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.

Defence Forces Personnel.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

13 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date on developing the commission from the ranks programme; and his proposals to continue this development. [21984/07]

Significant progress has been made recently in implementing schemes to enable more commissioning from the ranks.

The revised cadetship competition is now seen as the primary means of commissioning from the ranks. The cadetship competition has been revised to increase the maximum entry age to 28 and to award bonus marks to candidates with previous experience in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) or Reserve Defence Force (RDF).

Results for the 2006 and 2007 cadetship competitions were encouraging with a total of 23 applicants with military service in the Defence Forces being successful in the 2006 cadetship competition and a further 18 applicants with military service being successful in the 2007 cadetship competition.

In addition, in the past two years, 3 members of the Defence Forces were commissioned as officers from Direct Entry Competitions for appointments as Engineer Officers in the Corps of Engineers and Conductors in the Army School of Music. A further two Enlisted Personnel have been successful in the recent Direct Entry Competition to fill Aeronautical Engineer Officers vacancies in the Air Corps.

An internal Commissioning From the Ranks competition was held in June 2007. This competition provided an opportunity for enlisted personnel who have passed the cadet entry age to compete for entry on a potential Officers Course and ultimately, a commission. As a result of the competition a total of 24 applicants (23 males and 1 female) have been selected from the ranks of Junior and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and have been in training in the Cadet School in the Curragh since 30 July 2007.

On successfully completing the course these enlisted personnel will be commissioned as officers of the Permanent Defence Force.

The Policy on the running of similar future competitions, to provide Non-Commissioned Officers with the opportunity of obtaining commissioned rank, will be formalised under the Defence Force Modernisation Agenda. I have also asked the Chief of Staff for his views on the prospect of facilitating suitably qualified enlisted personnel to compete internally for technical/ professional posts in the officer ranks in the future.

Question No. 14 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

White Paper on Defence.

Joan Burton

Question:

15 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Defence the work that has been carried out in regard to the preparation of a second White Paper on Defence for the period 2011 to 2020. [21979/07]

The current White Paper on Defence, which was published in February 2000, was the first-ever White Paper on Defence and set out the policy framework and development strategy for the period 2000-2010. The overall Government objective was to achieve affordable and sustainable Defence Forces capable of fulfilling the roles laid down by Government.

A detailed review of White Paper implementation has been conducted and a report was published in April 2007 outlining the findings. The report found that substantial progress has been made. The many detailed recommendations for change that were laid out in the White Paper have been implemented or are being implemented according to agreed timetables. The report also concludes that all the detailed targets should be met within the time-frame of the White Paper i.e up to 2010.

The Deputy will be aware of the requirement under the Public Service Management Act, 1997, that a revised Strategy Statement be prepared following the appointment of new Ministers. My Department is currently working on this and I expect to receive a draft Strategy Statement from the Secretary General very soon.

The preparation of a new White Paper on Defence for the period 2011 to 2020 is a long-term project. The Review of implementation of the existing White Paper and the work currently under way in preparing the revised Strategy Statement will contribute to its development.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Joe Costello

Question:

16 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence the proposals he has in order for Irish troops to have the most modern and effective range of protective equipment, weaponry and training available. [21980/07]

Brian Hayes

Question:

42 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Defence if the €20 million saved by the reduction in troop numbers has been fully reinvested in the Defence Forces; and the way it has been reinvested. [22092/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 42 together.

The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces continues to be a key focus for me as Minister for Defence. Significant investment has taken place in recent years across all facets and elements of the Defence Forces. This investment has been assisted by pay savings arising from the reduction in the strength of the Permanent Defence Force in the context of the White Paper of 2000, which have been fully re-invested in the provision of equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces. The level of investment has ensured that Defence Force's personnel have the most modern and effective range of equipment to carry our their day-to-day roles both at home and overseas and for training purposes and I will ensure that this investment will continue into the future.

From the Army's perspective the major investment has been in the contracts for Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers. In the period from 2001 to 2004 the Defence Forces acquired a total of sixty-five Mowag APCs at a cost of €84m. In December 2005, a further contract was signed with Mowag for the supply of fifteen additional Piranha Armoured Vehicles for delivery in 2007. The contract value was €36.5m. Nine of the vehicles are fitted with a Kongsberg Remote Weapon Station with a 12.7mm machine gun, and six are fitted with an Oto Melara turret armed with a 30mm cannon. The fifteen vehicles, twelve of which have now been delivered, will be used mainly in Surveillance and Reconnaissance roles on overseas missions. The final three vehicles are due for delivery this week.

In recent years, significant work has been carried out on the acquisition of an Integrated Protection and Load Carrying System for individual soldiers. This system includes Body Armour, Helmets, Back Packs (Rucksacks) and Battle Vests. The position with regard to the acquisition of these items is as follows:

8000 units of body armour for the individual soldier on operational duties have been delivered. The new body armour provides significantly greater protection, comfort and coverage than the old model as well as a doubling of the range of sizes available. The total value of the order was in the region of €8m.

12,000 helmets have been delivered. The value of the order was circa. €2.5m.

12,000 rucksacks have been delivered at a total cost of €3m.

To complete the modern integrated protection and load carrying system, one other competition is currently in train for the acquisition of Battle Vests used for the carriage by the individual soldier of essential items such as ammunition, personal radio, water and ancillary equipment. This tender competition is ongoing.

Other equipment acquisitions for the Army in recent times, includes 400 General Purpose Machine guns acquired from FN Herstal in Belgium at a cost of €4.4m, 1,400 pistols purchased from Heckler and Koch to replace the FN 9mm Browning Automatic at a cost of €800,000 and 6 Field Deployable Command Post Containers acquired at a cost of €4.4m. There has also been a substantive programmme for the acquisition of modern transport vehicles. Acquisitions in recent years include Nissan patrols, minibuses, Ford transits, heavy load carrying vehicles (Drops) and specialist EOD vehicles.

The personal equipment which the individual soldier in the Defence Forces has for operational use, both at home and overseas, compares very favourably with the equipment in use by our European Partners.

Significant investment in the Air Corps has also taken place with the acquisition of effectively an all new fleet. The Naval Service has also seen the recent launch of a fleet replacement programme.

On the issue of training, I am very satisfied that military training techniques are up to date in all respects. Defence Forces training plans are structured to provide the capabilities needed to execute the roles assigned to them under the White Paper on Defence of February 2000. The challenges of preparing military units for participation in international peace support operations constitute the major dimension of Defence Forces collective training. The primary focus of this training is the attainment of a capability for military interoperability in order to conduct peace support operations to international standards.

Defence Forces Strength.

Simon Coveney

Question:

17 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Defence if he will take a position on shorter tours of duty and optional overseas service, two steps that would likely increase recruitment and retention, especially for females. [22090/07]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

21 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence the action he will take to maintain the permanent Defence Force strength of 10,500 fully trained personnel with an additional provision from 2008 onwards for up to 350 troops to be in training at any given time. [21974/07]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

28 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence the membership of the Defence Forces, broken down by rank, and the number in each case who are female; his plans to encourage the recruitment of a greater number of women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21990/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

40 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence his intention to increase the strength of the Army, Navy and Air Corp having particular regard to current and expected overseas deployments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22116/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of women by rank in the Army, Navy and Air Corp; if it has been determined to increase these numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22199/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence his proposals to increase the strength of the Army, Navy or Air Corp; the current strength of each; the number remaining here after current and expected deployments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22204/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 21, 28, 40, 108 and 113 together.

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force on 31 August 2007, the latest date for which detailed figures are available, as advised by the military authorities was 10,382. This comprises 8,497 in the Army, 846 in the Air Corps and 1,039 in the Naval Service. A detailed breakdown of the numbers in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps by rank and gender are in the form of a Tabular Statement set out below.

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 set out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force. It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing and proactive recruitment to the Defence Forces. Currently, the Permanent Defence Force successfully manages recruit intakes to keep its annualised monthly average strength at or around 10,500.

As indicated in the Deputies' questions, the Agreed Programme for Government proposes an additional provision for up to 350 troops to be in training, at any given time, from 2008 onwards. The military authorities, and my Department are undertaking the planning necessary to meet this provision.

The White Paper on Defence provides for an allocation of up to 850 Permanent Defence Force personnel to be deployed overseas at any one time through the United Nations Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS). While this may be exceeded for short periods, deployments above this level are not sustainable on an ongoing basis within existing resources. Any commitments to EU or UN missions will be met within this context. The number of Defence Forces personnel remaining in Ireland at any time is therefore not below approximately 9,650.

I am satisfied that the current strength is adequate to meet all needs arising at home and overseas.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities.

Unlike many other national armed forces, the Defence Forces have no restrictions as regards the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties. All promotions and career courses are open to both genders on merit. Nevertheless, I remain anxious to explore all avenues for increasing the numbers of women joining the Defence Forces.

In 2006, I reduced the minimum height requirement from 5' 4" to 5' 2". This increases the potential recruitment pool of females from 60% to 90% of female population.

Earlier this year, I commissioned a TNS/MRBI study, titled "Retention and Recruitment of Women in The Defence Forces". This research was commissioned with a view to identifying areas where action can be taken to maximise the number of women applicants to the Defence Forces, hence increasing the number joining. The question of retention was also studied.

The results of the research were, on balance, positive. Three-quarters of serving females agreed that the Defence Forces are a good place to work. In addition there was a very high level of satisfaction (70%-80%) expressed as regards the issues of job security, pay and benefits and the variety of work on offer.

The report has been received from the consultants and is currently under consideration within my Department. It is too early at this point to indicate a position on shorter tours of duty, and/or optional overseas service. However, it should be borne in mind that equal opportunity for both genders is a key element of Defence Forces Personnel policy at this point.

STRENGTH OF MALES IN THE DEFENCE FORCES

31 August, 2007

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMs

Cs

CQMs

SGTs

CPLs

Total NCOs

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

1

2

8

40

126

306

222

257

962

33

36

132

242

1038

1353

2826

4225

29

8042

Air Corps

0

0

1

2

14

31

50

37

135

7

4

49

12

134

168

374

286

18

813

Naval Service

0

0

1

2

11

47

34

46

141

6

7

75

15

213

175

491

328

9

969

Total

1

2

10

44

151

384

306

340

1,238

46

47

256

269

1,385

1,696

3,691

4,839

56

9,824

Rank titles are for Army ranks — Naval Service and Air Corps equivalent rank titles apply in the Naval Service and Air Corps respectively.

STRENGTH OF FEMALES IN THE DEFENCE FORCES

31 August, 2007

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMs

Cs

CQMs

SGTs

CPLs

Total NCOs

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

1

15

47

40

103

3

1

20

104

128

217

7

455

Air Corps

3

2

5

1

1

11

13

14

1

33

Naval Service

10

9

19

7

7

38

6

70

Total

1

15

60

51

127

4

1

21

122

148

269

14

558

Rank titles are for Army ranks — Naval Service and Air Corps equivalent rank titles apply in the Naval Service and Air Corps respectively.

STRENGTH OF THE DEFENCE FORCES

31 August, 2007

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMs

Cs

CQMs

SGTs

CPLs

Total NCOs

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

1

2

8

40

127

321

269

297

1065

33

36

127

243

1,058

1,457

2,954

4,442

36

8,497

Air Corps

1

2

14

31

53

39

140

7

4

50

12

135

179

387

300

19

846

Naval Service

1

2

11

47

44

55

160

6

7

75

15

213

182

498

366

15

1,039

Total

1

2

10

44

152

399

366

391

1,365

46

47

252

270

1,406

1,818

3,839

5,108

70

10,382

Rank titles are for Army ranks — Naval Service and Air Corps equivalent rank titles apply in the Naval Service and Air Corps respectively

Army Deafness Claims.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

18 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the number of Army deafness claims that have been processed to date; the number of claims outstanding; the payment to claimants to date; the costs paid to claimants' lawyers to date; the cost paid to his Department lawyers to date; and the estimated cost of dealing with outstanding claims and costs. [21951/07]

A total of 16,791 claims have been received from current and former members of the Defence Forces in respect of loss of hearing allegedly caused during their military service. 15,887 claims have been disposed of to date.

€284.8 million has been paid in respect of hearing loss claims including €97.7 million in plaintiffs' legal costs. The plaintiffs' legal costs include the fees of the solicitors' firms as well as other costs such as Counsel fees, medical reports etc.

The management of new and outstanding hearing loss claims was delegated to the State Claims Agency with effect from 1st September 2005. The State Claims Agency has disposed of 345 hearing loss claims and is currently managing a total of 272 active cases of the remaining 904 hearing loss claims. My Department has paid €0.6m in Plaintiff costs and €0.9m in agency legal and related costs to the State Claims Agency in respect of hearing loss claims. The State Claims Agency estimates the cost of dealing with the remaining currently active army hearing loss cases will be approximately €5m.

In general, the Office of the Chief State Solicitor pays the costs of the State's legal team in relation to claims not delegated to the State Claims Agency. This includes Counsel Fees, Medical Fees, Fees for Expert witnesses, State solicitors, Stenographers etc. These costs are charged to the Vote of the Chief State Solicitor's Office.

The most recent information available from the Office of the Chief State Solicitor is that in the period 1998 to mid 2006, by which time the vast majority of Army Hearing Loss cases had been finalised, it has paid a total of €17.8m in such fees. This included €11.4m for Counsel Fees. During this period, the Department of Defence also directly paid €2.0m in other costs associated with the processing of hearing loss claims.

Defence Forces Report.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

19 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the recent publication of the 2006 annual report of his Department and the Defence Forces. [21991/07]

I am very pleased with the performance of my Department and the Defence Forces, the achievements of which are outlined in detail in the 2006 Annual Report.

Among the significant developments that took place in 2006 and which are detailed in the Report were:

All ATCP (Aid to the Civil Power) and ACA (Aid to the Civil Authority) requests were met.

We continued to meet Ireland's international commitments with a total of 828 Defence Forces personnel serving overseas at 31 December 2006.

Major equipment purchased during 2006 included the first two medium-lift AW139 helicopters for the Air Corps (a further two are due for delivery this year). In December, an option in the contract to purchase an additional two AW139's (bringing the total to 6) was exercised.

A major inter-agency emergency response exercise was conducted in the Curragh in November.

Work on the National Emergency Coordination Centre was practically completed and a contract was placed for a robust communications system.

Work commenced in preparing for an Information and Public Awareness Campaign on Emergency Planning.

As part of the commemoration of the 90th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the traditional Easter Military Parade recommenced. Both the parade and other associated commemorative events generated great public approval and support. Later in the year, a ceremony was held to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

The legislative changes necessary to enable participation by the Defence Forces in EU Battlegroups were enacted.

