a management system to protect wild salmon that would be complied with in this area during this season. In the circumstances, permitting angling for any species would adversely impact of wild salmon stocks.

The Board will keep this measure under review for the current season in the context of the longer term adjustments to the salmon management regime on the River Shannon.

Appointments to State Boards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

194 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of nominations from each gender to State boards for which his Department has responsibility in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13162/07]

The overall position in regard to the gender composition of appointments to Boards under the aegis of my Department is summarised in the table below.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

Male

13

20

2

20

1

56

Female

4

11

1

15

2

33

The Advisory Board for Irish Aid was established in August 2002. Board members were appointed for a period of three years. From 2002 to 2005, there were 11 members on the Board, 8 male and 3 female. A new Board was appointed in November 2005 for a period of three years. There are now 16 members on the Board, 8 male and 8 female.

The Development Education Advisory Committee (DEAC) was set up in 2003 to offer policy advice on development education and on ways to increase knowledge and understanding of development issues in Ireland. The original Committee (2003–2005) comprised 4 male and 4 female members. The current Committee (2005-2007) comprises 16 members, 11 male and 5 female.

The Fondation Irlandaise, which formally administers the Irish College in Paris, is managed by an Administration Council and a Board of Management comprising French and Irish nominees. A total of 16 Irish appointments were made to the Administration Council and Board of Management during the period in question, 11 male and 5 female.

The Ireland — United States Commission for Educational Exchange (the Fulbright Commission) finances study, research, teaching and other educational activities between Ireland and the United States of America. A total of 11 appointments have been made to the Commission during the period 2002 to date, of which 6 were male and 5 female.

In February 2003, responsibility for the Díon Committee on Emigrant support in Britain was transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Since then a total of 6 appointments have been made, 3 male and 3 female.

The Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO) was established in 1973 as a semi-state body operating under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs, with a Board of Directors appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. APSO was integrated into the Department of Foreign Affairs on 1 January, 2004. During 2002 and 2003, a total of 5 appointments were made to the Board, 4 male and 1 female.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

195 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the appointments to State boards, other bodies under the aegis of his Department, or other public appointments of any kind, which will be due to be made by him between 29 March 2007 and 4 July 2007. [13208/07]

I envisage making the following appointments or nominations in the relevant period:

The term of office of one member of the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange (the Fulbright Commission) will come up for renewal in May 2007.

The terms of office of the Administrative Council and Board of Management of the Fondation Irlandaise (the Irish Cultural Centre) in Paris expire in May and the composition of the new Council and Board is currently under consideration. Ireland and France each appoints seven members to the Administrative Council. Ireland usually appoints fourteen of the fifteen members of the Board of Management, which is a less formal subsidiary body of the Council. These fourteen Irish nominees include the seven Irish members of the Council.

The Government has decided, in line with the recommendation of the White Paper on Overseas Development Assistance, to establish a Task Force on Hunger. It is anticipated that the membership of this Task Force will be announced before July. The Task Force will be appointed for a period of approximately six months and will present its final report to the Minister of State for Development Co-operation and Human Rights.

Visa Applications.

Billy Timmins

Question:

196 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to people living in Bellarus who have to apply to Moscow for visas and so on and have been travelling to Moscow to apply and to pick up the documentation; if there is an arrangement between the embassy in Moscow with the Bellarus Foreign Ministry to courier visas and so on back to Bellarus where they can be picked up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13356/07]

The majority of visa applications from Belarus are those relating to travel to Ireland of Chernobyl Children's groups. Following my meeting in Minsk in 2005 with various interested NGOs, arrangements were put in place by the Embassy in Moscow to ensure that the introduction of a visa requirement for the groups would not create obstacles for children's travel. These arrangements, which include processing within 1 week by the Visa Office in Moscow of applications which arrive by courier from Minsk and the issue of gratis visas, are operating satisfactorily and there is no impediment to children's travel. The staff of the Visa Office in Moscow has recently been increased to deal with the additional applications. There is no requirement for the children to travel to Moscow concerning their applications which are forwarded to the Embassy and returned through a courier arrangement.

