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 3, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 4 to 38, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 39 to 47, inclusive, answered orally.

Legal Costs.

Frank Feighan

Question:

48 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will take steps to address the high level of costs involved in home repossession cases in the High Court; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that such costs often exceed the amount of the mortgage arrears; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27327/07]

The issue of legal costs in contentious cases generally, which includes costs in home repossession cases heard in the High Court, is being addressed in my Department. By ‘contentious', I mean legal services provided or work done in connection with legal proceedings before a court. I share the concern about the costs associated with civil litigation and I intend to bring forward practical proposals to help address the situation.

The issue of legal costs generally has been the subject of much scrutiny in recent years. In December 2005, the Report of the Legal Costs Working Group — which was chaired by Paul Haran, former Secretary General of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment — was published by my predecessor. Broadly speaking, the Report recommended the replacement of the existing taxation of costs system with a new system of legal costs assessment.

A Group set up by my Department to advise on the implementation of that report and to consult with the professional legal bodies has completed its deliberations. Officials in my Department have now commenced work on the drafting of a Bill to reform the manner in which disputed legal costs are assessed with the allied objective of making the market for civil legal services more predictable, consistent and transparent to consumers.

It is my intention that the Bill will also provide for significant improvements in the quality and quantity of the information that a solicitor is required to provide to clients and the manner in which it is to be supplied. I am firmly of the view that the individual litigant should have a central role to play in controlling his or her legal costs. How the litigant can be so empowered will be addressed in the Bill. Suffice to say that the timely provision of information to clients is central to this empowerment.

I want to have a new assessment of costs system which, as part of its remit, provides information to the public on the law and on client's entitlements relating to costs. The new system should have a mechanism to collect, analyse and publish data in relation to costs, counsels' fees, witnesses' expenses and other disbursements from all court jurisdictions.

Finally, the Bill will also provide for legislative and procedural changes to reduce delays in court hearings and generally expedite the legal process.

Citizenship Eligibility Requirements.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

49 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the introduction of an English language test for applicants for long term residency citizenship will be introduced on an ad hoc basis or if the Government will put in place the structures necessary beforehand and then introduce the test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26632/07]

As the Deputy is aware, I have previously indicated my intention to review current citizenship requirements and, in particular, to consider the introduction of a language test for citizenship purposes. The use of language tests for immigration purposes is not a novel proposal; many countries use language tests in determining eligibility for citizenship.

The possibility of introducing a language test for the purpose of determining eligibility for long term residence was adverted to under the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2007. Section 34 of the published Bill provided a number of standard eligibility requirements for long term residence and allowed for the introduction of further eligibility requirements including a requirement that the person can demonstrate a reasonable competence for communicating in the Irish or English language. As the Deputy may be aware, the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill was not restored to the Order Paper of Seanad Éireann following the recent General Election. However, it is my intention to bring forward a proposal to Government seeking approval for the publication of a new Bill, incorporating the substance of the published Bill, during this Session.

Irish citizenship a great privilege. It is not something to be taken lightly. It cannot just be a matter of clocking up the necessary number of months of residence. On the contrary, it should be seen as a major and mutual commitment by the prospective citizen and the State. It is entirely appropriate in those circumstances that the State should require that the applicant demonstrate a real commitment to the nation and a capacity to communicate with their future fellow citizens and that the applicant should have acquired that capacity during the qualifying period.

Having regard to the fact that my proposals in relation to language tests remain under development I believe it is premature at this stage to detail the manner in which any such requirements may be introduced. Clearly however there are significant logistical issues as regards operating a testing regime and these would be explored in advance of any proposal to introduce such a test.

However, I understand that a range of strategic studies geared to informing policy development in the integration area are ongoing. These include studies on interpretation and translation and English language provision. The review of English Language Provision is being undertaken in cooperation with the Department of Education and Science who have commissioned an independent review to assist in the development of a national English language training policy and framework for legally resident adult newcomers. The review report is due early in 2008.

Victim Impact Statements.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

50 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans changes to the victim impact statement system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27362/07]

Victim impact statements are among the most effective mechanisms available to ensure the interests and concerns of the victims of crime are brought to bear on the criminal justice process. As section 5 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 puts it, the court, before passing sentence, is required to take into account any effect (whether long-term or otherwise) of the offence on the person in respect of whom the offence was committed. This is one of the rare instances where the court is specifically directed as to a matter to be taken into account at the sentencing stage; courts otherwise (other than in murder cases) have a very large measure of discretion as to the matters to be considered in the context of determining the appropriate sentence. As a result of the procedure under section 5 of the 1993 Act, victims can expect to have a level of involvement beyond that of a mere witness.

I am, of course, aware of the recent debate about victim impact statements and I have followed it closely. As we are all aware, the debate arises from a particularly difficult and tragic case. In those circumstances, I felt it was better for me as Minister not to become involved in the discussion. That is not to say that I or my Department are not reflecting on the issues and may, if considered necessary and appropriate, bring forward proposals which will address any defect in the current arrangements or which may enhance further the role of the victim.

The reflection I have referred to takes account not only of the recent debate but also includes consideration of the very helpful comments made by the Balance in the Criminal Law Review Group, chaired by Dr Gerard Hogan, SC, in its report earlier this year. In relation to the current arrangements under section 5 of the 1993 Act, the Review Group suggests the section may be too restrictive in so far as it permits a statement by or on behalf of the direct victim only. It suggests there is a case for expanding the definition of ‘victim' to include other persons intimately affected by the crime. I would note that this is frequently the case in homicide cases where the victim is, of course, unavailable but a close relative is, at the court's discretion permitted to make or provide a statement.

The Review Group also goes on to discuss the possible use of victim impact statements at the parole or remission stage and places this issue in the context of restorative justice, i.e. the victim would have an opportunity to address the perpetrator directly, to make him or her realise more fully the harm that has been done.

In a further recommendation, the Review Group addressed the possibility of inappropriate use of statements and raised the possibility of restrictions on publication in certain circumstances, at the direction of the court.

I will continue to reflect on and consider how the current system can be improved. In my considerations, I will wish to ensure that the victim is allowed as much opportunity as is reasonably possible to have his or her experiences taken into account. But I must also ensure that, in the interests of all parties, we preserve the integrity of the criminal process and that due process continues to be observed.

The Deputies will appreciate the issues involved are complex and require careful consideration. It will therefore be necessary to take some time to ensure any proposals are appropriate and well grounded.

Witness Security Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

51 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people who are participating in the State’s witness protection programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27338/07]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

93 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce legislation for a statutory based witness protection programme to combat gangland crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27533/07]

Billy Timmins

Question:

125 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends making changes to the State’s witness protection programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27351/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51, 93 and 125 together.

As Deputies will be aware, since 1997, the Garda Síochána has operated a Witness Security Programme in response to attempts by criminal and other groups to prevent the normal functioning of the criminal justice system, including threats of violence and systematic intimidation of witnesses.

The House will appreciate that by virtue of the highly confidential nature of such a scheme, it would not be appropriate for me to detail the specifics of its operation, including the identity or numbers of persons admitted to it. However, I can say that the Witness Security Programme is being operated in a significant number of cases at present and that it has demonstrably proven its worth over the years in helping to secure the conviction of very serious organised crime leaders.

The Programme initiated in 1997 did come in for some criticism in the Courts, although it must be emphasised that the validity of the operation of the Programme was upheld, including by the Supreme Court in 2005. In other words, not only has the Programme resulted in the successful conviction of key criminal underworld players but it has successfully withstood challenge in the courts.

Nevertheless, in deference to the weight that must be accorded comments made in the superior courts, a review was instituted by the Garda Commissioner. The outcome of the review resulted in some enhancements to the Programme so that it fully accords with international best practice in this area. The Programme as it now operates ensures the unambiguous separation of those responsible for the criminal investigation from the management of the Programme, to avoid any hint of a possible inducement being offered to the witness.

I would also wish to point out that the Witness Security Programme constitutes only one element of the State's response to the threat posed to persons who are prepared to give evidence against serious criminals. In particular, the Programme is primarily designed to facilitate, not innocent persons caught up in gangland crime, but willing participants of the criminal underworld who choose to turn on their erstwhile colleagues.

Whether we like it or not, people generally choose to enter witness protection programmes not because of the nature of those programmes but because there is something in it for themselves. This fact is key to determining the nature and form of any witness protection.

The reality is that every possible protection necessary for a witness can be and is already provided by the Garda Síochána as part of the existing Witness Security Programme, including financial support, a change of identity and relocation. The reason why gangland members choose not to avail more frequently of the Programme has nothing to do with the adequacy of the protection measures already in place and still less whether it operates on a statutory basis or not. The reason co-operation isn't more forthcoming is simply because people are not willing to give it.

Where statutory measures are considered necessary to support witness protection, they have already been enacted as part of the Criminal Justice Act 1999. In particular, Section 40 of that Act makes it an offence for a person to make enquiries or to take steps to discover the identity or whereabouts of a relocated witness. Introducing superfluous statutory provisions for other, practical aspects of the Programme would simply serve to reduce the flexibility required to respond quickly and proportionately to the oftentimes very specific needs of witnesses. This is a view shared by the Garda Commissioner.

Accordingly, I remain satisfied that the existing scheme is both sufficient and optimally arranged, and I have no plans to introduce further legislation in this area.

Foreign Divorces.

Alan Shatter

Question:

52 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the law relating to the recognition of foreign divorces is in a state of chaos, that different rules apply to the recognition of foreign divorces granted in different member States of the European Union depending on the date on which they were granted, that entirely separate rules apply to divorces granted by a court of a European Union State compared to those applicable to divorces granted outside the European Union and that there is an urgent need to comprehensively reform this area of the law. [25966/07]

Since early 2001, the recognition of foreign divorces within the EU (with the exception of Denmark) has been governed by a series of Regulations. Firstly, there was Council Regulation (EC) No. 1347/2000, commonly referred to as Brussels II, which entered into force on 1 March 2001. Secondly, there was Council Regulation (EC) No. 2201/2003, commonly referred to as Brussels II Bis, which has been in force since 1 March 2005 and which repealed the original Brussels II Regulation, albeit without modifying the 2001 jurisdiction rules upon which recognition is predicated.

Both Regulations contain transitional provisions to enable the recognition regime to apply to a larger number of judgments than would otherwise be strictly speaking within their scope.

The Domicile and Recognition of Foreign Divorces Act 1986 now applies only to the recognition of foreign divorces not encapsulated by the EU regime. Thus, the provisions of section 5, subsection 1 of this Act no longer have effect in relation to proceedings where the relevant jurisdiction has been exercised by a court of an EU Member State by virtue of the Brussels II Bis Regulation.

Given the relatively recent development of EU rules in this area, the special position of Denmark and the accession in 2004 of 10 new Member States, it is not surprising that there is going to be a period of time within the EU when the recognition regime is not as transparent as might be desirable. However, that is a matter which will improve with time and the transitional arrangements which have been arrived at are not susceptible to modification at national level.

The Deputy will appreciate that the primary focus heretofore has been on the settlement of recognition rules within an EU framework. The recognition of foreign divorces granted outside that framework is a matter for individual Member States and the operation of the law in this area as far as this jurisdiction is concerned continues to be kept under review by my Department.

Garda Training.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

53 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí with firearms authorisation cards; the dedicated training facilities available to members of An Garda Síochána for training in the use of firearms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27390/07]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

57 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether it is satisfactory that An Garda Síochána have no indoor firing range for firearms training following the closure of the range in the Phoenix Park in 2005; when they will be provided with indoor firearms training facilities, other than the virtual automated training systems which are presently the only alternatives available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27301/07]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

78 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of An Garda Síochána with firearm authorisation cards; and his views on whether firearm training for members is adequate. [27300/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 57 and 78 together.

The total number of firearms authorisation cards issued to members of the Garda Síochána as at the 24th August 2007 was 3,345.

I am informed that Garda management is satisfied with the firearms training provided for members of the Garda Síochána who are authorised to carry firearms and that it compares favourably with similar training provided internationally by other Police Services.

Firearms Authorisation Card Holders are required to attend firearms refresher training at least three times a year. Two of the refresher courses are in respect of "live fire" and one course is in respect of the recently acquired Firearms Automated Training System. The Garda Síochána has two full-time Firearms Training Units based at Garda Headquarters and the Garda College.

Firearms Training is constantly reviewed to ensure that sufficient training is provided and that training compares favourably with international best practice. There have been significant developments in the Garda Síochána Firearms training in the last 18 months.

Three Firearms Automated Training System units were purchased by An Garda Síochána in January 2006, at a cost of just over €0.5m. This has proved to be a very successful initiative and has allowed the development of judgmental firearms training as well as traditional marksmanship training in a non-live fire environment.

An Garda Síochána has access to a total of nine Army firearms ranges for the purpose of live firearms training. In addition, two prefabricated Modular Firearms Ranges have been ordered by the Garda Síochána at a cost of €3.2 million. Delivery and installation is expected before the end of this year and they will be put into operation in early 2008. One range will be located at the Garda College and the second in the Dublin Metropolitan Region.

These prefabricated Modular Firearms Ranges are newly designed products and will facilitate live fire shooting for up to four persons in a carefully contained environment which adheres to all range safety requirements. The delivery of the two prefabricated Modular Firearms Ranges will further reduce the Garda Síochána dependence on using army ranges and will provide access to firearms ranges at all times without causing noise pollution to neighbouring offices or residential areas.

Gangland Killings.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

54 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take to tackle the increase in gangland murders in the country; if he will deal with the situation of automatic remission; if he will widen the ambit of the Special Criminal Court to deal with these crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27298/07]

The number of murders is, of course, a matter of concern to me and the Government.

All killings, regardless of the persons or the circumstances involved, are the subject of a rigorous investigation by An Garda Síochána. The identification of the motive and the evidence available in its support are key elements of the investigation and prosecution process. On completion of such investigations an investigation file is completed and forwarded to the Law Officers who direct what charges, if any, are to be preferred. It is then a matter for the courts to decide on a person's guilt or innocence.

My highest priority is bringing gangland killings to an end and to bring those involved in gangland activities to justice. In recent days we have seen a number of successful operations carried out by An Garda Síochána to deal with gangland crime. I am sure all members of the House will join with me in commending the Gardaí for these successes. Obviously I cannot comment on the detail of what took place, since the operations form part of criminal investigations and court proceedings, but I will say that this type of relentless activity by An Garda Síochána, under Operation Anvil in particular, will continue to be used to deal with these gangs. I am willing to look at all options that might reduce gangland crime including options relating to remission.

Last week I published the policing priorities I have determined for An Garda Síochána for 2008, as provided for in the Garda Síochána Act, 2005. The first priority they contain relates to targeting gun crime, organised crime and drug trafficking. They refer to the use in particular of specialist units and targeted operations such as Operation Anvil; profiling, intelligence gathering and threat assessments in relation to individuals and groups involved in this type of crime; and the pursuit by the Criminal Assets Bureau of the proceeds of crime including through the presence of enhanced liaison arrangements between CAB and Garda Divisions.

The Government, and I am sure all members of the House, will fully support the Gardaí in their efforts. For our part we are providing unprecedented resources not just to the Garda Síochána but to all the agencies involved in the criminal justice system.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána is actively targeting organised crime on a number of fronts. Uniform and plain-clothes Gardaí, assisted by specialist units from National Support Services, are overtly and covertly disrupting known criminals in the course of their criminal activities. A number of organised crime groups targeted in this manner have recently had firearms recovered and drugs seized resulting in a number of gang members being prosecuted and convicted before the Courts.

In November, 2005 the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation was set up to combat the growth of organised crime and in particular armed criminal gangs. This Unit has been expanded and now comprises 70 members working full time proactively targeting various criminal groups. The Unit will continue to work closely with other specialist units, including the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Special Detective Unit/Emergency Response Unit, in targeting those suspected of involvement in organised criminal activity.

We have considerably strengthened the criminal law too. For example, we have made it more difficult to get bail in drug trafficking and firearms cases. The Criminal Justice Act 2006 updated offences and penalties for firearms offences and introduced minimum mandatory sentences of between five and ten years for those offences. We have extended the periods the Gardaí can question people suspected of involvement in serious crime for. We have updated the law on the right to silence. I am also willing to look at all options that might reduce gangland crime including options relating to remission. However, in any criminal justice system it takes time for changes which are made in the law to have full effect in practice. In the immediate period ahead we need to support fully the operational measures being taken by the Gardaí to target all of those involved in these activities.

With respect to widening the ambit of the Special Criminal Court (SCC), provision already exists for the forwarding for trial in the SCC of persons accused of both scheduled and non-scheduled offences. In the case of scheduled offences which are also indictable offences, such persons shall be returned for trial to the SCC unless the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) otherwise directs. In the case of non-scheduled offences, such persons shall be returned for trial to the SCC upon direction of the DPP.

The conviction of many serious organised criminals has already been successfully secured in the SCC. The operation of the SCC in this regard is kept under review.

Family Law Proceedings.

Ulick Burke

Question:

55 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make changes to the in camera rule in Family Law Court cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27326/07]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

94 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce changes to the in camera rule in Family Law Court proceedings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27447/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 94 together.

Recent policy in the law on the hearing in our courts of family law proceedings in private is reflected in section 40 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 and the regulations made under that section.

The Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 (Section 40(3)) Regulations 2005 (S. I. No. 337 of 2005) allow certain classes of persons to attend family court sittings, subject to Ministerial approval, in order to draw up and publish reports. Ministerial approval is subject to certain safeguards including a requirement that the parties to a case or any relevant child would not be identifiable. Under this scheme, several persons engaged in family law research who were nominated by a body specified in the Schedule to S.I. No. 337 have been approved.

In 2006, the Courts Service introduced the Family Law Reporting Service on a pilot basis. The purpose of the pilot project was to provide much needed information on the family law area. The interim and final reports of the pilot project have provided valuable information on our family law system and I am pleased to note that the Courts Service has decided to continue the pilot reporting project for a further year. I am sure that the information gleaned from it, allied to other ongoing family law research, will continue to be highly informative in improving the public understanding of family law.

The Final Report of the Family Law Reporting Service was published just last week and raises several issues in respect of the family law system generally. I believe that it would be prudent for me to consider the issues raised in detail before making any decision as to whether further changes to the in camera rule in family law proceedings are required.

Garda Technical Bureau.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

56 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for the upgrading of the Garda Technical Bureau; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27343/07]

The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed planning and allocation of Garda resources in accordance with his operational requirements. The total strength of the Garda Technical Bureau at 30 September 2007, the latest date for which figures are readily available, is 88. As part of the major investment in An Garda Síochána a new Automated Ballistics Identification system will be provided for the Bureau and the Automated Fingerprint Identification system is being replaced and upgraded.

The Garda Commissioner has recently established a working group to look at the relocation of the Garda Technical Bureau to a new site at Kilsallaghan, Co. Dublin where it would be co-located with the civilian-led Forensic Science Laboratory, both of which work in very close partnership with one another.

Question No. 57 answered with QuestionNo. 53.

Crime Levels.

Willie Penrose

Question:

58 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for the Gardaí to combat the rise in stabbings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27385/07]

The increasing incidence of knife attacks is obviously a worrying trend. The Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990 sets out very strict provisions for the control of knives and offensive weapons. The Act makes it an offence for any person, irrespective of age, to:

possess any knife or any other article which has a blade or which is sharply pointed in any public place, without good reason or lawful authority;

trespass with a knife or any article made for causing injury to or incapacitating a person, and

produce any article, capable of inflicting serious injury, in a manner likely to intimidate another person in the course of committing an offence or appearing to be about to commit an offence or in the course of a dispute or fight.

Any person found guilty of such offences is liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a term of up to five years or both.

A person found guilty of murder through stabbing or otherwise is liable to the highest possible penalty of a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment.

The legislative provisions dealing with offensive weapons, and any other measures which might be taken to counteract this problem, are kept under constant review by my Department.

Prior to the commencement of the new sentences for a range of firearms offences provided for in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, an amnesty was granted for persons who were in possession of firearms and offensive weapons, including knives, to dispose of them.

Enforcement of the provisions of that legislation is a priority for An Garda Síochána and the resources available to the Gardaí have increased dramatically in recent years. That increase in resources will continue. In particular, the Programme for Government provides for an increase in Garda numbers to 15,000 by 2010 and 16,000 by 2012.

In addition to having very strong penalties for offences involving knives, we have to continue to get the message across to young people in particular that carrying around knives is dangerous and wrong. As part of their policing plan for next year the Gardaí plan to launch an education and awareness raising programme aimed at discouraging people, especially young people and teenagers, from carrying knives. This will be in addition to taking rigorous action under the criminal law against those found carrying them.

Gangland Killings.

Martin Ferris

Question:

59 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the briefing on gangland crime from the Garda Commissioner received by him on 31 October 2007. [27448/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

132 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the matters discussed at his meeting on 31 October 2007 with the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Noel Conroy, regarding serious crime; if conclusions were reached at the meeting; if new specific measures to combat serious crime were agreed at the meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27126/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 132 together.

Last week the Taoiseach and I and a number of my Government colleagues met the Garda Commissioner and the Deputy Garda Commissioner in charge of operations to discuss, among other issues, gangland activities. We were briefed very comprehensively on a series of actions being undertaken by the Gardaí to counteract the activities of these gangs. For obvious reasons it would be counterproductive to reveal details of some of the actions being taken. We will have further meetings with senior Garda management again to review progress.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

60 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to amend the laws in relation to underage drinking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27541/07]

The Government Legislation Programme published on 25 September provides for publication of a Sale of Alcohol Bill in 2008. This Bill will modernise and streamline the laws relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2004, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2004, and replacing them with updated provisions more suited to modern conditions.

The proposed Bill will contain reforms which are designed to strengthen existing provisions to combat under-age consumption of alcohol. These include a new requirement for all off-licences to have written policies and control procedures in place; a new offence of being in possession of a forged or altered Garda age card with intent to deceive; a new provision whereby a member of the Gardaí may request the name and address of any person suspected of committing, or of having committed, such an offence; failure to give such details will be an offence; and a new provision permitting a member of the Gardai to arrest without warrant a person who refuses to supply his or her name and address or gives a name and address which such member has reason to believe to be false or misleading.

Garda Recruitment.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

61 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has drawn up plans to directly recruit members of eastern European police forces to An Garda Síochána; if there are plans for similar recruitment plans for other regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27383/07]

In response to a request from the Garda Commissioner, a working group, comprising officials of my Department and senior Garda officers, was established in December 2006 with the task of considering matters relating to the regulation of recruitment of police officers from foreign police forces, both European and non-European. I understand that Garda management is now examining the training requirements and other implications of such recruitment, and I look forward to receiving the Commissioner's final proposals.

Prison Building Programme.

Michael Creed

Question:

62 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the project to construct a new prison at Thornton Hall, County Dublin; the amount of money that has been spent on the Thornton Hall project to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27340/07]

Negotiations are currently underway with a commercial consortium, which was selected following an E.U. tender procedure for the design, construction, finance and maintenance of the proposed prison facilities at Thornton Hall, North County Dublin. The new prison complex is being procured under a Public Private Partnership model which will include the construction of the prison facilities along with the ancillary infrastructure including services. The development consent procedure for the development is set out in Part 4 of the Prisons Act 2007.

Expenditure to date on the project has amounted to a total of €36,444,050 including site acquisition costs.

Sexual Offences.

Bernard Allen

Question:

63 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps that he has taken to date in response to calls for an EU wide sex offenders database; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27342/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 135 on 9 October, 2007.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

64 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take in respect of the recommendations of the report of the study group on pre-nuptial agreements published in early 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27324/07]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

131 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends giving recognition to the concept of pre-nuptial agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27345/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 131 together.

The Study Group examined pre-nuptial agreements having regard to the provisions in the Constitution on the protection of marriage and the requirement of proper provision being made for parties to divorce proceedings.

The Group's core recommendation is that provision be made in both the Family Law Act 1995 and Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to provide that the courts be required to have regard to existing pre-nuptial agreements when making ancillary relief orders in judicial separation and divorce proceedings. The report makes recommendations on the formalities necessary for the proper making of pre-nuptial agreements so that parties making such agreements would be both fully informed and protected. The report also recommends the introduction of a statutory basis upon which a court may make financial provision for a surviving spouse who may be unfairly affected by the provisions of a pre-nuptial agreement on the death of the other spouse in certain circumstances, e.g. as a result of the passage of time or other intervening events.

The recommendations are being examined in my Department with a view to the legislative proposals that may usefully be developed in this area.

Public Order Offences.

Liz McManus

Question:

65 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons given anti-social behaviour warnings since the new system came into operation on 1 January 2007; the number of anti-social behaviour orders sought in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27378/07]

Tom Hayes

Question:

82 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of anti-social behaviour orders that have been issued by the Courts to adults and children to date; the number of behaviour orders that have been issued by An Garda Síochána to date; the number of good behaviour contracts that have been issued and renewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27332/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 82 together.

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, was commenced on 1 January, 2007. Part 13 of the Act relating to anti-social behaviour by children was commenced on 1 March, 2007. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and to the making of a behaviour order by the Children's Court.

In setting up this regime, the intention was that these warnings or good behaviour contracts would themselves address the problem behaviour. It is only if they fail that a civil order (in the case of an adult) or a behaviour order (in the case of a child) would be applied for by An Garda Síochána.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that up to 30 September, 2007, 264 behaviour warnings have been issued to adults, 80 behaviour warnings to children and two good behaviour contracts to children.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal.

Michael Creed

Question:

66 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied as to the operation of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27339/07]

I can inform the Deputy that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal provides an accessible and independent means by which the victims of violent crime can receive financial compensation for any out of pocket expenses arising as a result of that crime, including loss of earnings and vouched medical expenses. As such the Tribunal meets an important public need and has served victims well over the years. A budget of €4.526 million has been provided to the Tribunal in 2007, which I understand is adequate to meet the cost of awards anticipated to fall for payment this year.

Gangland Killings.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

67 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he proposes to take to combat the growth of organised crime with particular reference to armed criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27508/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána utilises intelligence-led operations to target organised crime gangs. All available intelligence is fully analysed and used in the strategic deployment of both local and specialised operational Garda units to target particular gangs.

Organised crime is being targeted on a number of fronts, involving uniform and plain-clothes Gardaí overtly and covertly disrupting known criminals in the course of criminal activities.

Specialist units from National Support Services are also assisting in these operations and deal with the different aspects of this type of criminal activity.

In November 2005, the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation was set up to combat the growth of organised crime and, in particular, armed criminal gangs. This Unit has been expanded and now comprises 70 members working full time in proactively targeting the various criminal groups in operation throughout the country.

The Unit will continue to work closely with other specialist units, including the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Special Detective Unit/Emergency Response Unit, in targeting those suspected of involvement in organised criminal activity.

Operation ‘Anvil' commenced in the Garda Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) in 2005 and was expanded regionally during 2006. It is an intelligence-led policing initiative, the focus of which is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting their criminal activity, through extensive additional overt patrolling, static checkpoints, by uniform mobile and foot patrols, supported by armed plain-clothes patrols, in conjunction with other covert operations.

The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is also closely involved in Operation ‘Anvil', particularly within the DMR. This operation continues to successfully target criminal gangs involved in gun crime.

In addition, all Garda operations are also reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure their effectiveness.

Furthermore, the Criminal Assets Bureau is being actively utilised to identify and target assets accumulated by criminals, in order to seize such assets and to deprive the criminals of the profits of their criminal activity.

The Garda National Drugs Unit liaises closely with the Criminal Assets Bureau to target those criminals and criminal groupings believed to be deriving profits and assets from drug-related criminal activity.

This integrated approach adopts best practice in implementing a co-ordinated use of Garda resources and using available criminal legislation to its fullest extent.

Events over recent days provide further evidence that the range of measures being taken by An Garda Siochána continues to achieve significant successes being made against such groups.

For its part, the Government is determined that all of this work is strongly underpinned by continuing to provide An Garda Siochána with all the necessary resources it requires and by ensuring that our legislative package remains effective in dealing with those involved in such forms of criminal activity.

Finally, I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to keep the measures and resources for tackling organised crime under review and I repeat the assurance that I gave to the House recently during the lengthy debate on crime that it is my intention to continue to prioritise areas such as gun crime, organised crime and drugs.

Prison Staff.

Bernard Allen

Question:

68 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will appoint a new Inspector of Prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27341/07]

The appointment of a new Inspector of Prisons is under active consideration and I will be making an announcement shortly.

Departmental Reports.

Pat Breen

Question:

69 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of producing the report of the casino committee which was submitted to his Department in April 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27334/07]

I have been advised that the cost to date of producing the Report of the Casino Committee has been €21, 500. This includes costs associated with desk top formatting and an Irish translation of the Report. As the Deputy will appreciate the final costs will be contingent on the number of printed copies of the Report required.

I am at present considering this Report and I expect to be bringing it to Government shortly.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

70 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff from his Department who have been decentralised to locations outside Dublin to date; the cost to the Exchequer to date of his Department’s decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27344/07]

I would refer the Deputy to my previous reply on 9th October 2007 (Ref. No. 22544/07).

Again, I am pleased to be able to report that my Department's Decentralisation Programme is firmly on target. Under the Programme, over nine hundred posts from my Department and its agencies are scheduled to relocate to seven provincial locations. To date, over four hundred assignments have been made and it is anticipated that close to five hundred posts will have moved out of Dublin by the end of this year. With over two years of the programme yet to run, we will have a presence in all seven locations by the end of 2007 and this represents more than 50% of the overall number of posts scheduled to move.