A Bill to amend the Defence Act (Part V) was published in December. This part of the Act provides for disciplinary procedures under military law and needed to be brought in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Office of the Defence Forces Ombudsman was established during the year.

The reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force continued during the year in accordance with the Implementation Plan approved by me in late 2005. Training has been greatly enhanced and preparations made for piloting the Integrated Reserve in 2007 across all three Brigades.

During 2006, I took two significant initiatives towards improving female participation in the Defence Forces. I reduced the minimum height requirement and I initiated research in the area of attracting more women to enlist in the Defence Forces. The report of this research was published in April 2007. This will contribute to the formulation of policy and practice in this area for the future.

Child Care Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

20 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence the progress, in view of the Government’s policy on family friendly workplaces that has been made on providing childcare facilities in the Curragh Camp; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22087/07]

The issue of workplace childcare has been addressed in recent National Wages Agreements under the Social Partnership heading. The Government is fully supportive of measures to improve child care facilities.

A request to provide crèche facilities for members of the Defence Forces has been made by both of the Defence Forces Representative Associations.

Question No. 21 answered with QuestionNo. 17.

Retention Rates.

Simon Coveney

Question:

22 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Defence the rates of retention for male and female members of the Defence Forces including separate rates for officers. [22091/07]

A detailed breakdown of the number of persons discharged from the Defence Forces (other than on age grounds or termination of engagement) from 1 January to 31 August 2007 is set out in the following tabular statement.

Breakdown of discharges from the Defence Forces

(other than on age grounds or termination of engagement)

from 1 January 2007 to 31 August 2007

Discharge/Retirement

Enlisted Personnel

Officers

Male

Female

Male

Female

As a result of conviction by the Civil Power

1

At her own request on becoming pregnant

1

At his own request

10

1

At own request (cadets)

2

Below Defence Forces Medical Standards

11

1

Death

10

2

Determination of Service by the Minister for Defence

2

1

Discharge by Purchase

75

10

Discharge by Purchase of a Recruit

81

11

For the purpose of being appointed to an officer

32

6

His/her services being no longer required

4

1

Not being likely to become efficient

2

Not having been finally approved

9

1

On pension after 21 years service

115

Relinquishment of Commission

2

1

Voluntary Retirement

18

Total

352

34

23

1

Defence Forces Allowances.

Michael Creed

Question:

23 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Defence if, in view of his statement to the PDFORRA ADC in 2006 that if a claim for an increase in overseas allowances was submitted it would be viewed sympathetically, such a claim was submitted; the situation pertaining to it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22084/07]

In my address to the PDFORRA Annual Delegate Conference in 2006 I invited the Association to submit a claim for an increase in Overseas Allowance. In accordance with normal procedures the Association's claim is being dealt with under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme (C&A scheme) for members of the Permanent Defence Force and has been the subject of correspondence between my Department and the Representative Association. The Deputy will appreciate that as discussions under the C&A scheme are confidential to the parties involved it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter.

Overseas Missions.

Michael Creed

Question:

24 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Defence the percentage of the normal annual leave allowance for each category lost by senior officers and enlisted personnel respectively on foot of serving overseas for a six month tour of duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22085/07]

The annual leave entitlements for members of the Defence Forces are as follows:

a.

Senior Officers days

43

b.

Junior Officers days

31

c.

Enlisted Personnel days

29

These annual leave entitlements are reduced by a set amount while the member of the Defence Forces is on an overseas tour of duty. The reduction is 3.5 days per month for senior officers, 2.5 days per month for junior officers and 1 day per month for enlisted personnel.

It should be noted that special leave with pay and allowances is normally granted to all ranks on return from service outside the State with an International United Nations Force. This is granted on the basis of 6 days in respect of each calendar month of external service from the first day of the month in which the period of external service commenced to the first day of the month on which the period of external service ceased. This is subject to a maximum of 30 days in respect of the period of external service involved.

In addition, Defence Forces personnel serving overseas may avail of annual leave during their deployment overseas subject to the operational requirements of the mission.

A claim has been received from the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) that no officer should be at a loss of annual leave as a result of overseas service. This claim will be processed through the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for the Permanent Defence Force. By agreement with the Association, discussions under the Scheme are confidential to the parties involved. Accordingly, the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this issue at this time.

Maritime Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

25 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the action he has taken to promote greater cooperation and knowledge sharing between the Coastguard, the Navy and Air Corps to ensure that the waters surrounding Ireland are safe for seafarers in coastal communities. [21976/07]

The Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of maritime Search and Rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue region, for pollution and salvage response in the marine environment, and for marine safety awareness. In accordance with the roles assigned to them by Government in the White Paper on Defence, the Defence Forces are committed to providing support to the civil authorities including in relation to Search and Rescue. In this regard, the Naval Service and Air Corps provide support to the Irish Coast Guard as the need arises and within their available capability.

A Service Level Agreement is currently being finalised between my Department and the Department of Transport for the provision of services to the Irish Coast Guard by the Defence Forces. The overall operation and implementation of the Service Level Agreement will be monitored by a Steering Group comprising representatives of my Department, the Defence Forces, the Department of Transport and the Irish Coast Guard. At an operational level, the parties to the Agreement are committed to the achievement of its objectives through co-operation and partnership between the main service providers namely, the Naval Service, the Air Corps, the Army, and the Irish Coast Guard.

Officials from my Department and the Defence Forces are represented on the Irish Marine Search and Rescue Committee, which is chaired by the Irish Coast Guard. The IMSAR Committee meets twice yearly and its functions are to keep under review the general arrangements for marine search and rescue in Ireland, to consider the implications of any intended changes in equipment, deployment or organization in any arm of the search and rescue organisation in advance of such changes, and to consider as necessary liaison with neighbouring search and rescue organisations and any regional search and rescue agreements in which Ireland is a participant. The Defence Forces also participate in regular search and rescue exercises with the Irish Coast Guard.

Officials from my Department and the Defence Forces are also represented on the National Maritime Security Committee, as is the Irish Coast Guard. The function of the National Maritime Security Committee, which is chaired by the Department of Transport, is to provide advice in relation to maritime security policy and to provide for the co-ordination of the various agencies involved. This provides another useful forum for the exchange of experience and information between the Defence Forces and the Irish Coast Guard.

I am satisfied that these mechanisms serve to facilitate greater co-operation and knowledge sharing between the Irish Coast Guard and the Defence Forces with regard to maritime safety.

Defence Forces Reserve.

David Stanton

Question:

26 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Defence, further to Parliamentary Question No. 562 of 6 February 2007, the number of promotion competitions in the Reserve Defence Forces which he said would commence no later than April 2007 which have actually commenced; the number of promotions which have been made as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22137/07]

In reply to Parliamentary Question No. 562 of 6 February 2007, I stated that it was intended to commence promotion competitions [from the rank of Captain (Army Reserve)/Lieutenant (Naval Service Reserve) to Commandant (Army Reserve)/Lieutenant Commander (Naval Service Reserve)] no later than April 2007.

The promotion boards were convened in April, 2007 and their deliberations concluded in August, 2007. Under this competition 22 officers were promoted to the rank of Commandant. A competition for promotion from Lieutenant to Captain will commence in December, 2007.

Question No. 27 answered with QuestionNo. 12.
Question No. 28 answered with QuestionNo. 17.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

29 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date with regard to the planned decentralisation of the Defence Forces headquarters to the Curragh, and his Department to Newbridge, County Kildare; the number of personnel who have relocated to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21999/07]

The Government decided in December 2003 that my Department's Dublin-based staff are to be decentralised to Newbridge, Co. Kildare with Defence Forces Headquarters decentralising to the Curragh.

The Office of Public Works published the planning notification for the new Defence Forces' Headquarters in the national press on 13 July 2007. No observations were received in relation to this building project. Tender documents are currently being prepared by OPW in consultation with the Defence Forces. When completed, this building will accommodate 355 members of the Defence Forces.

The number of Departmental staff to be relocated to Newbridge is just over 200. There are currently 128 Newbridge-bound staff serving in the Department, which amounts to 70% of the total administrative and clerical staff requirement. In addition to the civil servants, 43 military personnel will be located in Newbridge also. Kildare County Council has approved the sale of a site at Station Road in Newbridge to the Office of Public Works for the construction of the Department's new headquarters. A preferred tenderer for the design and construction of the building has been chosen and the planning process is under way with a decision by OPW expected shortly. Depending on planning and the commencement of building work, OPW has indicated that construction and fit-out will take 18 months to complete. No staff have relocated to either location to date.

Civil Defence Board.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

30 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Defence his proposals to support the work of the Civil Defence and to encourage increased membership of the Civil Defence. [21987/07]

The Civil Defence Board was established in 2003 and is charged with the development and management of the organisation at National level. The Board is obliged to submit its Strategic Plan to me for approval every three years.

I recently launched the 2nd Strategic Plan of the Civil Defence Board which covers the period 2007-2010 and which has been laid before the House. I was very encouraged by the strategies identified by the Board for the management and development of Civil Defence to 2010 and beyond.

As the Minister with responsibility for the co-ordination of National Emergency Planning arrangements, I was very encouraged to note that the Board places such a high priority on involvement in the Major Emergency Management Framework, which identifies a wider role for Civil Defence in emergency response. Civil Defence volunteers are an important support to the front-line emergency services.

In approving the Plan, I have asked the Board to prioritise the development of the enhanced electronic Register of Volunteers for the purpose of planning and allocation of resources.

I propose to maintain the level of funding which has been made available to the Civil Defence Board in recent years. In 2007 the Board received a grant from my Department of €6.099 million. In addition to that, I have asked the Board for their proposals with regard to development of a new Training Range at their headquarters in Roscrea, and the refurbishment of the existing Training Range at Ratra House, Phoenix Park. Furthermore, I understand from the Board that a proposal for a programme of improvements to accommodation and training facilities at local authority level for volunteers is under development.

The funding that I have provided to the Civil Defence Board has enabled the organisation to equip volunteers to a high standard. In this regard, in late 2006, I launched the new Civil Defence workwear which meets European safety standards in terms of visibility while modernising the image of the organisation. In order to attract and retain members, it is essential that the organisation meets the highest standards of professionalism.

Since 2000, considerable expenditure on equipment such as vehicles, boats, training, medical, rescue and communications equipment, has helped to transform Civil Defence into a modern multi-functional emergency response organisation. Marketing of this capability is an important strategy in meeting the target of increasing membership by 10% by 2010 as identified by the Board. In terms of professional training, I fully support the Board's strategy in seeking external accreditation of Civil Defence training courses.

Overseas Missions.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

31 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence the arrangements for medical care made for the spouses of Defence Forces personnel who accompany them on accompanied overseas missions where the spouse does not have private medical insurance and where if such insurance was to be taken out prior to departure it would not be effective for a set up period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22086/07]

The level of medical cover for spouses of Defence Forces personnel who accompany them on accompanied overseas missions is currently the subject of a claim from the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers. The claim is being dealt with through the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. As discussions under the scheme are confidential to the parties involved the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the issue.

Defence Forces Personnel.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

32 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence if, in view of the report on low morale in the Naval Service one year ago and the plan to patrol 1680 days per annum that would require 40 to 60 additional days at sea for Naval Service personnel, he is confident that the Naval Service has the capacity to patrol for and intercept drug smugglers. [22089/07]

The main day-to-day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. The Service is tasked with patrolling all Irish waters from the shoreline to the outer limits of the Exclusive Fishery Limits. The number of Patrol Vessels on patrol in Irish waters at any one time varies between three and seven. The Naval Service is committed to having at least three vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time.

In relation to drug trafficking, responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking and other such illegal activities rests primarily with the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. However, the White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for both the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in this important work. Government measures to improve law enforcement in relation to drugs, (including the establishment in 1993 of a Joint Task Force involving the Garda, the Customs Service and the Naval Service), have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking. There is close co-operation between the civil authorities and the Naval Service in this important area and I am satisfied that the extent of Naval Service reconnaissance, in conjunction with the Garda and the Customs Service, has had a major and beneficial impact in deterring drug trafficking and other such illegal activities.

Last year the Naval Service achieved a total of 1,658 patrol days, of which over 90% related to fishery protection. In the course of these patrols, a total of 1,897 vessels were boarded, 19 were detained and 148 warnings were issued. These outputs reveal a focused and committed Naval Service that is continuing to produce high levels of performance.

A key element of the Naval Service Value for Money Implementation Plan, an outcome from the White Paper on Defence, was the requirement to produce a plan to deliver 1,680 patrol days annually with the establishment provided over the period 2000 to 2005. A system was introduced to operate patrol plans for 1,680 days per annum on an ongoing basis. Under the system a ship might be required to complete between 200 and 220 days at sea to achieve the 1,680 days required. However, relief personnel are provided to ensure that personnel on seagoing rotation should normally expect to undertake an average of approximately 160 days on patrol away from the Naval Base in a calendar year. For a wide variety of reasons some will do more and others less than this.

I am very much aware of the report A Voyage of Discovery, which I received in June 2006, and, following which, I held discussions with a PDFORRA delegation and representatives of the Naval Service regarding the effects of patrol duties on personnel of the Naval Service. I am pleased to say that our meeting reached agreement on a process to examine this issue and find potential solutions. A further series of meetings have taken place between the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) and PDFORRA. The purpose of the meetings was to examine the complex issues raised by PDFORRA with a view to exploring a possible resolution. A Naval Service/PDFORRA working group was set up and has made a number of recommendations which are being considered with a view to implementing them.

Military Investigations.

Liz McManus

Question:

33 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Defence if the investigation has been completed into the appearance on a website of a video showing Irish troops appearing to point weapons at civilians in Liberia; the outcome of the investigation; the action taken on foot of its findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21988/07]

A Military Police Investigation was conducted into a video clip involving Defence Forces personnel in Liberia, which was uploaded onto the YouTube website in late May this year.

Following this, three soldiers were charged under section 168 of the Defence Act, of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline of the forces. At the time of the incident, October 2006, the soldiers were serving with the 95 Infantry Battalion, UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

The charges were heard by the Officer Commanding the 3 Infantry Battalion on 30 August, 2007. One soldier had a charge proven of uploading this video onto the internet contrary to Defence Forces instructions and was fined €250. A second soldier had two charges proven of pointing his loaded weapon — in the video — at members of the public and at members of the Defence Forces, respectively, and was fined €200. The third had a similar charge of pointing his loaded weapon at members of the Defence Forces and was fined €150. All soldiers accepted the findings.

This incident was very disappointing, especially in light of the Defence Forces' reputation gained over many years from overseas service on peacekeeping duties, and in particular that earned by the seven battalions which served with UNMIL from November 2003 to May 2007.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

34 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Defence his plans to encourage the recruitment to the Defence Forces of people from a broader range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21995/07]

The question of the recruitment of foreign nationals to the Defence Forces is not a new one and Defence Force Regulations have always allowed for the recruitment of foreign nationals to the Defence Forces.