Otherwise, visa applications from people living in Belarus can be lodged at the Irish Embassy, Moscow either in person, by courier, or lodged by a third party on behalf of an applicant. Most applications are lodged in the latter way.

Appointments to State Boards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

197 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of nominations from each gender to State boards for which his Department has responsibility in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13154/07]

Since the establishment of my Department in June 2002 I have made the following appointments of each gender to the key State boards under the aegis of my Department. The Deputy will appreciate that in the case of some of these Boards, there are nominating rights conferred on certain representative or interest.

Name of Body / State Board

Appointments by gender since June 2002

Male

Female

Arts Council

6

7

Abbey Theatre

4

1

Bord Scannán na hÉireann

4

3

National Museum of Ireland

10

6

Irish Museum of Modern Art

9

6

National Library of Ireland

6

6

Crawford Gallery Cork

8

8

Governors and Guardians of Marsh’s Library

1

1

Chester Beatty Library

0

3

National Archives Advisory Council

6

6

National Gallery of Ireland Board of Governors and Guardians

8

1

National Concert Hall

8

7

Irish Manuscripts Commission

13

7

Irish Sports Council

9

4

Horse Racing Ireland

17

1

Bord na gCon

9

2

Fáilte Ireland (National Tourism Development Authority)

12

5

Bórd Fáilte

4

0

Culture Ireland

10

6

National Sports Campus Development Authority

9

4

Total

153

84

While appointments to the board of Tourism Ireland Limited are made by the North South Ministerial Council I nominated three persons — two male and one female.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

198 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the appointments to State boards, other bodies under the aegis of his Department, or other public appointments of any kind, which will be due to be made by him between 29 March 2007 and 4 July 2007. [13200/07]

The following are the list of current vacancies and vacancies that are due to arise in the period referred to by the Deputy on the Boards of the key bodies under the aegis of my Department.

A vacancy currently exists on the Board of the National Library of Ireland for a member of staff of the National Library of Ireland and consultations are in hand for the making of this appointment as set out in Section 19 (6) of the National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997.

There are currently six vacancies on the Board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Appointments to the Board are made in accordance with the provisions of the Articles of Association of IMMA.

There are currently two vacancies on the Board of Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland. The National Gallery of Ireland, Board of Governors and Guardians was constituted under the National Gallery of Ireland Acts, 1854-55.

Two vacancies will arise in June on the Board of Archbishop Marsh's Library. The Board of the Governors and Guardians of Archbishop Marsh's Library was constituted under an Act of Parliament in 1707.

Four vacancies will arise on the Board of Failte Ireland on the 28th May 2007. Appointments to the Board are made in accordance with the procedures set out in Section 14 of the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003.

In appointing persons to the Boards of key bodies under the aegis of my Department I follow the guidelines set out in the Cabinet Handbook regarding eligibility, transparency and gender balance.

Arts Funding.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

199 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding available to assist an arts group (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13316/07]

The Arts Council is the main channel through which State support for the Arts is channelled. They are statutorily independent under the Arts Act, 2003, and I have no role to play in their funding decisions.

The Arts Council has developed a Children's Initiative where funding is given to organisations working in the area of young people, children and the arts. A total of €185,000 has been offered this year. The area of children and the arts is a high priority for the Arts Council and they are looking carefully at a number of initiatives to address strategically important issues for young people and children over the next four years.

Industrial Development.

Martin Ferris

Question:

200 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to plans by the IDA to bring potential investors to the north Kerry area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13152/07]

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

The attractiveness of Kerry for inward investment has to be seen within a regional context. In line with the National Spatial Strategy, the locations of emphasis for IDA in Kerry are the linked Hubs of Tralee and Killarney. The Agency promotes the County as part of an integrated region with access to a population of approx.140,000, as well as the expanded population of the Mid-West and South-West regions. Based on the strengths of the region, IDA is particularly targeting the ICT (incl. software), and Globally Traded Business sectors.

A sectoral focus that is built on regional strengths and supported by the third level sector is key to creating ‘pull' factors for attracting investment to the region. The Strategic Competitiveness Programme that is operated by IDA is designed to help consolidate and grow client companies existing operations in the region by achieving substantial productivity improvements or the addition of new business functions such as R&D, marketing, logistics management, shared service centres and customer or technical support activities.