As the Deputy will be aware, the costs in respect of property solutions under decentralisation are primarily a matter for the Office of Public Works and these costs account for the bulk of the expenditure. The non-property costs incurred by my Department up until the middle of this year, in areas such as I.T., office equipment and training, amounted to just over one million euro.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Tony Gregory

Question:

71 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the specific additional resources he is making available to the Criminal Assets Bureau to enable them to target drug dealers at all levels of the trade. [26893/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Criminal Assets Bureau, under Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services, works closely with other national units, including the Garda National Drugs Unit, and senior investigating officers in all Garda Divisions to ensure, wherever possible, that assets derived from criminal activity, including drug-related crime, are subject to post-conviction confiscation, pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, civil restraint pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Acts, 1996-2005 and Revenue and Social Welfare legislation.

There are currently fifty-five personnel at the Criminal Assets Bureau, consisting of administrative, technical and professional staff, including the Bureau Legal Officer, members of An Garda Síochána and representatives from the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs under the command of the Chief Bureau Officer.

In addition to this, two further forensic analysts are currently being recruited and a further Revenue bureau officer will be allocated before the end of the year.

The Garda National Drugs Unit liaises with the Criminal Assets Bureau to particularly target those criminals and criminal groupings believed to be deriving profits and assets from drug-related criminal activity.

In relation to the issue of the Bureau's work at local levels, I can inform the Deputy that in order to maximise the benefit that can be derived from local knowledge, officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau work closely with Gardaí from specific regions and localities in order to ensure that the efforts of the Bureau are targeted in the most effective manner possible.

In particular, the Bureau is utilising the services of Divisional Criminal Assets Profilers throughout the country. At present there are twenty seven divisional profilers appointed and operational. A further five members of An Garda Síochána are currently being trained as profilers.

The use of local Garda officers in this way ensures that preparatory groundwork can be carried out in advance of a full investigation by the Bureau. Asset profilers have at all times recourse to the expertise and advice of the Bureau.

The complement of Divisional profilers will continue to be monitored and reviewed on an on-going basis and I have already included in the Government's policing priorities for An Garda Síochána a specific reference to enhanced liaison arrangements between Garda Divisions and the Criminal Assets Bureau in the pursuit of those engaged in drug dealing at all levels.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Criminal Assets Bureau has sufficient financial and other resources available to it to operate effectively pursuant to its statutory remit and that the Chief Bureau Officer keeps the allocation of personnel under constant review in light of the Bureau's workload.

I can assure the Deputy that any individuals in local communities who believe they can openly flaunt wealth or assets secured through illegal activities, including drug dealing, will be vigorously pursued by the Gardaí either through the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 or through the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau under its statutory remit.

Finally, I will continue to keep the measures and resources for tackling drug trafficking under review and I repeat the assurance that I gave to the House recently during the lengthy debate on crime that it is my intention to continue to prioritise areas such as gun crime, organised crime and drugs.

Human Trafficking.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

72 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in relation to the Human Trafficking Bill, he will include comprehensive victim protection provisions in a dedicated Human Trafficking Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26892/07]

As the Deputy is aware, the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill completed Second Stage in the Dáil on 1 November. The primary purpose of the Bill is to criminalise the trafficking of persons into, through or out of Ireland for the purposes of their sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of their organs. It is a criminal law bill and, therefore, deals exclusively with the criminal law elements of trafficking in human beings. This includes offering protection under the criminal law to victims of human trafficking. Specifically, it includes a provision whereby a judge may exclude persons from the court during proceedings in trafficking cases, where publicity might place alleged victims of trafficking and their families at risk.

The Bill also guarantees the anonymity of alleged victims of trafficking unless fully or partially waived by a judge in circumstances where he or she considers that the interests of justice so require.

The Bill also allows an alleged victim of trafficking to give evidence through a live television link, with the leave of the court in the case of adults, from within the State or abroad.

I announced recently the setting up of a High Level Group on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. This Group is tasked with presenting to me the most appropriate and effective response to dealing with trafficking in human beings, and will consist of officials from my Department, representatives of An Garda Síochána and other Departments and Offices who have a contribution to make to the national response.

The Group will be responsible for drafting a National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings. The goal of the National Action Plan is to ensure that Ireland has the appropriate legislative and administrative structures in place for the protection of victims as well as for the prevention of trafficking and the prosecution of traffickers. Advertisements have been placed in the national press seeking the views of the public on what should be included in the Plan.

Also, it is my intention to include provisions in the forthcoming Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill which will strengthen the protections available to victims. In particular, I propose to include provision whereby a victim of trafficking can be afforded an immediate period of recovery and reflection in the State. It is intended that this period will allow the victim time to heal and recover from his or her experience and also the opportunity to escape the influence of those who engage in human trafficking. In addition, this time will allow the victim time to come to a decision on whether he or she wishes to participate in any criminal proceedings in the matter and, in circumstances where he or she so wishes, a further period of residence in the State to enable him or her to do so.

Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

73 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has applied to the Department of Finance for additional resources to be made available to the Garda Ombudsman Commission in Budget 2008. [27397/07]

I am satisfied that the Office of the Garda Ombudsman Commission will have the resources it needs to carry out its functions in 2008. The 2007 allocation for the Office includes significant once-off funding relating to the initial set-up of the Office. Therefore, the 2008 pre-budget outlook figure has been adjusted accordingly. Indeed, the Commission is still in the process of recruiting its full staff complement and is currently recruiting additional investigative staff. There will, therefore, be more operational staff available during 2008 than in 2007.

Migrant Workers.

Shane McEntee

Question:

74 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the plight of migrant workers in the State, of no fixed abode who are experiencing difficulty with former employers and who are in need of assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27442/07]

Phil Hogan

Question:

81 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he proposes to take to help and assist undocumented migrant workers in the State subjected to deception, exploitation and unfair practices at the hands of employers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27446/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 81 together.

All non-EEA nationals are legally obliged under the Immigration Act 2004 to ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date at all times. Indeed, it is their responsibility to make themselves aware of the relevant Irish immigration legislation prior to their entry to the State. They should also ensure that, where required, they are covered by the relevant employment permits in order to work in the State.

I am aware that, regrettably, there are migrant workers in the State who, perhaps through no fault of their own, do not hold the necessary documents. While I have the power to allow such persons to remain legally in the State, this will only be considered on a case by case basis and any decision will depend on the individual circumstances. This policy has been followed in relation to cases already brought to the attention of the immigration authorities.

I have no proposals, however, to introduce any general regularisation programme for undocumented migrant workers in the State. Such regularisations are highly problematic and undoubtedly carry the danger of creating a pull factor for further illegal migration.

In general, and subject to what I have said earlier, if a person who is illegally in Ireland wishes to regularise his or her position, he or she should leave the State voluntarily and seek to return through the legal channels.

The question of enforcement of employment legislation is a matter for my colleague, Minister Micheál Martin and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Ireland's body of employment rights legislation protects all workers employed on an employer-employee basis in Ireland. The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 provides that all employee protection legislation applies to a person, irrespective of his or her nationality or place of residence, who has entered into a contract of employment that provides for his or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a contract of employment.

Garda Investigations.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

75 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to the Garda investigation into the murder of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan on 20 October 2007; if the Gardaí have evidence to indicate paramilitary involvement in the murder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27367/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda investigation into the murder in question is ongoing and that the investigation team based in Monaghan Garda Station is being assisted by specialist Garda units, including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Garda Technical Bureau. I am further informed that the Garda Síochána is working closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which has appointed a liaison officer to work directly with the Garda investigation team.

The Garda Commissioner has advised me that there is no information available to the Garda Síochána to suggest that this murder was carried out by, or on behalf of, any paramilitary grouping. I understand that the Chief Constable of the PSNI shares this view.

Joint Policing Committees.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

76 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that the Joint Policing Committees will have an opportunity to input into the formulation of local policing plans for 2008, as per guideline 5.3 of the Ministerial Guidelines under which the JPCs were established, in time for their publication pre-January 2008 in view of the fact that JPC members are unaware of any arrangements for same having been scheduled to date. [27400/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

106 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Joint Policing Committees have not held public meetings in their local areas; and if the scope of his planned evaluation of the JPCs operation at the end of November 2007 will be limited by the fact that the JPCs have not conducted this core function. [27399/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 106 together.

The Joint Policing Committees currently established in a pilot phase operate under guidelines issued by my predecessor as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 23 May, 2007, following consultation with the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. In accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which provides for the establishment of such Committees, the guidelines state that the joint policing committees' function is to serve as a forum for consultations, discussions and recommendations on matters affecting the policing of the local authority's administrative area, in particular by carrying out a number of activities, including arranging and hosting public meetings concerning matters affecting the policing of the local authority's administrative area. The guidelines also provide that the Committees will act as a mechanism through which elected representatives and local communities can have a role in conveying information and views to Garda Divisional and District Officers to assist them in the formulation and operation of their annual policing plans.

The Garda Síochána Act provides that Joint Policing Committees shall be established and maintained by a local authority and the Garda Commissioner in accordance with the guidelines. It is therefore the responsibility of each Committee to fulfil the provisions of the guidelines.

The Garda Síochána Policing Plan for 2008 will shortly be finalised. Once finalised, it will be used to prepare Divisional and District Policing Plans, and the Committees can act as a mechanism to assist Garda Divisional and District Officers in this task.

I believe that generally the Committees established have made good progress to date in carrying out their functions and will continue to make progress. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I have decided to hold a consultation seminar on 29 November with participants in the pilot Committees to consider the lessons from their operation to date in preparation for roll out of the Committees to all 114 local authorities in the State. I believe that the seminar will provide a suitable opportunity to discuss the issues raised by the Deputy.

Garda Transport.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

77 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the Report of the Garda Inspectorate, Policing in Ireland — Looking Forward, published on 26 September 2007; his further views on the recommendations of the report particularly the call for an increase in the size of the transport fleet and the number of marked vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27372/07]

I welcome the third report of the Garda Inspectorate entitled, "Policing in Ireland — Looking Forward" which is a comprehensive examination of administration and operation of the Garda Síochána.

The remit of the Inspectorate under the Garda Síochána Acts 2005 to 2007 is to ensure that the resources available to An Garda Síochána are used so as to achieve and maintain the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness both in its operation and administration when compared with the best practices and standards of comparable police forces. It is my role as Minister, and that of my Department, to support the Garda Síochána in achieving that goal of continued efficient and effective policing.

The Inspectorate has called for a more strategic approach to transport policy to ensure that it meets the business needs of the Force and I am sure that the Inspectorate's analysis will be of considerable assistance to the Garda Commissioner. I will fully support the Commissioner in his development of the organisation's transport policy.

Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 53.

Sale of Alcohol.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

79 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will use the powers available to him under Section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 to provide for the traceability of alcohol sold for consumption off premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27376/07]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed response to Question No. 163 on 9 October in which I outlined the reasons why I do not intend to make regulations under section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 at this time. I have nothing further to add to the details given in that reply.

Drug Treatment Court.

Michael Ring

Question:

80 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when or if he will roll out the pilot drug court scheme on a national basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26306/07]

The Drug Treatment Court, which originally operated on a pilot basis in the North inner city of Dublin, has been placed on a permanent footing and extended to the Dublin 7 area. The Court uses a multi-disciplinary approach and involves a range of Government Departments and agencies charged with dealing with various aspects of the problem of drug misuse. The Court operates with the assistance of a team which includes the judge, a probation and welfare officer, an addiction nurse, a Garda liaison officer and education/training representative and counsellors. There are plans to extend the Court to the rest of the Dublin Metropolitan District (of the District Court) on a phased basis and discussions with other agencies, including the HSE, are ongoing in this regard.

I am satisfied that the Court is providing a worthwhile and innovative service and I will continue to provide it with every support. The question of the further extension of the Court will be kept under review.

Question No. 81 answered with QuestionNo. 74.
Question No. 82 answered with QuestionNo. 65.

Garda Operations.

Joe McHugh

Question:

83 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there are plans to further enhance the co-operation between the PSNI and An Garda Síochána, allowing both forces to cross the border in pursuit of suspected criminals; if both forces will be legally allowed to arrest persons on the other side of the border; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27356/07]

Joe McHugh

Question:

95 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the protocol in place for Gardaí entering Northern Ireland and for the PSNI entering the Republic of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25108/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 95 together.

There are no protocols in place to provide for the entry of members of the Garda Síochána, in their capacity as police officers, into Northern Ireland and vice versa or for the purposes of the pursuit of suspected criminals and/or the arrest of persons. Provision for the deployment across international borders of police officers in respect of covert surveillance and the pursuit of suspects is made in the Schengen Agreement, which has been incorporated into European Union law. However, Ireland has exercised its entitlement not to ‘opt in' to these Schengen provisions. This was done on the basis that the provisions are neither necessary nor desirable in the context of the Border with Northern Ireland.

There is already excellent police-to-police co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. This co-operation includes, on occasion, members of the Garda Síochána accompanying PSNI officers in Northern Ireland and PSNI officers accompanying members of An Garda Síochána in this jurisdiction. However, neither An Garda Síochána nor the PSNI exercise police powers in such cases while in the others jurisdiction.

Garda Training.

Willie Penrose

Question:

84 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if Gardaí will be receiving specialist training regarding the identification of trafficked children into the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27386/07]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that a module on ‘Trafficking in Human Beings' is currently being provided by Continuous Professional Development training in the 2007 Core Programme. This training is provided to all members of Garda and Sergeant Rank.

All Student and Probationer Gardaí receive training on immigration legislation and aspects of the Children Act 2001. This training includes reference to child abuse and cruelty. A specialist training course on Tackling Human Trafficking — Prevention, Protection, Prosecution was developed in 2006 by personnel at the Garda College in conjunction with members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) and officials from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Personnel from the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC); Ruhama and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), (two Non-Government Organisations that regularly encounter people who claim to be victims of human trafficking), and officials from the Health Service Executive (HSE) (who have responsibility for dealing with unaccompanied minors who arrive in the State, some of whom are suspected of having been trafficked into the State), assisted in the preparation of the training package and contribute to the courses on an ongoing basis.

The course is aimed at Garda personnel who interact with members of non-national communities and other ethnic groups, to assist them in identifying persons who may be victims of human trafficking. Fifty members of the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) participated in this initial training programme during 2006. An additional one-hundred (100) members have completed the programme to date in 2007. The programme is ongoing.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

85 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will put in place new or additional structures to locate local lieutenants connected to the criminal assets bureau to fight drug crime on a regional basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27542/07]

The Criminal Assets Bureau has been at the forefront of the fight against organised crime, including drug trafficking, in this jurisdiction since its inception in 1996. The significant successes that the Bureau continues to achieve by its operations demonstrates the effectiveness of its approach in pursuing illegally gotten gains.

The manner in which the Bureau operates has, in the eleven-year period of its existence, come to be viewed, both domestically and internationally, as a very successful model for targeting persons seeking to derive profits from criminal activities. The Criminal Assets Bureau is being actively utilised to identify and target assets accumulated by criminals, in order to seize such assets and to deprive them of the profits of their criminal activity. The Garda National Drugs Unit liaises with the Criminal Assets Bureau to particularly target those criminals and criminal groupings believed to be deriving profits and assets from drug-related criminal activity. In relation to the issue of the Bureau's work at local levels, I can inform the Deputy that in order to maximise the benefit that can be derived from local knowledge, officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau work closely with Gardai from specific regions and localities in order to ensure that the efforts of the Bureau are targeted in the most effective manner possible.

The Bureau continues to utilise the services of Divisional Criminal Assets Profilers throughout the country. At present there are twenty seven divisional profilers appointed and operational. A further five members of An Garda Síochána are currently being trained as profilers.

The use of local Garda officers in this way ensures that preparatory groundwork can be carried out in advance of a full investigation by the Bureau. Asset profilers have at all times recourse to the expertise and advice of the Bureau. Essentially a key function of these profilers is to ascertain and build up information at local levels and point out individuals at whom the Bureau's work can be targeted. Such information is then investigated and followed up further by CAB. The complement of Divisional profilers will continue to be monitored and reviewed on an on-going basis.

Finally in this context, I have previously advised this House that I have already included in the Government's policing priorities for An Garda Síochána a specific reference to enhanced liaison arrangements between Garda Divisions and the Criminal Assets Bureau in the pursuit of those engaged in drug dealing at all levels. I can assure the Deputy that any individuals in local communities who believe they can openly flaunt wealth or assets secured through illegal activities, including drug dealing, will be vigorously pursued by the Gardaí either through the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 or through the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau under its statutory remit.

Garda Investigations.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

86 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda Superintendent appointed to carry out an investigation into the circumstances in which the Gardaí failed to act on information supplied through Interpol from the Austrian authorities regarding the alleged involvement of people based in this country in a global child pornography ring has now been concluded; if it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27375/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Chief Superintendent appointed by the Commissioner to conduct an investigation into the incident has submitted a report which is currently being considered by senior Garda management. The Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Garda Strength.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

87 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of An Garda Síochána and the number of juvenile liaison officers and the percentage of the force this represents in respect of 2007 and each year since 2002; the reason there has been no increase in the number of JLOs despite the increase in the overall strength of the force; if he has plans to increase the number of JLOs in view of the proven success of their work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27380/07]

As of 30 September last, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the number of Juvenile Liaison Officers was 93. The total strength of the force at the same date was 13,531. This represents 0.69% of the Force. Of course, while these officers are specifically dedicated to this service, a significant number of Gardaí are engaged in liaising with juveniles on a day-to-day basis.

The number of dedicated Juvenile Liaison Officers as of 31st December in each of the years 2002 to 2006, inclusive, was as follows:

Year

Gardaí

Sergeants

2006

87 Gardaí

8 Sergeants = .73%

2005

87 Gardaí

8 Sergeants = .77%

2004

86 Gardaí

8 Sergeants = .77%

2003

85 Gardaí

8 Sergeants = .77%

2002

85 Gardaí

8 Sergeants = .78%

The Commissioner has approved an additional 28 posts for Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLO) to be phased in over the next 4 years, commencing with the allocation of 7 JLOs planned for this year. In September of 2007, I announced the impending appointment of 6 new JLOs to serve the areas of Blanchardstown, Tallaght, Cork North, Waterford, Newbridge/Naas and Sligo/Leitrim. The recruitment process for these posts is underway and the selected applicants are expected to be announced shortly.

Garda personnel assignments throughout the Country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed by Garda management. The purpose of this is to ensure that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Pat Breen

Question:

88 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that the Probation and Welfare Service is adequately resourced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27333/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that following various reviews of the Probation Service which included the findings of the Expert Group published in 1998 and 1999 together with the Comptroller and Auditor General Report in 2004, a new Director was appointed as Head of the Probation Service in September, 2005 following an open competition. To support the Director and strengthen the management of the Service, a new senior management structure was also put in place comprising 3 Deputy Directors and 2 Assistant Directors.

I can further advise the Deputy, that on foot of a Government Decision dated 18 April, 2007, approving a "Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Package", an additional 71 professional and administrative posts were approved for the Probation Service.

Currently, the approved staffing complement for the Probation Service, including the additional posts referred to above, is 435, which comprises 348 profession and 87 administrative staff. In addition, there are 24 full-time and 49 part-time Community Service Supervisors (State Industrial Employees) who supervise the performance of unpaid work in the community by persons who have been convicted of an offence, for which the appropriate penalty would be an immediate custodial sentence and who has given consent to the Court to impose a Community Service Order.

I can also advise the Deputy that the budget allocation for the Probation Service this year is €59.323 million. Having secured the aforementioned additional posts for the Probation Service earlier this year, I am satisfied that the Service is, at this juncture, adequately resourced both from an authorised staffing numbers and a financial perspective.

Border Controls.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

89 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the discussions he has had with the British authorities regarding their plans for the introduction of an electronic border control system by 2009; if the Government will introduce a similar system here; the implications of the British decision for Ireland’s immigration control system; the implications for travel to and from Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27361/07]

There has been ongoing liaison between officials from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) and their British counterparts since 2005, both on the development of the British e-Borders system and to assess the potential benefits which would accrue to Ireland if such a system was to be developed here.

I am advised that the British authorities are close to finalising a contract for the provision of their e-Borders system, which is due to be rolled out in the period 2008 to 2014. I also understand that there is a provision in the e-Borders contract for the system to provide data on passengers travelling from this Jurisdiction to Great Britain. However, I am advised that no decision has been made as to how or when in the roll-out programme, this data will be captured.

A Project Development Team (PDT) has been put in place chaired by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) to scope out the development of an Irish Border Information System. The PDT comprises representatives from all the Agencies which may benefit from the advancement of the concept in this country including An Garda Síochána, the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners, the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Social & Family Affairs, Enterprise, Trade & Employment, and Transport. The PDT has unanimously supported the development of a system in Ireland. I expect that a Memorandum containing detailed proposals will be submitted to Government early in the New Year.

The Irish system, as currently envisaged, would be similar in some ways to the British system. Passenger information will be collected by carriers and sent to an Irish Border Operations Centre (I-BOC) where it will be screened against immigration, Garda and other watch-lists. In the event that a match occurs the relevant agency concerned would be alerted immediately, enabling them to take appropriate measures to intercept, question, stop or arrest the individual concerned.

INIS and the PDT consider it prudent to develop such a system incrementally. It would be intended to commence with a number of long haul air routes and perhaps one watch-list, increasing over a period of 2 years adding more carriers and routes (air and sea) as well as watch-lists, until all passenger movements between the State and countries outside the Common Travel Area (CTA) are embraced by the system (about 15 million passenger movements annually at the present time). The capture of data by the Irish Border Information System in respect of passenger travel within the CTA would be considered when the first phase of the system, as described above, has been developed and is being rolled out.

While a significant feature of the development of an Irish Border Information system and the British e-Borders system will be to protect the integrity of the Common Travel Area, the following benefits will also accrue from the development of an Irish system: detecting immigration offenders in the CTA; detecting criminals, especially serious criminals; detecting other persons of interest attempting to enter or leave the State; collection of immigration trend data; strengthening border controls; combating terrorist threats.

It is clear that the extent to which the British and Irish systems can operate to their optimum, particularly in the context of the security of the Common Travel Area, will be dependant on the quality of the watch lists that are provided by participating agencies and the level of information sharing that can be arranged with the British authorities. In respect of the latter point, it is intended to seek to build on the ongoing exchange of immigration data sets between the two jurisdictions.

I can confirm that there are no fixed controls in respect of persons travelling between North and South and there is no possibility of introducing such controls in the future. Of course I am concerned, and I know that this concern is widely shared both here and in Great Britain, that persons can exploit this absence of fixed controls to move illegally within the CTA. In this regard, I would like to emphasise that the Garda National Immigration Bureau, the British Border and Immigration Agency and the British police work closely together and run regular intelligence led operations aimed at interrupting such illegal movement. These joint operations have successfully prevented foreign nationals moving illegally between the two jurisdictions. Officials from my Department, the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the British Border and Immigration Agency are examining ways to further build on this cooperation.

Legal Services Regulation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

90 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for dealing with the more effective regulation of solicitors dealing with mortgage lending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27384/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions No. 431 and 442 on 6 November. I have nothing further to add to the details of that reply.

Integration Issues.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

91 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria that will be used in recruiting members to the Integration Taskforce; if the taskforce will include members of ethnic minorities; if the Integration Taskforce will have a statutory mandate such as, for example, the consumer panel of the Financial Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26630/07]

The Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration Policy, Mr Conor Lenihan T.D. has announced that he intends to set up a Task Force on Integration. He is consulting with various interest groups on such matters as membership, terms of reference, work programmes and other associated matters of relevance to the Task Force. When he has concluded the consultation process, he will decide on the membership of the Force, including the question of membership of ethnic minorities and relevant experienced personnel who might have insight in the area of Integration.

At this stage, the Minister of State is not committed to giving the Force a statutory mandate but will give consideration to any representations he may receive on the matter. The Task Force will report back to the Minister of State within a year of its initiation with positive recommendations as to how integration issues should be carried forward.

Sex Offender Treatment Programme.

James Bannon

Question:

92 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incarcerated sex offenders participating in the sex offender rehabilitation programme; the number on waiting lists to avail of the programme; the number of prisoners who have participated in the programme since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27330/07]

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

107 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the low level of participation in the sex offender rehabilitation programme in Irish prisons; the steps he will take to increase participation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27349/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 107 together.

There are three forms of direct therapeutic intervention for sex offenders currently operating within the Irish prison system. These are: Individual counselling from the Irish Prison Service's Psychology Service and from the Probation Service; The Sex Offender Programme which has been in operation since 1994; and one-to-one interventions by visiting psychiatrists who provide support to prisoners.

Every effort is made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in their personal rehabilitation and relapse prevention. While it is not possible to quantify with absolute accuracy participation in all forms of rehabilitation, many of those in custody for sex offences have availed of one or more of the forms of intervention referred to above. A database for recording interventions with offenders by the Irish Prison Service's Psychology Service is currently being developed and this will allow them to readily report on the number of offenders engaging in such work.

The second intervention which I have specified in my reply is the intensive offence-focused group programme. The programme is managed and delivered by members of the Irish Prison Service's Psychology Service and the Probation Service and caters for eight offenders at a time, taking eleven months to complete. In keeping with international best practice in this area, the programme is a structured, offence-focused programme, employing a cognitive behavioural approach with a relapse prevention component. The aim of the programme is to reduce sexual victimisation in society. In achieving this, the programme places considerable emphasis on the therapeutic process within the group and on supporting each participant in gaining the knowledge, skills, attitudes and self confidence necessary to live his life differently and more constructively in the future. The programme seeks to address the behaviour that leads to offending by all types of sex offenders.

A total of 128 sex offenders have completed the sex offender programme to date. A further eight men are about to begin undertaking the programme in Arbour Hill Prison. There is no waiting list in operation in respect of participation on the programme. The programme is voluntary and the practice is to invite all eligible sex offenders to apply for a place on the programme when a new group programme is being set up. The reasons applicants for the programme might be considered unsuitable include: the applicant's sentence is under appeal, current serious mental health problems would militate against effective participation in the programme, the applicant is not sufficiently prepared for the intensity of the programme, denial of offence, etc.

In addition, a number of offenders undergo one-to-one counselling in relation to their sexual offending. Some individuals engage with the therapeutic services initially to seek assistance in adjusting to imprisonment or to address their mental health needs. Following such interventions, offenders are often more open to looking at their sexual offending and a concentrated period of motivational work is conducted to help them address their offending behaviour and related issues. In response to such counselling many offenders, who initially might deny responsibility for their crime or deny any need for treatment, are motivated towards some process of change. For some offenders this results in them undertaking the Sex Offender Programme, for others it results in sustained individual therapy around their offending or engagement in some other programme available in the prison system.

I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that we cannot compel offenders to participate in the programme. While offenders can be supported and encouraged in their efforts to change and to address their offending behaviour, ultimately successful completion of any intervention programme depends on the willing participation and commitment of appropriately motivated individuals. Otherwise, the key elements of the programme concerned with supporting the offender in taking responsibility for his offending behaviour and in developing a comprehensive plan for a non-offending lifestyle in the future will not succeed. The challenge, therefore, for the Irish Prison Service, is to use a range of channels to motivate as many offenders as possible to undertake change and to address their offending behaviour.

The number of suitably motivated offenders applying for participation on the Sex Offenders Programme has declined in recent years and this is a matter of concern. The Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service continually review their processes to determine what measures may be taken to increase the number of offenders participating on the programme. In recent years additional psychologists have been appointed to the Irish Prison Service; the Service's staffing level is currently at an all time high. These new psychologists play an important role in working with offenders to address their offending behaviour, including work with sex offenders aimed at enhancing their preparedness for possible participation on the Sex Offender Programme.

There are currently 18 psychologists appointed to the Irish Prison Service. A total of 13 psychologists are based in those establishments holding sex offenders. They provide psychological services, on request, to prisoners, including sex offenders, held in these establishments. The work undertaken with sex offenders covers mental health and/or offence-related issues. An advertisement has also been placed for a psychological assistant to augment services to this group of offenders at Arbour Hill Prison. In addition, the Irish Prison Service is also actively exploring the possibility of enhancing service provision to sex offenders in all institution in the prison estate, in partnership with community based organisations who have expertise in this area.

My Department and the relevant agencies (Irish Prison Service and Probation Service) are continuing our examination of how the treatment and supervision of sex offenders can be enhanced.

Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 51.
Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 55.
Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Refugee Resettlement Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

96 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for accepting refugees; the nationalities and numbers involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25447/07]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the Government's scheme of resettlement refugees. In May 2005, the Government decided to increase Ireland's annual quota of resettlement refugees from 10 families (around 40 persons) to 200 persons. Decisions on nationalities and source countries are made following close consultation between the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform, the Minster for Foreign Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who advise annually on their priorities. No decision has yet been taken in regard to the nationalities to be accepted under the 2008 Quota.

Ireland is one of 18 countries world-wide and one of six EU countries that participates in this UNHCR-led resettlement programme. Other EU countries are currently in the process of joining the programme.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

97 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the substantial sums of money being paid to members of the public in respect of court awards or out of court settlements for claims taken against members of the Gardaí in respect of assault, unlawful arrest, or other breaches of a citizens right which amounted to over €16 million in awards and legal fees since 2002. [27381/07]

At the outset I should say that members of the Garda Síochána are called upon to interact with members of the public on a twenty four hour basis in a wide variety of situations — some of which are inevitably contentious. In the vast majority of cases these interactions are handled in an exemplary and professional manner and do not give rise to difficulty from a litigation point of view. However there are a small minority of cases, by reference to the totality of interactions, which ultimately give rise to a legal liability on the part of the State. In these cases the advices of Counsel, the Chief State Solicitor and the Attorney General inform the approach taken in addressing the issues involved while protecting the public purse.