Entry to the Permanent Defence Force is either through the Cadetship Competition, Apprenticeship Competition, General Service Enlistment or Direct Entry Competitions which are held to fill vacancies in specialist appointments. All applicants for each of these entry streams are required to meet qualifying criteria.

The Cadet Competition is the entry level for recruitment as an Officer of the Defence Forces. As you are aware, I have made changes to the 2006 Cadet competition to broaden the entry criteria thereby making it easier for qualifying foreign nationals to apply for cadetships.

In addition the Defence Forces Equality Policy underpins equality legislation and states that;

The Defence Forces are committed to the principles of equal opportunities in all employment policies, procedures and regulations.

The Defence Forces will operate in an environment without discrimination in areas as provided by the Equality Acts.

The Defence Forces will ensure that the principles of employment equality are employed in recruitment, promotion, training and work experience.

All regulations and Administrative Instructions concerning service in the Defence Forces shall be set out in a manner consistent with this policy of equal opportunity.

This policy will be reviewed along with the Defence Forces regulations on an ongoing basis by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) to ensure compliance with best practice and to maintain a working environment that treats all members of the Defence Forces in a manner consistent with equal opportunities.

I know that people from diverse backgrounds have already been employed in the Defence Forces, but this has mainly been in certain specialised areas. This has worked well — albeit on a limited scale. I have asked the Chief of Staff to review recruitment into the Defence Forces at all levels and to implement changes that would facilitate recruitment from among cultural and ethnic minorities. I believe that this can only enhance our Defence Forces.

The Military Authorities share my commitment to increasing the participation of people from ethnic and cultural communities in the Defence Forces. To achieve this the Defence Forces are:

Developing a strategy for Cultural Diversity Management. A new Defence Forces advertising campaign will be launched to reflect its strategy for cultural diversity.

Establishing links with all ethical and cultural community groups based in Ireland, in order to brief the groups on the Defence Forces and its current entry requirements. The groups will be invited to forward submissions to the Defence Forces on their views of service in the Defence Forces and to highlight any barriers they deem unfavourable to recruitment that may exist.

However, the primary focus in recruitment is to attract people with the core competencies required by the Defence Forces. My Department and the Defence Forces are fully committed to ensuring that all suitably qualified candidates who wish to do so are given the opportunity to join the Defence Forces.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

35 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence the success of the regular and targeted recruitment campaigns in regard to recruitment to the Reserve Defence Forces. [21982/07]

In recent years recruitment to the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF) has been satisfactory. In 2006 there were 1,124 recruits and in 2007 to date, there have been 847.

The RDF is going through a process of change with the implementation of the recommendations of the White Paper on Defence and the RDF Implementation Board Report. The Implementation Plan is being rolled-out on a phased basis up to 2009. There has been significant progress to date in implementing the detailed recommendations of the Plan e.g. a new organisation structure implemented with effect from October 2005, major improvements in clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. In addition, the RDF is now structured along similar lines to the PDF (3 Brigades and the RDF Training Centre). The integrated reserve is being piloted across the 3 Brigades this year.

Now that the new organization structures, training syllabus etc. are in place it is appropriate that more focus be placed on recruitment. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that I have approved a publicity and awareness campaign to promote recruitment to the RDF in line with the commitment in ‘An Agreed Programme for Government'. This will commence early in 2008. Concurrent with the national campaign, units will conduct local campaigns in their own areas to capture the benefits of the national campaign. I am pleased that the Implementation Plan is progressing well. My Department will continue to monitor progress in the remaining period of the Plan.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

36 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent and expected strength and location of future deployments of Irish Defence Forces on UN missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22115/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Irish troops currently on overseas duties; the degree to which this number has fluctuated in the past five years; his plans to increase the strength of the Defence Forces in view of current or expected deployments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22205/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has received a request for further overseas postings of Irish troops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22206/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36, 114 and 115 together.

Ireland receives requests from time to time in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. Consideration is currently being given to possible Defence Forces participation in UN mandated military operations that may arise in Africa. At present, the proposed ESDP mission to Chad appears to offer the most suitable opportunity for participating in the region. I am currently in the process of authorising a fact-finding mission to the region. Subject to a satisfactory assessment, it is proposed that the Defence Forces would participate in the mission with a substantive contribution in the region of 300 to 350 personnel. This is within the capacity of the Defence Forces on the basis of our withdrawal from Lebanon.

Planning is progressing at the EU for the proposed EU military operation in the Republic of Chad and the Central African Republic. The proposed EU force will possibly comprise up to approximately 4,000 personnel. It is expected that the Council of the European Union will adopt a "Joint Action" to launch the mission next week. The authorities of Chad and the Central African Republic have welcomed a possible EU military presence in their respective countries.

On 25 September, 2007, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1778 establishing a multi-dimensional UN mission in Chad and Central African Republic that will help strengthen security in the region. Resolution 1778 (2007) establishes the mission, to be known as MINURCAT, for a period of one year, with a mandate focusing on the security and protection of civilians — particularly refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and civilians in danger — and on human rights and the rule of law in eastern Chad and north-eastern Central African Republic. At this point in time, a decision to deploy troops to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), which is primarily an African mission and will become operational later this year, looks unsuitable and could not be recommended.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) completes its current deployment at the end of October 2007. The commitment to UNIFIL was for one year and the Defence Forces will withdraw with their Finnish partners on completion of their tour of duty. Approximately seven Defence Forces personnel will continue to serve in the mission headquarters.

Currently, a total of 556 Defence Forces personnel is serving overseas. This number changes on a monthly basis subject to mission rotations and has averaged 622 over the past five years. Full details are listed in the following statements.

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force. There are no plans to increase this number. However, the Agreed Programme for Government proposes to facilitate this target of 10,500 by putting in place, from 2008 onwards, an additional provision for up to 350 troops to be in training, at any given time. The military authorities, and my Department are undertaking the planning necessary to meet this provision.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as of the 01 October 2007

Number

UN Missions

UNIFIL

(United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ

7

UNIFIL

36TH Inf Gr

166

UNTSO

(United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation — Israel, Syria and Lebanon)

14

MINURSO

(United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)

3

UNMIK

(United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo)

4

MONUC

(United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo

3

UNOCI

(United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

UNMIL

(United Nations Mission in Liberia) FHQ

2

Total

201

UN Mandated Missions

EUFOR

EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

41

KFOR

International Security Presence in Kosovo Framework Nation

58

KFOR

International Security Presence in Kosovo HQ

10

KFOR

International Security Presence in Kosovo 35th Inf Group

206

ISAF

International Security assistance Force in Afghanistan

7

AMIS

EU support to UN authorised African Union Mission in Sudan

3

Total Number of Personnel Serving with UN Missions

526

EU Missions

EUMM

European Union Monitor Mission to the Former Yugoslavia

5

Total Number of Personnel Serving with EU Missions

5

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

OSCE

Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

1

OSCE

Mission in Montenegro

1

OSCE

Presence in Albania

2

OSCE

Mission in FYR

2

Staff Officer Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

Total Number of Personnel Serving in OSCE

7

EU Military Staff

EUMS

Brussels

7

EUMS

New York

1

Military Representatives/ Advisers/Staff

Military Adviser

Permanent Mission to UN, New York

1

Military Adviser

Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

1

Military Representatives

To EU (Brussels)

4

Liaison Office of Ireland

NATO/PFP

2

Military Representative

To NATO/ PfP Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

1

UNHQ New York

Officers seconded to Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO)

1

Total No. Defence Forces Personnel Serving Overseas

556

Numbers of Troops Serving Overseas

June 2002-October 2007.

Number

June 2002

518

December 2002

441

June 2003

251

December 2003

669

June 2004

752

December 2004

772

June 2005

740

December 2005

766

June 2006

678

December 2006

830

June 2007

495

October 2007

556

Defence Forces Reserve.

Joe Costello

Question:

37 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date regarding the execution of the Reserve Defence Forces implementation plan. [21981/07]

The White Paper on Defence 2000 and the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan (2002) set out the blueprint for the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) together with an Implementation Plan extending to 2009. The Reserve Defence Force (RDF) now has a clearly defined role, an enhanced relationship with the Permanent Defence Force (PDF), better equipment and improved training.

The Implementation Plan is being rolled-out on a phased basis up to 2009. There has been significant progress to date in implementing the detailed recommendations of the Plan e.g. a new organisation structure implemented with effect from October 2005 and major improvements in clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. In addition, the RDF is now structured along similar lines to the PDF (3 Brigade structure, Brigade Training Centres, RDF Training Authority). The introduction of the integrated element of the Reserve is being addressed in the current year as a pilot exercise across all 3 Brigades. The integration project will be reviewed in the light of this exercise.

A publicity and recruitment campaign for the Reserve is planned over a 2/3 year period, commencing early in 2008.

I am pleased that the Implementation Plan is progressing well. My Department will continue to monitor progress in the remaining period of the Plan.

Defence Forces Retirement Scheme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

38 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide annual subventions to support and encourage the work of the officially recognised veterans groups ONET and INUVA in 2008. [21986/07]

The Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women, or Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann Teoranta (ONET) has enjoyed the long-standing official recognition of the Department and the Defence Forces. ONET is dedicated to looking after the welfare of all ex-service personnel of the Irish Defence Forces. A main objective of ONET is to ensure the welfare of ex-servicemen and women by way of providing accommodation to homeless members in need of such domestic accommodation and providing other assistance that may be required by way of advising referrals to the relevant agencies.

The Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) was formed in 1990. Membership is available to those who have successfully completed a tour of duty with a UN Force or Organisation. The Association is financed by membership fees, voluntary contributions and fundraising.

I can advise the Deputy that, in October 2006, in recognition of the valuable work of ONET and IUNVA and to mark almost 50 years of Defence Forces involvement in international peacekeeping with the United Nations, I was pleased to support the work of both organisations in the form of a once-off grant of €50,000 to each from my Department. The provision of annual funding to both ONET and IUNVA is part of An Agreed Programme for Government 2007. My Department is currently developing proposals to implement this from 2008.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

39 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the purchase by the Defence Forces of drones from the Israeli army. [22094/07]

An order for two (2) man portable mini Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, commonly referred to as UAVs, was placed with Aeronautics Defence Systems Limited from Israel, in May 2007. The value of the order is in the region of €780,000, inclusive of VAT. The award of the contract followed on from a two stage tender competition in which eight proposals were initially received and three tenders subsequently evaluated by a Military Board in the first quarter of 2007. Delivery of the UAV systems is expected by the end of 2007.

The UAV systems are required to enhance the capability of the Defence Forces to carry out surveillance and target acquisition for overseas Peace Support Operations and provide low cost, low risk means to increase capabilities and enhance force protection by performing missions which do not demand the use of manned aircraft. The UAVs, will, in effect, be an information-gathering asset. It should be stressed that the UAVs which the Defence Forces are acquiring are unarmed.

The UAVs will also be able to carry out suitable tasks at home in an Aid to the Civil Power or Aid to the Civil Authority environment such as environmental inspections and the undertaking of reconnaissance missions, which may avoid unnecessary exposure of Defence Force personnel to risk.

Question No. 40 answered with QuestionNo. 17.

Overseas Missions.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

41 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence when the planned reconnaissance mission will be sent to Chad; when a final decision will be made on whether to send an Irish contingent to the region; the terms under which it is expected to operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21996/07]

On 25 September, 2007, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1778 establishing a multi-dimensional UN mission in Chad and Central African Republic that will help strengthen security in the region. Resolution 1778 (2007) establishes the mission, to be known as MINURCAT, for a period of one year. MINURCAT will consist of three components:

a UN multidimensional presence, composed of UN police, rule of law, human rights and other civilian officers;

a special Chadian police/gendarmes unit (some 850) dedicated exclusively to maintaining law and order in refugee camps, sites with concentrations of IDPs and key towns, and assisting in securing humanitarian activities in eastern Chad;

an EU military deployment (under Chapter VII).

The EU element of the operation will have a mandate to contribute to the protection of civilians in danger, particularly refugees and displaced persons; to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and the free movement of humanitarian personnel by helping to improve security in the area of operation; and to contribute to protecting UN personnel, facilities, installations and equipment and to ensuring the security and freedom of movement of its staff and UN and associated personnel.

The UN element of this operation is targeted primarily at supporting the civil administration in Chad and the Central African Republic to protect refugees and camps with the support of a UN police element and liaison officers.

The EU will launch a fact-finding mission in the next week or so. It is proposed that the Defence Forces will send five officers to participate in this fact-finding mission so as to provide me with the best information possible regarding the situation on the ground so as to inform a future decision by government on our participation. The issue of risk assessment and force protection is vitally important and this will have to be factored into the equation. In addition, given the location of the mission area, the operational environment, together with considerations regarding resupply, sustainability and reinforcement will also require rigorous assessment.

The decision to launch an ESDP mission is a matter for the Council of the European Union and it is expected that it will take this decision in the next week.

In the event that the Defence Forces can make a meaningful contribution to the mission and if it meets all the other criteria including the risk assessment, force protection test and environmental assessment, I would intend to bring forward detailed proposals to Government in the next few weeks. Subject to Government approval, I will then seek the approval of Dáil Éireann for the despatch of the contingent in accordance with the provisions of the Defence Acts. The scale of our potential contribution to the EU mission is in the order of 300 to 350 personnel.

Question No. 42 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

Army Equitation School.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

43 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Defence his plans for the further expansion and development of the Army Equitation School; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22001/07]

The mission of the Army Equitation School, as assigned to it on its establishment in 1926, is to advertise the Irish horse abroad through participation in international competitions. The school has discharged this task with considerable distinction down through the years, and through its participation and numerous successes in equitation events at home and abroad it has successfully promoted the qualities of the Irish horse.

In 2005, my Department purchased 3 horses for the Army Equitation School at a total cost of €243,000 and in 2006, 4 horses were purchased at a cost of €245,500. To date in 2007, I have approved the purchase of a further 3 horses for the School at a cost of €146,520.

Presently, there are three horses leased to the Army Equitation School by their owners. The owners are paid an annual lease fee for the competition life of the horse, and in addition to the lease fee there are in-built performance bonuses in the lease agreements. Horses are also acquired by the Army Equitation School through donation by patrons, and presently the School has possession of three donated horses.

There are ten Officers (including seven Riding Officers) assigned to the Army Equitation School at present. There are also eight Non-Commissioned Officers and seventeen Privates currently assigned.

In 2004 the Army Equitation School had 14 International wins at competitions throughout Europe, with 13 International wins in 2005 and a further 10 in 2006, including wins at Barcelona, Athens, Copenhagen and Zagreb. The Army Equitation School has had considerable success in 2007, notably Commandant Gerry Flynn's wins on Mo Chroí in the Dublin Grand Prix, the Lisbon Grand Prix, the Drammen Grand Prix and the Vimeiro Grand Prix.