At the end of 2006, there were eighteen IDA assisted companies in County Kerry employing 1,785 people in a variety of industries such as Pharmaceuticals, Engineering and Consumer Products.

In addition, IDA Ireland is engaged with the Kerry Employment Action Team and the newly formed inter-agency Expert Group on Kerry to plan for the County's future economic growth. Both groups are focussed on how Kerry can best position itself in the context of the National Spatial Strategy through its response to the National Development Plan.

IDA also works in close cooperation with Shannon Development, in the development of the Kerry Technology Park (KTP). The Park provides state-of-the-art accommodation and facilities for both indigenous industry and foreign investors.

Furthermore, IDA Ireland works with the Institute of Technology, Tralee in developing the skill-sets necessary to attract high value-added employment to the County and to encourage greater interaction with industry on areas of research and development. The Agency also works closely with FÁS to provide guidance in developing the skill-sets needed by those in the workforce.

I am confident that the policies and strategies in place will deliver the best results in terms of investment and jobs for the people of the Region.

Appointments to State Boards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

201 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of nominations from each gender to State boards for which his Department has responsibility in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13159/07]

The number of nominations from each gender to State boards is as follows:

FÁS

Female

Male

2002

0

0

2003

0

0

2004

1

1

2005

6

13

2006

0

0

2007

0

0

Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Statutory Body since 2004)

Female

Male

2002

N/A

N/A

2003

N/A

N/A

2004

5

6

2005

0

0

2006

1

1

2007

0

0

Science Foundation Ireland (Statutory Body since July 2003)

Female

Male

2002

N/A

N/A

2003

5

7

2004

2

0

2005

0

2

2006

2

2

2007

0

1

Employment Appeals Tribunal

Female

Male

2002

3

4

2003

0

3

2004

26

77

2005

1

0

2006

0

0

2007

32

83

Labour Relations Commission

Female

Male

2002

0

0

2003

2

5

2004

0

1

2005

0

0

2006

1

6

2007

0

1

Health and Safety Authority

Female

Male

2002

0

1

2003

0

0

2004

4

7

2005

1

0

2006

0

0

2007

0

0

IDA Ireland

Female

Male

2002

1

1

2003

1

2

2004

0

2

2005

0

2

2006

1

1

2007

1

1

Enterprise Ireland

Female

Male

2002

2

1

2003

0

0

2004

0

0

2005

1

1

2006

0

0

2007

0

0

Shannon Free Airport Development Co.

Female

Male

2002

1

2

2003

0

1

2004

0

3

2005

1

2

2006

2

1

2007

0

0

Forfás

Female

Male

2002

0

3

2003

0

3

2004

0

4

2005

2

0

2006

1

3

2007

0

2

It should be noted that these figures include some ex officio appointments. Legislation decrees that some named office holders must be on the Board of Forfás.

Intertrade Ireland

Female

Male

2002

3

3

2003

0

0

2004

0

0

2005

3

3

2006

3

3

2007

0

0

National Standards Authority of Ireland

Female

Male

2002

2

3

2003

0

4

2004

1

3

2005

1

2

2006

1

0

2007

0

0

The above figures do not include the appointment of elected staff representatives, which is provided for in the NSAI Act 1996.

Nítrigin Éireann Teoranta (NET)

Female

Male

2002

0

5

2003

0

2

2004

0

0

2005

0

0

2006

0

0

2007

0

0

Company Law Review Group

Female

Male

2002

N/A

N/A

2003

N/A

N/A

2004

7

13

2005

7

13

2006

7

13

2007

7

13

Irish Accounting & Auditing Supervisory Authority (statutory body since January 2006)

Female

Male

2002

N/A

N/A

2003

N/A

N/A

2004

N/A

N/A

2005

N/A

N/A

2006

4

11

2007

4

11

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

202 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the appointments to State boards, other bodies under the aegis of his Department, or other public appointments of any kind, which will be due to be made by him between 29 March 2007 and 4 July 2007. [13205/07]

Appointments to State boards are as follow:

National Competitiveness Council

The terms of reference of the NCC stipulates that four Members shall retire on May 31 each year, therefore, 4 new appointments will be made soon after this date.