As the Deputy will be aware, the events in Donegal which gave rise to the establishment of the Morris Tribunal also gave rise to the drafting and enactment of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. Indeed civil proceedings arising from those unprecedented events have had the effect of inflating the amount of monies paid out in the years 2005, 2006 and 2007. One of the principle aims of the Act of 2005 was the establishment of a framework within which shortcomings in the regime of governance and accountability within the Garda Síochána could be addressed.

For example the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is empowered subject to certain conditions independently to investigate any practice, policy or procedure of the Garda Síochána with a view to reducing the incidence of complaints. Furthermore the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, which has an expertise in international policing, may at the request of or with the consent of the Minister carry out inquiries or inspections in relation to particular aspects of the operation or administration of the Garda Síochána. Clearly, these new and innovative mechanisms can play a role in ensuring best practice and consequent minimisation of exposure of the public finances.

Finally of course the new Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations which came into operation on 1 June 2007 have streamlined the disciplinary process and replaced the complex system which had developed over the years — responding to a specific and important lacuna identified by the Morris Tribunal.

Disability Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

98 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the implementation group to advise on ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been established; if so, when it was established; if not, when it will be established; the details of changes that will have to be made to the National Disability Strategy on foot of the signing of the convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27535/07]

Ireland was in the first group of countries to sign, subject to ratification, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when it opened for signature on 30 March 2007. A high-level, cross-departmental implementation group to advise on any changes to the Government's National Disability Strategy that may be required to enable the State ratify the Convention was established earlier this year and held its first meeting on 26 June 2007.

While the National Disability Strategy in many respects comprehends many of the provisions of the UN Convention, the Group has developed a work programme to address matters that need to be aligned with the Convention. This includes such areas as the law on legal capacity of vulnerable adults in respect of which reforms are being prepared.

Prison Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

99 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on concerns raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General regarding the continued high level of sick leave in the Prison Service; the steps being taken to deal with this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27382/07]

The Deputy will be aware that the Comptroller and Auditor General, whilst outlining his concerns about the level of sick leave in the Prison Service over the period 2002-2006, has acknowledged that the figures provided by the Prison Service for January to April 2007 show an overall reduction of 10% in per capita sick leave days and that this would represent the first major reversal of the trend of recent years, if maintained. The most recent figures available to end of July 2007 show a reduction of 15.8% in per capita sick leave days compared with the same period last year, confirming the downward trend. This is a very welcome development. Naturally, we need to ensure that our work continues to be effective in maintaining this downward trend.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's report also acknowledged that any examination of sick leave, or indeed any other aspect of the management of the Prison Service over the period in question must be seen in the context of the particular circumstances within which the Service was operating during the period under review. The period 2002-2006 was a time of major change with the negotiation and implementation of new working arrangements to replace overtime, and decentralisation of the Prison Service's headquarters initially to Clondalkin and later to Longford. These major organisational changes, which have been successfully rolled out, impacted on the capacity of the Prison Service to address the sick leave problem.

It must be borne in mind also that central to the new working arrangements negotiated with staff representatives is a unique system, based on the concept of annualised hours, which is designed to encourage smart working and to reduce absenteeism. The indications are that the new working arrangements, combined with other measures, are contributing to the downward trend in sick leave.

Alongside the introduction of the new working arrangements, a determined effort continues to be made to reduce sick leave through a range of initiatives and all of those efforts are reflected in the significant improvement in the level of sick leave in the first seven months of this year.

Work is ongoing in relation to improving the management of sick leave in a consistent manner across all prisons and reflecting best practice in this area. Governors are encouraged to pursue a policy of early intervention and to hold return to work interviews that ensure that the appropriate steps are taken whether through support or sanction.

As regards support, prison staff have access to psychological services. There is also support available for Officers through the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). In support of the EAP, a Chief Welfare Officer was appointed in April, 2007 and two Employee Welfare Officers are also available to support and advise staff with difficulties arising inside or outside the workplace which may have an impact on their ability to provide regular effective service. The principal providers of the EAP services are a network of Staff Support Officers. Most prisons have Staff Support Officers and where there are vacancies these will be filled shortly.

The Prison Service is also committed to promoting a positive working environment which will assist in reducing absenteeism. One such initiative is the introduction in March, 2007 of a formal Anti-Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Bullying Policy for the Prison Service. The Prison Service is also exploring with the Department of Finance and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer the possibility of establishing an Occupational Health facility dedicated to the particular occupational needs of prison staff.

Where sanction is appropriate, Officers are issued with warnings about their level of absences and if there is no significant improvement in their attendance level a number of measures are available, including the withdrawal of payment for sick leave or even dismissal where there is persistent absenteeism.

Whilst the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General did highlight concerns about the period 2002-2006, I am encouraged by the fact that there is a marked improvement in the level of sick leave in this current year. It is my view that with the support and cooperation of management and staff, the new working arrangements and initiatives I have outlined will continue to produce positive results for sick leave levels across the Prison Service.

Human Rights Issues.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

100 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take following the recent publication of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture Report on Irish prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27346/07]

Joe Costello

Question:

124 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the recent report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture that found that many of the State’s prisons were unsafe and degrading for both prisoners and staff; the steps he is taking to address the conditions highlighted in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27364/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 124 together.

The Report of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), on its visit to Ireland was published on the 10 October 2007, together with the response of the Government of Ireland to the issues raised by the CPT in that report. During the 2006 visit the delegation from the CPT visited a number of Garda stations, prisons and places of detention and the Central Mental Hospital.

As the Deputies will be aware the primary role of the CPT when conducting national visits is to draw attention to issues affecting persons in custody which can be improved upon. The visiting delegation indicated that the level of cooperation received during the visit from the Irish authorities was very good, both at central and local levels. In our response to the issues raised the Irish Government set out in quite an amount of detail the efforts made to deal with the range of issues which the report highlighted.

I am glad to advise the Deputies that action has been taken to address the prison related issues highlighted in the report which covered,inter alia, the lack of progress in over-hauling the 1947 prison rules; the need for more robust investigation of prisoner complaints about alleged ill-treatment; the poor physical conditions of some of our prisons leading to overcrowding and ‘slopping out’; the existence of inter-prisoner violence and intimidation; the number of prisoners on ‘protection’; the drugs situation and the need to improve and enhance regime activities for certain prisoners.

The following is an overview of the key developments:

(a)Prison accommodation: As indicated in the CPT report we recognise the necessity to modernise and expand the prison estate. That is why we have embarked on an ambitious prison building programme which, with the full support of the Government, will result in the replacement and/or refurbishment of nearly 40% of the entire prison estate and the ending of ‘slopping out'. The proposed new prison complex at Thornton Hall which will replace the outdated Mountjoy complex will provide accommodation for 1,400 prisoners in a range of security settings with all the support facilities to enhance regime activities for prisoners and provide modern medical facilities as are fitting a modern prison environment. Other major works include the building of a new prison at Kilworth to serve the Munster region and the provision of additional accommodation at the following institutions: Shelton Abbey, Loughan House, Limerick, Wheatfield, Portlaoise and Castlerea.

(b)Prison Rules, 2007: The new prison rules were brought into effect from 1st October, 2007.

(c)Enhanced security measures in our prisons: In the Government's response to the CPT report on the question of inter-prisoner violence it was accepted that the CPT had rightly identified an emerging problem and that further measures are needed to deal with the issue. I can assure the Deputies that I am determined to deal with the issue in a proportionate manner by increasing our efforts to stem the flow of contraband items, such as drugs, weapons and mobile phones, which could assist in illegal activity. Indeed, as the Deputies will be aware significant efforts are made on a continuous basis by the prison authorities to stop contraband getting into our prisons, by for example, the installation of nets over exercise yards, vigilant observation of prisoners by staff, upgraded CCTV monitoring, the use of screened visits and prisoner and cell searches. New visiting arrangements are in place in all closed prisons whereby only persons who have been pre-approved by the Governor are permitted to visit.

I believe that technology offers the best solution to dealing with the problem of prisoners using mobile phones. The first phase of a pilot programme to inhibit the use of mobile phones in prisons has been completed in the Midlands Prison with the second phase of the pilot due to finish in the near future. I am glad to say that evaluation of the project thus far has shown positive results and, if confirmed, the inhibitors will be installed in all our closed prisons over an 18 to 24 month period. In addition, section 36 of the Prisons Act, 2007, effective from 1st May, 2007 makes it an offence for prisoners to have unauthorised possession of or use mobile telecommunications devices. Under the Act it is also an offence to supply such a device to a prisoner.

The implementation of the Drugs Policy entitled "Keeping Drugs out of Prisons by the Irish Prison Service" has seen an intensification of efforts to eliminate the availability of illicit drugs within the prisons. A significant element in this regard is the introduction of mandatory drug testing under the Prison Rules which became operational from 1st October, 2007. Facilities for screened visits have been installed in all closed prisons. In keeping with the Strategy prisoners in respect of whom the Governor is satisfied that there is no risk of contraband being passed may be facilitated with open visits. Prisoners who are caught receiving drugs or who test positive for drugs will be facilitated with screened visitsonly.

I am committed to supporting the Director General of the Irish Prison Service by providing additional resources to further enhance security within our prisons. I am confident that the recently announced package of additional security measures will make a significant difference to keeping contraband out of our prisons. These measures include: the establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service; the establishment of an Operational Support Group dedicated to, and developing expertise in, searching and gathering intelligence; the introduction of enhanced security screening and searching of all persons (prisoners, visitors and staff) entering our prisons.

The Drug Detection Dog Service will involve approximately 30 staff and an appropriate number of dogs. The Deputy will be aware that a pilot drug detection dog service has been in place since 23 May 2006 and is currently running in the Midlands/Portlaoise area and also in Wheatfield/Cloverhill Prisons, the Mountjoy complex and Cork and Limerick Prisons.

The Operational Support Group will be available in addition to the normal prison staff and can target specific problem areas. They will also gather and collate intelligence information in their prison, carry out high profile escorts and assist the chief officer in charge of security in the continuing assessment and improvement of security.

In addition to the security measures, Drug Treatment Services to prisoners are also being significantly enhanced through the development of new services and programmes for addicted prisoners. These services are being delivered by the Irish Prison Service in partnership with community based services and contracted private services and supported by additional staffing for prison based Drug Treatment Teams. Security measures across our prisons will continue to be kept under review.

Garda Operations.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

101 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the holding of a football fixture (details supplied) involving a team from Poland whose fan base harbours extreme political views with neo-Nazi tendencies; if he is satisfied that this fixture should proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27323/07]

I am aware of the soccer fixture in question. I am informed by the Garda authorities that, as with all such fixtures, the Garda Síochána is in consultation with relevant sports officials with a view to putting in place the necessary operational policing plan for the event. I am further informed that available information indicates at this stage that supporters from the visiting soccer team are not expected to travel in any great numbers. In any event, the Garda Síochána will ensure an appropriate level of policing for the fixture.

Garda Deployment.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

102 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of additional Garda officers assigned to the Criminal Assets Bureau; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27389/07]

As of 31 October 2007, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the number of Garda officers assigned to the Criminal Assets Bureau was 30.

Restorative Justice.

James Bannon

Question:

103 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action that has been taken to date to implement the recommendations made in the 2007 Report on Restorative Justice by the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Right; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27329/07]

Following on from the publication of the report on restorative justice by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights in January 2007, the National Commission on Restorative Justice was established in March 2007. Recommendation 5 of the Joint Oireachtas Committee provides that a cross-sectoral working group should be created to develop a national strategy that is based on international best practice.

The National Commission on Restorative Justice is composed on this basis, with a representative of the Judiciary chairing the Commission on a full-time basis. The members come from An Garda Síochána, the Probation Service, the Courts Service, the Director of Public Prosecution's office and from the business community. Dr Mary Henry, a former member of the Seanad is also a member of the Commission.

The terms of reference of the Commission are wide-ranging. They require the Commission to examine both national and international practice in the area, to consider the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee, to consider what model or models of restorative justice might be appropriate to Irish circumstances and to issue a final report on these and on other matters by the end of 2008. The restorative justice process seeks to address the fall-out from criminal behaviour by making the offenders more directly accountable for their actions and by giving a greater voice to victims, an issue I have prioritised since taking up office.

The Commission recently commenced its deliberations and I look forward to receiving an interim report in the coming months.

Public Order Offences.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

104 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to tackle vandalism and anti-social behaviour, such as that which occurred on Halloween night 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27534/07]

Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 it is open to me to set policing priorities for An Garda Síochána. I recently announced these priorities for 2008. One of the priorities I have set is to combat, particularly in co-operation with other agencies and the community generally, the problems of public disorder with particular emphasis on alcohol related behaviour (including under age drinking) and socially disadvantaged communities especially through utilisation of the legal mechanisms being made available namely ASBOs and behaviour warnings and closure orders.

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006, which provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, was commenced on 1 January, 2007. Part 13 of the Act relating to anti-social behaviour by children was commenced on 1 March, 2007. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. Strong provisions are already in place to combat anti-social behaviour. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 modernised the law in this regard. The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 contains provisions to deal with alcohol abuse and its effect on public order. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 provides the Garda with powers to deal with late night street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking.

In addition to the criminal law, there is a range of initiatives in place to get at the root causes of this type of behaviour. The Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme has proven to be highly successful in diverting young persons away from crime by offering guidance and support to juveniles and their families. The Children Act, 2001 gives a statutory basis to the Programme.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social or criminal behaviour. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda/ community relations. I recently approved the establishment of an additional seven projects, bringing the current total to 100 throughout the country. It is intended to establish a further 68 projects in the lifetime of this Government bringing the total number of projects to 168 nationwide.

More broadly, a number of reforms have taken place in recent years to bring about a more effective youth justice system and these have been enshrined in legislation in the Children Act 2001, as amended. The Act is based on the principles of diversion from crime and anti-social behaviour, restorative justice, the expanded use of community-based sanctions and measures by the courts, and the use of detention only as a last resort.

Recent measures have reformed our entire approach to youth justice. The Irish Youth Justice Service, an executive office of my Department which is co-located in the Office of the Minister for Children, now has responsibility for developing youth justice policy and operating the children detention schools. CCTV schemes are a strong deterrent in fighting crime and anti-social behaviour as well as giving communities greater peace of mind. Both Garda operated and community based CCTV schemes have been set up, and such schemes will continue to be set up.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a joint policing committee in each local authority administrative area. The purpose of these committees is to provide a forum where members of a local authority and the senior Garda officers responsible for the policing of that area, with the participation of Oireachtas members and community interests, can consult, discuss and make recommendations on matters affecting the policing of the area including the levels and patterns of anti-social behaviour such as the misuse of alcohol and drugs.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Encounter, commenced by the Commissioner in February, 2002, targets public disorder and anti-social type behaviour by specifically targeting offences contrary to the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1996 and the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988 which include the sale and consumption of alcohol by underage persons.

The Criminal Justice Act, 2006 which came into effect in August, 2006, provides for new offences governing the possession of illegally imported fireworks with intent to supply. It also provides for significantly increased penalties governing the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks. Under the provisions, it is an offence

for any person to possess a firework with intent to sell or supply, without a licence,

to throw an ignited firework at any person or property, and

to light unlicensed fireworks in a public place.

The penalty for such offences is now a fine of up to €10,000 or 5 years' imprisonment or both. The simple possession of fireworks without a licence is also an offence for which a person may be liable to a fine of up to €10,000. A nationwide advertising campaign was run during the two weeks prior to Halloween in the national and regional newspapers to highlight to the public the dangers of fireworks and the significant penalties that exist for their illegal use.

I am informed that during the Halloween period the annual Garda Operation Tombola was in place and every Garda Region, with particular emphasis on the Dublin Metropolitan Region and border Garda Divisions, was instructed to detect and prevent the organised importation for sale of fireworks and to police the period. Intelligence informed operations and searches were conducted against persons suspected of engaging in the importation, sale and supply of fireworks.

I am also informed that in advance of Halloween, in areas where public disorder was anticipated, or information suggested that such activity may take place, special policing arrangements were made to prevent and detect breaches of the law. As part of this high-visibility policing initiative additional patrols were carried out by uniform Garda personnel, supported by plain-clothes personnel, including District Detective and Drug Units, Divisional Crime Task Force, Traffic Corps personnel and Community Policing and Mountain Bike Units.

Other measures employed by An Garda Síochána included liaising with local authorities for the removal of identified stockpiles of combustible materials and liaising with managers of off licences to ensure that staff were apprised of their obligations and responsibilities under licensing legislation relating to the sale of alcohol, in particular to underage persons.

An Garda Síochána also engaged with local communities and other stakeholders in putting in place measures to address public order issues that arose around the Halloween period. Through the Schools Programme and other local programmes members of An Garda Síochána emphasised that fireworks are illegal and highlighted the dangers associated with illegally imported fireworks.

National Identity Card.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

105 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the establishment of a national identification card system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27337/07]

I have no plans at this time to introduce a national identity card system. Any final judgment as to the necessity or desirability of such a system must include a full assessment of the implications of the introduction of a UK ID card scheme as well as developments in the rest of the EU.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 76.
Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 92.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

108 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Judicial Council Bill is expected to be published; the consultation he has had with members of the Judiciary regarding the contents of the Bill; his views, in view of a recent case, on whether there is still no procedure for dealing with breaches of conduct by judges apart from the impeachment process provided for under the Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27373/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 158 of Tuesday, 9 October 2007. I have nothing further to add to the details of that reply.

Deportation Orders.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

109 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the Supreme Court’s judgment overturning the deportation of five Nigerian children on the grounds of family unity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27387/07]

I am examining the implications of the Supreme Court judgement to which the Deputy refers. The examination includes the specific case referred to the Supreme Court and other cases which may have similar points of law. I expect the examination to be determined shortly at which stage my officials, through the Chief State Solicitor's Office, will contact the relevant solicitors on the matter.

Garda Stations.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

110 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if plans are proceeding for the provision of new Garda accommodation at the Tallaght Garda station, Dublin 24; the time schedule involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27392/07]

The detailed allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner in accordance with his identified operational requirements and in the case of Garda accommodation such matters are brought forward in co-operation with the Office of Public Works. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the accommodation requirements for policing the Tallaght area will be best met by re-development of the existing site at the Square.

The Commissioners of Public Works are appraising the existing site, in consultation with the local authority, with a view to maximising its development potential for the State. Planning is under way for a development of the site to include all Garda requirements for Tallaght and it is expected that the necessary planning process will be initiated shortly. Consideration is also being given to the provision of a new Courthouse adjacent to the Garda station. I assure the Deputy that there will be no avoidable delay in addressing Garda accommodation needs in Tallaght.

Garda Investigations.

Joan Burton

Question:

111 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the investigation being held to establish the identify of the body of an unidentified person, washed ashore at Kilmuckridge, County Wexford on 12 December 1995; the efforts that were made to establish the identify of the person prior to their burial; his views on whether no apparent attempt was made to establish whether or not they were one of a number of persons who were missing at that time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27365/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a complete review of all the issues surrounding the burial of an unidentified woman, discovered in County Wexford in December 1995 is currently being conducted by An Garda Síochána. When that review is completed a report on the matter will be furnished to me by the Garda Commissioner.

I am further informed that prior to the burial of the unidentified body an exhaustive search was carried out involving Interpol and the Missing Persons Bureau at Garda Headquarters in an effort to identify the remains.

Human Rights Issues.

Joe Costello

Question:

112 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action the Government will take as a result of the recent ruling of the High Court that the State is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights because of its refusal to issue a person (details supplied) with a new birth certificate to reflect the gender change they had undergone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27363/07]

I understand the effect of the judgment of the High Court in this case is that the system of registration of births, as it relates to those with gender dysphoria, is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The system of registration of births and the legislation governing that system do not come within the functional responsibility of my Department. This is a matter for the Department of Health and Children.

Garda Deployment.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

113 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the staffing levels allocated to the divisional drug units throughout the country as at May 1996 and May 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27393/07]

In respect of the figures sought by the Deputy for 1996, I am advised by the Garda authorities that the retrieval and compilation of the relevant information for 1996 would necessitate a disproportionate use of time and resources. However, the total personnel strength of each of the 25 Operational Divisional Drug Units as at 31 December 1998 (the nearest date for which figures are readily available) and as at the 31 December 2006 (the latest date for which figures are readily available) was as set out hereunder.

Division

1998

2006

Carlow/Kildare

6

9

Cavan/Monaghan

7

10

Clare

3

4

Cork City

20

20

Cork North

0

6

Cork West

0

5

D.M.R. East

21

17

D.M.R. N.C.

17

16

D.M.R. North

18

22

D.M.R. S.C.

15

22

D.M.R. South

15

21

D.M.R. West

24

28

Donegal

0

9

Galway West

4

7

Kerry

4

7

Laois/Offaly

7

7

Limerick

6

10

Longford/Westmeath

0

6

Louth/Meath

7

20

Mayo

0

0

Roscommon/Galway East

0

2

Sligo/Leitrim

5

8

Tipperary

0

7

Waterford/Kilkenny

4

10

Wicklow/Wexford

5

13

All Gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to deal with drug related issues as and when they arise. The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day the overall strength of the organisation may fluctuate due, for example, to retirements, resignations etc.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the force taking everything into account. The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of the Divisional Drug Units will be fully considered by him within the overall context of the needs of Garda Divisions throughout the country.

Garda Investigations.

Mary Upton

Question:

114 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to the Garda investigation into the murder of a person (details supplied) in Finglas on 22 October 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27368/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the investigation into the murder referred to is ongoing. A dedicated investigation team is being assisted by specialist units from Garda National Support Services, including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

I am further informed that Garda management is satisfied that sufficient resources are allocated to the investigation. As this is an ongoing Garda investigation it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Garda Management.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

115 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the Final Report of the Advisory Group on Garda Management and Leadership Development; his further views on the recommendations of the report, including the proposal of a greater civilian role in the running of the force; if a timetable has been set for the implementation of the recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27370/07]

The interim and final reports of the Advisory Group on Garda Management and Leadership Development contain many excellent recommendations on how management of the force can be further improved. Significant progress has been made on the issues raised in the reports.

The civilianisation of middle and senior positions in the Garda Síochána has commenced. Currently, there is a Chief Administrative Officer, Director of Finance, Head of Internal Audit, HR Manager, Housing Officer, Transport Manager and a civilian of Principal Officer grade in the Information Technology section. A civilian Director of Communications has recently taken up her post. Recruitment for the following positions will start shortly: — Director of Information and Communications Technology, Director of Change Management, Head of Legal Affairs and Executive Director of Human Resources. This will be in addition to the recruitment of a number of civilian crime analysts.

The number of full time and part time civilian staff assigned to the Garda Síochána as at the 2nd November 2007 was 2,267. Approximately 284 Clerical Officers have been recruited and assigned positions within An Garda Síochána since 1 January 2007. These have been allocated to the Dublin Metropolitan Region, Garda Headquarters and Specialised Units.

A campaign to recruit a further 300 civilians which will release trained members of the Force for front-line duty is well under way and interviews are currently being held by the Public Appointments Service to recruit these Clerical Officers. These persons will be allocated to Divisions outside the Dublin Metropolitan Region.

A dedicated Human Resource Directorate has been established in the Garda Síochána to serve the needs of the civilian, administrative, professional, technical and industrial staff in the Garda Síochána and to promote an extensive programme of civilianisation.

I am assured by the Commissioner that the Garda Síochána is committed to developing the civilian support function within the Garda Síochána to the level of best international practice and that he will continue to work to drive the civilianisation programme forward. I will fully support the Garda Commissioner in the continued implementation of organisational reform which is supported by the analysis and recommendations of the Hayes Group.

Sexual Offences.

Alan Shatter

Question:

116 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action taken to date to implement the recommendation made in November 2006 by the Report of the Joint Committee on Child Protection that a system for computerised storage and dissemination of information received in accordance with the Sex Offenders Act 2001 be developed and established; and the Government’s timeframe for implementing this recommendation. [25967/07]

The Garda Síochána has in place a system for the monitoring of persons subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001. The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit monitor and manage the notification provisions. The information on persons who are subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001 is maintained at a central location. Only specified nominated Garda personnel have access to this information. I am advised by the Garda authorities that they are currently assessing requirement regarding access to this information by other units within the Force.

There are nominated Garda Inspectors in each Garda Division who are notified by the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit when a sex offender, who is subject to the requirements of the Act, is resident in their Division. These inspectors are responsible for the monitoring of such offenders.

Records relating to persons subject to the provisions of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001 are recorded on a database kept by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. This system has previously been upgraded. The Garda authorities are currently carrying out work to integrate the system for recording persons subject to the requirements of the Act into the PULSE system. This work is scheduled for completion in 2008.

Garda Equipment.

Phil Hogan

Question:

117 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations which are awaiting the installation of the PULSE computer system; the cost to date of the system; and if he has confidence in the system. [25968/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Pulse is now available in 338 locations. There are currently no plans to extend the system to further locations. In this regard, cognisance is taken of the successful operation of the Garda Information Services Centre at Castlebar, Co. Mayo, which currently processes over 9,000 calls per week and obviates the need for Gardaí to return to their stations to report incidents thereby freeing up more Gardaí for operational duties. Any decision by the Garda authorities to extend the system beyond the current number will be based on operational needs.

The Garda authorities advise that PULSE is operating very satisfactorily. Significant investment was made last year to improve the availability and response times of the system. The functionality of the system is continually being enhanced to accommodate new business requirements, new policies and legislative changes. The initial development cost of the PULSE project was €61.3 million and covers the period up to the final release of the system which was rolled out in 2001. In addition, the average annual maintenance and upgrade costs from 2001 to the end of 2006 amounts to €12.88 million.

By way of background, the annual maintenance figures include replacement of the PULSE hardware and major upgrades to the Pulse software as part of the Garda PULSE stabilisation programme which was completed last year. In addition, a range of upgrades and modifications have been carried out to the system to support changes arising from new legislation, additional functionality etc. It also includes costs associated with the extension of the PULSE system to new locations and to the set-up of the new Garda Information Services Centre in Castlebar and the new Vetting Unit in Thurles. The figure also includes a figure in the order of €14.28m for various software licences. The full licence cost is included for completeness although the costs relate to software licences which are also used for other Garda systems such as the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Fixed Charge Processing systems.

Following the amalgamation of PULSE, the Garda National Immigration System and the Fixed Charge Processing System into a single Garda Information System (GIS) at the end of 2006, it is not possible to provide details of costs specific to PULSE from that time.

Garda Reserve.

Liz McManus

Question:

118 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda reserve recruited to date; the stations to which they have been allocated; the number of applicants for the reserve in training; when he expects the full complement of 1,500 will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27377/07]

The total personnel strength of the Garda Reserve including trainees as at the 2nd November 2007 was 247. A total of 171 members are fully attested.

The 171 attested members are attached to the following stations:

DMR (Dublin Metropolitan Region) Stations:

DMR South Central Division — Pearse St, Kevin Street and Donnybrook.

DMR North Central Division — Store St, Bridewell and Fitzgibbon Street.

DMR West Division — Clondalkin, Finglas, Lucan and Blanchardstown.

DMR North Division — Santry, Raheny, Swords, Clontarf, Coolock and Balbriggan.

DMR South Division — Crumlin, Sundrive Road, Rathmines and Terenure.

DMR East Division — Bray, Dun Laoghaire and Blackrock.

Stations outside DMR:

Anglesea Street, Cork

Midleton.

Sligo,

Galway,

Henry Street, Limerick

Ennis, Clare

Tralee, Kerry

Waterford.

Kilkenny.

Wexford.

Gorey.

Newbridge.

Baltinglass.

Clonmel.

Cahir.

Cavan town.

Monaghan town.

Drogheda.

Castlebar.

Garda Reserve members undertake their training and other duties on a voluntary basis during their free time. As a result it is not possible to predict how many people will commence training in any particular month. I cannot predict exactly when the full complement of Garda Reserve members will be reached but I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána are making every effort to reach it as soon as possible.