There are presently no plans for the further expansion or development of the Army Equitation School.

Defence Forces Medical Corps.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

44 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date in regard to the development of the role and contribution of the Medical Corps and the expansion of its capacity to deliver a range of medical facilities on UN mandated missions; and his further proposals in this regard. [21983/07]

The military medical services and their facilities exist primarily to maintain the health of the Defence Forces and to support them in operational and overseas activities. The focus of the military medical service is on primary care, acute trauma management, preventative medical programmes and field medical training.

The development of the capacity of the Medical Corps forms part of the agreed programme for Government. This includes the expansion of the capacity of the Medical Corps to deliver a range of medical facilities on UN mandated missions.

The key issue at this time is the acknowledged shortage of medical officers (Doctors) in the Medical Corps. Whereas the establishment for doctors provided for in the new organisation of the Defence Forces introduced on foot of the White Paper on Defence is forty seven (47), the current strength of Medical Officers serving in the Defence Forces is twenty three (23), one of whom is on leave of absence without pay. There has been recruitment of Medical Officers each year but the number attracted to work in the Defence Forces has just served to address natural wastage.

The problems with recruitment of medical officers into the Defence Forces have endured for some time despite the concerted efforts of my Department and the Defence Forces to address the root causes. The pay and allowances of doctors and dentists were increased substantially recently, in consultation with the Minister for Finance. This linked their pay to public health doctors and dentists. In addition, the Defence Forces have recently undertaken an intensive recruitment campaign. The results of both of these initiatives have been disappointing.

My Department has also been engaged in an ongoing process with the Representative Associations on the issue of the health requirements of members of the Defence Forces. A medical services charter was agreed under Sustaining Progress. This collaborative work has been carried forward into the modernisation agenda under Towards 2016 which foresees work on developing a revised structure for the delivery of medical services for the Defence Forces.

Ensuring that the medical needs of Irish troops are fully catered for is an important element of the planning in all overseas missions. This planning is typically done in conjunction with other participating contingents with a view to ensuring access to the appropriate treatment.

Equality Issues.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

45 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence the way he is addressing the concerns of female long-term members and NCOs, as regards the unequal potential for promotion, the anti-social hours and service requirements unfriendly to families, reported in the Retention and Recruitment of Women in the Defence Forces issued by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22088/07]

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity and equal treatment for men and women in the Defence Forces (Army, Air Corps, Naval Service) including the Reserve Defence Force, and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities.

In effect, this means that women are eligible, on the same basis as men, for participation in operational and ceremonial activities, for assignment to all military appointments and educational and training courses and for promotion. All female personnel undergo the same training and receive the same military education as their male counterparts. All promotions and career courses are open to both genders on merit.

The Defence Force Equality and Equal Status Policies underpin equality legislation and state that:

Men and Women have equal opportunities for employment and for advancement on the basis on merit and ability and that differences between women and men are not used unjustly or unfairly to favour a man over a woman or a woman over a man. It is not an option to promote someone simply because they are a woman or a man.

This policy and the relevant procedures are reviewed along with Defence Forces regulations on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance with best practice and to maintain a working environment that treats all members of the Defence Forces in a manner consistent with equal opportunities.

Work-life balance initiatives of term time and career breaks in addition to the statutory entitlements such as Parental Leave, Carer's Leave and Force Majeure Leave are available to all members of the Defence Forces.

Promotion arrangements for enlisted personnel are currently the subject of discussion between my Department and the Representative Associations. I have made it clear that the policy of the Department is to produce a merit-based system of promotion that is gender neutral. That should provide the best person for the job.

I recognise that requirements such as overseas service and service at sea places high demands on both men and women. However the requirements to serve overseas and at sea are a basic and necessary part of the job of the soldier and sailor. My Department and the Defence Forces continually seek to improve the work environment. For example a new patrol duty rota has recently been introduced in the Naval Service, this should have a positive impact on personnel without compromising the service provided.

Other developments that emerge in the areas of family friendly policies generally will be reviewed positively to determine if they can be accommodated to the operational requirements of the Defence Forces.

On the TNS MRBI report on recruitment and retention of women, it should be remembered that, on balance, the results of the research are very positive. The report reveals that women serving in the Defence Forces have a positive attitude to their job with over 75% of respondents thinking that the Defence Forces is a good place to work and over 73% reporting that they enjoyed their job.

There are challenges identified in the report that we are continuing to address. I am committed to ensuring that the Defence Forces provides members with a challenging and rewarding career and a supportive working environment.

Defence Forces Investigations.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

46 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence if the investigation has been completed into a road accident near Granard, County Longford in June 2007, involving an Army truck, in which 14 soldiers were injured; the outcome of the investigation; if his attention has been drawn to the call from PDFORRA for the Health and Safety Authority to review passenger safety measures on Army trucks and the possible introduction of passenger seat belts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21989/07]

An extensive investigation is being carried out by the Defence Forces into the circumstances surrounding the accident. The investigation report is expected to be completed shortly. The issue of safety belts on troop carrying vehicles will be considered on the basis of the final outcome of the report.

National Archives.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

47 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence his proposals to make available to historians and to the public, records of the military pensions archive in his Department. [21975/07]

The Taoiseach announced in the context of the 90th Anniversary celebrations of 1916 that the Government had decided to make the Military Pension Archive available to historians and to the public. It is the intention of the Government that the records will be made available in good time for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising in 2016.

An Interdepartmental Working Group chaired by the Department of An Taoiseach was established last year to progress this matter. My Department and the Defence Forces are represented on this Committee along with representatives of Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, the OPW and the National Archives.

This is a major project and considerable preparatory work has already been completed. In addition, my Department will shortly be placing advertisements in the national press seeking to recruit professional archivists who will be dedicated to this project under the guidance of the inter-departmental Committee.

Question No. 48 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Compensation Claims.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

49 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence the amount paid out in compensation payments and legal fees, arising from injury or illness claims by members of the Defence Forces in respect of each of the past five years; if he is satisfied that appropriate procedures are in place to minimise risk to members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21997/07]

Details of the amount paid by my Department in settlement of non-hearing loss compensation claims and associated legal costs over the period in question are shown in the following Tabular Statement. The figures in the Tabular Statement represent the amounts paid in settlement of actions against the Minister for Defence. They include payments to serving and non-serving members of the Permanent and Reserve Defence Forces in respect of personal injuries and material damage. They also include amounts paid to Civilian Employees, and members of the public. I am concerned, of course, to ensure that such claims are kept to a minimum and that when they do arise they are dealt with expeditiously and efficiently.

The State Claims Agency has been working with the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence to examine incidents giving rise to claims and trends emerging in order to identify and obviate, if possible, the underlying causes of injury to civilian and Defence Forces personnel.

In 2004, the Defence Forces established a Risk Management Steering Group and a Risk Management Implementation Group to implement the overall Defence Forces Risk Management Policy. An Instruction on Health and Safety Risk Management was promulgated throughout the Defence Forces in 2006.

During 2006, external auditors from the State Claims Agency carried out a comprehensive audit of the Defence Forces Health and Safety Management systems. This audit examined systems in Defence Forces HQ, in each Formation and in 14 different Units selected by the auditors. All areas audited met with OHSAS 18001 standards. The Defence Forces is the first State organisation to have its Safety Management System validated by the State Claims Agency.

Non-Hearing Loss Claims

Year

Awards/ Settlements

Legal Fees

2000

6,799,201

1,564,900

2001

4,555,277

1,724,704

2002

4,835,652

1,430,747

2003

3,522,547

1,030,490

2004

3,149,599

1,755,582

2005

3,403,930

2,101,038

2006

3,178,452

3,022,502

2007 (To date)

1,492,134

2,092,081

Civilianisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

50 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Defence his proposals to fast track the civilianisation of all outstanding agreed posts in the Defence Forces. [21978/07]

The Agreed Programme for Government (June 2007) contains a commitment to fast track the civilianisation of all outstanding agreed posts in the Defence Forces. This issue is also included in the Modernisation Agenda agreed with the Defence Forces Representative Associations in the context of Towards 2016. The matter will be progressed by my department and the military authorities accordingly.

Defence Forces Review.

Richard Bruton

Question:

51 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the steps that have been taken to implement the recommendation of the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Board Report, which was accepted by the Government, that the current members of the reserve of officers and men be reactivated and become involved in training of the RDF and the suitable members on discharge from the PDF should be encouraged to enlist with the FLR; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22082/07]

The White Paper on Defence 2000 and the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan (2002) set out the blueprint for the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) together with an Implementation Plan extending to 2009.

The Implementation Plan is being rolled-out on a phased basis up to 2009. There has been significant progress to date in implementing the detailed recommendations of the Plan e.g. a new organisation structure implemented with effect from October 2005 and major improvements in clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. In addition, the RDF is now structured along similar lines to the PDF. The introduction of the integrated element of the Reserve is being addressed in the current year as a pilot exercise across all 3 Brigades. A publicity and recruitment campaign for the Reserve is planned over a 2/3 year period, commencing early in 2008.

The Implementation Plan recommends that current members of the First Line Reserve (FLR) be reactivated and that suitable members, on discharge from the PDF, should be encouraged to enlist with the FLR. This issue is now included in the Modernisation Agenda agreed with the Defence Forces Representative Associations in the context of Towards 2016 and will be progressed accordingly.

I am pleased that the Implementation Plan for the RDF is progressing well. My Department will continue to monitor progress in the remaining period of the Plan.

Defence Forces Property.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

52 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the arrangements in place for the use of Army firing ranges by the members of An Garda Síochána; the extent of such usage; if indoor firing facilities are included in such arrangements; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21950/07]

The use of military firing ranges by An Garda Síochána is subject to the operation/training requirements of the Defence Forces. That said, the Defence Forces have facilitated An Garda Síochána down the years, providing them with significant access to military firing ranges nationwide on an ongoing basis. These arrangements do not encompass the use of indoor firing ranges as the type of ranges available to the Defence Forces are not appropriate for the type of equipment in use by An Gardí.

Obviously, for security reasons, it would not be appropriate for me to disclose the extent of usage by the Gardaí of the Defence Forces firing ranges.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

53 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the guidelines that determine seized vehicles not complying with his Department’s road tax directives (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22197/07]

Vehicle Registration Tax is chargeable on registration of a motor vehicle in the State. All motor vehicles in the State, other than those brought in temporarily by visitors, must be registered with the Revenue Commissioners. A vehicle must be registered before it can be licensed for road tax purposes. The Revenue Commissioners charge vehicle registration tax (VRT) on the open market selling price (OMSP) of vehicles on registration. OMSP is defined in Section 133 of the Finance Act 1992; and is the price, inclusive of all taxes and duties, which a vehicle may reasonably be expected to fetch on a first arm's length sale in the open market in the State by retail. The OMSP of new vehicles is declared to the Revenue Commissioners by a wholesale distributor, while the OMSP of imported second hand vehicles is determined by the Revenue Commissioners based on factors such as age, mileage and vehicle condition.

When a vehicle is brought into Ireland from abroad, it must be registered and the VRT paid by the end of the next working day following its arrival in the State. Where a vehicle remains unregistered for a period in excess of one week of its arrival in the State, Section 140 of the Finance Act 2001 provides for the vehicle to be detained by Revenue mobile units for such period as is required to carry out their enquiries regarding the VRT status of the vehicle. Generally one of the following options will be available to the owner of the vehicle in such circumstances:

(a)The Vehicle should be presented for registration at a Vehicle Registration Office where VRT is payable on the open market selling price of the vehicle in the State.

(b)Where applicable, an application for an exemption from the payment of VRT should be made.

(c)The Vehicle may be exported out of the State.

Section 139 of the Finance Act 1992 provides for offences and penalties under VRT law. A person guilty of an offence under this section will be liable to a penalty of €1,265, in addition to the VRT payable on registration. Under certain circumstances, a person may be exempted from having to pay VRT. Sections 134 and 135 of the Finance Act 1992 provide for permanent and temporary exemptions from the payment of VRT on registration of vehicles in the State. Such exemptions include transfers of residence, vehicles acquired on inheritance, vehicles transferred into the State under diplomatic arrangements and vehicles used in the State by visitors and tourists.

Section 134(1)(a) of the Finance Act 1992 provides for the granting of a permanent exemption from the payment of VRT on registration where a vehicle is the personal property of a private individual and is being brought permanently into the State on the transfer of their normal residence from a place outside the State to a place in the State. Statutory Instrument No. 59 of 1993 sets out the conditions governing the registration of vehicles under that section. An application for exemption under transfer of residence provisions should be made within one week of the arrival of the vehicle in the State. The Deputy may wish to note that guidelines relating to eligibility for exemption are contained in information leaflet VRT 3 in the VRT section of the Revenue website www.revenue.ie and also at any Vehicle Registration Office.

Decentralisation Programme.

Dara Calleary

Question:

54 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress of the site acquisition process for the development of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs at Charlestown, County Mayo. [22151/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works have received a number of proposals offering potentially suitable sites for the new Headquarters of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs in Charlestown, County Mayo. These proposals are currently being technically assessed. When this process is completed, negotiations will commence with the owners of the preferred site options.

Tax Code.

Alan Shatter

Question:

55 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a substantial number of first time home buyers completed the purchase of properties between 1 January 2007 and 31 March 2007 in reliance on statements made by him when delivering the budget 2006 that there would be no change in the stamp duty; his views on whether an injustice has been done to these people in so far as they incurred substantial extra expense in early 2007 by completing the purchase of homes that could have been delayed and stamp duty exempt; and if the Government will publish legislation to retrospectively remedy this injustice and provide for the repayment of the stamp duty received from first time home buyers for completion of purchases during the aforementioned period. [22188/07]

The Finance (No. 2) Act 2007 introduced an exemption from stamp duty for first-time buyers in accordance with the commitments made in the Programme for Government to bring about immediate change to the stamp duty regime for first-time buyers. This provided that deeds presented by first-time buyers to the Revenue Commissioners on or after 30 April 2007 will be exempt from stamp duty. As a deed must be presented to the Revenue Commissioners within 30 days of execution, the Act was drafted to provide for exemption for deeds executed on or after 31 March 2007.

Jack Wall

Question:

56 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has received all of their entitlements in relation to tax rebates; if their tax credits and standard rate of tax cut off point are correct; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22192/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that following telephone contact from the taxpayer, a correct certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point issued to her dated 21 September 2007. The taxpayer's new employer, following the issue of a form P45 in the coming days from her previous employer, will make a refund of any tax overpaid by her in 2007. The years 2003 to 2006 inclusive have been reviewed and PAYE balancing statements together with cheques in settlement will also issue in the coming days.