Patents Agents Registration Board/ Trade Mark Agents Registration Board

Apart from the Controller of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks the terms of appointment of the Members of both Boards are due to expire on 12 April 2007. Four appointments to each Board will then be made.

Labour Relations Commission

One vacancy will arise in the Rights Commissioner Service on 4 May. Also, Towards 2016 contains a commitment for the appointment of 5 additional rights commissioners, the Labour Relations Commission has been requested to submit panels to the Minister, from which the appointments will be made as soon aspossible.

Enterprise Ireland

There are two vacancies on the Board of EI that are expected to be filled by 4 July 2007.

Crafts Council of Ireland

Three vacancies (Ministerial Appointments) will arise on the Board of the CCoI following their AGM, which is expected to take place before the end of June.

Shannon Development

Two vacancies will arise on the Board of Shannon Development at the Company's AGM on 27 April next. Appointments to the Board are made by the Minister, with the agreement of the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism. It is expected that the two vacancies will be filled before 4 July.

Forfás

The legislation states that the Director General of SFI must be on the Board of Forfás; therefore, the incoming Director General of SFI will be appointed to the Board of Forfás, which is expected to happen on 2 July 2007.

NSAI

In accordance with the legislation governing appointments on the NSAI Board, there will be three appointments to the Board of the NSAI in April of this year.

National Consumer Agency

13 appointments consisting of 12 members and a chairperson will be made to the Board of the National Consumer Agency, on enactment of the Consumer Protection Bill. It is most likely that the Bill will be enacted within the timeframe referred to in the question and that the Board of the Agency shall be appointed by the Minister prior to 4th July.

Company Closures.

Billy Timmins

Question:

203 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the situation regarding a company (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if it is in liquidation; the situation with respect to individuals who are owed money by the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13221/07]

While I have no direct function in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy, I understand that the High Court appointed a provisional liquidator to the company concerned on the 23rd of March 2007. The liquidator is an officer of the Court and will report back to the Court.

Under the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001, liquidators have certain duties to report to the Director of Corporate Enforcement. For example, where a company is insolvent, liquidators are obliged to provide a report to the Director on the conduct of the company's directors. They are further obliged to make application to the High Court for the restriction of each of the company's directors unless specifically relieved of that obligation by the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The Director is independent in the performance of his statutory duties.

Decentralisation Programme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

204 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if they will be transferred to Carlow as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13233/07]

My Department is required to relocate 250 posts to Carlow under the Government's Decentralisation Programme and this is planned to occur by the end of 2009.

In order to accommodate staff who wish to move earlier than the projected building completion date of late 2009, officials of my Department, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the OPW, as well as decentralising staff and Business Units, are progressing an earlier move to Carlow. The OPW have advised my Department that negotiations on the procurement of interim accommodation to facilitate an advance move are nearing completion.

This advance move option will allow for the movement of approximately 100 decentralising staff to Carlow during the second quarter of 2007. I can confirm that the full complement of Clerical Officers required for the interim move in June 2007 has been selected in accordance with the decentralisation staffing protocols, as agreed by the Department of Finance and the staff unions. Under these protocols, Ms Carthy's seniority in the Clerical Officer grade was not sufficient to deem her eligible for selection as part of the advance party to Carlow.

I can confirm that Ms Carthy will form part of the staffing complement required for the substantive move to Carlow scheduled to take place in 2009.

Research Funding.

John McGuinness

Question:

205 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he is putting in place to ensure that the investments being undertaken in his research and development policy deliver value for money; the way the outputs from investment will be measured in relation to inputs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13278/07]

The Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2013 contains a significant number of clear quantitative goals, progress towards attainment of which will be regularly tracked. Notable examples of these include the commitment to double our annual output of Science, Engineering and Technology PhDs to 997 by 2013; to increase the annual output of Humanities and Social Sciences PhDs from 187 in 2003 to 315 by 2013; to grow the number of Principal Investigators by 350 by 2013 and postdoctoral researchers by 1,050; to grow annual Business Investment in R & D by almost 150% to €2.5bn by 2013; to grow the number of indigenous companies with R&D activity over €100,000 from 462 in 2003 to 1050 by 2013; to grow the number of indigenous companies with R&D activity over €2,000,000 from 21 in 2003 to 100 by 2013; to grow the number of foreign affiliate companies performing significant R&D from 60 in 2003 to 150 by 2013.