Departmental Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

119 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the different types of applications processed by his Department; the average waiting time to process each application; the steps he is taking to speed up the processing time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25965/07]

As the Deputy will appreciate, the applications that my Department receives are diverse in nature and the processing time frames vary considerably according to the nature and circumstances of the scheme in question. In all instances, however, processing arrangements are kept under ongoing review and steps are taken to reduce waiting times where this is feasible having regard to available resources and overall priorities. Significant changes are under way, for example, in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, which is developing a new Information Technology System which will considerably improve application times in this area.The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tabular statement:

Type of Application

Average Waiting Time to Process each application

Steps being taken to speed up processing time

Request made under the Data Protection Acts, 1988 and 2003

Dealt with within the statutory time frames

N/A

Freedom of Information Act

Dealt with within the statutory time frames

N/A

Application by prisoners to serve their sentences in their own jurisdiction under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts 1995-1997

Applications take approximately 15 months to process

Ongoing liaison with the various parties involved in the process

Applications received by the Central Authority for Maintenance Recovery for the recovery abroad of maintenance under the UN Convention

1-2 working days

N/A

Applications received by the Central Authority for Child Abduction under the Hague and Luxembourg Conventions and the Brussels II bis Regulation

1-2 working days

N/A

Applications from non-resident bookmakers for new Certificates of Personal Fitness

14 weeks

The waiting times and procedures are kept under regular review

Applications from non-resident bookmakers for renewals of Certificates of Personal Fitness

5-6 weeks

The waiting times and procedures are kept under regular review

Applications made under the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 and 1945 / High Court applications

Information on an average waiting time is not readily available. It would be difficult to calculate a meaningful average, given the variations in the processing of each case

Legislative proposals are currently being developed for reform of the system

Applications for payment of fees and costs under the Criminal Legal Aid Schemes

3-4 weeks — calculated on the basis of receipt in the Department of properly completed and certified applications

Procedures are being kept under review

Application to import firearms & ammunition in accordance with Section 17 of the Firearms Act 1925

5 to 10 working days

Processing time is satisfactory

Application for Prior Consent to transfer of firearms & ammunition in accordance with section 6(1) of S.I. 362 of 1993 (European Communities, Acquisition and Possession of Weapons and Ammunition Regulations, 1993)

5 to 10 working days

Processing time is satisfactory

Application to register as a firearms dealer in accordance with Section 9 of the Firearms Act 1925

Depends on the ability of the applicant to meet certain statutory requirements

N/A

Application for Export Licence for firearms and ammunition in accordance with section 6(1) of S.I. 362 of 1993 (European Communities, Acquisition and Possession of Weapons and Ammunition Regulations, 1993)

5 to 10 working days

Processing time is satisfactory

Applications to import Explosives as set out in Article 9 of Directive 93/15/EEC

3-4 weeks

There are many factors involved in processing applications relating to explosives. This process can vary in complexity and require considerable supporting documentation. Consultation and input from other statutory regulators and bodies may be required and public hearings and assent processes may also be necessary. Safety and security issues are also of course paramount in this regard. It is therefore not possible to give an average processing time in all instances as this depends on the aforementioned factors, many of which are outside the control of this Department

Applications to import Explosives not subject to S.I. 115 of 1995 (European communities Placing on the Market and Supervision of Explosives for Civil Uses)

3-4 weeks

Applications for a licence to import fireworks in accordance with the Explosives Act 1875

3-4 weeks

Applications for a licence to manufacture an Ammonium Nitrate Mixture as specified in the Ammonium Nitrate Mixtures Exemption Order, 1997

See note in right hand column

Applications for an explosives magazine or factory licence in accordance with Section 6 of the Explosives Act 1875

See note in right hand column

Applications for a certificate of naturalisation

The average processing time for a standard adult application is currently 30 months. Applications from refugees / stateless persons / minors, etc are processed more quickly as these applications are normally less complicated

All the procedures involved in processing such applications have been developed and refined over a number of years. These procedures are necessary to maintain the integrity of the naturalisation process. Consequently, having regard to the resources available, which are kept under constant review, there is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved. I have instructed my officials to undertake a review of the various processes in order for these to be streamlined further where possible

Renewal of temporary leave to remain in the State under Irish Born Child/05 scheme

3-4 Weeks

A dedicated unit was established in order to process renewal applications

Applications for temporary leave to remain in the State under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended

Each application is decided on its own merits. The huge number of applications and the complexity of the issues to be considered preclude the stating of a time frame for completion of applications

Development of a new IT system. A common system throughout the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service will increase productivity and assist decision making. Additional staff have been assigned to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service

Renewal of temporary leave to remain in the State under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended

1-3 Months

Additional staff have been assigned to the area. Development of a new IT system

Applications for revocation of Deportation Orders under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended

1-2 weeks

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved

Applications for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations

Each application is decided on its own merits. The huge number of applications and the complexity of the issues to be considered preclude the stating of a time frame for completion of applications

Additional staff have been assigned to the area Training has been provided for staff in-house and by the UNHCR in Dublin Development of a new IT system

Applications in accordance with Section 4(2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations for admittance into the Subsidiary Protection process

4-6 weeks

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved

Applications for readmittance to the asylum process under Section 17(7) of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended

4 weeks

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved

Visas

At present 4-6 weeks for applications referred to Dublin for consideration. Applications are also processed in the overseas Visa Offices in London, Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi, Cairo and Abuja. On average, the waiting time for such applications would be two weeks

Visa processing times have reduced significantly in recent years, due to the deployment of additional resources to visa processing and the establishment of the overseas Visa Offices. A computerised visa tracking system (AVATS) is being rolled out at present which will further improve the efficiency of visa applications processing and will include an on-line application facility

Re-entry visas

Applications for re-entry visas can be processed while the applicant waits at the Public Office of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. Applications by post are processed, on average, within four working days

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved

EU Treaty Rights — Applications for residence by non-EEA family members of EU or EEA citizens. EU Directive 2004/38/EC and SI 656/2006 refers.

6 months (EU law requires that applications be processed within 6 months)

Additional staff are being assigned to the area

Married to Irish National — applications from non EEA national spouses of Irish nationals for residence in the State on the sole basis of their marriage.

9-12 months to process from receipt at Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service

The time scale is necessary to investigate the bona fides of the marriage. The time scale was recently upheld in the High Court

Business Permission — Applications from non EEA nationals for permission to reside in the State for the purposes of establishing and operating a commercial business.

6-8 months to process from receipt at Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service

Time scale is appropriate to the decision and process involved

Travel Documents — 1951 Convention Travel Document — issued to persons granted a declaration of Refugee status in the State under s17(1) Refugee Act 1996 and Programme Refugees. Temporary Travel Document — may issue in specific emergency circumstances

6-8 months to process from receipt at Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service

Foreign Adoption — Immigration Clearance letter issued in respect of approved (by the Irish Adoption Board) Foreign Adoption

Processed within 15 working days of receipt at Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.

Irish Born Child pre 2003 — Family Dependents — Applications made by non EEA nationals granted residence under pre 2003 conditions for residence in the State for specified minor family dependents.

4-6 months to process from receipt at Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service

Change of Status: Non EEA national granted a particular permission to remain in the State and seeking an alternative residency status in the State

18 months

Development of a new Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service IT system

Non EEA national in relationship with Irish/non EEA national and seeking permission to remain in the State on that basis

18 months

Non EEA national previously granted permission to study seeking extension of Student Conditions

18 months

Non EEA national previously granted permission to remain in the State as a visitor seeking extension of those conditions

18 months

Non EEA national previously granted permission to remain in the State on work permit conditions seeking extension of those conditions

18 months

Persons admitted to the State for various reasons and subsequently seeking permission to remain for medical treatment

18 months

Persons admitted to the State for various reasons and subsequently seeking permission to remain as a Temporary Registered Doctor

18 months

Turkish nationals seeking permission to remain in the State pursuant to the Turkish Association Agreement

18 months

Non EEA nationals who have completed 60 months legal residency in the State on work permit/work visa/work authorisation conditions and now seeking permission to remain under the administrative Long Term Residency scheme

15 months

Persons granted refugee status in the State seeking Family Re-unification for other family members

24 months

Disability Support Service.

David Stanton

Question:

120 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the role of his Department in relation to the National Disability Strategy Stakeholder Monitoring Group and its role in the overall implementation of the National Disability Strategy; the way in which the monitoring group is monitoring the roll out of services contained in the six sectoral plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27536/07]

The National Disability Strategy was launched by Government in September 2004 and underpins the participation of people with disabilities in Irish society by building on existing policy and legislation. The implementation of the Strategy is the agreed focus of disability policy under the Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016.

My Department is responsible for the provision of important aspects of the framework for the implementation of the Strategy including cross-Departmental co-ordination and reports to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion on progress of the Strategy. My Department also has particular responsibility for the implementation of key provisions of the Disability Act 2005. Minister of State Dr. Jimmy Devins, TD has specialresponsibility for disability including mental health.

Under the terms of Towards 2016, the National Disability Strategy Stakeholder Monitoring Group was established in December 2006 to monitor progress on the overall implementation of the National Disability Strategy. The Group comprises representatives of stakeholder groups, senior officials and the National Disability Authority while my Department also serves as Secretariat to the Group. The Group has received two reports on the National Disability Strategy by senior officials of the Government Departments concerned and a further progress report is due to be submitted to the Group at the end of 2007.

A key element of the National Disability Strategy is the Sectoral Plans for service provision for people with disabilities provided for in the Disability Act 2005. Under the Act, six Government Departments prepared plans in key sectors including transport, built infrastructure, housing, training and employment, health and social welfare provision. My Department was responsible for the co-ordination of the production and presentation of the plans to the Oireachtas and for the publishing of the plans in December 2006. The Departments have provided targets and costings for the implementation of the Sectoral Plans and have established separate fora with stakeholder representatives to monitor progress on the implementation of the plans.

Proposed Legislation.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

121 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is intended to proceed with the Privacy Bill 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27388/07]

The Privacy Bill 2006 was restored by the Leader of the Seanad to the Seanad Order Paper on 26 September, 2007. It awaits to be dealt with as in the case of other Bills that come within my area of responsibility.

Civilianisation Programme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

122 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for further civilianisation of the Gardaí in order to free trained members for front line duty; his views on the view expressed in the Final Report of the Advisory Group on Garda Management and Leadership Development that progress in regard to civilianisation has been risible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27371/07]

I fully support the Garda Commissioner in the continued implementation of the civilianisation programme proposed for An Garda Síochána and am happy to say that significant progress has been made to date in the recruitment of civilian staff by the Garda Commissioner.

The number of full time and part time civilian staff assigned to the Garda Síochána as at the 2nd November 2007 was 2,267. Approximately 284 Clerical Officers have been recruited and assigned positions within An Garda Síochána since the 1 January 2007. These have been allocated to the Dublin Metropolitan Region, Garda Headquarters and Specialised Units.

A campaign to recruit a further 300 civilians which will release trained members of the Force for front-line duty is well underway and interviews are currently being held by the Public Appointments Service to recruit these Clerical Officers. These persons will be allocated to Divisions outside the Dublin Metropolitan Region.

The civilianisation of middle and senior positions in the Garda Síochána has commenced. Currently, there is a Chief Administrative Officer, Director of Finance, Head of Internal Audit, HR Manager, Housing Officer, Transport Manager and a civilian of Principal Officer grade in the Information Technology section. A civilian Director of Communications has recently taken up her post. Recruitment for the following positions will start shortly: — Director of Information and Communications Technology, Director of Change Management, Head of Legal Affairs and Executive Director of Human Resources. This will be in addition to the recruitment of a number of civilian crime analysts.

A dedicated Human Resource Directorate has been established in the Garda Síochána to serve the needs of the civilian, administrative, professional, technical and industrial staff in the Garda Síochána and to promote an extensive programme of civilianisation.

I am assured by the Commissioner that the Garda Síochána is committed to developing the civilian support function within the Garda Síochána to the level of best international practice and that he will continue to work to drive the civilianisation programme forward. I will fully support the Garda Commissioner in the continued implementation of organisational reform which is supported by the analysis and recommendations of the Hayes Group.

Missing Persons.

John Perry

Question:

123 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the setting up of a dedicated missing persons unit under the aegis of An Garda Síochána having regard to the large number of unresolved missing persons cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27336/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management take direct responsibility for missing person cases, and special investigation teams are appointed as necessary. All missing persons are recorded on the PULSE system. When a person is reported missing, the local Garda Superintendent will appoint an investigation team to include any specialised unit deemed necessary, such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation or the Technical Bureau. Missing Persons Bureau staff have undergone training on search management in line with best international practice in order to provide support to local Garda management.

An Garda Síochána interacts fully and as appropriate with media outlets — print, radio and TV — in highlighting cases involving missing persons. The services of other external agencies such as Interpol and Europol are also available to assist in the investigation. In addition, every Garda District has a specially trained search team that is familiar with the locality. The investigation of missing persons is a dedicated subject on the curriculum at the Garda College, Templemore, and is also a subject covered in in-service training.

The Garda authorities are continuously monitoring international developments in relation to investigations of missing persons in order to ensure that best practice is followed. If their professional judgement is that some change in the existing legislation, protocols or structures would be of assistance in improving investigations, this would be considered. Garda management have assured me that they are satisfied that adequate resources are in place to deal with reported cases of missing persons.

I should mention also that the Programme for Government envisages the Garda Inspectorate assessing the needs in this area.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 100.
Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 51.

Witness Intimidation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he proposes to take of a legislative or administrative nature to address the issue of witness intimidation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27509/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

259 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take to prevent the intimidation of witnesses; if the setting up of special criminal courts is an option; if other options are being considered; if he will take action in this regard in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27785/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 259 together.

The intimidation of witnesses is already an offence pursuant to Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999. Section 41 specifies the offence as harming, threatening or menacing or in any other way intimidating or putting in fear another person who is assisting in the investigation of an offence by the Garda Síochána, with the intention of causing the investigation or course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with. The offence applies to the intimidation of witnesses, jurors or potential jurors or any member of the said person's family. The offence is punishable upon indictment by a fine or a term of imprisonment of up to ten years.

In addition, since 1997, the Garda Síochána has operated a Witness Security Programme in response to attempts by criminal and other groups to prevent the normal functioning of the criminal justice system, including threats of violence and systematic intimidation of witnesses. Although legislation was not required to establish this Programme, its operation is supported by complementary legislative provisions in Section 40 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999. Section 40 makes it an offence for any person, without lawful authority, to try to identify the whereabouts or any new identity of a witness who has been relocated under the Programme. The offence is punishable upon indictment by a fine or a term of imprisonment of up to five years.

The Garda Síochána rigorously enforces these statutory provisions.

With respect to the Special Criminal Court (SCC), provision already exists for the forwarding for trial in the SCC of persons accused of both scheduled and non-scheduled offences. In the case of scheduled offences which are also indictable offences, such persons shall be returned for trial to the SCC unless the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) otherwise directs. In the case of non-scheduled offences, such persons shall be returned for trial to the SCC upon direction of the DPP. The conviction of many serious organised criminals has already been successfully secured in the SCC. Issues relating to the operation of the Court in such circumstances are, of course, kept under review.

Court Procedures.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

127 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on reports over summer 2007 that thousands of defective summons were in circulation due to problems with the PULSE system following changes to the legislation governing the District Court rules necessitating Gardaí to track down court summons and re-write them by hand. [27396/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there have been no problems with the PULSE system following changes to legislation governing District Court Rules as indicated by the Deputy.

A minor amendment was made to the legislation governing the Rules on 1st August, 2007 by the substitution of summons Form 15.2 Schedule B with a new Form 15.2 (Statutory Instrument No. 418 of 2007 refers).

The Garda authorities advise that the substituted Form has had no operational impact on the organisation and has not necessitated Gardaí tracking down court summons and re-writing them by hand.

Proposed Legislation.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

128 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends introducing legislation to strengthen the law in relation to the rights of the person to defend their homes against trespass and attack. [27347/07]

The Law Reform Commission published a Consultation Paper on Legitimate Defence in November, 2006 which addressed the law relating to the criminal defence of legitimate defence in the context of homicide. The Consultation Paper included provisional recommendations in relation to the issue of householders rights to defend themselves and their property. The Law Reform Commission Paper forms the basis for discussion and further consideration of the issues and consultation with interested parties. On completion of this process the Law Reform Commission will publish a final report containing its final recommendations and I understand that it is expected that this report will be published in the first half of 2008.

The Government's Autumn Legislative Programme includes a proposed Criminal Law (Defence of Life and Property) Bill and as the Deputy is no doubt aware the previous Government approved the drafting of a Bill on this topic in March, 2007. In view of the fact that this issue is currently being examined by the Law Reform Commission, it is my intention to await its publication before undertaking a comprehensive assessment to see what, if any, of its recommendations should be taken on board, before proceeding with the legislation.

Garda Promotions.

Jack Wall

Question:

129 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the concerns raised by the Commission for Public Service Appointments in respect of the methods used in the promotion of Gardaí and the concerns of the AGSI in the same regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27391/07]

I have requested the views of the Garda Commissioner on the issue raised by the Deputy and I will write to the Deputy shortly.

Garda Deployment.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

130 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí assigned to community policing; if this represents less than 4% of the overall strength of the force; if he has plans to increase the number of community Gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27379/07]

I refer to my reply to Question 490 of 31 October 2007. The information requested by the Deputy is contained therein.

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 64.
Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 59.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

133 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27616/07]

The amount spent by my Department on Travel and Subsistence in the first nine months of 2007 is €442,220 compared to total spend of €541,393 for same period in 2006. This shows a reduction of total expenditure in this Subhead of €99,173 in 2007 compared to 2006 for the months January to September.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

134 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27611/07]

In the nine months ended 2007, my Department spent some €665,000 on Travel & Subsistence of which €374,000 was in respect of EU and international travel. This compares with €633,000 spent during the same period in 2006 of which €378,000 was in respect of EU and international travel. The increase arises in the Home Travel category, which is mainly due to increased audits carried out by European Regional Development Fund Unit (ERDF), audits carried out by the newly established Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit (CEEU) and increases in the rates of T&S in the region of 3.8%.

Tourism Promotion.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

135 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of the mid Shannon corridor tourism infrastructure investment scheme. [27647/07]

The Mid-Shannon Corridor Tourism Infrastructure Investment Scheme was introduced in the Finance Act 2007. It is a new pilot tax based scheme for tourism facilities in the mid-Shannon area. The scheme is aimed at encouraging the development of new tourism infrastructure, or the refurbishment of existing tourism infrastructure, in that area.

The scheme will be commenced by way of Ministerial order as soon as the scheme's guidelines have been drawn up and agreed and the scheme has been approved by the European Commission.

The development of the guidelines has been the subject of ongoing consultations between the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism and my Department. These guidelines and accompanying application forms are now at an advanced stage and will be completed very shortly.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

136 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will investigate from the Office of Public Works when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo within a certain position in the OPW will be paid the extra money; the reason this person is not getting paid currently; and the reason this matter has not been resolved to date within the OPW. [27675/07]

The person in question sought payment of an allowance in respect of a three week period in August 2006, during which time his trade union claimed that he had acted up from the position of a drainage machine driver to that of ganger. In response the Office of Public Works reminded the trade unions that grades of machine driver and ganger had been amalgamated with effect from the 1st of June 2005, in accordance with national agreements made under the Parallel Benchmarking Process for the State Industrial Sector. In the circumstances no extra payments are due in this case.

Tax Yield.

Richard Bruton

Question:

137 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the predicted level of total voted current expenditure and total tax revenue on a monthly basis for each of the past five years; the actual level and the deviation between the two; and the same data for each month to date in 2007. [27696/07]

Since 2003 expenditure profiles are published annually on the Department of Finance website. The actual amount of expenditure issued is published as part of the end month exchequer material. Set out below are tables for each year that compare the published profile of net voted current expenditure with the actual amounts issued from the Exchequer on a monthly basis since 2003. Prior to 2003, my Department did not publish expenditure profiles, therefore, the tables below include an unpublished net voted current expenditure profile for 2002. The disparities between the two columns reflect, inter alia, adjustments to the Estimates of expenditure (as originally profiled in January of each year) in the context of the Revised Estimates, which are published in February or March, and Supplementary Estimates that may be passed by the Dáil in the course of the year.

2002 Net Voted Current Expenditute (€ million)

Month

Issues

Profile

Difference

%

January

1,735

1,967

-11.8

February

1,797

1,796

0.1

March

1,842

1,828

0.8

April

1,972

1,946

1.3

May

2,239

2,085

7.4

June

1,687

1,856

-9.1

July

1,951

1,900

2.7

August

1,859

1,932

-3.8

September

2,064

1,722

19.9

October

2,055

2,215

-7.2

November

2,035

1,898

7.2

December

2,140

2,084

2.7

Total

23,376

23,229

0.6

2003 Net Voted Current Expenditute (€ million)

Month

Issues

Profile

Difference

%

January

2,440

2,440

0.0

February

1,762

2,006

-12.2

March

1,929

1,962

-1.7

April

2,029

2,049

-1.0

May

2,102

2,147

-2.1

June

2,069

2,465

-16.1

July

2,164

2,133

1.4

August

1,903

1,943

-2.1

September

2,091

2,003

4.4

October

2,475

2,505

-1.2

November

1,961

1,881

4.3

December

2,562

1,809

41.6

Total

25,487

25,345

0.6

2004 Net Voted Current Expenditute (€ million)

Month

Issues

Profile

Difference

%

January

2,337

2,361

-1.0

February

1,982

2,130

-7.0

March

2.086

2,088

-0.1

April

2,378

2,435

-2.3

May

2,127

2,122

0.2

June

2,257

2,191

3.0

July

2,505

2,438

2.8

August

1,897

2,048

-7.4

September

2,548

2,636

-3.3

October

2,310

2,442

-5.4

November

2,184

2,144

1.9

December

2,619

2,415

8.5

Total

27,230

27,450

-0.8

2005 Net Voted Current Expenditute (€ million)

Month

Issues

Profile

Difference

%

January

2,823

2,854

-1.1

February

2,191

2,346

-6.6

March

2.208

2,228

-0.9

April

2,584

2,622

-1.4

May

2,132

2,216

-3.8

June

2,371

2,508

-5.5

July

2,702

2,654

1.8

August

2,152

2,166

-0.6

September

2,907

2,949

-1.4

October

2,393

2,403

-0.4

November

2,310

2,352

-1.7

December

2,920

2,705

7.9

Total

29,693

30,002

-1.0

2006 Net Voted Current Expenditute (€ million)

Month

Issues

Profile

Difference

%

January

2,732

2,736

-0.1

February

2,345

2,521

-7.0

March

2.754

2,534

8.7

April

2,583

2,807

-8.0

May

2,386

2,565

-7.0

June

2,770

2,815

-1.6

July

2,841

3,040

-6.5

August

2,734

2,623

4.2

September

3,089

3,295

-6.2

October

2,797

2,606

7.3

November

2,688

2,818

-4.6

December

3,268

3,147

-3.9

Total

32,986

33,508

-1.6

2007 Net Voted Current Expenditute (€ million)

Month

Issues

Profile

Difference

%

January

3,260

3,234

0.8

February

2,635

2,703

-2.5

March

3,114

3,021

3.1

April

3,242

3,188

1.7

May

2,893

3,037

-4.8

June

2,990

2,909

2.8

July

3,252

3,233

0.6

August

3,002

2,953

1.6

September

3,409

3,452

-1.2

October

3,056

2,065

-0.3

Total to Oct

30,854

30,795

0.2

Since 2003 my Department has published tax profiles. Also on a monthly basis the actual amount of tax Revenue received is published in the end-month Exchequer statement.

In considering the Tax Revenue information it is important to note that tax profiles prior to 2004 are only available on a Revenue net receipts basis. Net receipts figures differ from Exchequer receipts due to timing and cash flow issues. To aid comparability, the 2002 and 2003 profile figures have been adjusted downwards by the amount of the receipts from certain excise duties on tobacco products collected by the Revenue Commissioners and paid by way of Appropriations-in-Aid to the Vote for Health and Children (€168 million) as this is the major numerical difference between Exchequer and Net Receipts figures. 2002 and 2003 profiles also exclude other small Levies.

From 2004 onwards all tax figures are on an Exchequer basis which does not include the Tobacco Levy.

Unpublished Revenue Net Receipts Profile

Outturn (Exchequer)

2002

€m

€m

±€m

±%

Jan-02

2,542

2,544.8

2.8

0.1

Feb-02

1,774

1,605.1

-168.9

-9.5

Mar-02

2.186

2,067.0

-119.0

-5.4

Apr-02

1,633

1,798.4

-165.4

10.1

May-02

2,997

2,941.9

-55.1

-1.8

Jun-02

2,442

2,368.5

-73.5

-3.0

Jul-02

4,088

3,742.9

-345.1

-8.4

Aug-02

1,668

1,454.6

-213.4

-12.8

Sep-02

2,576

2,465.6

-110.4

-4.3

Oct-02

2,103

2,111.8

8.8

0.4

Nov-02

3,882

4,083.0

201.0

5.2

Dec-02

2,427

2,110.4

-316.6

-13.0

Total

30,318

29.294.1

-1,023.9

-3.4

Published Net Receipts Profile minus Tobacco Levy

Outturn (Exchequer)

2003

€m

€m

±€m

±%

Jan-03

2,616

2,807.6

191.6

7.3

Feb-03

1,940

1,606.0

-334.0

-17.2

Mar-03

2.421

2,542.1

121.1

5.0

Apr-03

1,614

1,506.4

-107.6

-6.7

May-03

3,073

3,069.6

-33.4

-1.1

Jun-03

3,285

3,051.8

-233.3

-7.1

Jul-03

2,753

2,889.5

136.5

5.0

Aug-03

1,669

1,650.0

-19.0

-1.1

Sep-03

2,769

2,791.1

22.1

0.8

Oct-03

2,290

2,346.9

56.9

2.5

Nov-03

4,965

5,564.3

599.3

12.1

Dec-03

2,245

2,307.8

62.8

2.8

Total

31,640

32,102.9

462.9

1.5

Published Exchequer Tax Profile

Outturn (Exchequer)

2004

€m

€m

±€m

±%

Jan-04

3,097

3,167.4

70.6

2.3

Feb-04

1,950

2.186.3

236.1

12.1

Mar-04

2.648

2,657.8

10.0

0.4

Apr-04

1,666

1,864.2

197.8

11.9

May-04

3,258

3,375.7

118.0

3.6

Jun-04

2,883

3,300.0

416.5

14.4

Jul-04

2,863

3,032.6

169.6

5.9

Aug-04

1,658

1,878.4

220.8

13.3

Sep-04

2,937

3,135.3

198.4

6.8

Oct-04

2,361

2,498.2

137.0

5.8

Nov-04

5,879

6,216

337.0

5.7

Dec-04

2,200

2,269

69.1

3.1

Total

33,400

35,580.8

2,180.8

6.5

Published Exchequrer Tax Profile

Outturn (Exchequer)

2005

€m

€m

±€m

±%

Jan-05

3,387

3,467.7

80.2

2.4

Feb-05

2,628

2,654.2

25.8

1.0

Mar-05

2,787

2,902.2

115.0

4.1

Apr-05

1,923

1,990.4

67.1

3.5

May-05

3,576

3,527.3

-48.9

-1.4

Jun-05

2,616

2,696.9

80.4

3.1

Jul-05

3,173

3,574.6

401.9

12.7

Aug-05

1,983

2,115.8

133.2

6.7

Sep-05

3,365

3,510.7

145.5

4.3

Oct-05

2,742

2,982.2

240.0

8.8

Nov-05

6,975

7,456.8

481.8

6.9

Dec-05

2,348

2,375.3

27.0

1.1

Total

37,505

39,254.0

1,749.0

4.7

Published Exchequrer Tax Profile

Outturn (Exchequer)

2006

€m

€m

±€m

±%

Jan-06

4,230

4,229.5

-0.2

0.0

Feb-06

3,003

3,080.1

77.0

2.6

Mar-06

3,081

3,439.4

358.8

11.6

Apr-06

2,070

2,052.7

-17.4

-0.8

May-06

3,706

4,166.2

460.2

12.4

Jun-06

2,517

2,619.2

101.9

4.0

Jul-06

3,466

3,807.8

341.6

9.9

Aug-06

2,234

2,450.4

216.1

9.7

Sep-06

3,544

3,813.3

269.4

7.6

Oct-06

3,232

3,426.7

194.8

6.0

Nov-06

8,268

10,010.9

1,742.9

21.1

Dec-06

2,299

2,442.8

143.9

6.3

Total

41,650

45,538.9

3,888.9

9.3

Published Exchequrer Tax Profile

Outturn (Exchequer)

2007

€m

€m

±€m

±%

Jan-07

4,690

4,745.5

55.4

1.2

Feb-07

3,365

3,500.3

135.1

4.0

Mar-07

3,763

3,600.1

162.4

-4.3

Apr-07

2,248

2,344.7

96.9

4.3

May-07

4,556

4,412.5

-143.7

-3.2

Jun-07

2,322

2,210.2

-111.7

-4.8

Jul-07

4,079

4,194.3

114.8

2.8

Aug-07

2,591

2,336.7

-254.5

-9.8

Sep-07

4,337

4,117.9

-219.6

-5.1

Oct-07

3,614

3,472.8

-141.0

-3.9

Total

35,565

34,935.0

-630.4

-1.8

Note: Rounding may affect totals.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

138 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a vehicle which has been purchased in the UK on which vehicle registration tax was paid at the time if purchase, would be eligible for a refund of VRT when it is traded in in the UK for a replacement vehicle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27704/07]

There is no mechanism at present allowing for a refund of VRT where a car is exported to the UK from the State; and I have no plans to introduce such a scheme at this time.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

139 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will ascertain from the Office of Public Works that works will be carried out to alleviate the flooding problem for persons (details supplied) in County Mayo; if preventative works will be carried out to ensure that the flooding does not reoccur in 2007; the discussions that have taken place in this regard; if funding has been provided; the works that will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27741/07]

Further to my response to the House on 26th September, 2007 in this matter, the OPW is continuing to engage with Mayo County Council engineering staff to establish a solution, which would be economically, socially and environmentally feasible to the flood risk problem in the region referred to.

It is not possible at this stage to put a timescale or a costing on such a scheme if a feasible scheme is identified. These issues will be addressed as soon as possible when staff resources, which are fully deployed dealing with other urgent flood risk management cases in the region are available.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

140 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the total public expenditure on disability specific services in 2006 was €3.3 billion as detailed in his speech (details supplied); if not, the total for 2006 with a breakdown of to whom this money was allocated and on what it was spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27803/07]

David Stanton

Question:

141 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the budget for the special disability multi-annual funding package from 2006 to 2009 remains at €900 million as announced in Budget 2005 with a breakdown of total public expenditure each year respectively to date in 2007 under this special package; the type of services and so on that this funding covers and the location to where it is allocated with a breakdown of total estimated and expected expenditure per annum for each of the remaining years of the package; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27804/07]

David Stanton

Question:

142 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the overall public expenditure on disability specific services each year respectively since 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27805/07]

David Stanton

Question:

143 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the expenditure on the multi-annual funding package is included in the figures for total public expenditure on disability specific services each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27806/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140 to 143, inclusive, together.

The overall allocation of Exchequer funding for the provision of disability specific services is provided for in the annual estimates.