Flood Relief.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

57 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding the flood relief scheme for the Waterford/Tramore Road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22228/07]

The original works proposed for the Tramore Road under the John's River Flood Relief Scheme were not economically viable and the Commissioners of Public Works met with Waterford City Council to see if an economically and environmentally sustainable scheme could be devised. As the road passes through Kilbarry Bog, which is a National Heritage Area, it was agreed that an Environmental Impact Study needs to be carried out. OPW has agreed to fund this study and Waterford City Council is currently in the process of procuring a consultant. Once the results of the study are known, a decision will be made in relation to flood relief works for the Tramore Road.

Tax Code.

Willie Penrose

Question:

58 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the courses a person must undertake and have appropriate qualifications in, in order to avail of the stamp duty exemption regarding land transfers, which was announced in budget 2006; if a person who has a 100 hour qualification in agriculture courses, can complement same with additional courses, to reach the required educational standard in order to gain such an exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22240/07]

Relief from stamp duty on the conveyance of farm land is currently available under section 81AA of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. The main conditions for granting this relief are that on the date of transfer, the young trained farmer must be (a) under 35 years of age, and (b) the holder of a specified qualification. In addition, the young trained farmer must declare that he/she will retain and farm the land for a period of 5 years from this date. The third level courses that qualify under this scheme are listed in Schedule 2B to the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999.

In broad terms, the present system is that where a farmer undertakes third level education that is not agriculture related, he/she must undertake Teagasc approved training in agriculture and farm management in order to qualify under the relief. Where the individual has successfully completed two years of a full-time third-level qualification, he/she can claim the relief where he/she has undertaken Teagasc approved training courses in agriculture and horticulture for 100 hours and in farm management for 80 hours. However, from 31 March 2008 the FETAC Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture will become the new minimum education requirement. The Advanced Certificate is of two years duration. However, in recognition of prior learning, persons with other third-level education may complete the programme in a shorter period. This change was announced in last year's Budget following consultation with the Minister for Agriculture and Food as well as Teagasc, it was agreed as part of the Partnership talks with the farming organisations in order to regularise the agricultural and farm management education of young farmers. Where a farmer completes the 80/180 hours Teagasc training before that date he/she can qualify for the relief under the old arrangements. In addition to the changes made to the education criteria of the relief in last year's Budget, the refunds procedure was greatly simplified, so that, among other changes, the former requirement for a specific minimum education attainment at the date of transfer is now abolished. This means that where a farmer has not completed his/her agricultural training before any land is transferred to him/her, he/she can claim a refund of any stamp duty paid at a later date, after they have completed the relevant training.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

59 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the regulations regarding approved minimum retirement fund could be amended to allow access to the fund before reaching the age of 75 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22251/07]

Approved Retirement Funds (ARFs) and Approved Minimum Retirement Funds (AMRFs) are part of the flexible options introduced in the 1999 Finance Act which allow certain categories of individual considerable flexibility and freedom in relation to the drawing down of benefits from their pension plans. Previously, such individuals would have been required to purchase an annuity with the pension fund moneys remaining after the drawdown of the appropriate tax-free lump sum. The option to have all or part of an individual's accumulated pension fund placed in an ARF is open to a qualified person (generally a proprietary director, self-employed individual and certain employees or directors in non-pensionable employment) who is either over 75 years of age or who has a guaranteed pension income actually in payment for life of at least €12,700 per annum. Where the guaranteed income requirement is not met, then an AMRF must be chosen into which the first €63,500 of the pension fund, or the whole of the fund if less than this amount, must be invested (alternatively an annuity can be purchased with the first €63,500 of the pension fund and the balance placed in an ARF). The capital in an AMRF is not available to an individual until he or she reaches 75 years though any income generated by the fund can be drawn down subject to tax. The purpose of an AMRF is to ensure a capital or income "safety net" for the relevant individuals throughout the period of their retirement. I have no plans to amend the AMRF rules in a manner that would undermine the rationale for the requirement, generally.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

60 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if the home help being provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be increased. [22145/07]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

61 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied). [22169/07]

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.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

62 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will arrange for the Health Service Executive to make immediate and appropriate contact with a person (details supplied) in County Louth who is concerned regarding their son’s emotional and psychological well-being; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22171/07]

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

Health Service Allowances.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

63 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount paid by the Health Service Executive for taxis under all headings in County Louth in 2006; the amount paid to each named firm or person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22176/07]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

64 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children when the nursing home refund application will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [22177/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Service Allowances.

David Stanton

Question:

65 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation with regard to domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if she will arrange for an assessment to be carried out on the child by the North Lee West Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Team; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22178/07]

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.

National Lottery Funding.

Denis Naughten

Question:

66 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the status, further to correspondence (details supplied), of the application for lottery funding; if she will approve the funds required; the reason for the delay in processing the application. [22181/07]

My Department received an application for a grant from the Health and Children allocation of National Lottery funds from the organisation referred to.

There is a protocol in my Department for processing applications for National Lottery grants. Following assessment, evaluation and recommendation, applications are considered in the context of the recommendation and the overall level of funds available to me. This application is one of many under consideration for a grant from my Department and the organisation in question will be informed as soon as a decision has been made.

Office of Tobacco Control.

James Reilly

Question:

67 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the Board of the Office of Tobacco Control which was appointed in 2002 for a five year term; when its term of office will expire; the arrangements in place to appoint a new board for the Office of Tobacco Control; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22209/07]

The term of office for the Board of the Office of Tobacco Control expired on 25 July 2007. Arrangements are currently under way to appoint a new Board for the Office of Tobacco Control.

Hospital Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

68 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements made for the public use of the bone density machine that is currently located in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Sligo, which was paid for by voluntary contributions; if patients can be referred directly by a general practitioners for testing; the average number of tests carried out per week; the way the Health Service Executive is charged for the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22211/07]

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

Health Service Staff.

Brian Hayes

Question:

69 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the job description of each of the nine national directors and the 61 assistant national directors within the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22243/07]

Under section 22 of the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has responsibility for appointing and determining the duties of its employees. Similarly, the Executive, with the approval of the Minister for Health and Children given with the consent of the Minister for Finance, determines the grades of its employees and the numbers of employees in each grade. In that regard, the Executive is the appropriate body to verify the numbers of posts at the levels referred to by the Deputy and to provide information regarding job descriptions. 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.

Road Network.

Dara Calleary

Question:

70 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine if he will confirm that his Department has received a submission from Mayo County Council in respect of funding relating to the R312 road in County Mayo; and the status of that submission. [22152/07]

The improvement of non-national roads in County Mayo is a matter for Mayo County Council to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State grants. The selection and prioritisation of projects to be financed from these grants is also a matter for the Council.

Mayo County Council wrote to my Department, on 8 February 2007, requesting funding for the upgrading of the R312 Castlebar-Belmullet Road under the New Strategic Non-National Roads stream of grants. The Council was informed that all non-national road grants for 2007 had been fully allocated and no funds were available from which further grant allocations could be made.

However, the Council was informed that the design stage of the project would be considered for funding in 2008, having regard, inter alia, to the overall funding available in 2008 for non-national roads and the competing demands from other local authorities.

In order to aid its consideration of the Council's proposal, my Department sought further details on the proposed scheme, including confirmation of the proposed works, a draft expenditure profile to include details of the Council's proposed own resources expenditure on the scheme and possible third party contributions. The requested information is still awaited from the Council.

Local Authority Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the reason tertiary grants have been discontinued by the various local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22208/07]

The improvement and maintenance of public non-national roads in its area is a statutory function of local authorities in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act, 1993, to be funded from their own resources supplemented by State grants. The initial selection and prioritization of projects to be financed from these grants is a matter for each local authority.

All non-national road grants for 2007 have now been fully allocated and there are no further funds available from which additional allocations can be made for tertiary roads.

Local authorities may, however, continue to fund eligible works on tertiary roads from their own resources or, alternatively, from discretionary grants provided by my Department.

Rail Services.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

72 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the strategic plan for investment in the east coast commuter rail service for 2007, 2008 and 2009 in view of the deployment of the intercity rail cars on the Dublin-Sligo line and the availability of additional rolling stock for the commuter rail lines to Dublin. [22260/07]

While the timetabling and operation of railway services is a matter for Iarnród Éireann, the Company have advised that the introduction of the new InterCity railcars on the Dublin-Sligo services will enable the commuter railcars, currently used on the Sligo services, to be reallocated to commuter operations and that rail services between Gorey and Dublin will be very significantly improved in terms of frequency between now and 2009.

Public Transport.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

73 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport and the Marine the reason for the delay in issuing a licence for the Arklow-Dublin airport bus service. [22261/07]

My Department currently has notifications on hands from Bus Éireann proposing a number of changes to services between Wexford/Wicklow and Dublin, including services between Dublin Airport and Arklow.

Bus Éireann was advised in April 2007 that certain elements of their proposals relating to late night and early morning services did not conflict with other applications or existing licensed services and they could, therefore, proceed to introduce these services. I understand that some of these approved services are scheduled to be introduced on the route in late October.

As regards the remaining proposed service changes, there were prior applications on hands and the company was advised that the assessment of these would have to be completed before their proposals could be considered further.

My Department has now concluded its consideration of the relevant prior applications on the route and the remainder of Bus Éireann's proposed service changes are currently being assessed. A decision in the matter is expected in the coming weeks.

Emigrant Support Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

74 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the undocumented Irish in the US; the position regarding their legal status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22147/07]

The Deputy will be aware that efforts by the United States Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation failed to get the necessary support earlier this year. This was a major disappointment and a setback for the thousands of undocumented Irish people in the United States, and also for their families in Ireland. It is now widely considered that this important issue is unlikely to be back before Congress in a meaningful way in advance of the next US Presidential and Congressional Elections.

In the aftermath of this disappointment, I made clear my determination to actively review the situation and to explore possible alternative options, including bilateral arrangements. In the months since the collapse of the comprehensive reform bill, my Department and the Embassy in Washington have initiated contacts at senior official level in Washington and have been engaged in a wide range of consultations with Congressional, Administration and Irish community figures to assess how best to proceed.

My visit to the United States this week provided me with an opportunity to reinforce these efforts at senior political level through discussions with members of the Administration and Congress. I also had talks with representatives of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and direct contact with the undocumented Irish community in New York with a view to exploring all ways of finding a way forward on this sensitive and important issue.

Passport Applications.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

75 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the difficulties being experienced by Irish citizens abroad anxious to renew their passports due to the closing down for long periods of the website for the Irish Embassy Offices in Ottawa; his further views on that fact that Irish citizens abroad have expressed annoyance at the inconvenience caused by what they suggest was the failure to notify widely the fact that the consulate in Toronto had moved address; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22148/07]

The Deputy may be aware that my Department recently launched an upgraded website (www.dfa.ie) and the Department is currently upgrading the websites of all our Missions throughout the world. A number of these upgraded Embassy websites are already live, such as those for our Embassies in Paris (www.embassyofireland.fr) and in Berlin (www.embassyofireland.de).

The upgrade of the website for the Embassy in Ottawa is a priority and will result in a significantly enhanced service to Irish citizens in that country. In the meantime, although the Embassy's website is under construction, the Embassy's contact details and opening hours are available on its homepage. Contact details for the Embassy and for our network of Honorary Consuls across Canada are also available on the Department's main website.

For security reasons, passport applications cannot be made online. Irish citizens in Canada wishing to renew their passports should make direct contact with the Embassy in Ottawa. Once a passport application is being processed by the Embassy, an individual can track the progress of their application through the main Department website.

I can confirm to the Deputy that our Honorary Consul in Toronto, who was appointed in 1998, has been at his current address, Suite 1210, 20 Toronto Street, Toronto, Ontario M5C 2B8 since 1999. This address has been widely disseminated over the years, including on various websites.

Finally if the Deputy wishes to forward details of a particular passport query, the Embassy will be happy to follow it up.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

76 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the conflict resolution unit and the work carried out to date. [22167/07]

I refer the Deputy to the answer given to PQ 18777 on 3rd July 2007, in which I outlined the rationale for the establishment of the Conflict Resolution Unit and its broad objectives. The programme for Government sets out key goals: the creation of an academic Centre for Conflict Resolution, the establishment of a system of roving Ambassadors to affected regions and the development of an annual €25 million fund to assist conflict resolution in the developing world.

My Department is in the final phase of completing the work programme for the Conflict Resolution Unit.

I also used my address to the United Nations earlier this week to inform the Assembly of the priorities and principles that will guide the work of the Conflict Resolution Unit. Peacemaking, peacebuilding and lesson sharing will be key themes of its work. Human rights and gender and conflict will inform all aspects of its work. Climate change and its potential to generate conflict will be an area of interest. While in New York, I also took the opportunity of briefing senior figures in the United Nations on our plans and the priority we attach to working with the UN and its agencies.

The new Unit has been evolving its policy framework and investigating a range of activities to advance its work in conflict areas and enable Ireland to play a more active and strategic role in international conflict resolution and peace-building. There is already a body of existing activities that can be built on — these include our proud tradition of UN peacekeeping, development cooperation activities arising through Irish Aid's growing programme and its work in our priority countries, and the range of funding already provided to organisations active in conflict resolution internationally.

The Unit's work programme recommendations will seek to capture these activities, build on Ireland's traditional foreign policy values and set out a framework for future activities.

Work Permits.

Willie Penrose

Question:

77 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason a person (details supplied) was not granted a work permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22241/07]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department has informed me that this work permit application was refused on the grounds that evidence of the necessary labour market test was not submitted in support of the application. Furthermore, the salary on offer was below €30,000 per annum and work permits are only granted on a very exceptional basis in such cases.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

78 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will make special provision for work permits and visas for people being brought in from overseas to work in the polo industry especially as horse trainers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22258/07]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department has informed me that applications for horse trainer positions will be considered on a case by case basis. If the Deputy wishes to bring a particular case to my attention, he should contact me in this regard.

Arts Council.

Mary Upton

Question:

79 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will support the Arts Council request for an increase in funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22172/07]

I refer the Deputy to my answers to Parliamentary Questions 321, 322 and 323 in the House on Tuesday 2nd October 2007 on this matter.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

80 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the arrears due to a person (details supplied) in County Galway since January 2006 will be awarded; the amount of the current supplementary welfare payment towards their rent; if his attention has been drawn to the hardship accorded to the person who is seeking to access further education; and if he will expedite a resolution of these matters. [22149/07]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned was awarded rent supplement with effect from 29 January 2007. The current weekly rate is €87. Arrears of rent supplement of €2,436 has issued to the person concerned in respect of the period 29th January 2007 to 11th August 2007. The Executive has further advised that the person concerned should make an application directly to the community welfare officer dealing with his rent supplement claim if he wishes to apply for arrears of rent supplement prior to this period.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

81 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of a carers allowance appeal by a person (details suppled) in County Mayo. [22164/07]

I am advised by the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal by the person concerned was successful. The appellant was notified of the outcome on 1 August 2007.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

82 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the family income supplement will be renewed for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that their working hours have been restored. [22179/07]

An application for Family Income Supplement (FIS) was received by my Department from the person concerned on 8 February 2006. One of the principal conditions for receipt of FIS is that a person must work at least 19 hours per week or 38 hours per fortnight.