Progress against these headline indicators will be closely monitored by the Interdepartmental Committee on STI, chaired by my Department which reports to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation. I can assure the Deputy that a more comprehensive set of indicators for the measurement of the efficiency and effectiveness of our substantial investment under the Government's Strategy for Science Technology & Innovation 2006-13 is currently being developed under the aegis of the Interdepartmental Committee. This will address both the quantitative and qualitative goals of the Strategy.

Within this overall approach, specific value for money reviews will also take place. This year specific reviews will be carried out on Science Foundation Ireland and the Discover Science and Engineering awareness programme. The overall measurement process will also be informed by the Expenditure Review of Spending on Science & Technology, which took place in 2004.

Passports for Investment Scheme.

John McGuinness

Question:

206 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in relation to the number of passports issued in the passports for investment scheme, his Department has monitored the passport holders or investors to determine if they acted or are acting within the guidelines of the scheme; if the terms of investments made relative to the scheme have been complied with; if his Department continues to monitor the guidelines to ensure compliance; if difficulty has emerged relative to the scheme or investments; if his Department has a role in resolving such issues where they relate to a breach in the guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13279/07]

The operation of this scheme, which was abolished by the Government in 1998, is a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Industrial Development.

John Perry

Question:

207 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will reduce the amount on the freehold lease for a company (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13398/07]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio, including the purchase and disposal of property, is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency as part of the statutory responsibility assigned to it by the Oireachtas and not a matter in which I have a function.

I have been informed by IDA Ireland that, in 1998, the Agency sold 1.3152 Hectares, on a leasehold basis, to Ballymote Community Enterprise Ltd. In October, 2006 the Ballymote Community Enterprise Ltd. requested that IDA sell the freehold interest to them.

IDA policy for land sales is to obtain market value when disposing of property assets and part of this process involves seeking an independent valuation by a national accredited valuer. Accordingly, the Agency obtained a freehold valuation of these lands from Savills HOK and, on 27 March last, the Agency informed Ballymote Community Enterprise Ltd, through their solicitor, Johnson & Johnson, of this valuation. IDA Ireland is awaiting a reply from Ballymote Community Enterprise Ltd.

The Agency has indicated to me that if the Community Enterprise is unhappy with the valuation quoted, they are welcome to seek their own valuation from valuers with nationwide valuation experience for comparison purposes and revert to IDA on the matter.

Consumer Protection.

John Perry

Question:

208 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has received the submission by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will agree to address their concerns in relation to the Consumer Protection Bill Section 48 Prohibition on surcharges where one method of payment was chosen in preference to another; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13401/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply of yesterday on the same subject to his Question No. 424.

Appointments to State Boards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

209 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of nominations from each gender to State boards for which his Department has responsibility in each of the years 2002 to date in 2007. [13165/07]

The five statutory agencies operating under the aegis of my Department are the Pensions Board, the Combat Poverty Agency, the Citizens Information Board (formerly Comhairle), the Family Support Agency and the Social Welfare Tribunal. In addition the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of my Department.

The following are the number of appointments, by gender, to each board since 2002.

The Pensions Board

Male

Female

2002

1

1

2003

None

2004

1

0

2005

9

8*

2006

None

2007

None

*New board appointed on expiry of previous board.

Combat Poverty Agency

Male

Female

2002

0

1

2003

5

6

2004

2

3

2005

0

1

2006

7

3

2007 to date

2

0

Citizens Information Board (formerly Comhairle)

Male

Female

2002

4

4

2003

6

2

2004

1

1

2005

0

0

2006

9

3

2007

0

2

Family Support Agency

Male

Female

2003

5

7

2004

None

2005

2

6

2006

3

4

2007