The multi annual investment package for disability announced in Budget 2005 provided for expenditure of €135m in 2006, €198m in 2007, €253m in 2008 and €308m in 2009 mainly for health and education. Expenditure on Disability for 2006 of €3.3 billion mentioned in my speech and for previous years covers expenditure by the main Departments on programmes but does not include expenditure on income support by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and disability related expenditure by other Departments. Following the enactment of the Disability Act, 2005, and consultation with Departments in the matter, my Department has recently begun co-ordinating the collection of actual expenditure on Disability Services.

The provision for expenditure on the multi annual investment programme, for expenditure on disability specific services referred to in my speech and since 2004 and the existing level of service provision for 2008 together with the outturn for 2006, as reported by individual Departments to my Department, is as follows:

Disability Expenditure

Department

2004 Estimate

2005 Estimate

2006 Estimate

2006 Outturn

2007 Estimate

2008 Pre Budget Outlook

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Health & Children

1,958

2,183

2,420

2,385

2,577

2,743

Education & Science

469

568

703

925

823

878

Enterprise Trade & Employment

56

64

79

68

77

78

Environment

35

47

47

58

53

54

Justice

7

11

12

15

14

14

Transport

6

6

15

8

15

16

Foreign Affairs

2

2

0.3

2

2

Finance

1

1

5

14

18

18

Social and Family Affairs

1,903

2,567

2,749

Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

2

3

1

1

Cost to the Exchequer of the Disabled Drivers Scheme

53

56

62

68

75

83

Total (Including cost to the Exchequer of the Disabled Drivers Scheme)

2,585

2,938

3,347

5,447

6,222

6,636

* The provisional outturn for 2007 will be available at Budget time.

Information is still awaited from the Departments of Agriculture, Arts Sports and Tourism, Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Defence. This expenditure is relatively small. I have asked the Departments to provide this information directly to the Deputy.

As regards the issue of additional funding for Disability Specific Services in 2008, I will present Budget 2008 to the Dáil on 5 December 2007 and, as is normal, I will not comment on the contents of the Budget in advance of that date.

The development of policy, the provision of services for people with disability and expenditure on those services in each sector are primarily a matter for the Minister responsible for each sector. Under the Disability Act 2005, each Minister is responsible for allocating out of the moneys available to him or her the maximum amount as he/she considers appropriate for such services having regard to the other obligations which he or she must provide for.

In addition, the Departments of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Health and Children, Social and Family Affairs and Department of Transport are responsible for preparing Disability Sectorial Plans. The Departments covered have prepared Sectorial Plans on disability and these plans were presented to Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann on 17 and 18 October 2006 respectively. These plans cover vital areas of communications, work and training, health, transport, the accessibility of the environment, local government services and social welfare. They set out how services will be better and more accessible. A high level monitoring group representing Government Departments and people with disabilities is working together to make the plans become a reality.

Any queries in relation to the detail of the provision of and expenditure on disability specific services should therefore be referred to the relevant Ministers.

Civil Registration.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

144 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the sections and subsections of the Civil Registration Act 2004 that have yet to be commenced in full, and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27684/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

145 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the sections and subsections of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2005 that have yet to be commenced in full, and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27685/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 145 together.

The Civil Registration Act, 2004 allows for the graduated commencement of the various provisions.

Section 27 of the Act was commenced on 2nd March, 2004 and section 65 was commenced on 1st October 2004.

The Civil Registration Act 2004 (Commencement) Order 2005, with effect from 5th December 2005 commenced the following provisions: Section 4, and the Second Schedule, in so far as they apply to the enactments specified in the Schedule to the Order; Part 1 (other than section 4); Part 2 (other than paragraphs (c) and (e) of section 13 (1)); Part 3, in so far as it was not already in operation; Part 5; Part 8 (other than section 73), in so far as it is not already in operation; and Parts 1, 2 and 5 of the First Schedule.

The Civil Registration Act 2004 (Commencement) Order 2007, with effect from 5 November 2007, commenced the following provisions: Section 4 in so far as it relates to the repeal of the enactments specified in the Schedule to the Order; Section 13(1)(e); Part 6 (as amended by the Health Act 2007 (No. 23 of 2007)); and the Second Schedule in so far as it related to the repeal of the enactments mentioned in the Schedule to the Order.

The Parts and sections of the Act yet to be commenced are; Section 4 in so far as it relates to the repeal of enactments still required and in force; Sections 13(1) (c), 13(1) (f) and 13(1) (g); Part 4; Part 7; Section 73 of Part 8; and the Second Schedule in so far as it relates to enactments still in force, namely the Vital Statistics and Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Act, 1952, section 6 of the Adoption Act, 1952, and sections 6 & 7 of the Adoption Act, 1991.

In general, all sections of the Act, except those relating to adoptions and the registration of decrees of divorce and decrees of nullity have now been commenced. All sections of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2005 have been commenced in full.

Health Service Allowances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason domiciliary care allowance has not been approved in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare who have special educational needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27792/07]

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.

Suicide Prevention.

Finian McGrath

Question:

147 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will include funding for families of patients with eating disorders in their efforts against suicide. [27580/07]

Responsibility for the implementation of "Reach Out" the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, which was published in September 2005, rests with the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP). The Minister and the National Office are fully committed to the implementation of the strategy.

Significant additional funding of €3.05 million was provided in 2006 and 2007 which brings the total funding available to support suicide prevention initiatives in 2007 to €8 million. This funding is being used to develop and implement national training programmes, complete the availability of self-harm services through A&E departments, develop mental health awareness campaigns, implement recommendations arising from a review of bereavement services and support voluntary organisations working in the field of suicide prevention.

"A Vision for Change" was launched in January 2006 provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a 7 to 10 year period. It acknowledges gaps in the current provision of services for people with eating disorders and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services.

Recommendations include support for health promotion initiatives that encourage greater community and family awareness of eating disorders, the further development of primary and community care services and the provision of a full multidisciplinary team in a National Centre for Eating Disorders for complex cases that cannot be managed by local child and adolescent community mental health teams. Responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations rests with the HSE.

Mental Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

148 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will explore the proposal to send their therapists on eating disorder courses run by a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [27581/07]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

149 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed construction of the Tuam Health Campus; if the competitive dialogue process has concluded; if an ambulance base is still proposed for the campus; the position on the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27596/07]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

150 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if a portion of land owned by the Health Service Executive at St. Bridget’s Hospital, Ballinasloe, County Galway will be made available for the provision of accommodation for the elderly by way of a voluntary housing project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27599/07]

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

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

151 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent on travel and subsistence in her Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27613/07]

The amounts paid in respect of travel and subsistence by my Department for the period January to September for each of the years 2006 and 2007 were €0.6m and €0.649m respectively. The increase in the amount paid in 2007 over 2006 was due to increased rates of travel and subsistence and an increase in the number of travel claims processed in 2007 over the same period in 2006.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Timmy Dooley

Question:

152 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (detail supplied) will receive a refund under the Health Repayment Scheme. [27621/07]

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 Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

153 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist persons (details supplied). [27623/07]

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.

Cancer Treatment Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

154 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the additional costs involved in moving the diagnostics and follow up clinics for mammogram and colonoscopy patients from a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo. [27626/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

155 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if the decision to cease oncology surgery at a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo was reached in consultation with the surgeons involved or the Royal College of Surgeons; if not, if she will consult with the surgeons in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27627/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 155 together.

The implementation of the National Cancer Control Programme is a major priority for me and for this Government. I fully support the appointment by the Health Service Executive (HSE) of Prof. Tom Keane as Interim National Cancer Control Director. The delivery of cancer services on a programmatic basis will serve to ensure equity of access to services and equality of patient outcome irrespective of geography. The decisions of the HSE in relation to four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres will be implemented on a managed and phased basis. The HSE plans to have completed 50% of the transition of services to the cancer centres by end 2008 and 80-90% by end 2009.

The HSE has designated University College Hospital Galway and Limerick Regional Hospital as the two cancer centres in the Managed Cancer Control Network for the HSE Western Region, which includes Mayo. The designation of cancer centres aims to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care while at the same time allowing local access to services, where appropriate. Where diagnosis and treatment planning is directed and managed by multi-disciplinary teams based at the cancer centres, then much of the treatment (other than surgery) can be delivered in local hospitals, such as Mayo General Hospital.

The National Cancer Control Strategy was developed by the National Cancer Forum, a multidisciplinary group of experts which was chaired by a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). A HSE Advisory Group on the Cancer Control Programme, which included representation from the RCSI, advised on the hospitals to be designated as cancer centres.

The specific question raised by the Deputy regarding the costs involved in moving services from Mayo General Hospital relates to the management and delivery of health, personal and social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

156 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding her plans to co-locate private for profit hospitals on the sites of public hospitals; the number of locations involved in the process; the stage which the tendering process has reached in each case; the contracts which have been signed and the companies to whom contracts have been awarded; the cost of the process to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27662/07]

The Board of the Health Service Executive approved preferred bidders for the following six co-located hospital sites at its July meeting: Waterford Regional Hospital; Cork University Hospital; Limerick Regional Hospital; Sligo General Hospital; Beaumont Hospital; St. James's Hospital.

Since then the hospitals and the preferred bidders have been working towards finalising the Project Agreements for these sites. It is expected that the Project Agreements for the sites will be concluded in the near future.

Connolly Hospital and Tallaght Hospital, which are also participating in the co-location initiative, are at an earlier stage of the procurement process. A tender in relation to the former is under consideration. It is expected that the invitation to tender (ITT) for Tallaght Hospital will issue in the near future. Within 5 working days of the execution of a Project Agreement, the preferred bidder is required to pay the HSE a sum of €350,000. The HSE advises that this should be sufficient to meet the costs incurred by it in undertaking the procurement process.

Ambulance Service.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

157 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if there has been progress in considering the provision of anti-stab vests for front-line paramedics; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27671/07]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for paramedics and ambulance personnel.

My Department has been informed that the HSE will be carrying out a review of the need for anti-stab vests for ambulance service personnel and that this review will be carried out within the Executive's Partnership Forum.

My Department has requested the HSE to investigate what progress has been made in relation to this Review and to reply directly to her on the matter.

Water Fluoridation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

158 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate fluoride exposure in the Irish population particularly in view of a study (details supplied) carried out in Donegal which found that seven out of ten people in that county are at or above the safe intake level of fluoride; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27672/07]

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to mandate the Health Service Executive to publish a comprehensive report on water fluoridation. In this connection, the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health (Expert Body) is committed to carrying out a baseline study to monitor the effects of the change in water fluoridation following the introduction of revised Regulations earlier this year. (The Regulations reduced the level of fluoride in public water supplies to between 0.6 parts per million (ppm) fluoride and 0.8 ppm).

Regarding the Deputy's question in relation to over exposure to fluoride in the general population and in County Donegal in particular, I have asked officials in my Department to refer this matter to the Expert Body for its consideration. The Expert Body will advise me on the outcome of its consideration of this matter in the context of its above report.

Child Care Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

159 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the problems experienced by community based childcare facilities, particularly in the west of Ireland, with the National Childcare Investment Programme, that due to the inability of people in this area to pay substantially higher fees as they are just over the family income supplement threshold and the problems with the lack of numbers of families in this region who qualify for FIS, many facilities will have to close or substantially reduce their services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26518/07]

The main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their childcare costs are Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment, which is in recognition of the higher childcare costs of pre-school children, is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone amounts to expenditure of over €400 million in a full year. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of childcare they choose and regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas. In addition to these universal supports, Government childcare policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit childcare providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to the condition that tiered fee structures were implemented by the services in question.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community childcare services to provide affordable childcare to disadvantaged parents, the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services are required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which will be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) will see a €80 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions in respect of shorter hour services). Parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a €30 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions). A further subvention of €30 per week will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year. Parents who do not qualify under either of these categories will be charged the cost price for their childcare service, however, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community childcare services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme will not discriminate against rural services and the number of parents in rural areas supported by the new scheme is not expected to be lower than in urban areas. Per capita, the majority of the social welfare benefits which are referenced by the new scheme are availed of by more people outside the Dublin area than in it and parents in receipt of Farm Assist will attract the higher level of subvention. Data available from EOCP grant applications also suggests that the costs of running a rural service, and therefore the costs charged to parents, are lower than those for services in urban areas.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1st July 2008. This is to ensure that existing childcare services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. As signalled when I announced the new scheme in July this year, the transitional period between now and 1 July 2008 will also be used to monitor and review the impact it will have on individual groups, on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which is due to be received from applicants in November. If appropriate, any adjustments necessary to the scheme to secure the best outcomes for childcare services and for disadvantaged parents and their children will be considered on the basis of this data and well in advance of the commencement of the new funding levels in July 2008.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if an early ultra sound scan or scan for abdomen and pelvis will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27708/07]

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

Vaccination Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children in County Kildare who have received the BCG vaccine in each of the past eight years; the extent of inoculations in 2007; the availability of vaccine to meet requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27709/07]

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

Hospital Acquired Infections.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

162 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who contracted a hospital acquired blood stream infection in Waterford Regional Hospital in 2006 and to date in 2007. [27735/07]

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

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

163 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Clare. [27742/07]

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

Child Care Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

164 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the new community child care subvention scheme; if he will re-examine this decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27794/07]

The main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their child care costs are Child Benefit and the Early Child care Supplement. The latter payment, which is in recognition of the higher child care costs of pre-school children, is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone amounts to expenditure of over €400 million in a full year. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of child care they choose and regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas. In addition to these universal supports, Government child care policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

Under the Equal Opportunities Child care Programme 2000 — 2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit child care providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to the condition that tiered fee structures were implemented by the services in question.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community child care services to provide affordable child care to disadvantaged parents, the Community Child care Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Child care Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community child care services to provide reduced child care fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services are required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which will be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) will see a €80 weekly subvention in respect of full day care (with pro-rata reductions in respect of shorter hour services). Parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a €30 weekly subvention in respect of full day care (with pro-rata reductions). A further subvention of €30 per week will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year. Parents who do not qualify under either of these categories will be charged the cost price for their child care service, however, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community child care services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Child care Committees has also taken place.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1 July 2008. This is to ensure that existing child care services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. As signalled when I announced the new scheme in July this year, the transitional period between now and 1 July 2008 will also be used to monitor and review the impact it will have on individual groups, on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which is due to be received from applicants in November. If appropriate, any adjustments necessary to the scheme to secure the best outcomes for child care services and for disadvantaged parents and their children will be considered on the basis of this data and well in advance of the commencement of the new funding levels in July 2008.

Health Services.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of accounts administered nationally by the Health Service Executive under the patient private property account scheme; the value of these accounts both nationally and locally in the Dublin north region; the number of patients from north Dublin on whose behalf the HSE is administering accounts in both local PPP accounts and central PPP categories; the measures taken to ensure that these accounts are monitored and left untouched by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27797/07]

The HSE maintains up to 15,000 Patient Private Property (PPP) accounts on behalf of clients who are in long-term residential care at HSE Care Centres, such as Older Persons, Mental Health, and Intellectual/Physical Disability Centres.

The HSE operates 2,427 local PPP accounts for clients resident at Care Centres within the North Dublin Region (the area previously served by the ERHA Northern Area Health Board). A further 185 PPP accounts are maintained by the PPP accounts Central Unit, Tullamore for clients resident at these Care Centres. The total value of PPP funds administered by the HSE at 31 December 2006 was €92.5 million. The value of PPP funds retained at North Dublin Region Care Centres at that date was €7.8 million.

All Patient Private Property funds are held separately from HSE funds. Separate independent bank accounts are maintained at Care Centres for PPP funds and a record of each client's PPP balance and spending is retained at each Care Centre. Ongoing reconciliation and review of PPP accounts is undertaken by the HSE.

An external firm of Accountants undertakes an audit of PPP accounts at each of the 154 Care Centres throughout the country that operates PPP accounts and prepares this set of draft accounts on behalf of the HSE to be forwarded to the Comptroller and Auditor General. A set of national guidelines was issued by the HSE in March 2006 controlling the operation of PPP accounts at each Care Centre.

Disabled Drivers.

David Stanton

Question:

166 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the changes to the eligibility criteria of the motorised transport grant in the past 12 months; if she has plans to allow those over 66 to receive the grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27807/07]

The Department of Health and Children Motorised Transport Grant circular of March 2007 states that "The Health Service Executive may pay a grant towards the purchase of a vehicle and/or adaptations to a vehicle being purchased by a person with a severe disability who is 17 years or older and under 66 years of age, where a vehicle is essential for him/her to retain employment." My Department is aware of the issue of age related criteria for health allowances and grants. Having regard to equality legislation, my Department is considering the question of removing the upper age limit for this scheme.

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

167 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for surgery at Tallaght General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27813/07]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

168 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to introduce a cost of disability payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26276/07]

As the Deputy is aware my Department published a Sectoral Plan in 2006 as part of the implementation of the Disability Act 2005. The Sectoral Plan establishes a system for the assessment of individual needs for people with a disability.

The Sectoral Plan also identifies key objectives in relation to income support and associated benefits for people with disabilities. This Government is committed to developing income and related supports for people with disabilities in order to ensure that they have adequate, secure and sustainable income. The Government is working towards ensuring that income supports and associated benefits do not create financial barriers to people with disabilities. My Department is committed to considering the issues around the cost of disability following the development of the needs assessment system provided for in the Disability Act.

Registration of Births.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

169 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the registration system for births is robust and free of fraud; the actions her Department has taken to quality assure the service; if she has further satisfied herself that language skills within the service are adequate and that information provision about the service is adequate. [26267/07]

The legislative provisions governing the registration of births are contained in the Civil Registration Act, 2004. Where a birth occurs in the State, it is the duty of the hospital to notify the Registrar General of the facts of the birth. Where a birth takes place other than in a hospital or nursing home, and the birth was attended by a medical practitioner or midwife, it is the duty of that person to notify the Registrar General of the facts of the birth. This ensures that the facts concerning virtually all births occurring in the State are independently notified to the Registrar General. Births which have not occurred in a hospital or nursing home, or which were not attended by a registered medical practitioner or a midwife, are extremely rare. In such cases, every effort is made to independently establish the facts of the birth. When the parents present at the registrar's office to register the birth, the registrar will already be in possession of the independent birth notification.

Under section 19 of the Civil Registration Act, the primary responsibility for registering a birth rests with the parents. It is only when the parents are dead or cannot be found that another qualified informant may register a birth. When the parents and the registrar are satisfied that the facts to be entered in the register are correct and complete, the parents must sign the register in the presence of the registrar to complete the registration process.

At the time of registration, the qualified informants must present evidence of identity, which is typically a passport or driving licence. Where parents indicate that they are married, verification of their marital status is made by examination of their marriage certificate. The Personal Public Service Number of the parent or parents is a required particular for registration.

Section 69 of the Civil Registration Act provides for offences, which include a failure by a registrar to protect the integrity of the register and a failure by the parents to comply with their statutory obligations under the Act, including the obligation to provide accurate information to the to the registrar. These obligations are explained to parents as part of the registration process Where an error or omission has occurred in a registered entry, the Act provides for the correction of errors on the basis of statutory declarations and other independent evidence as to the facts of the matter. On the basis of the foregoing, I am satisfied that all reasonable measures are in place to preserve and protect the integrity of the register of births.

Comprehensive guidance notes are available to members of the public in respect of the registration procedures and requirements, and these are widely available from registrars' offices, voluntary and community organisations, and from the websites of the General Register Office (www.groireland.ie) and the Health Service Executive (www.hse.ie). The documentation has been translated into the eight most widely spoken non-indigenous languages, including Polish, Arabic, Mandarin and Russian. Where parents are unable to understand the registration process, for reasons of language, arrangements can be made to have a person present who understands the language of the parents.

Coast Guard Service.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

170 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the widespread concern throughout the north west at proposals to downgrade the station at Malin Head, County Donegal; if he will carry out a reassessment of such plans with a view to maintaining and enhancing the services available there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27630/07]

I want to assure the Deputy that I am aware of concerns expressed relating to the change of Coast Guard functions that I recently announced for Malin Head Marine Rescue Coordination Sub Centre as part of the enhancement of the marine emergency response capability in Ireland. There is no suggestion that Malin (or indeed, Valentia) will be closed or be disposed of as Irish Coast Guard locations. The Stations will be retained as part of the Coast Guard infrastructure and some operations will continue to be delivered from these locations. The precise nature of their long-term function has yet to be finalised.

The process of migrating from the present situation to the new developments will be planned and implemented in consultation. That process will take account of the safety needs of local communities, and ongoing improvement of the service to the public and the concerns of individual staff members.

The details of the reorganisation are as follows. The Irish Coast Guard and Maritime Administration of my Department at present operates three manned Co-ordination Centres at Dublin, Malin and Valentia. The equipment at these locations is dated and in need of replacement. As part of continuing investment in improving maritime safety a tendering process for a new Integrated Communications System equipment for delivery and commissioning in 2009 is under way.

This will provide for a two-centre operation, geographically separated. Each centre will be equipped and manned in such a way that if one centre ceased to operate the other could take over the maritime emergency management of Ireland for the required period. The Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) and the Marine Emergency Room will be transferred from Dublin and co-located with a new HQ for the Irish Coast Guard and Maritime Administration in Drogheda. The second national centre, a Marine Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC), will be in an urban or near urban location on the west coast.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

171 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27617/07]

The following amounts have been spent by my Department on travel and subsistence.

1 January to 30 September 2006 — €2,746,111.89.

1 January to 30 September 2007 — €1,122,223.33.

The reason for the decrease in expenditure in 2007 is the transfer of functions to the Road Safety Authority.

Light Rail Project.

Tony Gregory

Question:

172 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Transport if a LUAS line through Broadstone, Dublin 7 remains a definite objective; if so, if this is an integral part of the brief given to the consultants to examine Irish Rail’s proposal for mainline rail on the same line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27697/07]

Transport 21 provides for the development of a Luas line from St Stephen's Green to Liffey Junction, using the old Broadstone railway alignment. This is consistent with the long-term transportation strategy for the Greater Dublin Area in the Dublin Transportation Initiative (1995) and in the Dublin Transportation Office's strategy A Platform for Change (2001), both of which envisaged the old Broadstone alignment being used for Luas or Metro Services.

Iarnród Éireann recently submitted a proposal to my Department in relation to an alternative use of the Broadstone alignment for suburban rail services. My Department has engaged transport consultants Booz, Allen and Hamilton to review this proposal. I remain committed to the strategy set out in Transport 21 for the use of the old Broadstone alignment, unless the independent consultants confirm there are very strong strategic, transport and operational arguments which require consideration of an alternative use.

Road Traffic Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that recipients of penalty points who paid their on the spot fines are as fairly treated as those who appeal the fines associated therewith to the Courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27711/07]

Both the enforcement of the Road Traffic Acts and the operation of the Courts are a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The option to pay an applicable fixed charge for certain road traffic offences and to receive a reduced number of penalty points is available in lieu of going to court and the choice in each case is a matter for the individual. The hearing of a case before the court is not an appeal against a fixed charge payment.

Where a person chooses to have their case heard in court and is convicted then he or she is liable to whatever monetary fine the court may impose and the full number of penalty points that apply to that offence are entered against their driving licence record.

State Airports.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

174 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on his meeting with the chairman of the Cork Airport Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27795/07]

At a recent meeting with Mr. Joe Gantly, Chairman of the Cork Airport Authority, I discussed with him the appropriate conditions for airport restructuring under the State Airports Act 2004 . Under the Act, as the Deputy will be aware, both I and the Minister for Finance will have to be satisfied as to the financial and operational readiness of the airport before any assets can transfer to the Cork Airport Authority. Accordingly, the Authority is required to prepare a comprehensive business plan for the Airport and obtain approval for the plan before restructuring can proceed.

DAA has a necessary coordination role in finalising the financial framework and the business plans that would enable airport separation to take place on a basis that ensures the financial sustainability of all three State airports. I would hope that necessary progress can be made on this matter in the immediate period ahead.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

175 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27612/07]

Total expenditure on travel and subsistence in my Department for the period January to September 2007 amounted to €7,147,619. This figure includes expenditure incurred by our 75 Missions overseas.

This compares with €7,774,954 for the same period in 2006. The reduction of 8% in 2007 is primarily due to an ongoing effort to achieve better value from air travel.

Economic Sanctions.

Finian McGrath

Question:

176 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will ensure that the sovereignty of Cuba is respected; and if he will actively support the United Nation General Assembly’s vote for the sixteenth consecutive year against the inhuman and unjustifiable 47 years of US economic blockade of Cuba. [27633/07]

As I informed the Deputy in my response to Parliamentary Question Number 95 of 1 November, 2007, Ireland and our European Union partners believe that the United States' foreign policy toward Cuba is fundamentally a bilateral issue. Nonetheless, the European Union has clearly expressed the opposition of its Member States to all unilateral measures against Cuba which are contrary to commonly accepted rules of international trade. Ireland, in common with our partners in the European Union, is of the view that the US economic embargo on Cuba seriously hampers the economic development of Cuba and negatively affects its entire people. On 30 October, 2007, Ireland and our EU partners therefore voted at the United Nations General Assembly in favour of the annual Cuban-tabled resolution calling for an end to this embargo.

Residency Permits.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

177 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of an application for residency under the green card work permit scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [27659/07]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that a work permit application was received in respect of the above named person. The permit was refused and the applicant subsequently lodged an appeal of the decision. The appeal was successful and a Work Permit has now been issued.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

178 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27609/07]

The amount spent on travel and subsistence by my Department for the first nine months of 2007 was €1,557,964.53. Expenditure by my Department on travel and subsistence for the first nine months of 2006 was €1,653,603.60. Expenditure on travel and subsistence for the first nine months of 2007 was therefore lower than in the corresponding period in 2006.

Visa Applications.

James Reilly

Question:

179 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views, in view of the long waiting times for workers who have work permits for over five years and have applied for naturalisation or long stay visas where current processing times are now heading for three years, on issuing new regulations for a three year flexible free work to permit those workers who have applied for naturalisation or long stay visa permitting the worker to apply for work in whatever sector they are qualified in and has held a work permit in Ireland for five years to permit the employee to apply for work and offer their skills to other employers in their sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27634/07]

All issues in relation to visa or residency applications are a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. An employee who is the holder of a valid work permit for the same employer for a period of 60 months is entitled to receive an unlimited work permit. This permit remains valid provided the person remains with that employer. No fee is required for an unlimited permit application.

Should an employee who has an employment permit wish to move to another employer, a new application is required to be submitted. The standard employment permit application fees apply in this case. All employment permits issued are specific to the employer cited on the application. Under the employment permits arrangements launched earlier this year, a job-offer is required in advance of applying for a permit. Permits issued specify the employer of the permit holder.

Work Permits.

James Reilly

Question:

180 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on issuing a work permit to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin to enable them to apply for employment in their profession as a management accountant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27673/07]

I am advised by the Employment Permits Section of this Department that the person referred to has been a work permit holder since 2002. We would look favourably on a new application if submitted to our section.

Construction Industry.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

181 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Construction Industry Federation was involved in the recent trade mission to London in relation to the Olympic Delivery Authority; if measures are in place to involve the CIF in any future trade negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27798/07]

No representatives of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) participated in the recent Trade Mission to London. That Trade Mission had several distinct elements; — an event for Irish Software companies meeting representatives of the London local authorities; — participation in the Techlink UK-Ireland conference, involving the Life Science and Technology sectors; and, finally a briefing session with the London Olympic Delivery Authority. That final event did not involve any company participation.

However Enterprise Ireland (EI) have a close working relationship with the CIF and have actively included that organisation in Olympic events to date, with the ex-Director General participating in an EI event in London last year, involving the key Olympic delivery agencies. On the 14th November next, EI are hosting a ‘Building towards London' conference in Dublin, which will involve key figures from UK industry and the Olympic delivery partners. The Director General of the CIF will chair this conference. The London Olympics provides a platform for Enterprise Ireland/CIF cooperation and the CIF are a key partner with Enterprise Ireland's construction sector activity.

Job Losses.

John Deasy

Question:

182 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of job losses in Waterford City and County in each of the years 2004 to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27800/07]

Agency employment data does not distinguish between Waterford (city and county) and as data is collated on an annual basis, no data is yet available for 2007. The table below sets out the position in relation to the number of full time job gains and job losses in firms assisted by the enterprise development agencies under the aegis of my department (Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland) for Waterford in each of the years between 2004 and 2006. Over the period, there was a net decrease of 556 in the numbers employed in enterprise agency assisted companies. It is notable however that after two challenging years 2006 saw a marked turnaround with a net gain of 374 jobs. In the same period 124 net jobs were created in enterprises assisted by Waterford City and County Enterprise Boards.

In line with the National Spatial Strategy, IDA Ireland is focussed on advancing the economic development of the South East region primarily through the Gateway of Waterford City, the hub towns of Wexford and Kilkenny and the other key centres of Carlow and Clonmel. IDA Ireland is actively engaged with the existing IDA client base in Co. Waterford to encourage their transition to continually higher value activities and to promote further investment in Ireland.

Waterford has a key strength in engineering, in both indigenous and overseas sectors. In more recent years however, this has been giving way to newer, more advanced manufacturing, particularly in the Life Sciences sector and also to International & Financial Services activities. When marketing County Waterford for new foreign direct investment, IDA Ireland is focussed on attracting overseas companies in the services and knowledge-based industries, including advanced manufacturing.

Key interventions in support of the above efforts in recent years have been the development of the Waterford Business & Technology Park, Dungarvan Business Park and a 55 hectare Greenfield site in Belview, specifically targeted for larger scale utility intensive overseas investments. A further 20 hectare site adjacent to the Genzyme facility on the Kilmeaden road in Waterford City is also available for Greenfield investment.