The person concerned was awarded Family Income Supplement (FIS) for a period of 12 months from 29th June 2006 and payment continued to 27th June 2007. The person made a repeat claim on 28th May 2007. There was a build-up of work in the Family Income Supplement section at that time and, consequently, there was a delay in dealing with all FIS claims. When this case was examined on 24th August 2007, it was found that this person was not engaged in full-time (19 hours per week or 38 per fortnight) remunerative employment as an employee. Accordingly, the claim was disallowed and the person concerned was advised of this decision and of the right of appeal to the independent social welfare appeals office. Under Social Welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These Officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Jack Wall

Question:

83 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in processing family income subsidy applications; the changes he has made or is proposing to make in regard to having the delays addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22194/07]

The Family Income Supplement (FIS) is designed to provide cash support for employees on low earnings with families. Family Income Supplement is paid for 52 weeks provided a person continues to meet the qualifying conditions, and a claim for renewal may then be made.

Entitlement to FIS is based on an applicant satisfying a means test and on certification of employment by the employer. My Department has consistently publicised the scheme in order to maximise uptake by qualified families. Following significant improvements in the qualifying income limits in the 2006 budget, a week-long nationwide awareness campaign was undertaken in March of that year to encourage increased take up of the scheme. This, combined with the improvements in the income limits, resulted in a strong upward trend in the level of new claims and, consequently claims for renewals.

There are currently 20,177 people in receipt of a weekly FIS payment. To date in 2007, my Department has received 28,740 new and renewal FIS claims and has decided a total of 22,133 cases. At end September there were 11,229 claims awaiting decision. These were comprised of 4,622 new claims and 6,607 renewal claims. The average time taken to award a FIS claim or renewal in 2007 (up to end of Sept) is 14.98 weeks.

My Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are issued as expeditiously as possible having regard to the eligibility conditions which apply. Measures were introduced to directly address the efficiency of claim processing for FIS:

A review of existing processes and procedures has been undertaken with the explicit objective of reducing delays in claim processing;

Priority is being given to claims where a claim is being renewed to ensure continuity of payment;

The ongoing staffing requirement was recently reviewed in light of the increased volumes of claims. In view of the efficiencies that the processing improvements are expected to generate, an increase in the staffing level is not warranted at this time.

These measures will, over time, lead to more efficient processing and reduce the number of claims on hand. The position is being closely monitored and kept under review by my Department.

Jack Wall

Question:

84 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, due to the backlog in processing family income supplement applications, successful candidates will be permitted to make an application for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance payments under the supplementary welfare scheme in view of the fact that the delay of processing is depriving them of such an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22195/07]

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme (BSCFA) scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn. The allowance is intended as a contribution towards meeting the full cost of school clothing and footwear. The scheme operates from the beginning of June to the end of September each year and is administered on behalf of my Department by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive.

A person may qualify for payment of back to school clothing and footwear allowance if they are in receipt of a social welfare or Health Service Executive payment, are participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education and training course and have household income at or below certain set levels. Family income supplement (FIS) is a qualifying payment for back to school clothing and footwear purposes. People in receipt of FIS qualify subject to the standard means test and any income received by an applicant in the form of family income supplement is not assessable.

In cases where FIS claims are pending, the Health Service Executive have been asked to use their discretion to make a BSCFA payment when they consider that the payment of a FIS claim is likely. Anyone who did not apply for BSCFA because they were awaiting a decision on a FIS application should contact their local Community Welfare Officer.

The Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive may make exceptional needs payments to help meet an essential once-off cost which an applicant is unable to meet out of his/her own resources. Depending on the circumstances of the particular case, Community Welfare Officers have the discretion to make exceptional needs payments in the event of late applications for BSCFA. The 2007 BSCFA rates are €180 per child for children aged 2 to 11 years and €285 per child for children aged 12 to 22 years. Some 174,000 children will benefit from the scheme in 2007 at an annual cost of over €38m.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

85 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will increase the back to school clothing and footwear allowance in Budget 2008; the estimated cost of increasing the back to school clothing and footwear allowance for children between ages two to 11 from €180 to €250 and for young people aged between 12 and 17 from €285 to €350; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22212/07]

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme (BSCFA) operates from the beginning of June to the end of September each year and is administered on behalf of my Department by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive.

The BSCFA scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn. The allowance is intended as a contribution towards meeting the full cost of school clothing and footwear.

Budget 2007 provided for an increase of €60 per child to €180 for children aged 2 to 11 years and €95 per child to €285 for children aged 12 to 22 years.

In 2007, it is estimated that over 170,000 children will benefit from the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme at an annual cost in excess of €38 million. The additional cost of raising BSCFA to a rate of €250 for primary school children and €350 for children over 12 years of age as suggested by the Deputy would be approximately €12 million. This would bring total expenditure on the scheme to more than €50m.

I consider the back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme to be an important support for parents at a time of particular financial strain. I am satisfied that the improvements to the scheme for this year provide a major boost to meeting the financial costs associated with return to school for those who most need assistance.

Any further improvements to the scheme would have to be considered in the light of resources available in Budget 2008 for improvements in social welfare payments generally.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

86 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the major hardship from the establishment of maximum rent levels in respect of which rent allowance may be paid on a county to county basis in view of the huge disparity in rent levels in some counties and in particular in County Cork where rent levels in some coastal towns and villages such as Kinsale, can be much higher than the norm in other areas; and if he will review the scheme with a view to taking into account such realities and to avoid hardship for those families with housing needs in those areas. [22213/07]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, provides for the payment of a rent supplement to assist eligible people who are unable to provide for their immediate accommodation needs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

Rent supplements are subject to a limit depending on household size and on the amount of rent that an applicant for rent supplement may incur. The objective is to ensure that rent supplement is not paid in respect of overly expensive accommodation.

Setting maximum rent limits higher than are justified by the open market would have a distorting effect on the rental market, leading to a more general rise in rent levels. This in turn would worsen the affordability of rental accommodation unnecessarily, with particular negative impact for those tenants on lower incomes.

Notwithstanding these limits, under existing arrangements the Health Service Executive may, in certain circumstances, exceed the rent levels as an exceptional measure, for example:

where there are special housing needs related to exceptional circumstances, for example, disabled persons in specially-adapted accommodation or homeless persons,

where the tenant will be in a position to re-assume responsibility for his/her rent within a short period

where the person concerned is entitled to an income disregard AND has sufficient income to meet his or her basic needs after paying rent, taking into account the appropriate rate of rent supplement that is otherwise payable in the case.

This discretionary power ensures that individuals with particular needs can be accommodated within the scheme and specifically protects against homelessness.

In January 2007 a review of the maximum levels of rent which a person may incur and still be eligible to receive a rent supplement was completed. The purpose of the review was to inform the process of setting new limits, applicable from January 2007 until 30th June 2008. Arising from the review rent limits were adjusted upwards for a number of household types in 14 counties, including Cork.

I am satisfied that the new limits reflect realistic market conditions throughout the country and that they will continue to enable the different categories of eligible tenant households to secure and retain basic suitable rented accommodation to meet their respective needs. The limits will be reviewed next year. Any revision found to be necessary will be implemented from 1st July 2008.

Radon Remediation Programme.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

87 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the works being carried out in 2007 on radon remediation measures in primary and secondary schools. [22216/07]

My Department commenced a Radon Remediation Programme in 1998 when it commissioned the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) to conduct a survey of radon levels in all primary and post primary schools.

The programme initially involved surveying radon levels in schools and subsequently carrying out mitigation works where appropriate. The programme is 100% funded by my Department and has cost approximately €6m to date.

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

Radon barriers are included in the design of all new school building projects.

Special Educational Needs.

Chris Andrews

Question:

88 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the National Council for Special Education has failed to approve special educational needs resource hours for children at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8, in view of the fact that the application was made within the specified time frame and in strict compliance with her Department guidelines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22163/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs.

I understand that the National Council for Special Education has received a number of applications for resource teaching support from the school referred to by the Deputy. The extent of resources currently being sought by the school requires further consideration in view of the level of resources already allocated to the school. The National Council for Special Education will liaise with the school in order to progress the matter.

Schools Refurbishment.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

89 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science when funding will be made available to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 22 to purchase canteen furniture and seating for students when having lunch. [22173/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school in question has already been approved for the provision of furniture and seating for the school canteen.

School Enrolments.

James Bannon

Question:

90 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Education and Science the grounds on which it is morally or legally right for a child (details supplied) in County Longford to be refused entry to three national schools and to be left without a junior infant place to enable them to start their education with other children in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22174/07]

The Education Act, 1998 requires all schools to have in place an admissions policy, detailing admission to and participation by students with disabilities or who have other special educational needs. The Act also requires schools to ensure that as regards that policy the principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

The Act also empowers parents to pursue their rights and the rights of their children to fair and equal treatment when seeking enrolment in a school. With regard to parents who feel that their child has unjustly been refused a school place, they may appeal the school's decision to the Secretary General of the Department under section 29 of the Education Act 1998. Such appeals are dealt with within 30 days of their receipt and, where an appeal is upheld, the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student.

My Department has been in contact with the National Educational Welfare Board and with the Visiting Teacher Service for Travellers to determine the circumstances of the case referred to by the Deputy.

My Department has been informed that the EWO and VTT have, over the past few weeks, been in regular contact with the family of the child referred to by the Deputy and that the difficulty being experienced by the family arises from a very late application, in August, to one of the schools mentioned by the Deputy. Both the EWO and the VTT will continue to advise and assist the child's parents in relation to schools in the area and the appropriate manner of applying for a school place. The parents have also been informed of their right to appeal, under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, any decision by a school to refuse enrolment.

School Transport.

Jack Wall

Question:

91 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is not in receipt of a free bus pass; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22191/07]

The School Transport Section, of my Department, has requested the Transport Liaison Officer for County Kildare, to examine the background to the case referred to by the Deputy, in the details supplied and to liaise directly with the family concerned.

School Enrolments.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

92 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the numbers enrolled in each of the three schools that opened at Adamstown in September 2007; and the numbers enrolled in each school for each year of school. [22215/07]

Data on enrolment in September 2007 are not currently available.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Ring

Question:

93 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether following the transfer to her Department of the regulatory function in respect of superannuation schemes for retired IOT and VEC staff, it would be administratively more appropriate that responsibility for the pension payment function should transfer to the VECs and IOTs where appropriate rather than the local authorities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22225/07]

The Government has already made a decision in principle that the pension payment function should transfer to the VECs and IOTs. My officials are engaged in discussions with the relevant bodies on the practical arrangements required to give effect to that decision.

Michael Ring

Question:

94 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when the 2% pay increase due to retired VEC teachers since June 2007 will actually issue to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22226/07]

Responsibility for the award of sanctioned increases to pensions of retired VEC teachers is a matter for the relevant Vocational Education Committee (VEC), which determines the revised rate of pension, and the associated Local Authority (County Council or Borough Authority) which makes the actual payment.

My Department notified all VECs by circular letter dated 5th June 2007 of the revised pay rates, effective 1st June 2007, for the purposes of revising pensions in payment. It is a matter for each VEC, in conjunction with the relevant local authority, to arrange payment of the increase as speedily as possible.

If the Deputy has a specific instance where retired VEC teachers have not yet received their increase, then if he were to write to the Pensions Unit of my Department it will inquire into the matter further and reply to him.

Schools Building Projects.

Dara Calleary

Question:

95 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress of the building project at a school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [22229/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the tendering process for the proposed building project at the school in question is almost complete. The tender reports have recently been returned to the Client and these will be assessed by their Design Team.

Schools Recognition.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

96 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 42 and 97 of 22 March 2007 and No. 563 of 27 March 2007, if she has decided if a change to primary legislation is necessary or desirable in order to facilitate the performance by vocational education committees, even on a pilot basis, of functions in relation to the establishment, maintenance or patronage of primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22230/07]

The detailed implementation measures relating to the establishment of the proposed national community school pilot project are being worked up by my Department.

Site Acquisitions.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

97 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a site inspection will be carried out at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry for the provision of a permanent school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22236/07]

The school referred to by the Deputy is currently located on a temporary basis on grounds under the ownership of the County Kerry VEC. The issue of a new school building project and the location of same will have to be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Denis Naughten

Question:

98 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide funding for a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon to assist them on days when they are unable to attend school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22237/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs.

My officials have been in contact with the NCSE and I understand that the SENO has been liaising with the parents of the child in question in the context of the child's special educational needs. The child has a full time placement in a mainstream primary school with individual special needs assistant and resource teaching support together with nursing support provided by the Health Service Executive. I understand also that building works consisting of an accessible toilet, resource room and resting room have now been completed in the school. I wish to clarify for the Deputy that SNA support is provided to assist with a pupil's care needs solely in an educational context and it is not possible to provide this support outside of the school setting.

Schools Amalgamation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

99 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the proposed amalgamated new community school for Skibbereen in west Cork; and the position in relation to the acquisition of a site for same. [22238/07]

Agreement has been reached between the trustees of the three existing post primary schools in Skibbereen to amalgamate into a single school.

The Property Management Section of the Office of Public Works (OPW) was requested to source a site to facilitate this amalgamation. Following advertisement a number of sites were identified and examined. Those considered potentially suitable were then discussed with Cork County Council. Following that process and to date, no site has been identified that is suitable from the perspective of my Department, the Office of Public Works and Cork County Council.

My Department will however continue to explore options. Once a suitable site has been secured the project will then be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation programme.

Site Acquisitions.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

100 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has concluded the purchase of a primary school site in Tyrellstown, Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22245/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

102 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the size of the designated primary school site in Tyrellstown, Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22252/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

103 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science her intentions with regard to the primary school site in Tyrellstown, Dublin 15 in particular the number of schools that will be accommodated on the site, the type of school in terms of patronage and the size of these schools, that is the number of classrooms and the number of streams that will be accepted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22253/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100, 102 and 103 together.

Acquisition of a 6 acre site for primary school provision in Tyrellstown is well advanced at contract stage. The site is such that it should provide accommodation for up to two 24 classroom schools, each of which would have a 3 stream junior infant intake. This equates to a pupil intake of 162 junior infants per year.

The Department will be discussing the configuration and size of the schools with the two patron bodies concerned, Educate Together and the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin.

Schools Building Projects.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

101 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will apply for planning permission for permanent school buildings for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the number of classrooms to be provided in this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22248/07]

I assume the school referred to by the Deputy is that serving part of the Dublin 15 area. The brief for the building project is to construct a new 24-classroom primary school to cater for a projected long-term enrolment of 600 pupils. In addition, my Department has entered into a co-funding agreement with the Local Authority to provide additional community facilities on the school site, which will greatly enhance the indoor recreational area available to the school population and to the wider community. An architectural design team will be appointed to the building project this month, with an instruction to progress the project as quickly as possible.

Questions Nos. 102 and 103 answered with Question No. 100.

School Placement.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

104 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the mechanisms in place to monitor the number of children who do not get a place in primary or secondary school and to ensure that they do not miss out on their education as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22254/07]

In recent years, unprecedented levels of investment has been provided both to improve existing school facilities and to provide extra school places where they are needed. Improved forward planning has also been put in place through greater cooperation between the Department of Education and local authorities and the publication of 10-year Area Development Plans by my Department.

This combination of investment and planning has allowed extensions to be built to schools all over Ireland, while many new schools have also been built in order to meet the needs of developing areas. Construction work this year alone will deliver over 700 classrooms to provide permanent accommodation for over 17,500 pupils — mainly in developing areas.

Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and the Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. The Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

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

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) was established under the Education Welfare Act as the single statutory agency with responsibility for school attendance. The general functions of the NEWB are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. The Board is developing a nationwide service that is accessible to schools, parents/guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people. To this end the Board is available to provide assistance to parents who experience difficulty with obtaining a school place for their child.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

105 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children who have received home tuition due to the inability to find a suitable school place for them for each of the past ten years; the breakdown of same by age group and county of residence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22255/07]

The Deputy is aware that the home tuition scheme which provides funding to parents to provide education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement and also to provide early educational intervention for pre-school children with autism.

The Deputy will also be aware that the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for the establishment of special classes for autism and for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department for the period in question in the requested format. However, for the past two years, home tuition information has been maintained electronically and I have requested my Officials to send the relevant information to the Deputy directly.

Teaching Posts.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

106 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are Ministers who are currently receiving payment from her Department for teaching posts which they have vacated; the names of the Ministers; the number of years for which they have not been working as teachers; the cost to her Department in each instance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22257/07]

A special arrangement regarding the retention of their teaching posts operates for teachers who are members of the Oireachtas. The terms of the arrangement provide that a teacher in a recognised primary or second level school whilst a member of the Oireachtas can retain their teaching post subject to the approval of the managerial authority.

Teaching salary is paid to the Oireachtas member for the duration of the arrangement but the total cost of the replacement teacher including pension and PRSI contributions is deducted from the salary. The arrangement allows that the balance of salary if any remaining after the deductions have been made may be paid to the Oireachtas member. A number of Oireachtas members do not accept any balance of salary that may be payable. I will be in contact with the Deputy regarding the information requested by him.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which agreement has been reached in relation to Ireland’s participation in EU battlegroups of rapid response forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22198/07]

Ireland is already committed to participate in the Nordic Battlegroup which will be on standby from the 1st January — 30th June 2008. On the 26th April 2007, I issued a letter of Accession to all participating members of the Battlegroup to join the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The Nordic Battlegroup Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is an agreement between the participants comprising the Nordic Battlegroup, namely Sweden, Norway, Finland and Estonia, which sets out principles in relation to the operation, deployment and management of the Nordic Battlegroup. The Operational Headquarters MoU defines the aim, principles and responsibilities for cooperation with regard to the establishment and operation of the EU OHQ in Northwood for the command and control of the Nordic Battlegroup.

As part of the initial familiarisation and training phase for the Nordic Battlegroup eleven (11) members of the Defence Forces are currently deployed to the Force Headquarters in Sweden and two (2) are currently deployed to the Operational Headquarters in the UK.

Our planned contribution to the Nordic Battlegroup will amount to 100 personnel involving an Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (E.O.D./I.E.D.D.) team with its own security detail, together with staff posts at the Operational and Force headquarters. E.O.D. relates to normal type munitions whereas I.E.D.D. generally refers to devices devised by terrorist groups, such as car bombs etc. This level of operational commitment will only arise should the Battlegroup be called on to undertake an operation. The number of personnel involved operationally during the standby period, where the Battlegroup has not been mobilised to undertake an operation, will be of the order of 10 to 12 personnel. The on-call personnel for the contingent will be based in Ireland during the Standby period.

Ireland is committed in principle to participation in the Nordic Battlegroup in 2011. Very preliminary discussions have also been held regarding possible participation in the proposed Austrian/German Battlegroup in 2012.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 17.

Defence Forces Property.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the costs including security, insurance or other costs to date associated with the military installations decommissioned in 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22200/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of military installations decommissioned in 1998 which have not been disposed of, their current use and income accruing therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22201/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the position in regard to the disposal of all military installations which were decommissioned in 1998; the receipts and costs accruing from such disposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22202/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 to 111, inclusive, together.

The Government, on 15 July 1998, approved a programme of evacuation and sale of six barracks considered surplus to military requirements. The barracks in question were located at Ballincollig, Fermoy, Naas, Castleblayney, Kildare, and Islandbridge, Dublin.

The sale of 97 acres approximately at Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig was completed in 2003 for a total of €42 million. The bulk of the lands were purchased by O'Flynn Construction. The sale of a site comprising c.2.7 acres to the Southern Heath Board for €1.73 million was completed in December 2004 and the sale of a further site comprising c.1.7 acres to the HSE South for a consideration of €1.1 million approximately is expected to close shortly. A half-acre site is being transferred to the Office of Public Works (OPW) for a consideration of €1.45 million to facilitate extension of the existing Garda Station located on Main Street, Ballincollig. As was agreed at the time of the closure and sale of Murphy Barracks, an area comprising approximately 27 acres of the property has been transferred to Cork County Council for community use.

An area comprising 19 acres approximately at the former Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy, was sold to Cork County Council in 2001 for close to €1 million for economic development of the site in conjunction with the IDA.

Castleblayney Military Post, Co. Monaghan, comprising c. 10 acres, was sold to the North Eastern Health Board for €0.8 million approximately in 2002.

An area comprising 7 acres approximately at Devoy Barracks, Naas, Co. Kildare, was ceded free of charge to Naas Urban District Council, while a further 14 acres were sold to that authority for €8.9 million approximately. The balance of the Barracks lands — one acre — was sold to Kildare County Council for approximately €0.4 million in 2002.

Clancy Barracks, Dublin, comprising 13.6 acres approximately, was sold to Florence Properties Ltd. for €25.4 million in 2004.

The value of sales/disposals completed to date, in respect of the aforementioned five barracks the subject of the July 1998 Government decision, is in the region of €80 million.

The Government decided on 1st July 2003 that Magee Barracks, Kildare, would be among the State lands released for inclusion in the Sustaining Progress Affordable Housing Initiative. How land at this location might play a role in the delivery of affordable housing units is a matter in the first instance for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which is the lead Department for the development of the Affordable Housing Initiative. The legal formalities relating to the transfer of lands at this location are being progressed with that Department and in consultation with the Chief State Solicitor's Office.

The security, maintenance, consultancy and other costs in respect of those Barracks identified for closure in 1998 are as follows :

Security

Maintenance & Other Costs

Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig #

1,120,604

257,113*

Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy #

330,813

42,633

Castleblayney Military Post #

131,289

10,548

Devoy Barracks, Naas #

472,654

16,959

Magee Barracks, Kildare

264,796

18,715

Clancy Barracks, Dublin #

649,441

203,089

#Now sold or no longer in the administration of my Department (no further costs will be incurred by the Department of Defence).

*Includes costs relating to the preparation of an Integrated Area Action Plan.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself that all members of the Army, Navy and Air Corp have been issued with modern personal safety equipment including breathing apparatus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22203/07]

In the latter part of 2006, 8000 units of body armour for the individual soldier on operational duties were delivered. The new body armour provides significantly greater protection, comfort and coverage than the old model as well as a doubling of the range of sizes available. The total value of the contract was in the region of €8m. The body armour is available for distribution throughout the Defence Forces as considered appropriate by the military authorities. Respirators are issued to each individual soldier in the Defence Forces as part of their personal equipment.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo 17.
Questions Nos. 114 and 115 answered with Question No. 36.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself that adequate health and safety regulations and conditions apply at the various overseas locations at which Irish troops are serving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22207/07]

The safety of Irish personnel serving overseas is always of paramount concern to me. While no absolute guarantees can be given with regard to the safety of troops serving in missions, it is my policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out their mission. All possible precautions are taken to ensure the safety of our troops. In addition, Standard Operating Procedures are kept under review in light of experience and best practice.

The Deputy Chief of Staff for Support's Administrative Instruction 07/2000 entitled DEFENCE FORCES SAFETY POLICY is the primary health and safety document in the Defence Forces. This Instruction prescribes within one comprehensive document the Defence Forces policy, responsibilities, and procedures to protect and preserve Defence Force personnel and civilian employees both at home and overseas against accidents and injuries through the implementation of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and its Regulations as well as traditional Defence Forces safety instructions and procedures. It provides a safe approach to Defence Forces operations and activities, safe and healthy workplaces, procedures and equipment and assures statutory and regulatory compliance.

It is the policy of the Defence Forces to implement the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and all the Regulations made under it, except insofar as these may for serious operational reasons, be exempted. I am satisfied that in these cases the equivalent level of care is given where possible.

Occasionally, normal statutory safety requirements may be incompatible with operational demands. This is catered for in the Exemptions granted to the Defence Forces in the Safety Act, in the General Application Regulations of 1993, S.I. No. 44 of 1993, which states:

‘The relevant statutory provisions shall apply to members of the Defence Forces except when they are:

(a) On active service as defined in Section 5 of the Defence Act, 1954, (No. 19 of 1954) or deemed to be on active service as defined in Section 4(1) of the Defence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1960 (No. 44 of 1960).

(b) Engaged in action in the course of operational duties at sea.

(c) Engaged in operations in Aid to the Civil Power.

(d) Engaged in training directly associated with any of the above mentioned activities'

The Commander will interpret any exemption in the narrowest possible sense, and where an activity is exempted the Commander will endeavour to ensure that the maximum equivalent level of care and safety will be applied.

Naval Service.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

117 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Defence if there are, and the number of, officers in the Naval Service who hold rank or are assigned to a ship that does not exist or is no longer in service; the ships concerned; the number of officers by rank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22256/07]

All Naval Service officers are assigned to appointments in the Defence Forces Establishment as shown in the Defence Force Gazette and Naval List and Directory. There are no officers assigned to a ship that does not exist or is no longer in service.

Departmental Investigations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

118 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the Stardust inquiry; and the money spent, staff employed and progress to date. [22170/07]

I understand that Mr. John Gallagher, SC, who is the independent person carrying out an examination of the case presented by the Stardust Victims Committee, is engaged on preliminary aspects of the examination and making the necessary preparations in advance of hearing the presentations on behalf of the Committee. Direct expenditure to date amounts to €200,000 advanced to the Committee in respect of their legal and research costs. Other expenditure is being incurred in preparing accommodation etc. but has not yet been brought to account.

Asylum Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

119 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the waiting times for asylum applications with a breakdown of the average waiting time for an unsuccessful application for each stage of the process from initial application to the issue of a deportation order; the number of people awaiting a decision under each stage of the process; the number of staff dealing with the application process; his plans to review this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22182/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

121 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the waiting times for leave to remain applications; the number of people awaiting a decision under this process; the number of staff dealing with the application process; his plans to review this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22184/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 121 together.

The details requested by the Deputy in relation to the processing of asylum and leave to remain applications are set out below, as far as they are available, under the headings of the organisations involved.

It is not possible to provide a breakdown of average timescales for the processing of successful and unsuccessful applications.

Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner

Asylum applications are considered at first instance under the provisions of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) by the Office of Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC). The determination process is comprehensive and includes an interview and the assessment of a claim having regard to both subjective and objective factors including the consideration of detailed country of origin information before a recommendation is made.

In terms of timescales at first instance for prioritised cases, an interview date is usually scheduled within 9-12 working days from the date of the initial application. These applications are normally finalised within a further 5 to 8 working days giving an average processing time of 17/20 working days from the date of application.

In the case of non-prioritised cases, an interview date is usually scheduled approximately 16 weeks from the date of the initial application. These applications are normally finalised within a further 4/5 weeks giving a total processing time of approximately 20/21 weeks from the date of application.

With regard to the number of asylum applications awaiting a recommendation in ORAC, there were 1,190 outstanding applications as at the 31st August 2007. Of these 1,190 outstanding applications, only 125 cases were on hands over 6 months.

The Refugee Applications Commissioner continues to keep the procedures for processing applications for refugee status in that Office under ongoing review with a view to limiting the amount of time applicants have to wait for a recommendation to be made.

Refugee Appeals Tribunal

The average length of time taken by the Tribunal to process and complete Substantive appeals received between 1st July 2006 and 30th June 2007 was approximately 17 weeks.

The average length of time taken by the Tribunal to process and complete Accelerated appeals (appeals on papers only) received between 1st July 2006 and 30th June 2007 was 9 weeks.

The average length of time taken by the Tribunal to process and complete Prioritised appeals received between 1st July 2006 and 30th June 2007 from five countries — Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and South Africa — was 6 weeks.

While many appeals are completed in a shorter time span than above, many factors such as adjournments, postponements and judicial reviews, impede the Tribunal from meeting its objective in every individual case. High quality, consistent and fair decision making continues to be a priority in the Tribunal.

As at the 31st August 2007, there were 3,041 appeals outstanding in the Tribunal. Of these 3,041 outstanding appeals, 1,893 were on hands over six months. A large volume of the appeals outstanding more than 6 months in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal is due to the delay in processing appeals pending the granting of access to Tribunal Decisions following the Supreme Court judgement (in the Atanasov case) on the matter. Following the judgement the RAT set up a comprehensive data bank of previous decisions of the Tribunal, suitably redacted, which is readily available for access by legal representatives of applicants. This data bank, along with other measures being applied by RAT, will be of considerable assistance in clearing the current backlog of cases.

Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service - Repatriation area

An application for Leave to Remain in the State 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, since the 10th October 2006, afforded four options, viz. to leave the State voluntarily; to consent to the making of a Deportation Order; to apply for Subsidiary Protection 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.

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. Each case is considered in the context of its own individual circumstances and merits; and statistics are not maintained as to the duration of the consideration process in respect of each application, as no two applications are the same.