In September 2007, I announced that Genzyme Corp — one of the world's largest biotechnology companies — is to invest up to a potential of €20m, with the support of IDA Ireland, to create additional product and process development facilities at its manufacturing campus in Waterford where more than 380 people currently work. The investment will potentially create an additional 18 high level research and development (R&D) positions within three years.

Enterprise Ireland's activities are focussed on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs in manufacturing and internationally traded services companies who are setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies or expanding existing companies. Enterprise Ireland is represented on an inter agency working group set up by Waterford County Manager to foster economic development in the area. In April 2007, I launched a new €21m Community Enterprise scheme which is being managed by Enterprise Ireland and will target funding at those communities where job losses have been most acute and where there is an obvious need for initiatives of this type. Seven of these Community Enterprise Centres are located in Waterford namely Waterford City, Cappoquin, Dunhill, Lismore, Portlaw, Tallow and Dungarvan.

The enterprise agencies continue to work closely with Third Level educational institutes in the region and FÁS so that the skill sets necessary to attract or create high value add employment to the county are being developed. Waterford Institute of Technology will play an ever-increasing role in the attraction and maintenance of overseas companies in the county.

In addition the Waterford County and City Enterprise Boards provide assistance to small enterprises employing less than 10 people by providing employment and capital grants as well as grants for feasibility studies. The Boards provide soft supports such as business advice, management and E-commerce training.

Job Gains/ Job Losses in Enterprise Agency Assisted Companies in Waterford

2004

2005

2006

Total

Gains

584

514

1,070

2,168

Losses

-888

-1,140

-696

-2,724

Net change

-304

-626

374

-556

Employment Action Plan.

John Deasy

Question:

183 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the inter-agency forum which was set up following the closure of Dungarvan Crystal continues to exist; if they succeeded in developing indigenous industry in the wake of the closure; the expenses that were claimed by this forum; if other costs were incurred by the forum; the persons who provided the funding for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27801/07]

The inter agency forum in question was established by the Waterford County Manager. It included representatives of the relevant Industrial Development agencies under the aegis of my Department. I understand from Waterford County Council that no expenses or other costs have been incurred by the forum. The administrative costs are borne by the County Council and each agency is responsible for the time and travel of its staff. I understand that the forum continues as an economic sub-group of Waterford County Development Board but that it now operates with agency representatives only.

As part of the forum's work, the Industrial Training agency FÁS led an employment / training group to respond to the needs of the workers who lost their jobs. To date, 290 former employees of the company in question have availed of FÁS training in Dungarvan at a cost of €308,000. I understand that of the 405 people directly affected by the closure, only a small number remain on the Live Register. Ten of these are working part-time and the remainder are availing of FÁS and other services and supports. As a further part of its work with the forum, FÁS is co-funding a Business Development Executive in Dungarvan where significant progress is being made on Economic Development measures for the area.

Enterprise Ireland is the agency responsible for developing indigenous industry in the region. A range of strategies, programmes and financial incentives are in place to promote economic development that give rise to sustainable employment. In connection with the forum, a sum of €300,000 was approved for a new Community Enterprise Centre in Dungarvan. At present, the agency is working with 192 client companies in Co. Waterford, which, according to the 2006 Forfas Annual Employment Survey, employ 4,910 people.

I am confident that the strategies being pursued will continue to bring sustainable indigenous industry to the region.

Industrial Development.

John Deasy

Question:

184 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of meetings that have taken place between the industrial development agencies in his Department and Waterford Crystal Management to assist them in ensuring there is minimal job losses as a result of their restructuring plan; if financial assistance is being offered to ensure that this industry remains in Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27802/07]

The company in question is a client of the Industrial Development agency Enterprise Ireland. The agency has developed a committed business relationship with the company over a number of decades, and has offered support in developing the company's Irish manufacturing base and in increasing its exports.

In relation to the current situation, Enterprise Ireland has already arranged two meetings with the company. These meetings took place on 19 October and 5 November. Contact between the agency and the company will continue in the coming weeks.

I am aware that at the Annual General Meeting of Waterford Wedgewood on 11 October 2007, the company outlined that sales were down by 9% because of the impact of the dollar exchange rate which is outside of our control. The company also announced new money which would be used for root and branch restructuring of its business and that the restructuring measures must be in place before the end of the current fiscal year.

While Enterprise Ireland does not have the capacity to reverse operational decisions of any client company, it will continue to work very closely with the company during this challenging period. The agency will, of course, assist in whatever way it can.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

185 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27604/07]

The expenditure on travel and subsistence by my Department from January to September 2006 was €177,003. The corresponding figure for the same period in 2007 was €178,872, an increase of €1,869 or just over 1%.

In the 12-month period up to end September 2007, the Consumer Price Index rose by 4.6% and within that transport costs rose by 2.2%.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Mary Upton

Question:

186 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on whether it is correct that persons who work more than thirty hours a week are not entitled to rent supplement; the proposals he has brought forward at Government level to help resolve this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27640/07]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to assist 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.

In General, people in full-time employment are not entitled to rent supplement. For this purpose, full-time employment is regarded as 30 hours per week or more. However, people accepted by local authorities as eligible for the Rental Accommodation Scheme may now take up full-time, and still receive rent supplement, subject to the standard means test. This measure was introduced in June 2007 to provide a progressive support in the transition from welfare to work.

I am satisfied that the scheme as currently structured is targeted as those who most need support. In that regard I do not consider that a universal extension of the scheme to those in employment for more than 30 hours is warranted at this point in time.

Pension Provisions.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

187 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has plans to change the law governing the time-frame within which individuals must apply for State pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27587/07]

The legislative provisions relating to late claims for social welfare benefits are set out in Section 241 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, and in Regulations made under that section. These provisions set out the times within which a person must make a claim, the disqualifications which apply where a claim is made late, and the circumstances in which the time limits may be extended. Legislation provides for relaxation of the restrictions on backdating late claims under many schemes including State pensions and for further payment to be made, up to the level of full retrospection where the circumstances would warrant it, where:

the delay was due to incorrect information having been given by my Department, or

illness or aforce majeure prevented a person from claiming earlier or,

the person is dependent on the arrears of payment to relieve financial hardship.

It is generally accepted that there is an obligation on people to claim their social welfare entitlements in time. However, cases inevitably arise where they fail to do so and the legislative provisions are designed to cater for such situations. I am satisfied that the current provisions strike a reasonable balance between, on the one hand the need to exercise supervision and control of claims and, on the other hand, the need for appropriate recognition to be given to cases of genuine hardship or difficulty.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

188 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27615/07]

The total expenditure incurred by my Department under the A. 2 Travel and Subsistence Subhead was €3,052,880 from 1 st January to 30th September 2007 compared to €2,787,448 during the same period in 2006.

The increase is as a result of additional activities undertaken in the context of the Modernisation Action Plan, control activities, staff training, corporate development and associated activities. It also reflects the increase in Travel and Subsistence rates from 1 st July, 2007.

The increase in expenditure was anticipated and is within projected budgets.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

189 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the lower threshold in relation to the means test for lone parents receiving welfare but engaged in employment was last increased; and the rationale for not increasing this threshold. [27628/07]

The main income support mechanism for lone parents is currently the one parent family payment (OFP) — a payment for parents (either male or female) who are bringing up a child without the support of a partner.

To qualify for payment, a parent must have main care and charge of at least one qualified child, must have earnings under €400 per week and satisfy a means test, must not be cohabiting with another person as husband and wife and must satisfy the habitual residence condition.

The weekly disregard for earned income is currently €146.50. Income up to this amount is disregarded in the calculation of OFP for a claimant. This threshold has been in place since 1997. In addition, only half of any additional earned income is assessed as means up to the upper earnings threshold of €400 per week. This upper earnings limit was increased from €293 a week over the course of the last two budgets, in accordance with a recommendation contained in the 2006 Government discussion paper, Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents.

Despite increases in both the weekly rates of payment and in the upper earnings limit, I fully accept that lone parents group is still one of the groups most at risk of poverty today in Ireland.

It is generally accepted that the best route out of poverty is through employment. Therefore, I am convinced that the best way to help those lone parents who are still caught in the poverty trap is through the provision of quality supports and activation measures, combined with social assistance payments.

I do not believe that increasing the lower earnings threshold for recipients of OFP would actively help them to combat the risk of poverty. Instead, my Department is actively considering options for reforming income supports to lone parents, with a view to making it easier for them to take up employment. In addition the senior officials group on social inclusion is examining proposals geared towards helping lone parents into quality employment and away from long-term welfare dependency. This can only be to the benefit of the parents themselves and more importantly, their children.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

190 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when the living alone allowance was first introduced and the rate that applied at that time; the rate of the maximum old age pension that applied at the time of its introduction; the rate the living alone allowance has subsequently been increased in each year; and the new rate of the allowance and the rate of the maximum old age pension in that year in each case. [27629/07]

The living alone increase is an additional payment of €7.70 per week made to people aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who are living alone. It is also available to people under 66 years of age who are living alone and who receive payments under one of a number of invalidity type schemes.

The increase is intended as a contribution towards the additional costs people face when they live alone. It was introduced in 1977 at the rate of £1.00 (€1.27) per week. The old age contributory pension (now the state pension (contributory)) was paid at the rate of £13.90 (€17.65) per week at the time. Changes made to the living alone increase since its introduction in 1977 and the corresponding rate of state pension (contributory) are given in the following table.

Table: Changes to the Living Alone Increase and corresponding rate of State Pension (Contributory) 1 since 1977

Year

Living Alone Increase

State Pension (Contributory)

Amount (Punts)

Euro Equivalent

Amount (Punts)

Euro Equivalent

£

£

01/04/1977

1.00

1.27

13.90

17.65

07/04/1978

1.10

1.40

16.05

20.38

06/04/1979

1.30

1.65

18.60

23.62

04/04/1980

1.65

2.10

24.50

31.11

03/04/1981

2.05

2.60

30.65

38.92

02/10/1981

2.15

2.73

32.20

40.89

02/04/1982

2.70

3.43

40.25

51.11

01/07/1983

3.00

3.81

45.10

57.27

06/07/1984

3.20

4.06

48.25

61.26

12/07/1985

3.40

4.32

51.40

65.26

18/07/1986

3.55

4.51

53.45

67.87

24/07/1987

3.70

4.70

55.10

69.86

29/07/1988

3.80

4.83

56.80

72.12

28/07/1989

3.90

4.95

58.50

74.28

27/07/1990

4.10

5.21

61.50

78.09

26/07/1991

4.30

5.46

64.00

81.26

31/07/1992

4.50

5.71

66.60

84.56

30/07/1993

4.70

5.97

68.90

87.48

29/07/1994

4.80

6.09

71.00

90.15

16/06/1995

4.90

6.22

72.80

92.44

14/06/1996

6.00

7.62

75.00

95.23

04/01/2002

6.06

7.70*

116.01

147.30

* Resulted from a general rounding up of rates following the introduction of the Euro

Social Welfare Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

191 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 that have yet to be commenced in full and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27678/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

192 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007 that have yet to be commenced in full, and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27679/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

194 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Social Welfare Act 2006 that have yet to be commenced in full, and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27681/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

195 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Social Welfare Law Reform and Pensions Act 2006 that have yet to be commenced in full, and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27682/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

196 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Social Welfare Act 2005 that have yet to be commenced in full, and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27683/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191, 192 and 194 to 196, inclusive, together.

In the case of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 , all provisions other than Schedule 6, which comprises four (4) items, have been commenced. All provisions of the Social Welfare Act 2005, the Social Welfare Law Reform and Pensions Act 2006 and the Social Welfare Act 2006 have been commenced.

In relation to the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007 , all Sections have been commenced in full, with the exception of the Sections listed as follows. Section 9 Sub-sections (a), (c), (d), (e)(ii), (f), (g)(ii), (h) and (j) have been commenced, and Sub-sections (b), (e)(i), (g)(i) and (i) are uncommenced; Section 21 Sub-sections (b) and (c) have been commenced, and Sub-section (a) is uncommenced; Section 25 Sub-section (1) has been commenced and Sub-section (2) is uncommenced; Section 27 is uncommenced.

Citizens Information Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

193 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Citizens Information Act 2007 that have yet to be commenced in full, and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27680/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

197 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Comhairle Act 2000 that have yet to be commenced in full, and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27686/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 and 197 together.

Section 3 of the Citizens Information Act, 2007, which changed the name of the statutory body, came into force on 21 February 2007 when the Act was signed into law by the President. Sections 1, 2 and 4 (except insofar as it provides for the insertion of paragraph (bb) in section 7 (1) of the Comhairle Act, 2000), and sections 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the Citizens Information Act, 2007 came into force on 30 March 2007 when the Citizens Information Act 2007 (Commencement) Order 2007 (S.I. No. 141 of 2007) was signed.

The part of section 4 which has been commenced confers new functions on the Citizens Information Board in relation to enhanced provision of information services, including a statutory requirement on the Board to set terms and conditions for the provision of funding to voluntary bodies.

The remaining sections of the Citizens Information Act, 2007, i.e. part of Section 4 (insofar as it provides for the insertion of paragraph (bb) in section 7 (1) of the Comhairle Act, 2000) and all of Section 5, which concern the introduction of the Personal Advocacy Service, are subject to a commencement order.

All sections of the Comhairle Act, 2000 came into force on 2 March 2000 when the Act was signed into law by the President.

Questions Nos. 194 to 196, inclusive, answered with Question No. 191.
Question No. 197 answered with QuestionNo. 193.

Pensions Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

198 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Pensions Act 1990 that have yet to be commenced in full, and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27687/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

199 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Pensions (Amendment) Act 1996 that have yet to be commenced in full. [27688/07]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

200 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Pensions (Amendment) Act 2002 that have yet to be commenced in full. [27689/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198 to 200, inclusive, together.

All sections of the Pensions Act 1990 and the Pensions (Amendment) Act 1996 have been commenced. In relation to the Pensions (Amendment) Act 2002, section 3 of the Act has been commenced in full except in so far as it relates to the insertion of a new section 122 into the Pensions Act 1990. Sections 39 and 43 of the Pensions (Amendment) Act 2002 have also yet to be commenced. Section 39 provides for the insertion of a new section 56A into the Pensions Act 1990 while section 43 provides for the insertion of new sections 59D, 59E and 59F into the Pensions Act.

Family Support Agency Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

201 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sections and subsections of the Family Support Agency Act 2001 that have yet to be commenced in full. [27690/07]

The provisions of the Family Support Agency Act 2001 were enacted in full by the Family Support Agency Act, 2001 (Establishment Day) Order 2003 (S.I. No. 181 of 2003), which was enacted on 6 May 2003.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

202 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27606/07]

Records in my Department show that claims in respect of travel and subsistence from 1 January 2007 to 30 September 2007 amounted to €504,023. Expenditure for the same period in 2006 was €486,833. It is in the nature of such expenditure that variations will occur from time to time in line with business requirements. The increase in this case is 3.5%, which is within the parameters of normal variation in such expenditure and is within the amount provided for in the estimates for the Oireachtas.

Community Development.

Jack Wall

Question:

203 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the grants available to a group (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the importance of such groups in communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27643/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department provides funding for a wide range of community projects, through a number of schemes and programmes. Each of the schemes and grant programmes operated by my Department is governed by rules and eligibility criteria which projects have to meet to qualify for funding. Funding for the regard to the group referred to by the Deputy may be available under my Department's Programme of Grants for Locally Based Community and Voluntary Organisations, or the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme. Detailed information in respect of these programmes can be found on my Department's website,www.pobail.ie.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

204 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the single farm payment and the area based payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27594/07]

An application under the 2007 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 15 May 2007. During the processing of the application, it was necessary for an official of my Department to request additional information from the person named, which has now been supplied. Accordingly, the 50% advance payment under the Single Payment Scheme and the payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme will issue to the person named shortly.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

205 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not received their 2007 single farm payment and area based payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27595/07]

An application under the 2007 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 2 May 2007. The application was the subject of a ground eligibility inspection, following which documentation regarding entitlement to an area of commonage declared by the person named was requested from him. To date this documentation has not been submitted. The application will be further processed on receipt of the documentation requested.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

206 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount spent on travel and subsistence in her Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27603/07]

A total of €12.6 million was spent on travel and subsistence in my Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared with €11.9 million in the corresponding period in 2006. The higher level of expenditure in 2007 is mainly attributable to increased activities in home travel arising in areas such as the Farm Waste Management Scheme and animal/public health disease controls.

Grant Payments.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

207 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the value of all payments made by the EU to Irish farmers over the past five years; the breakdown of these payments according to category; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27701/07]

The table that follows this reply sets out the value of EU payments made to Irish farmers over the past five years. Payments under the various schemes and measures are administered by my Department. The figures in the table exclude the national funding element of rural development and veterinary measures and EU funding for market support schemes.

Scheme

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Scheme

(€ million)

(€ million)

(€ million)

(€ million)

(€ million)

Single Payment

1,058.417

1,308.948

Area Aid

134.238

130.418

132.640

2.099

0.418

Livestock Premia Schemes

910.491

927.524

937.533

584.488

4.882

Veterinary Compensation (BSE)

51.219

46.666

29.616

27.746

0.112

Rural Development Measures (including REPS, Forestry, Early Retirement, Disadvantaged Areas)

368.100

305.225

357.399

358.433

356.046

Other

6.099

0.87

0.007

0.004

0.003

Total

1,470.147

1,410.7

1,457.196

2,031.188

1,670.409

Denis Naughten

Question:

208 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a single farm payment for 2007 will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon in view of the fact that the on farm inspection has clarified that there is no overclaim and the landowner has furnished a contract outlining the control of the queried lands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27738/07]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 14 May 2007. As part of the control procedures under EU legislation governing the Single Payment Scheme, the application was selected for, and was the subject of, a ground eligibility inspection. This inspection was carried out and the application is now being processed for payment. It is expected that payment will issue shortly.

Animal Welfare.

Mary Upton

Question:

209 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she has plans to update the legislation relating to animal welfare, as it applies to companion animals; the discussions she has had with her counterpart in Northern Ireland on an all Ireland approach to this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27739/07]

The Programme for Government contains a number of animal welfare-related commitments, all of which are being progressed within my Department. One of those commitments provides for the consolidation of responsibility for the welfare of all animals, including non-farm animals, within my Department.

Work is also progressing on the drafting of a new Animal Welfare Bill which will update existing legislation, to ensure that the welfare of all animals is properly protected and that the penalties for offenders are increased significantly. My Department works closely with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland across a range of areas of mutual interest and concern, particularly in the areas of animal health and welfare and as work progresses on the drafting of the new legislation, we will have the opportunity to consider the possibility of further alignment of legislative provisions in the area of animal welfare.

Bovine Diseases.

Denis Naughten

Question:

210 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 360 of 2 October 2007, the reason the Irish definition of a restricted holding under article 12 of the Bovine Tuberculosis (Attestation of the State and General Provisions) Order 1989 (S.I. No. 308 of 1989) fail to make a distinction between the suspension of the official health status and the actual withdrawal of the official health status for TB and brucellosis purposes as required by Council directive 64/432/EEC annex A thereof; the further reason the DVO waited until January 2007 to arrange to carry out the herd tests despite the herd owners agreement and reminder letters to the DVO calling upon her Department to ensure the tests were carried out; the location where is it specifically required as a matter of EC or community law, that a second clear test is required having regard to the herds official health history which has been free of TB and brucellosis for at least six years including the most recent clear herd tests completed on 5 January 2007; the reason it appears that the DVO was only aware of the test results report in January 2007 but not aware until end of July 2007 that the same veterinary inspector, who carried out the tests at the directions of her Department, had also signed and endorsed all the identity cards surrendered to them certifying that each animal had passed the test and the herd as far as they were concerned was free of TB and brucellosis, thus satisfying the 12 month testing requirement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27744/07]

The position is that paragraph 1 (2) of Annex A to EU Directive 64/432 provides that a bovine herd will retain officially tuberculosis-free status if inter alia all animals on the holding, with the exception of calves under six weeks old which were born in the holding, are subjected to routine tuberculin testing at yearly intervals. The annual herd testing of bovine herds in Ireland represents yearly routine testing.

Annex A to the EU Directive also provides that the official TB free status of a herd is to be suspended or withdrawn if certain conditions are not met. Some of the conditions for suspension and withdrawal are similar and, in particular, the competent authority has the option of suspending or withdrawing disease free status if the conditions set out in paragraph 1(2) of the Annex are no longer fulfilled. These conditions include the annual herd test. The Annex also provides that the competent authority may withdraw disease free status from a herd for any other reasons considered necessary for the purpose of controlling bovine tuberculosis. It also provides for the restriction of animals under both status withdrawn and status suspended circumstances.

With regard to the restoration of official TB free status, paragraph 1 of Annex A sets out the conditions for achieving officially tuberculosis-free status. These include the requirement that all the bovine animals over six weeks old have reacted negatively to at least two official intradermal tuberculin tests carried out in accordance with Annex B, the first six months after the elimination of any infection from the herd and the second six months later. In view of the nature of the disease and the fact that the herd in question had not been tested for 27 months and its status was unknown, my Department was unable to assume that the herd was disease free following the tests carried out in January 2007 and had no option but to require compliance with the requirement in paragraph 1 to the Annex before the disease free status of the herd could again be established. These requirements are implemented by administrative procedures.

With regard to the Bovine Tuberculosis (Attestation of the State and General Provisions) Orders, 1989 Order, I should point out that this Order is primarily intended to implement the TB disease eradication programme and goes well beyond the provisions of Directive 64/432/EEC, which sets down the rules governing intra-community trade. Article 12 of this Order provides that, where there has been a failure to comply with a provision of the 1966 Diseases of Animals Act or of the Order, including failure to test as required by the issuing of a 14 day notice by my Department, the holding shall be declared to be a restricted holding. A restriction in Irish legislation covers status suspended and status withdrawn. As indicated in my reply to Questions 39881/06 and 39882/06 on 23 November 2006 and Question 21506/07 on 2 October 2007, the holding relating to the herdowner referred to was restricted in October 2005 because of the repeated failure of the herdowner to comply with my Department's notices to have the annual herd test for TB and Brucellosis carried out on his herd.

With regard to de-restriction, the TB Order provides in Article 12 (5) that, where a veterinary inspector is satisfied that the animals on a holding are free from bovine tuberculosis, the holding shall cease to be a restricted holding. On the issue of the returned animal passports, I have already explained the position in my previous reply to Question 21506/07 but would add that the person concerned had not been notified that his holding had been de-restricted.

With regard to the reference to the communications made by the person concerned to the DVO regarding his agreement to test, the position is that under the current arrangements that have been in place since 1996, the onus is on herdowner to arrange with and pay his own private veterinary practitioner for his annual herd test. In the interests of disease control, because of the herdowner's persistent refusal to test over a period of in excess of two years, my Department arranged for a veterinary inspector to test the herd in January 2007.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

211 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has plans to increase the allowance paid to those attending VTOS courses in adult education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27583/07]

Michael Ring

Question:

217 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will increase the amount of the meal allowance and the travel allowance which is paid to VTOS students to a more realistic level. [27674/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

220 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will increase the travel and meal allowance available to VTOS participants to a level that would adequately reflect the high cost of living here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27699/07]

Dan Neville

Question:

223 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department will grant extra moneys to VTOS to allow them to be in a position to pay a meal and travel allowance relative to prices today to the VTOS students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27707/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211, 217, 220 and 223 together.

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is a second chance education initiative for unemployed persons, who are at least 21 years of age and in receipt of certain social welfare payments for at least six months, which is funded by my Department. It is operated through the Vocational Education Committees.

The aims of the Scheme are to give unemployed people education and training opportunities which will develop and prepare them to go into paid employment or on to further education opportunities leading to paid employment.

A training allowance is paid by the VECs to students who previously drew unemployment benefit or assistance. The student ceases to receive an unemployment payment and, instead, receives a VTOS training allowance at a rate equivalent to the maximum rate of unemployment benefit, plus a payment for an adult or child dependant, if appropriate. VTOS students also retain their social welfare secondary benefits.

The allowances for VTOS students, for meal and travel, referred to in the questions are equivalent to these paid to participants on FÁS training courses. VTOS students may be entitled to a travel allowance if they reside more than 3 miles from a centre. These allowances are increased periodically in line with increases in FÁS rates. The current rates are in operation since 2002. There are no plans to increase them in the near future.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

212 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Education and Science amount spent on travel and subsistence in her Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27608/07]

The following table contains a breakdown of the Home Travel and Foreign Travel for the Department of Education and Science for the first nine months of 2006 and 2007.

Home Travel: This unit provides refund of Travel and Subsistence expenses for work related travel within Ireland for Departmental personnel.

Total spent in Home Travel for first nine months of 2006 — €1,736,181.88

Total spent in Home Travel for first nine months of 2007 — €1,761,326.88

There is a percentage increase of approximately 1.5% in spending when comparing the first nine months of 2006 to the first nine months of 2007.

An increase in the rates being paid for travel and subsistence came into effect on the 01/07/06 and 01/07/07.

Percentage Increase for 01/07/06 = 2%

Percentage Increase for 01/07/07 = 2.5%

These percentage increases would account for the overall 1.5% rise in spending on the Home Travel.

Foreign Travel: This unit provides refund of Travel and Subsistence expenses for work related travel outside Ireland for Departmental personnel.

Total spent on Foreign Travel for first nine months of 2006 — €281,308.99

Total spent on Foreign Travel for first nine months of 2007 — €253,789.23

Schools Building Projects.

Timmy Dooley

Question:

213 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to sanction the funding for a school extension (details supplied) in County Clare for which considerable preparatory work has already been completed under a separate contract; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27620/07]

The tender report for the school referred to by the Deputy is under examination in my Department at present. The school's Board of Management will be kept advised of developments when the examination is complete.

Schools Recognition.

Richard Bruton

Question:

214 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the remaining obstacles to the permanent recognition of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9 which has enormous waiting lists for the next four years; and if she will set out clearly for the school what now needs to be done to fulfil all requirements. [27664/07]

The school to which the Deputy refers commenced operation in September 2002 with provisional recognition from the Department on the basis that it would be providing multi-denominational education in the Clontarf/Marino/Fairview area of Dublin. The location in Glasnevin, which is already served by two multi-denominational schools, was intended to be a purely temporary measure.The Department has requested the OPW to identify a suitable site for the school in a more appropriate location. When this happens, the Department will review the question of permanent recognition.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

215 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has finalised a site for the construction of a new second level school in Gorey; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27667/07]

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

216 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has decided which primary level facility will be accommodated with the second level facility in Gorey; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27668/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 and 216 together.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a preferred site option has been identified for the new post primary school for Gorey. Acquisition details are being finalised in the Department subject to contract and available funding. The site in question will also be used to make primary school provision with the immediate focus being on providing additionality to meet the growing needs of the area.

Question No. 217 answered with QuestionNo. 211.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

218 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in processing to full and final approval the essential works required at a school (details supplied) in County Cavan; the status of the application in her Department; the prospect of an early approval to proceed to tender issuing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27695/07]

The building project for the School referred to by the Deputy is at early stage of architectural planning.

This project was put on hold pending a review of the long-term projected enrolments by my Department's Planning Section. The position was subsequently clarified and information was sought and received recently on the Design Team's stage 1, 2 submission (Site analysis/suitability and Sketch Scheme). This is currently under review in my Department.

Progression of all projects to tender and construction will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Educational Projects.

Tony Gregory

Question:

219 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has received a funding application from a group (details supplied) in Dublin 1 to employ two additional youth workers in this socially disadvantaged docklands area; if she will give every consideration to this request; and when a decision will be made. [27698/07]

My Department received an application on behalf of the group in question for funding in 2007 under the Special Projects for Youth (SPY) Scheme administered by the Youth Affairs Section.

It was not possible to accede to this request due to the high level of existing commitments in the youth work sector and the large number of new applications received this year. Eighty three (83) new SPY applications were received and three (3) new one-worker projects were sanctioned.

I am not in a position to make any future commitments at this juncture.

Question No. 220 answered with QuestionNo. 211.

School Staffing.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

221 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in the appointment of a social personal and health education, regional development officer for second level schools to liaise particularly with local drug task forces; when will this appointment will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27700/07]

The Social Personal and Health Education support service through my Department has twice advertised for the position of Regional Development Officer with responsibility for collaboration with the Local Drugs Task Forces, as outlined by the Deputy. Unfortunately on both occasions a suitable candidate was not forthcoming for a variety of reasons.

The SPHE has recently created a panel for the appointment of Regional Development Officers nationally. Recruitment from this panel is now commencing and it may be possible to appoint a replacement to the stated position shortly.

Special Educational Needs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

222 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans for the opening of a special school in the grounds of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13 to provide a service for children in the autistic spectrum; the stage in the planning process this project has reached; and the further approvals necessary before the work can commence. [27705/07]

I can confirm that plans are well advanced for the development of part of the school building to which the Deputy refers to establish educational provision for autistic children.

The works required to enable this provision are being co-ordinated by the City of Dublin VEC in collaboration with the special school. All of the necessary approvals have been given by the Department to allow the works to proceed.

Question No. 223 answered with QuestionNo. 211.

Colleges Building Projects.

Peter Power

Question:

224 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application by a college (details supplied) in County Limerick for assistance with the proposed building project. [27743/07]

The application in question is currently being considered by the Department.

Third Level Fees.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

225 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a third level college grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27774/07]

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

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to the relevant local authority or VEC.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the relevant local authority or VEC, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to my Department.

The candidate, referred to by the Deputy, may contact the authority to whom they made their application to enquire into the status of the application, if a decision has not already been advised.