Statistics are not maintained either in a way which distinguishes between those who have made an application for leave to remain and those who have not. The total number of applications awaiting a decision for temporary Leave to Remain is 11,068 of which 10,457 is the number of asylum cases which entered the Leave to Remain process with these cases being at different stages of processing. 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. It is reasonable to presume that many of those listed as awaiting a decision on Leave to Remain have in fact left the jurisdiction.

The total number of sanctioned staff posts in ORAC, RAT and the Repatriation area (which deals with a broad range of issues, one of which is Leave to Remain) of the Department is 464, with current staff vacancies in these areas being approximately 90.

As the Deputy will no doubt be aware, the Government in April 2007 published the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2007. The Bill sets out a legislative framework for the management of inward migration to Ireland and represents a comprehensive overhaul of the State's immigration and protection laws.

The Bill will integrate into the immigration code Ireland's processes for honouring our obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees and other international, including European Union, instruments designed to offer protection from persecution and other dangers. It also provides for a single protection procedure within which all grounds (protection or otherwise) on which a person may wish to remain in the State will be considered together at the same time. This contrasts with the present sequential processes for considering different aspects of the same basic question.

This new integrated process will bring the State into line with processes in other EU States and will result in the functions currently carried out by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner being subsumed into the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). The current independent appeal process for asylum claimants will remain with the establishment of the Protection Review Tribunal which will replace the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. This new body will have an expanded remit to consider, in addition to appeals against decisions not to grant refugee status, appeals against decisions not to grant subsidiary protection as defined in the EU Qualification Directive.

Citizenship Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

120 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the waiting times for certificate of naturalisation applications; the number of people awaiting a decision under this process; the number of staff dealing with the application process; his plans to review this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22183/07]

I am advised by the Citizenship Section of my Department that the number of applications for naturalisation which have yet to be processed to a conclusion is approximately 17,000. The processing time is, on average, 30 months and this is primarily due to the significant increase in the volume of applications received in the last number of years. The table below shows the total number of applications received in the years 2000 to date. These figures illustrate a significant upward trend and with almost 6,000 applications received to date in 2007, this upward trend looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Year

Applications for naturalisation received

2000

1,004

2001

1,431

2002

3,574

2003

3,580

2004

4,074

2005

4,523

2006

7,030

2007 (as at 1 October, 2007)

5,791

There are 46 staff currently assigned to the Citizenship Section of my Department of whom 31 work full time while the remainder work various work sharing patterns. The numbers of staff assigned to the Section are kept regular review having regard to the overall workload of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 119.

Residency Permits.

Denis Naughten

Question:

122 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when there will be a decision on an application to remain on humanitarian grounds by a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22185/07]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 4 May 2004 and applied for asylum. He was accompanied to the State by his wife and their four children, who were included on their mother's file. Their applications were refused following consideration of their cases by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, the person concerned was informed by letter dated 30 January 2006 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. His wife was informed by letter dated 17 January 2006 that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of her and her four children. All were given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before orders are made; or consenting to the making of deportation orders. Representations have been received on behalf of the persons concerned. These persons' case files, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (prohibition ofrefoulement). I expect the files to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Private Residential Tenancies Board.

Alan Shatter

Question:

123 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications and their categories presently awaiting determination by the Residential Tenancies Board; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are substantial delays in the board processing cases taken before it; his plans to provide additional staff to the board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22189/07]

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have no responsibility for the matters referred to in his question.

Irish Sign Language.

Tony Gregory

Question:

124 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in the context of equality for persons with a disability, he will recommend to the Government that steps be taken to recognise Irish sign language as an official language of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22233/07]

I have no role in relation to the recognition of official languages in Ireland.

Garda Equipment.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

125 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the decision to prohibit the wearing of a turban and consequently prohibit members of the Sikh community from membership of An Garda Síochána; if this policy is being reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22234/07]

The Garda Síochána Uniform and the wearing of any items of clothing as part of that Uniform, for either the full time Force or the Reserve, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

There have been consultations between the Sikh community and the Garda authorities on this matter and the Garda Commissioner's official statement, which explains his position, is available on www.garda.ie.

Local Authority Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

126 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of local authorities that have animal welfare officers; and if he will list the relevant counties. [22107/07]

The information sought is not available in my Department. Staffing returns received from local authorities do not contain this classification of employees.

Fire Service.

Billy Timmins

Question:

127 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if an honour or award system similar to the Scott Medal for Bravery is in place for members of the Fire Service; if he has plans to introduce such a system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22153/07]

The Department operates a scheme of long service awards for members of the fire service, one for twenty years service and the other for thirty years service. The scheme is administered on behalf of the Department by the Fire Services Council. Local authorities also operate a Certificate Scheme in recognition of ten years' service. There is no scheme within the Department's remit for honouring specific acts of bravery by members of the fire service.

However, Comhairle na Mire Gaile, (The Deeds of Bravery Council), which was established in 1947 to provide for suitable recognition by the State of deeds of bravery, is administered by my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Comhairle can make awards of medals and certificates for deeds of bravery. Any person or agency including local authorities can make nominations for this award.

Waste Management.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

128 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the need for a national waiver scheme, in particular for low income households and pensioners, in respect of domestic refuse charges. [22175/07]

Waste management services have traditionally been provided at a local level, with individual arrangements being locally determined and tailored to local circumstances. The present legal framework, as determined by the Oireachtas, reflects this. In accordance with section 52 of the Protection of the Environment Act 2003, the determination of waste management charges, and any associated waiver schemes, is a matter for the relevant local authority, where it acts as the service provider. Similarly, where a private operator provides the collection service, it is a matter for that operator to determine charges.

Animal Welfare.

Alan Shatter

Question:

129 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether carted stag hunting is a cruel and unacceptable activity; if he will issue licences to facilitate such hunting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22186/07]

Section 26(1) of the Wildlife Act 1976 provides that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government may grant to the master or other person in charge of a pack of stag hounds, a licence authorising the hunting of deer by that pack, during such period or periods as is or are specified in the licence.

My Department has had discussions with representatives of the Ward Union Stag Hunt concerning their application for a hunting licence for the coming season. I have raised a number of issues of serious concern with the Ward Union Hunt including in relation to conservation and protection of stags generally and compliance with previous licence conditions. I will shortly make my decision on the licence application.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

130 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties with some financial institutions in relation to the advancing of mortgage moneys on affordable sites provided by local authorities in that some institutions insist on first charge not just for the amount of the mortgage but also for future advances in priority to the local authority claw-back charge; and if he has had discussions with the banking and other institutions to resolve this issue as it is causing serious problems for some owners of such affordable sites who are anxious to build their own homes. [22214/07]

My Department is aware of an issue which has arisen whereby some applicants who have bought sites under the low cost sites scheme have experienced difficulties in obtaining mortgages from certain financial institutions. This arises where a financial institution objects to a local authority having the first charge on the property for clawback purposes. My Department has advised authorities where this problem has arisen that it is not a requirement of the scheme that the authority has a first charge and that it should enter into discussions with the financial institutions involved at local level with a view to seeking a resolution to the issue.

Building Regulations.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

131 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the checks being made by his Department to ensure that the building regulations in respect of the need for certain radon remediation measures in houses built since 1998 are being adhered to. [22217/07]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

132 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the checks being made by his Department to ensure that the building regulations that require certain measures regarding energy efficiency in the building of new housing are adhered to. [22218/07]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

133 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the standards that apply to the building by local authorities of housing in respect of the need for radon remediation measures; and the checks carried out by his Department to ensure these standards are met. [22219/07]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

134 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the standards that apply to the building by local authorities of housing in respect of the need for more energy efficient housing; and the checks carried out by his Department to ensure these standards are met. [22220/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 to 134, inclusive, together.

The Building Control Act 1990 assigns primary responsibility for complying with the Building Regulations to the owners and builders of buildings. Responsibility for enforcement of the Regulations is vested in the 37 local Building Control Authorities, who are empowered to carry out inspections of buildings and initiate enforcement action, where appropriate.

In common with all developments, local authority housing projects must comply with the Building Regulations as well as local requirements under Development Plans. Part C of the regulations deals with site preparation and includes a provision regarding potentially dangerous substances in the ground such as radon. The standards relating to radon defence measures are set out in the Technical Guidance Document accompanying Part C.

Energy efficiency is covered in Part L of the regulations. I intend to strengthen these provisions to achieve a 40% improvement in the energy performance of buildings over current standards and have recently published, for public consultation, a new draft Part L and Technical Guidance Document. I will be making the new Regulations later this year and intend that they will take effect from 1 July, 2008. My Department also set out best practice in relation to energy efficient design in Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities, published earlier this year.

Proposals for the construction of social housing are examined by my Department's inspectorate, and these matters form part of their assessment. In addition, it is intended to commence a survey of the social housing stock, including an assessment of radon concentration levels and energy efficiency, in 2008.

Waste Disposal.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

135 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the monitoring carried out by his Department of waste that is collected as recyclable waste by local authorities and exported abroad for treatment and in particular if the Department is satisfied as to the percentage of that waste being recycled in the exporting countries and if the manner in which that waste recycled is in keeping with waste management policies here. [22221/07]

The EU Waste Shipments Regulation sets out the controls applicable to shipments of waste within, into, and out of the European Union. It is directly applicable in the Member States. All shipments of waste must follow various procedures and control regimes, which are determined by the type of waste shipped and the type of treatment that will be applied to the waste at its destination. Thus, different levels of control regime apply, depending on the risk posed by the waste and its treatment in terms of recovery or disposal.

In addition, exports to third countries of waste intended for disposal are prohibited, except to EFTA countries which are party to the Basel Convention. Exports of hazardous waste intended for recovery are prohibited, except those directed to countries to which an OECD decision applies, and to third countries which are party to the Basel Convention or countries which have concluded a bilateral agreement with the EU.

Under the Waste Management (Shipments of Waste) Regulations 2007, Dublin City Council is the competent authority designated to regulate exports of waste from the State and my Department has no function in the matter.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

136 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the legislation in place to ensure that in adopting county development plans, local area plans and strategic development zone planning schemes, local authorities are helping to ensure that Ireland’s targets on greenhouse gas emissions and obligations in respect of climate change are met. [22222/07]

Section 10(1) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 requires a development plan to set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the plan area. Section 10(2) of the Act sets out the mandatory objectives of a development plan which include, inter alia, the conservation and protection of the environment. Furthermore, Section 9(6) requires that development plans be consistent with national plans, policies and strategies.

Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Development Plans were published by my Department in June 2007. The guidelines, which have a statutory basis under Section 28 of the Act, state that development plans must offer clear guidance on sustainable development policies and objectives, both national and local, which address the various issues involved such as climate change and the sustainable use of natural resources. In accordance with section 9(6), the guidelines set out that development plans should be consistent with the objectives of the National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 and with other related Government initiatives and commitments to reducing energy consumption and modifying the impacts of climate change.

Similarly, section 19(2) of the Act requires a local area plan to be consistent with the objectives of the development plan for the area in which it is situated. Accordingly, climate change policies and objectives contained in the development plan should translate to, and be reflected in, the local area plan.

Regarding a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ), section 168(2)(f) of the Act requires that an SDZ planning scheme should include proposals relating to minimizing any adverse effects on the environment, including the natural and built environment, and on the amenities of the area.

In addition to the statutory requirements in relation to the planning code for development plans, local area plans and SDZs, and in keeping with Ireland's obligations on greenhouse gas emissions and the need to reduce carbon fuel energy consumption, the Programme for Government provides for a revision of Part L of the Building Regulations to "introduce new national building standards in 2007 to ensure that new housing has 40% lower heat energy demand than existing buildings standards and revise them again in 2010 to achieve a 60% target in further years".

In keeping with that commitment, I published draft Building Regulations under Part L of the Building Regulations on 21 September 2007. These draft Regulations provide for an average reduction of at least 40% in primary energy consumption and a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions. Moreover, for the first time the Regulations will introduce:

a minimum requirement for the use of renewable energy sources;

energy-efficient boilers;

energy-efficient artificial lighting systems; and

improved airtightness of the building fabric. The draft Regulations provide for a commencement date of 1 July, 2008.

The draft Regulations and associated Technical Guidance Document are now the subject of a public consultation process, which will continue to 26 October 2007. All submissions received will be comprehensively assessed and given due consideration prior to finalising new Building Regulations before the end of the year.

Planning Issues.

John O'Mahony

Question:

137 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that local authorities in granting planning permission for quarries are taking adequate cognisance of the regulations and conditions that should apply to such quarries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22224/07]

Section 34 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides the statutory framework for the granting of planning permission by planning authorities for developments, including quarries, with or without conditions, or for the refusal of such permission. In relation to quarries in particular, section 261 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, which was commenced with effect from 28 April 2004, introduced a "once-off" system of registration for all quarries, except those for which planning permission was granted in the last five years. Under the registration system, quarry operators were required to register with planning authorities by 27 April 2005.

Following registration, a planning authority can impose conditions on the operation of a pre-October 1964 quarry or may require a quarry to apply for planning permission and submit an Environmental Impact Statement in certain circumstances. Authorities can also restate, modify or add to conditions on the operation of a quarry that has received planning permission more than five years ago.

The Planning Act also imposes substantial obligations on planning authorities in the enforcement area. A planning authority is statutorily obliged to issue a warning letter in relation to any unauthorised development it becomes aware of (except in the case of trivial or minor development). There is also a statutory obligation to carry out an investigation and expeditiously decide whether an enforcement notice should be issued. The planning authority's decision on whether to issue an enforcement notice, including the reasons for the decision, must be entered on the planning register and, in cases where it is decided not to issue an enforcement notice, any complainant must be informed.

Planning authorities are, of course, also subject to the law and if any person considers that he or she has been adversely affected by a planning authority's action, or lack of action, with regard to planning enforcement, which he or she considers was unlawful, unfair or unreasonable, it is open to the person involved to make a complaint to the Manager or Director of Planning in the first instance or to the Ombudsman. I am not aware that any planning authority is not implementing the relevant provisions of the Planning Act in relation to quarries.

Building Regulations.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

138 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason builders of a housing estate (details supplied) in Dublin 15 are avoiding their responsibilities to house owners in view of the alleged presence of pyrite in a housing estate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22249/07]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 1150, 1151, 1153, 1155 and 1167 of 26 September 2007, in which I comprehensively addressed this issue.

Animal Welfare.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

139 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will fast track the process of finalising regulations governing the management of dog breeding establishments. [22259/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 1133 of 26 September 2007, and will finalise the Regulations by the end of the year.

Inland Fisheries.

Jack Wall

Question:

140 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way a club (details supplied) in County Kildare established for fifty years can determine its rights as to the stretch of waterways that it has cared for and stocked over that fifty years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22244/07]

The issue raised by the Deputy relates to the regional fisheries board routinely fulfilling its role under Section 294 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act, 1959 as amended by Section 17 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1991 and therefore I have no function in the matter.