Student Support Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

226 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the concessions and allowances available to a student who is now in leaving certificate year and who suffered a serious illness which was a year’s duration meaning that they missed a significant period of time out of school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27811/07]

The guidelines in relation to the repeat of a year at Post-Primary level are outlined in circular M2/95.

In certain instances, delegated authority within defined limits has been given to schools to permit students to repeat a year. Prolonged absence from school due to serious illness is one of the criteria under the terms of the circular. A written application should be submitted to the school Principal together with supporting documentation from a certified doctor. A copy of circular M2/95 follows for reference.

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations and determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations.

I can inform the Deputy that the Commission operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the Certificate Examinations. Applications for such accommodations are submitted by schools on behalf of their students. The scheme of Reasonable Accommodations is designed to assist candidates with special needs at the Certificate examinations. The term special needs applies to candidates who have physical/medical and/or specific learning difficulties. Applications for reasonable accommodations are considered within a published framework of principles.

The Deputy may wish to contact the Commission directly for more detailed information on the scheme.

Circular M2/95

To the Authorities of Post-Primary schools

Repeat of a year of Post-Primary Level

1.Repeat Years — General Position

1.1The circumstances in which an individual pupil may repeat a year at post-primary level, and the detailed arrangements for assessing, deciding, recording and reporting individual cases, have been set out in a number of Circulars — M57/87, M33/89 and M47/93.

In certain instances, delegated authority within defined limits has been given to schools to permit students to repeat a year. In other instances, individual applications have to be referred to the Department for decision.

Pupils permitted to repeat a year in accordance with the terms of these circulars are reckoned for the purposes of staffing and grant allocations.

The purpose of this circular is to clarify and consolidate these arrangements in the light of the extension and restructuring of the Senior Cycle. The arrangements set out in this Circular will apply for the 1995/96 and subsequent school years.

As indicated in paragraph 5 of Circular Letter M47/93, schools will require specific Departmental approval to provide a repeat Leaving Certificate Year 2 class in the 1996/97 and subsequent school years. Approval will be given only where there are compelling educational reasons for so doing, account being taken of the availability of this option in neighbouring post-primary schools. A separate Circular on this matter will issue shortly.

1.2The following are the grounds on which consideration of requests or proposals for individual pupils repeating a year at post-primary level will be based:

(i)Prolonged absence from school for a valid reason such as ill-health. Prolonged absence may be taken as either

(a)a continuous absence for at least eight weeks in the preceding school-year,or

(b)intermittent absences over a period of at least 16 weeks, and for an average of 2½ days per week during that period, in the preceding school-year.

The absence and the reason for it must be certified by the school authority. If the reason is related to health, that reason must also be certified by a doctor.

(ii)Serious illness which does not necessitate prolonged absence from school but which has a seriously damaging effect on the pupil’s academic performance at school. The illness and its effect must be certified by a doctor and by the school authorities.

(iii)Serious family trauma (e.g. death of a parent, separation of the parents, violence in the home etc.) which the school authorities can show has had a seriously damaging effect on the pupil’s academic performance.

(iv)Very poor academic record which requires regular remedial treatment where there is sufficient evidence to establish that (a) the pupil’s academic record is very poor (b) that the pupil is in real need of regular remedial treatment and (c) that the pupil can benefit from the extra year.

(v)Change of school in the following circumstances:—

(a)when necessitated by change of residence, provided that it is established that the pupil could not reasonably be expected to follow the curriculum in the new school without repeating a year of the post-primary course there;

(b)for the purpose of taking up a revised course of study, provided that (i) the course in question is not available in the pupil's former school, (ii) the pupil has a valid reason for taking up the revised course at this stage, (iii) the pupil has a reasonable prospect of completing the revised course of study satisfactorily, (iv) fulfilment of these conditions is certified by the school authority in the pupil's new school;

(c)for reasons other than (a) and (b) above, provided that there are valid reasons why the pupil might have been permitted to repeat the year in his/her former school. Details should be entered in the pupil's record.

1.3For pupils entering post-primary cycle in or after September 1991, the standard maximum period of second-level education is six years. Except in very exceptional circumstances, a pupil will not be permitted to repeat more than one year of the post-primary cycle prior to first sitting the Leaving Certificate examination.

2.Junior Cycle

2.1Authority will continue to be delegated on the following conditions to school authorities to permit a pupil to repeat a year of the Junior Cycle.

2.2Permission to repeat may be granted only on the grounds set out in paragraph 1.2 above.

2.3Documentary evidence bearing on the consideration of all requests or proposals for the repeat of a year of the Junior Cycle Programme must be retained in the school records and made available for examination by officers of the Department if required.

2.4Such documentation would include:—

(i)medical or other certification, as appropriate;

(ii)school attendance records for the year prior to the proposed repeat year;

(iii)all school examination results, results of psychological tests (if any) and public examination results (if any), which are relevant to the case in question;

(iv)the school authority's own evaluation of the case.

2.5Medical certificates should clearly state:—

(a)the nature of the pupil's illness;

(b)the length of time which the pupil must be absent from school as a result of the illness;

(c)the presumed effects of the illness upon the pupil's capacity for study;

(d)the likelihood of future absences from school as a result of the illness.

2.6Requests or proposals for repeating a year should normally be made and adjudicated on before the end of the previous school year but not, in any event, after the 29th September of the school year in question.

2.7Where it has been decided to permit a student to repeat a year, this fact should be noted on the return for the purposes of the Post-Primary School Database.

2.8In the case of permissions granted, a return certifying the fact of the permissions and the specific grounds on which they were granted must be forwarded to the Department. Form M2/95A is attached for the purpose and must be returned not later than the 29th September of the school year in which the repeats are taking place.

The incidence and circumstances of permissions granted will be monitored by the Department both from the Pupil Database data and from the Forms M2/95A.

2.9The Minister reserves the right:—

(a)to review any case and to obtain further information or clarification, including the production of documentation when appropriate, on decisions of school authorities;

(b)to withdraw the delegated authority in the case of any individual school or schools if this is considered warranted;

(c)to exclude from reckoning as a recognised pupil, for the purposes of staffing and grant allocations, pupils permitted to repeat other than in accordance with the terms of this circular.

3.Senior Cycle — General

3.1All pupils entering Senior Cycle in September 1994 and after may spend up to three years in Senior Cycle in accordance with the structures outlined in Circular M47/93. The time spent in Senior Cycle will normally be comprised of:—

a two-year Leaving Certificate programme immediately after Junior Certificate or

a Transition Year Programme followed by a two-year Leaving Certificate course.

3.2From September 1995, the structure of the Leaving Certificate programme will have three main orientations viz.

the established Leaving Certificate programme,

the Leaving Certificate Applied,

the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme.

Schools are not permitted to offer a three-year Leaving Certificate programme, i.e. a Leaving Certificate programme extending to three years.

3.3The standard maximum period at Senior Cycle is three years for all pupils entering Senior Cycle in or after September 1994 and for those pupils who entered Senior Cycle prior to September 1994 in schools which had an approved six-year post-primary cycle of which they availed. For pupils who entered Senior Cycle prior to September 1994 in schools which did not have an approved six-year post-primary cycle, the standard maximum period at Senior Cycle is two years.

4.Transition Year Programme

Authority will continue to be delegated to school authorities to permit a pupil to repeat a Transition Year Programme in accordance with the same criteria, conditions and procedures set out for Junior Cycle pupils (paragraph 2 of this Circular). Details of permissions granted should be returned to the Department on Form M2/95A.

5.Leaving Certificate Programme — Year 1 and Year 2

5.1Subject to the terms of paragraph 5.2, authority will continue to be delegated to school authorities to permit a pupil to repeat a year of the Leaving Certificate Programme (prior to first sitting the Leaving Certificate Examination) in accordance with the same criteria, conditions and procedures set out for Junior Cycle pupils (paragraph 2 of this Circular). Details of permissions granted should be returned to the Department on Form M2/95A.

5.2Where a school proposes to allow more than 5% of a Leaving Certificate year-group (Year 1 or Year 2) to repeat, the prior approval of the Department must be obtained in the case of each individual pupil. In such a situation, permission for a pupil to repeat must be sought by the school on the formal application form attached, Form M2/95B, by the 31st of May preceding the school-year in which it is intended to repeat. The application form will set out particulars of the pupil in question and the circumstances in which the application to repeat is being made and will be accompanied by supporting documentation.

It is intended that decisions on the applications will be conveyed to schools without delay.

6.Repeat of Leaving Certificate

6.1Pupils who have sat the Leaving Certificate Examination may be enrolled as recognised pupils to repeat Leaving Certificate Year 2 and the appropriate Leaving Certificate Examination on payment of the appropriate course and examination fees.The Repeat Course Fee is €126.97 per pupil. Pupils whose parents or guardians are the holders of current medical cards will be exempted from the payment of the course fee on production of the medical card for noting by the school authorities. In addition, only the ordinary examination fee will apply to these pupils. The current Repeat Examination fee is available from the State Examinations Commission on 09064-42700.

In respect of the 1995/96 and subsequent school years, school authorities should inform prospective repeat Leaving Certificate pupils accordingly, and arrange for the collection and transmission (where appropriate) to the Department of the course fee involved. Form M2/95C is attached for this purpose and should be forwarded to the Department not later than the 7th October of the school-year in which the pupils are repeating. (School authorities will be advised of future changes in fee rates).

Pupils in respect of whom the course fee is due but not received will not be reckoned as recognised pupils for the purposes of staffing and grant allocations.

Repeat Leaving Certificate coursefees collected from pupils in voluntary Secondary schools and Community and Comprehensive schools must be returned to the Department. Course fees collected from pupils attending Vocational schools and Community Colleges are retained by the relevant Vocational Education Committee and a corresponding amount is deducted from the Department’s grant to that VEC.

Don Thornhill,

Secretary

16 May, 1995

Decentralisation Programme.

Áine Brady

Question:

227 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Defence the timeframe for the Department of Defence to move to Newbridge, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27693/07]

The Government Decision on decentralisation, announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement on 3 December 2003, provides for the transfer of all of my Department's Dublin based Civil Service staff to Newbridge, County Kildare. It is expected that my Department will relocate to Newbridge during 2009 following the construction of its new headquarters.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

228 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Defence the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27607/07]

The details requested by the Deputy regarding travel and subsistence in my Department are outlined in the table hereunder:

Period

Amount

Jan. to Sep. 2006

€280,611.23

Jan. to Sep. 2007

€203,504.13

Comparison of both figures shows a decrease in expenditure from 2006 to 2007.

Refugee Resettlement Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

229 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Government's plans for accepting refugees over the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27602/07]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the Government's scheme of resettlement refugees. In May 2005, the Government decided to increase Ireland's annual quota of resettlement refugees from 10 families (around 40 persons) to 200 persons. Decisions on nationalities and source countries are made following close consultation between the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform, the Minster for Foreign Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who advise annually on their priorities. No decision has yet been taken in regard to the nationalities to be accepted under the 2008 Quota.

Ireland is one of 18 countries worldwide and one of six EU countries that participates in this UNHCR-led resettlement programme. Other EU countries are currently in the process of joining the programme.

Legal Services Regulation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

230 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to regulate solicitors and other members of the legal profession. [27577/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 504 of 31 October 2007. I have nothing further to add to the details of that reply.

Finian McGrath

Question:

231 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will ensure the maximum protection of consumers in view of recent developments regarding solicitors, letters of undertaking, house deeds and mortgages. [27578/07]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Question No. 504 of 31 October and Questions No. 431 and 442 of 6 November. I have nothing further to add to the details contained in those replies.

Deportation Orders.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

232 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the application to have the deportation order revoked for a person (details supplied); the procedure to be followed having received conflicting advice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27584/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that a visa for the applicant cannot issue until such time as the deportation order is revoked. This matter is currently under review and I understand that a recommendation will be made to me in the near future as to whether the deportation order is or is not to be revoked. I will inform the Deputy of my decision in this case in due course.

Crime Levels.

Joe McHugh

Question:

233 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there are plans in place to tackle the growth in crime and murder in this country; and if there are plans to increase the sentences for those deemed to be a danger to society. [27357/07]

The provisional headline crime figures for the third quarter of 2007 released by the Central Statistics Office show that there was no increase in headline crime in the twelve-month period to 30 September. This outcome is against a continuing steady rise in the population over the twelve months. With regard to the third quarter itself, there was an increase of 2.8% in headline crime in the quarter, compared with the same quarter last year. This compares with an increase of 4% in the second quarter. While there have been successes in combating crime and this is reflected in the improving trend, there is still much work to be done. The biggest challenges to be faced are the level of gangland crime and the number of murders being committed. The detection rate achieved by An Garda Síochána for murders which are not committed by firearms is excellent. However, detections for murders related to organised crime, which account for most murders committed by firearms, are more difficult to achieve. This is a matter of concern, even though such murders make up a minority of all murders (17 out of the 57 recorded to date in 2007). I believe that the significant improvements in the way major crimes are investigated recently announced by the Garda Commissioner will help to improve all detection rates, including for murders connected with organised crime.

We recently learned of a number of successful operations by An Garda Síochána which resulted in the arrest and charging of a number of persons following the recovery of drugs and firearms and the foiled robbery of cash in transit. It is relentless activity of this type by An Garda Síochána, under Operation Anvil in particular, which has contributed to the statistics for the third quarter showing significant reductions in the number of robberies of cash and goods in transit (down 71% in the quarter) and of robberies of an establishment or institution (down 12%).

I welcome the increases in the number of detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply (up 26% in the year to date) and of cultivation, manufacture and importation of drugs (up 55%), which were also the result of such police work directed against those involved in organised and drug crime.

I am pleased to note that the third quarter figures also show a reduction in the overall figure for sexual crimes (down 5% in the quarter and 9% in the year to date). All five sexual crime categories showed a reduction or no change during the quarter. The figures for sexual crimes now no longer show the steep declines experienced in earlier quarters. I hope that any reluctance on the part of victims to report sexual crimes, as a result of publicity surrounding court cases last year, has now dissipated and the figures better reflect the underlying reality.

The Garda Síochána Act gives me as Minister the power to determine priorities for the Garda Síochána. I recently published the policing priorities for 2008. These priorities set clear objectives for An Garda Síochána which the Garda Commissioner must take into account in drawing up his Policing Plan for 2008. The priorities I have set show what I and the Government consider should be the focus of policing activity in crime prevention and detection.

Two substantial Criminal Justice Acts were enacted in 2006 and 2007. Both the 2006 and 2007 Acts contained a wide array of measures to tackle serious and organised crime. The 2006 Act criminalised participation and assisting with criminal gangs. It updated the offences and penalties relating to firearms and well as creating offences of importing drugs with a minimum value of €13,000 and supplying controlled drugs to prisons. A registration requirement was imposed on drug trafficking offenders and new guidance was introduced for the imposition of mandatory sentences for drug trafficking convictions. The 2007 Act introduced new provisions for mandatory sentences for repeat offenders convicted of a range of serious offences. New post release orders were introduced, to assist with Garda supervision of convicted persons and to protect witnesses and victims.

My Department keeps under constant review the penalties provided for by the criminal law and proposes amendments where that is considered necessary. The Garda authorities also keep the penalties under review and make recommendations to me on any changes they consider desirable.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

234 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27614/07]

Expenditure on travel and subsistence is €2.86 million for the period January to September 2007 compared with €2.04 million for the same period in 2006. The main reason for the increase is that the 2007 amount includes the expenses of the Probation Service for the full period whereas the corresponding figure for 2006 only included payments from the 1st July 2006. Prior to July 2006 the expenses of the Probation Service were paid from the Prisons Vote.

Illegal Immigrants.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

235 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of persons (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [27650/07]

The family concerned arrived in the State on 19 August 2003 and applied for asylum. They were refused refugee status by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The wife and son of the family concerned voluntarily returned to Croatia under the International Organisation for Migration Voluntary Assisted Return Programme on 27 April 2004.

The son of the family concerned re-entered the State on 20 May 2005. He was refused re-admittance to the asylum process under 17(7) of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. His case was considered in conjunction with his father's under Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended.

The father and son were considered for temporary leave to remain in the State pursuant to Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended. On 26 July 2005, they were granted permission to remain in the State for one year. This permission was renewed for a further year until 28 August 2007. The persons in question have not submitted an application for further leave to remain in the State and as such have no legal entitlement to be in the State at present. They should submit an application for renewal of their leave to remain immediately to my Department in order to regularise their status in the State.

According to my Department's records the wife of the family concerned has no applications before my Department at the present time, having previously returned to her country of origin. Given that there is no record of her having being granted a visa to re-enter the State she is, therefore, regarded as being illegally present in the State.

Citizenship Applications.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

236 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [27651/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question has made no formal request to renew her permission to remain in the State to-date. The current permission expired on 22 November 2006. However, the legal representative for the person concerned has been advised that should an application be lodged, accompanied by supporting evidence of the stated extenuating circumstances, it will be given priority consideration.

Asylum Applications.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

237 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of persons (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [27652/07]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on these applications will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Citizenship Applications.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

238 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [27653/07]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements. The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants. Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency. While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. An application for long term residence from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in May 2007. I understand that applications received in July 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Visa Applications.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

239 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an appeal of the refusal of a visa application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27654/07]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Visa Office, Dublin on the 30 August 2007. It was refused by the Visa Officer on the 21 September 2007 for a number of reasons. The principal reason for refusal was the immigration history of the applicant, who was deported from the state in 2003. An appeal may be made against the decision of the Visa Officer. It should be noted however, that it is not the general policy to grant a visa to persons who are the subject of a deportation order. It is open to an individual who wishes to re-enter the country to make an application for revocation of the order under section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

240 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria and exact procedure for spouses of Irish citizens who wish to enter the State if they are a visa required national; the procedure to enter the State if they are not a visa required national; the criteria and exact procedure for them to gain a stamp four after they have entered the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27655/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

241 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way the circumstances of persons who are granted a C visa and D visa differ if they are spouses of Irish citizens when entering the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27656/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

242 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the exact criteria used by the Garda National Immigration Bureau and local officers when deciding whether the spouse of an Irish citizen is immediately granted a stamp four on presentation or informed that they have to formally apply for residency to INIS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27657/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

243 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether it is acceptable that families of Irish emigrants wishing to return and make a life here are hindered when one spouse is prevented from working for up to 18 months after arriving in Ireland due to the long processing times in INIS for residency based on marriage to an Irish citizen; if steps will be taken to address the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27658/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 to 243, inclusive, together.

Marriage to an Irish national does not grant any automatic right to enter or reside in the State solely on that basis. A person who is visa-required wishing to come to Ireland to reside in the State with his/her spouse must apply for a "Join Spouse" visa. Where all the required documentation/evidence has been furnished and the Visa Officer is satisfied with the bona fides of the application a D-type Visa is approved in the vast majority of cases. In very exceptional cases, where a Visa Officer has concerns over the relationship history for example, a C-type Visa might be approved. The rationale for this is that the applicant is being afforded the opportunity to demonstrate the existence of the relationship.

Non-EEA nationals who have no current permission to remain within the State are required to make an application for residence on the basis of marriage to an Irish national to the Immigration Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department. Applications, in fairness to all other such applicants, are dealt with in chronological order and are currently taking 12 months to process. Persons who have appropriate permission to enter and reside in the State based on their marriage to an Irish national do not need to make an application for residence to this department based on their marriage to an Irish national. Such persons should register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau and such persons are normally granted a Stamp 4. However if there are doubts about the bona fides of the marriage the matter may be referred to the Immigration Division of my Department for further investigation.

Widespread use of "Convenience" marriages for the purpose of circumventing normal immigration controls is experienced by immigration jurisdictions worldwide. In order to prevent abuses of the system, insofar as is possible and without unduly interfering with the Irish citizen's private circumstances, the Immigration Division will seek to establish various matters. These include the context in which the marriage took place, the validity of the marriage and whether the couple are residing together in a family unit. This will involve requesting documentation in support of the application for residence and may also require an interview of either or both parties by the immigration authorities.

Parental Leave Legislation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

244 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the sections and subsections of the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006 that have yet to be commenced in full and where part of a section or subsection has been commenced to identify which part has been commenced and which part has not. [27691/07]

The whole of the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006 commenced on 18 May 2006.

Ministerial Travel.

Liz McManus

Question:

245 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost and frequency of travel since the beginning of the new Government he has undertaken by means of bus, rail or air transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27694/07]

Since my appointment, I have commuted regularly by train. In relation to the use of air transport, I have travelled abroad on two occasions in my official capacity as Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform. The Government jet was utilised on both occasions and the cost associated with such travel is not available within my Department.

Citizenship Applications.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

246 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application of a person (details supplied) to the EU Treaty Rights section of his Department on form EU 1, who has stamp three recognition and whose father is an EU citizen. [27702/07]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that an application by the person concerned for residence in the State based on EU Treaty Rights was received on 4th August 2007.

Applications based on EU Treaty Rights are currently being processed within the six month time frame allowed. A decision will issue to the applicant in due course.

Road Traffic Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that recipients of penalty points who paid their on the spot fines are as fairly treated as those who appeal the fines associated therewith to the Courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27710/07]

The legislation governing the penalty points system is set out in the Road Traffic Acts 2002-2006 which are the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Transport. The option to pay an applicable fixed charge for certain road traffic offences and to receive a reduced number of penalty points is available to a driver who has received a fixed charge notice in lieu of going to court. The choice in each case is a matter for the individual.

When a person chooses to have their case heard in court and is convicted then he or she is liable to whatever monetary fine the court may impose and the full number of penalty points that apply to that offence are entered against their driving licence record.

Garda Operations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

248 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will request the Gardaí to put a safety and security plan in place at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [27712/07]

I am informed that the area referred to is in Raheny Garda District and is patrolled by Garda foot and mobile patrols from that Garda station. Members of the local Community Policing Unit are also allocated to this area and liaise with the local community.

Additional Garda patrols, including patrols by the District patrol car, District Detective and Drug Units, the Community Policing Unit and the Mountain Bike Units have been directed to pay particular attention to this area, with a view to ensuring a visible Garda presence.

All public order incidents and anti-social behaviour detected by Garda patrols or reported to them are dealt with immediately and the suspected offenders are dealt with in accordance with the law. Current policing policy in the area is predicated on the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property, the prevention of public order offences and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of the quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of the policing service in this area.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

249 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the degree to which he will increase Garda strength at the various Garda stations throughout County Kildare in line with population growth requirements and in order to bring Garda strength in these areas on par with the best ratio of Gardaí to population in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27775/07]

As of 31 October 2007, the latest available end of month figures, the personnel strength of the Carlow/Kildare Division was 402.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of the Carlow/Kildare Division will be fully considered by him within the overall context of the needs of Garda Districts/Divisions throughout the country.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken or proposes to take to extend the opening hours of the various Garda stations throughout County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27776/07]

The opening hours of Garda Stations is a matter for the Garda Commissioner but a general point which should be borne in mind is that an extension in the opening hours of any particular Garda Station would necessitate the employment of additional Garda personnel on indoor administrative duties who might be far more effectively employed on outdoor policing duties.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of serious assaults reported in County Kildare in the past five years; the number of prosecutions and convictions which followed therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27777/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

252 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of burglaries reported to or through the various Garda stations throughout County Kildare in the past five years; the number of prosecutions and convictions which followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27778/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

253 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of anti-social behaviour incidents reported in County Kildare in each of the past five years; the number of prosecutions and convictions that followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27779/07]

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

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

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

Criminal Assets Seizures.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of instances in which the Criminal Assets Bureau has attempted to seize the assets of those involved in crime without success in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27780/07]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the only instance in which the Criminal Assets Bureau has attempted to seize the assets of those involved in crime without success in the past five years is as a result of the Supreme Court decision in 2004 in the FMcK v GWD case. In this case, the Criminal Assets Bureau was hindered in applying the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996 to assets in this jurisdiction which it believed represented the proceeds of foreign criminality. The High Court, on foot of this ruling, did not grant a Section 3 confiscation order over the property in question.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that, as a consequence of this ruling, an additional seven other cases were affected but that none of these seven cases was lost in its entirety.

I understand that a number of these cases were settled on agreement between the parties concerned while the remainder are still before the courts awaiting determination.

In order to regularise this matter, provisions were included in the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act, 2005 which now permit the Criminal Assets Bureau to pursue assets in this jurisdiction which represent the proceeds of foreign criminality.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

255 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that steps have been taken to ensure that criminal empires cannot be directed by those serving prison terms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27781/07]

I would like to assure the Deputy that I am committed to implementing all appropriate measures to deal with prisoners who may be engaging in criminal activities from inside prison cells.

One of the major challenges in prisons worldwide lies in preventing access to contraband items, primarily mobile phones and drugs, which for obvious reasons, are viewed as highly valuable commodities which could assist in illegal activity. Efforts are made on a continuous basis to prevent the flow of such contraband into our prisons, by for example, the installation of nets over exercise yards, vigilant observation of prisoners by staff, upgraded CCTV monitoring, the use of screened visits and prisoner and cell searches. In addition, new visiting arrangements are in place in all closed prisons whereby only persons who have been pre-approved by the Governor are permitted to visit.

I can also assure the Deputy that I am determined to deal with the problem of prisoners using mobile phones and, in this context, I believe technology offers the only real answer to dealing with the problem. The installation of a pilot scheme of technology to inhibit the use of mobile phones in prisons is currently under way at the Midlands Prison. The first phase has been completed and the second phase of the pilot programme is expected to be completed shortly. Evaluation of the project so far has yielded positive results and, if confirmed, the inhibitors will be installed in all our closed prisons over an 18 to 24 month period.

The Deputy will be aware that Section 36 of the Prisons Act 2007, which was brought into operation from 1 May 2007, makes it an offence for prisoners to have unauthorised possession of or use mobile telecommunications devices. Under the Act it is also an offence to supply such a device to a prisoner. The penalty for such an offence, on summary conviction, is a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both, and on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both.

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

As regards enhanced security, the Deputy will also be aware that I have recently announced a range of security measures aimed at keeping contraband out of our prisons. These measures include: the establishment of an Operational Support Group dedicated to, and developing expertise in, searching and gathering intelligence. The group will be available in addition to the normal prison staff and can target specific problem areas. They will also gather and collate intelligence information in their prison, carry out high profile escorts and assist the Chief Officer in charge of security in the continuing assessment and improvement of security.

The Drug Detection Dog Service will involve approximately 30 staff and an appropriate number of dogs. The Deputy will be aware that a pilot drug detection dog service has been in place since 23 May 2006 and is currently running in the Midlands/Portlaoise area and also in Wheatfield/Cloverhill Prisons, the Mountjoy complex and Cork and Limerick Prisons.

In addition, a number of serious gang members are now segregated in a special area of Cloverhill Prison. This initiative, in conjunction with the other measures referred to earlier, will prevent them from exerting inappropriate influence over other persons.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

256 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action that can be taken unilaterally or at EU level against criminal gang leaders living abroad and participating in, directing or co-ordinating criminal activities here or abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27782/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that while some Irish criminal groups have extensive links to kindred groups in other jurisdictions, it is not possible to quantify the extent to which Irish nationals based abroad are involved in criminal activity.

An Garda Síochána work closely with International law enforcement agencies in targeting the activities of Irish criminals operating outside this jurisdiction and the offices of Europol are also used extensively to coordinate the exchange of intelligence in the targeting of these criminals.

In addition, An Garda Síochána has liaison officers posted in a number of European countries whose function it is to liaise with the police and judicial authorities in those and neighbouring jurisdictions in the context of serious and organised criminal activity with an Irish dimension.

An Garda Síochána also has liaison officers appointed to Europol based in the Hague, to Interpol based in Lyons and is soon to also have a liaison officer assigned to the Maritime Analysis and Operational Centre (MAOC) based in Lisbon.

An Garda Síochána works with law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions in a number of ways. These include:

the exchange of strategic intelligence on the activities and modus operandi of criminal networks involved in organised crime.

the conducting of investigations within the State at the request of foreign law enforcement agencies, in accordance with legislation governing mutual assistance in criminal matters; and

requesting the assistance of other jurisdictions in conducting investigations on behalf of the Irish State, in accordance with arrangements for mutual assistance in criminal matters.

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

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

All of this work continues to lead to the arrest of major criminals both here and abroad. I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to keep under review the measures and resources in place for tackling organised crime. I will also continue to work with my EU colleagues in the Justice and Home Affairs Council to ensure that every possible measure, legislative or otherwise, is put in place to enhance EU strategies for combating transnational organised crime.

Criminal Assets Seizures.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

257 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the value of assets seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau in each year since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27783/07]

The Criminal Assets Bureau has been at the forefront of the fight against organised crime, including drug trafficking, in this jurisdiction since its inception in 1996. The significant successes that the Bureau continues to achieve by its operations demonstrates the effectiveness of its approach in pursuing illegally gotten gains.

The manner in which the Bureau operates has, in the eleven-year period of its existence, come to be viewed, both domestically and internationally, as a very successful model for targeting persons seeking to derive profits from criminal activities.

Details of the activities of the Criminal Assets Bureau since its establishment in 1996 are contained in the Annual Reports of the Bureau which are submitted to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The most recently published report is for the year 2006.

These reports are quite comprehensive and include details of the number of cases commenced, assets frozen and moneys returned to the Exchequer under the Proceeds of Crime Acts, 1996 and 2005, and moneys collected under the Revenue and Social Welfare Acts. Copies of the reports are available in the Oireachtas library.

The 2006 Criminal Assets Bureau Annual Report sets out in detail the current position with regard to the value of assets seized by the Bureau in each year since its inception up to and including end year 2006.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table identifies the value of assets secured/restrained/frozen under Section 2 Interim Orders, Section 3 Interlocutory Orders and Section 16(b) Corrupt Enrichment Orders of the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996 and 2005 (as amended) for the periods in question.

Section 2 Interim Orders

Section 3 Interlocutory Orders

Section 16(b)

1996

£2,101,000.00

1996

£2,048,000.00

1997

£2,334,680.00

1997

£1,496,180.00

1998

£1,682,544.65

1998

£1,091,412.62

1999

£1,500,000.00

1999

£813,659.00

2000

£838,536.00

2000

£1,641,215.00

Stg£52,230.00

2001

£1,872,654.72 (€2,377,781.00) Stg£491,114.09

2001

£1,342,951.10 (€1,705,196.15) Stg£279,635.70

Total 1996-2001

IR£10,329,415.37 (€13,115,652.02)

IR£8,433,417.72 (€10,708,231.61)

2002

€3,709,086.00 Stg£17,802,004.00 US$5,558,377.00

2002

£2,504,669.00 Stg£1,993,094.00 US$5,247,821.00

2003

€3,045,842.00 Stg£12,150.00

2003

€71,699.00 Stg£557,070.00

2004

€1,027,152.18 Stg£6,115

2004

€1,688,651.63 Stg£375.00

2005

€5,860,335.00 US$314,619.54

2005

€1,200,525.57 Stg£26,760 US$130,000

2006

€2,836,479.97

2006

€726,350.94

Stg294,289.39

€53.000,000

TOTAL

€29,601,137.17 Stg£18,657,912.48 US$5,872,996.54

€16,899,131.56 Stg£2,856,934.70 US$5,377,821.00

€53.000,000

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

258 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí available for duty for each roster throughout a 24 hour period in the Dublin metropolitan division, relevant divisions in the immediately adjoining counties and throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27784/07]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that for security and operational reasons, it is Garda policy not to disclose the number or percentage of personnel on duty at any specific area or over any given period of time.

Question No. 259 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

Garda Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

260 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects electronic eavesdropping technology to be used against organised criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27786/07]

The Garda Síochána already has available to it and makes active use of various forms of covert surveillance against suspects, including against suspected members of organised crime gangs. For obvious reasons of security, however, it would not be appropriate for me to detail the kinds of covert surveillance techniques used and the circumstances under which they may be deployed.

Apart from the use of covert surveillance techniques to gather criminal intelligence, I have asked my Department and the Garda authorities to examine whether it should be possible, as a matter of law, to use material gained as a result of covert surveillance as part of the prosecution case against a defendant. This is a complex issue, as allowing the use of this material as evidence could compromise methods used by — and intelligence available to — the Garda Síochána.

In any event, the criminal law has already undergone significant reform to counter the threat posed by organised crime. Nevertheless, I will continue to examine, in conjunction with the Garda authorities, whether further statutory provisions are required.

Bail Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

261 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of organised criminal gangs currently on bail on foot of various charges; the extent to which bail has been granted more than once and the reason given; his plans or proposals to limit the availability of bail in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27787/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána does not collate statistics on the basis of the roles which offenders may have, either as individuals or as group members, when participating in criminal activity. Statistics in relation to the granting of bail by the Courts is a matter for the Courts Service which is independent in the performance of its functions.

With regard to the matter of limiting the availability of bail in serious cases, the Government has recently introduced legislative measures concerning this issue. In this respect, the Deputy's attention should be drawn to part 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007 which represents an extensive updating of the law on bail. The most significant of the new provisions are designed to assist the Garda and the DPP in opposing bail applications in cases where the person is charged with a serious offence.

A new section 1A in the Bail Act 1997 (inserted by section 6 of the 2007 Act) provides that the applicant may be required to provide a statement setting out details of his or her occupation, the source of his or her income, details of property owned or controlled by him or her as well as details of any previous convictions for offences committed while on bail or any previous bail applications.

A new section 2A in the 1997 Act (inserted by section 7 of the 2007 Act) provides that a senior Garda (not below the rank of superintendent) may give evidence that he or she believes that refusal of the application is necessary in order to prevent the commission of a serious offence by the applicant. This is in addition to the grounds for refusal of an application for bail already set out in section 2 of the 1997 Act.

These provisions in the 2007 Act are in force, along with several other provisions that deal with a range of technical and administrative improvements to the bail system.

Finally, the Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to review the 2007 amendments to assess their impact and to determine what further steps, if any, are required. I propose to await that review before coming to any decisions on further amendments.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

262 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken or proposes to take to disrupt and disorganise the growth of criminal gangs here with particular reference to the seizure of assets and disrupting such organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27788/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that intelligence-led operations, primarily undertaken by specialist units of An Garda Síochána, under the remit of the Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services, including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Drugs Unit, and the Organised Crime Unit are regularly undertaken, targeting those suspected of being involved in organised crime.

Specifically in relation to the issue of disrupting the activities of criminal gangs through the seizure of assets, the Criminal Assets Bureau is being actively utilised to identify and target assets accumulated by such gangs, in order to seize such assets and to deprive criminals of the profits of their illegal activities.

The Bureau has been at the forefront of the fight against organised crime in this jurisdiction since its inception in 1996. The significant successes that the Bureau continues to achieve by its operations demonstrates the effectiveness of its approach in pursuing illegally gotten gains.

The manner in which the Bureau operates has, in the eleven-year period of its existence, come to be viewed, both domestically and internationally, as a very successful model for targeting persons seeking to derive profits from criminal activities.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that as part of An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan for 2007 and in conjunction with An Garda Síochána's Corporate Strategy, the Criminal Assets Bureau is committed to targeting persons involved in organised crime.

This commitment, which will continue during 2008, will form part of the CAB business plan and the Government will continue to provide the Bureau with all the necessary resources it requires to carry out its functions effectively.

As part of the commitment of An Garda Síochána to target organised crime gangs, the Criminal Assets Bureau works very closely with the other agencies which form part of An Garda Síochána's National Support Services.

For example, the Bureau is in continuous contact with the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. CAB also works closely with all Garda divisions through the network of divisional asset profilers and directly with other Garda divisional officers when the need arises.

Furthermore, the Criminal Assets Bureau also targets the assets of criminal gangs through its ongoing work on joint operations undertaken with outside agencies such as the Assets Recovery Agency in Northern Ireland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and with the UK's Revenue and Customs Services.

The measures which the Criminal Assets Bureau continues to take against crime groups involves the restraint and seizure of assets by way of the Proceeds of Crime legislation, the raising of tax assessments and the collection of money under revenue legislation and through the implementation of actions as deemed appropriate under Social Welfare legislation.

This work continues to cause major disruption to these crime groups by removing the profit generated by their criminal activities and such action will continue to be vigorously pursued by the Bureau.

Finally, I can assure the Deputy that areas such as gun crime, organised crime and drugs remain as the top policing priorities for the Government and that I will continue to keep the measures and resources for tackling such crime under review.

Organised Crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

263 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of organised criminal gangs currently operating here in view of his recently expressed opinion that 12 such gangs operate in the Dublin area; the degree to which the Gardaí have information to arrest and charge each, any or all of the principals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27789/07]

An Garda Síochána, as part of its contribution to the Europol Organised Crime Report which was refined to become the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA), undertakes an annual assessment of organised crime in Ireland. The most recent assessment was completed in November 2006. The analysis carried out for this report concludes that the nature of organised crime gangs continues to be the same as in previous years. There are two categories of organised crime groups operating in this jurisdiction.

The first category consists of individuals/groups that are well established and tightly structured involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures and criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland. Because of the relatively fluid nature of those involved in serious/organised crime in Ireland it is not possible to easily place them in a particular group.

While it is difficult therefore to provide an accurate and definitive number for the various groups operating here, gangs operating in this jurisdiction are targeted on an ongoing basis and profiles regarding the personnel of such groups are continually updated. Their membership, operating methods, criminal interests and financial assets are likewise proactively targeted.

Intelligence-led operations, primarily undertaken by specialist units of An Garda Síochána, under the remit of the Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services, including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Drugs Unit, and the Organised Crime Unit are regularly undertaken, targeting those suspected of being involved in organised crime.

In addition, the Criminal Assets Bureau, under the Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services, works closely with other national units and senior investigating officers in all Garda Divisions to ensure, wherever possible, that assets derived from criminal activity, including drug-related crime, are subject to post-conviction confiscation, pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act 1994, civil restraint pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2005 and the relevant Revenue and Social Welfare legislation.

An Garda Síochána will continue to use intelligence-led operations against selected targets to combat the criminal activities of these groups including those referred to by the Deputy which operate primarily in the Dublin area. As is evidenced by events over recent days, such measures continue to achieve significant successes being made against such groups. Finally, I can assure the Deputy that areas such as gun crime, organised crime and drugs remain as the top policing priorities for the Government and that I will continue to keep the measures and resources for tackling such crime under review.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

264 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the documentation required in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27790/07]

The Immigration Division of my Department requested documentation from the representatives of the person referred to by the Deputy in September 2007. On receipt of this documentation, the case will be further processed.

Citizenship Applications.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

265 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the citizenship application of a person (details supplied); and if he will he make a statement on the matter in view of the fact the applicant has been living in a hostel with their Irish born son for the past three years. [27796/07]

Officials in the Citizenship Section of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

266 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps that will be taken to address the backlog and delays in processing applications for long-term residency and for citizenship in view of the fact that it appears that possibly 14,000 parents with IBC/05 status presenting in three years time for long-term residency or citizenship could fall into a status of illegality during the processing of their applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27808/07]

Applications for both long-term residency and naturalisation are generally dealt with in chronological order as this method is deemed to be fairest to all applicants. Any backlogs and delays in processing such applications are primarily due to the significant increase in the volume of applications received in the last number of years and this upward trend appears set to continue in 2007. In seeking to deal with the backlogs arising, the deployment of staffing resources within the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service is kept under constant review. However, the Deputy will appreciate the importance of maintaining the integrity of the naturalisation/long-term residence process and that this requires that the procedures involved in processing such applications must continue to be completed to the highest standard.

I am aware of the potential for a considerable number of applications from those with IBC status to be received in the coming years. While this will present a significant challenge, every effort will be made to ensure that the concerns raised by the Deputy will be addressed.

Residency Permits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

267 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way he will secure the rights and facilitate the integration of parents of Irish citizen children who were unable to access employment due to their status as a single parent, particularly in cases where family reunification has been refused on the basis of stated Government policy, leaving the parent without family supports for childcare and other assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27809/07]

Permission to remain granted under the IBC/05 Scheme for the parents of Irish born children born before 1/1/2005, is granted and renewed subject to the express condition that the granting of permission to remain in the State does not in any way confer any entitlement or legitimate expectation on any other person, whether related to the applicant or not, to enter the State.

Single parents with IBC/05 permission to remain in the State are entitled to access the same mainstream support services as are available to single parents generally, including the services of FAS, CERT, etc and, where appropriate, language training. In addition my Department promoted two programmes totalling €1m to assist those granted permission to remain under the Scheme to become economically independent, with a particular focus on female headed households.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

268 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the requirement for a police clearance certificate from country of origin for the processing of applications for long-term residency was put into effect; if all applicants or selected applicants in the system on that date have been required to produce a police clearance certificate; the number of applicants who have been affected by this new regulation; the reason the requirement was made retroactive when these applicants would have already been waiting for over a year for a decision; the steps being taken to handle the further backlog that is being created when the applicants return for continued processing; if their applications will then be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27810/07]

Long term residency was introduced by way of an administrative scheme in May 2004. The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

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

There are currently 5,915 cases on hand. I understand that applications received in July 2006 are currently being dealt with. Long term residency is currently an administrative scheme which will be established on a statutory basis in accordance with the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.

The requirement for a police clearance certificate was introduced recently as part of the character clearance aspect of the application process. The request for the police clearance certificate is issued in the final stage of processing and upon receipt a decision is issued on the application.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

269 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the proposed Creggs sewerage scheme, County Galway is earmarked for commencement; the position regarding same; if part of this file is in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27597/07]

In selecting schemes for inclusion in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009, account was taken of a number of factors, including:

Compliance with relevant national and EU environmental, public health and drinking water quality statutory requirements and standards;

Support for the National Spatial Strategy;

Environmental Protection Agency reports on drinking water, water quality and urban wastewater discharges;

The provision of services for new housing through the Serviced Land Initiative and the need to address infrastructural deficits under the Rural Towns and Villages Initiative;

Other priorities identified by local authorities in their regular Assessments of Water Services Capital Needs.

Given the level of competing demand for the available funding, and the priorities identified for Galway, I regret that it was not possible to include the Creggs scheme in the current Programme.

Water Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

270 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to change the exorbitant cost of metered water on farms where there is more than one drinking trough per farm; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many fragmented farms may have a need to have six to eight water troughs; if it is still the policy of the local authorities to charge for water pumped from source rather than water used at tap or trough; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27598/07]

Local authorities are required to recover from non-domestic water consumers all costs incurred in the provision of water services to those consumers. The application of the polluter pays principle, as required by the EU Water Framework Directive, entails the metering of non-domestic consumers so that a volumetric charge can be applied, with the cost of meter installation being borne by the metered consumers. The cost recovery relates to water and waste water services supplied by local authorities to all non-domestic users.

In response to concerns expressed by farming representatives in relation to the cost of metering, and following a pilot billing project in one local authority area, my Department issued billing guidance to local authorities in December 2006, which included a request that authorities consider the necessity for special discounting arrangements in the case of multiple water meters on fragmented small farm holdings. The guidance recommends that the total metering charge in such instances should not exceed 180% of the cost of the first connection irrespective of the number of meters. This represents a very significant concession to farm holders with fragmented holdings.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

271 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27610/07]

The information requested is set out in the following table. The data show a decrease of €135,735 in the amount spent on Travel and Subsistence in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006, which represents a decrease of 5.7%. My Department also operates a Travel Pass Scheme for staff under which they purchase an annual bus or rail pass in a tax efficient manner approved by the Revenue Commissioners; some 255 staff availed of the scheme in 2007 compared to 250 staff in 2006.

Expenditure on Travel and Subsistence

1 January 2007 – 30 September 2007

€2,210,439

1 January 2006 – 30 September 2006

€2,346,174

End-of-Life Vehicles.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

272 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the systems in place to deal with refunds for motor tax already paid for up to a year in advance on a vehicle that is scrapped; his views on whether refunding unused months of motor tax on scrapped or written off vehicles would assist as an incentive in ensuring an accurate record of scrapped vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27624/07]

Motor tax law requires notification by the registered owner of a vehicle that is scrapped or destroyed and a refund facility is available for motor tax on such vehicles. Application for a refund can be made on form RF120 to the local motor tax office. The refund form is completed by the registered owner (i.e. the person whose name is entered on the national vehicle record) and includes a declaration that must be signed and witnessed by a member of the Garda Síochána.

Motor Taxation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

273 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the policy regarding the charging of partial months of motor tax on newly purchased cars, for example where a vehicle is purchased mid-month, but the owner is charged motor tax for the entire month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27625/07]

In accordance with a long-standing approach provided in section 1 of the Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) Act 1952 (and regulations made under this Act), the cost of motor tax is calculated on the basis of whole calendar months for periods of three, six or twelve months. In each case, the tax expires on the last day of a month.

This approach greatly facilitates the administration of the tax and the monitoring of compliance by vehicles in public places with motor tax requirements. There are no proposals to amend the current system.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Mary Upton

Question:

274 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps his Department has taken to end the practice of developers paying money to local authorities, which amounted to over €60 million between 2003 and 2006, in lieu of their obligations as part of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000; his views on whether this practice should continue to be encouraged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27635/07]

Mary Upton

Question:

275 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reasons his Department has allowed developers to pay their way out of their obligations under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 instead of being obliged to provide social and affordable housing on the site they are developing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27636/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 274 and 275 together.

A review of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, undertaken by my Department in 2002 in consultation with a wide range of interested bodies including local authorities and representatives of the house building industry, professional institutes and voluntary housing providers, concluded that greater flexibility in the operation of the Part V mechanism was required. The review was based on maintaining the principle of community gain while allowing greater flexibility in meeting it. Measures to achieve this were contained in the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act, 2002 which introduced a range of flexible options for compliance with Part V.

Difficulties experienced on small sites and high value sites led to the conclusion that there should be an option for commuted payments. There can be advantages in accepting a financial contribution, for example, in cases where just one or two social or affordable units would be provided in a very expensive location. In addition, all funds received by way of financial contributions must be reinvested in the provision of social and affordable housing.

In finalising individual agreements with developers under Part V, each planning authority must give careful consideration to its housing strategy. In particular, where the agreement would provide for Part V to be satisfied by means other than the provision of land on-site, the planning authority must consider a range of factors, including whether the agreement will contribute effectively and efficiently to the achievement of the objectives of the housing strategy, and whether the agreement would constitute the best use of the resources available to the authority to ensure an adequate supply of housing. It must be emphasised, therefore, that the legal obligation under Part V can be satisfied by way of a financial contribution only if the local authority considers it appropriate. In other words, while the developer may propose, it is the local authority that decides.

I am satisfied that Part V is operating effectively, evidenced by its significantly increased delivery of both social and affordable housing. Accordingly, I have no plans to amend the legislation.

Mary Upton

Question:

276 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way his Department plans to meet the Government’s commitment in the National Development Plan to provide 27,000 new social housing units between 2007 and 2009 in view of the fact that less than 1,500 were provided in the first quarter of 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27637/07]

The targets for social housing in 2007 were set with the goal of making reasonable progress towards reaching the social housing targets in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013. The aim is to commence/acquire some 9,000 new social homes. Activity has increased as the year has progressed and at the end of June the number of starts and acquisitions under the local authority, voluntary and co-operative programmes, and under Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) long-term contracts for new supply was almost 4,000. Projections to end year indicate that performance on the local authority housing and voluntary and co-operative programmes, and RAS long-term contracts will continue to be strong. The emphasis in 2008 will be on maintaining progress to meet NDP targets. The precise targets will be published as part of the Department's 2008 Annual Statement of Outputs, which will follow on from the publication of the Revised 2008 Estimates.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Mary Upton

Question:

277 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps, in view of the fact that it is accepted that in the future more Irish persons and families will live in privately rented accommodation for the duration of their lives, his Department has taken or plans to take to further increase the security of tenure enjoyed by tenants in privately rented accommodation to bring this more into line with the security of tenure enjoyed in other European Union member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27638/07]

The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 provides security of tenure for tenants based on a four-year cycle. This significant improvement to tenants' security of tenure was recommended by the Commission on the Private Rented Residential Sector whose report largely formed the basis of the legislation. Information relating to the private rental sector in other countries was among the matters examined by the Commission.

The Private Residential Tenancies Board has a role in keeping the operation of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 under review and making recommendations for any amendment of this or other related enactments. There are no proposals currently to amend the provisions relating to security of tenure, which are considered to be operating successfully and amendment of which would be premature, as the first four-year tenancy cycle will not conclude until September 2008.

Mary Upton

Question:

278 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps that have been taken to introduce the reforms in the action programme on minimum standards to tackle the poor standards in private rented sector housing and to cut the funding received from the landlord registration fee to local authorities who do not inspect private rented properties to ensure they meet acceptable standards; the progress on any steps taken; if local authorities have been found negligent in inspecting privately rented accommodation in their area; the action that has been taken against them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27639/07]

Good progress is being made with the Action Programme announced in September 2006 to promote improvement in standards in private rented accommodation, involving a range of measures including improved regulation, enforcement, funding and information. Updating of the existing standards regulations in consultation with relevant interests is an important element of this programme. Submissions received in that regard are being considered and revised regulations should be available by the end of 2007. Relevant recommendations arising from a study currently being carried out by the Centre for Housing Research on measures to promote improvement in private rented accommodation standards will also be taken into account.

Housing authorities are giving greater priority to enforcement of the regulations. The number of inspections carried out in 2006 increased by 44% over 2005, reflecting the impact of the Action Programme on Standards and progress with the Rental Accommodation Scheme. The rate of compliance with the Regulations reported by local authorities has also improved.

The system of funding local authority inspection activity is currently in a stage of transition, from one based solely on numbers of tenancy registrations to one based more on inspection performance. The primary purpose of allocating funding is to promote improved performance in the future, rather than penalise past under-performance. With regard to 2007, increased funding, linked partly to inspection activity, is being provided from the proceeds of tenancy registration fees, to support local authorities in their functions relating to the private rented sector. Accordingly, where a particular authority's inspection activity is low relative to others, this is reflected in reduced payments. For the future, it is intended that funding will be increasingly related to actual inspection performance.

Mary Upton

Question:

279 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps his Department plans to take to support the rights of the most vulnerable to housing, in view of the significant increase in the cost of rental accommodation especially in urban areas and to ensure some of these do not become homeless; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27641/07]

The Government is committed to achieving the targets set out in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 and the National Development Plan 2007-2013 in accordance with the overarching framework contained in the national partnership agreement, Towards 2016. Taken together, these plans represent a coherent and ambitious strategy that will deliver real change for the most vulnerable in society.

The core objective of the Government's housing policy is to enable every household to have an affordable dwelling of good quality, suited to its needs, in a good environment, and, as far as possible, at the tenure of its choice. My Department's housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities, launched in February 2007, outlines an ambitious but realisable vision to guide development of the Irish housing sector over the coming decade. The intention is to deliver more and better quality housing responses and to do this in a more strategic way, focused on building sustainable communities. A key ambition is to respond to housing needs by, inter alia, tailoring support, taking into account the household's position in the life cycle. The total Exchequer provision for housing in 2007 is €1.495 billion. In addition, more than €700m in non-Exchequer finance is available to local authorities, primarily in the form of HFA loan finance for lending to purchasers under the various affordable housing schemes.

The housing needs of vulnerable households are well recognised. A National Advisory Group has recently been established under the aegis of the Housing Forum to assist the development of a national housing strategy to support the provision of tailored housing and housing supports for people with a disability. This Group, chaired by my Department, involves the Department of Health and Children, the HSE, the National Disability Authority, social partners, a number of organisations representing people with a disability and other relevant stakeholders. The Housing Strategy for People with a Disability will be developed by end 2009 and will have particular regard to the needs of adults with significant disabilities and people who experience mental health issues.

My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, the HSE, the Office for Social Inclusion and local authorities, has recently convened a Cross Departmental Team on Sheltered Housing for Older People. Over the course of 2008, the Cross Departmental Team will develop policy governing sheltered housing provision for older people. It will also agree local structures and protocols for the integrated management and delivery of housing requirements and the provision of care in sheltered housing for older people.

Towards 2016 contains a commitment to the elimination of the long-term occupancy of emergency homeless accommodation (i.e. that persons should not occupy emergency homeless accommodation for any longer than six months) by 2010. Work is also under way in my Department on the finalisation of a revised and updated Government Strategy on Homelessness, having regard to the Independent Review of Implementation of Homeless Strategies, published in 2006. As part of this process, a National Homeless Consultative Committee, including representatives from the providers of local homeless services, has been established under the aegis of the Housing Forum. Preventative measures to ensure that homelessness does not arise in the first instance will be a key element of the new Strategy. Health Impact Assessment and Poverty Impact Assessment procedures are being carried out on the revised Government Strategy as part of its preparation.

Although rents have increased in the past two years, the longer-term trend is quite moderate with an increase over the 5 years from August 2002 to August 2007 of 12%, an average of 2.4% per annum. The Residential Tenancies Act, 2004 provides that rents in the private rented sector cannot be set at a level greater than the open market rate and that rent reviews cannot, in the normal course, occur more frequently than once a year. Any private rental tenant who considers that the rent sought exceeds the market rate can refer a case to the Private Residential Tenancies Board's dispute resolution service.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

280 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding approval for the preliminary report on a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [27648/07]

The Milltownpass Sewerage Scheme has been approved for funding under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009, as part of the Rural Towns and Villages Initiative at an estimated cost of €2.3 million. Westmeath County Council's Design Review Report for the scheme is being examined in my Department and a reply will issue to the Council shortly. Once this report has been approved the Council will be free to proceed to tender.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

281 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if Galway County Council has submitted contract documents for the Athenry sewerage scheme, County Galway; when such documents will be approved by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27666/07]

The Athenry Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 as a scheme to start construction in 2008.

My Department is awaiting submission of Contract Documents for the scheme by Galway County Council.

Housing Grants.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

282 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason there is no statutory grant funding to voluntary housing bodies or tenants to carry out improvements for disabled facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27669/07]

A revised framework of grants to assist older people and people with a disability with their accommodation needs was introduced on 1 November 2007. As part of the new framework, two new schemes, the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability and the Mobility Aids Housing Grant will assist with the provision or adaptation of accommodation to meet the needs of people who have a disability or a mobility issue.

The Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability and the Mobility Aids Housing Grant may be paid, where appropriate, in respect of works carried out to accommodation provided under the voluntary housing Capital Assistance and Rental Subsidy Schemes.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

283 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the concerns expressed by a group (details supplied) in County Limerick at the new forms of contracts and engagement of consultants for all future voluntary housing schemes; if he will review these proposals in view of serious concerns that voluntary groups will not be able to operate these new arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27670/07]

Arising from the construction review process, the Department of Finance introduced revised arrangements in October, 2006, for the procurement of public works projects and for the engagement and payment of construction consultants. In addition to Government Departments and local authorities, the new arrangements apply to other relevant bodies, including voluntary housing bodies, where 50% or more of the project funding is provided by the Exchequer.

In line with Department of Finance policy, as set out in Circular 33/06: Construction Procurement Reform, the new Forms of Construction Contracts are to be the norm and no amendments should be made to them. Exemption provisions apply in cases where the body procuring the project is not a public body and where more than 50% of the funding is from a source other than the Exchequer.

Community Recreational Facilities.

Jack Wall

Question:

284 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views and the plans he has to ensure proper community recreational facilities in residential housing estates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26517/07]

The Government's housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities published earlier in 2007 sets out a vision to guide the transformation of the Irish housing sector over the next ten years, by delivering more and better quality housing responses, and by doing this in a more strategic way focused on the building of sustainable communities.

This focus on sustainability will require the private and public sectors to work together to improve not just the quality of housing developments themselves, but also to ensure that housing developments are well integrated with the provision of supporting services such as schools, community facilities and amenities.

The planning framework also takes extensive account of the need for the provision of recreational facilities. At national and regional levels, the National Spatial Strategy and Regional Planning Guidelines identify improved social, amenity and cultural infrastructure as being key to achieving improved quality of life and providing better places for people to live in. In turn, these aims are translated into concrete policies and actions in county and city development plans, as well as through local area plans.

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, local authorities must have regard to requirements on recreation and amenities in preparing their development plans. Section 10(2) of the Act requires development plans to include objectives for the preservation, improvement and extension of amenities and recreational amenities and, also, the provision, or facilitation of the provision, of services for the community such as childcare facilities.

My Department published Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Development Plans in June 2007. These emphasise the objectives for the provision of public open space and recreation space including space/places for children to play and the preservation, improvement and extension of amenities and recreational amenities.

My Department is currently finalising new guidelines on residential development for public consultation before the end of this year. These new guidelines will replace the existing 1999 Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Residential Density. The 1999 Guidelines place an emphasis on the quality of open space including spaces suitable for children's play and passive amenity. The new guidelines will build on this and provide greater detail on the need for quality recreational facilities which are fully integrated into new residential developments, complementing the theme of Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities outlined above.

Copies of the above mentioned documents are available from my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

Fire Stations.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

285 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress to date on the provision of a new fire station at Castlecomer, County Kilkenny. [27706/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 187 of 27 September 2007.

I understand from the Council that during the preparation of contract documents and detailed site investigation in early summer, a survey of the proposed site for the new fire station indicated contaminated soil in one of the boreholes tested. The Council is investigating the exact location and full extent of any contamination prior to inviting tenders for the new fire station.

Animal Welfare.

Mary Upton

Question:

286 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the outdated legislation that applies to companion animal welfare; if he has plans to review and update the legislation that applies at local government level; if he has had discussions with his counterpart in Northern Ireland on an all Ireland approach to companion animal welfare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27740/07]

Matters relating to animal welfare are the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Local authorities undertake a range of dog control functions under the Dog Control Acts of 1986 and 1992. In addition my Department is drafting regulations to give effect to the recommendations of the Working Group to Review the Management of Dog Breeding Establishments with a view to having them finalised by the end of the year.

National Monuments.

Niall Collins

Question:

287 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the level of grant aid approved for a project (details supplied) in County Limerick; if he will provide more funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27745/07]

The Stone Mansion at Sarsfield St., Kilmallock, Co. Limerick is a national monument owned by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government having been transferred from Limerick County Council in 2003.

As with all national monuments, operational control is retained by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and a programme of works was completed in 2005 by OPW, including repair to the roof and securing the building. The Built Heritage allocation for 2007 included €200,000 for conservation works to the buildings immediately adjoining Kilmallock Stone Mansion.

World Heritage Status.

Chris Andrews

Question:

288 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to his decision to consider the listing of Georgian Dublin as a UNESCO world heritage site, the process and the time-scale for this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27746/07]

Nominations to the World Heritage List are only considered if the nominated site has already been included on the tentative list. There are 8 sites on the current tentative list which can be considered for nomination.

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 148 of 10 October 2007, my Department will be reviewing the tentative list of sites next year. The timeframe for nomination of a site newly inscribed on the tentative list would be at least twelve months from the date of inclusion on the list.

Departmental Expenditure.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

289 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount spent on travel and subsistence in his Department in the first nine months of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006; and the reason for any increase. [27605/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table herewith.

Period

Travel and Subsistence Expenditure

January-September 2007

€1,411,258

January-September 2006

€1,764,259