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 55, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 56 to 64, inclusive, answered orally.

EU Treaties.

Joe Costello

Question:

65 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made on preparing for a referendum here on the European Union Reform Treaty; if there will be a consultative process between the Government parties and other parties supportive of the treaty; if a budget has been agreed for possible advertising purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30886/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

326 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he expects all EU countries to ratify the reform treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31221/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

334 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if a date has been set for the EU Treaty of Reform Referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31229/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65, 326 and 334 together.

The EU Reform Treaty will be signed by Heads of State and Government, including the Taoiseach, on 13 December. The Treaty is expected to be ratified by each Member State before 1 January 2009. Member States will proceed with ratification under their respective constitutional provisions and in accordance with their own timetables.

The Government has sought legal advice from the Attorney General on whether ratification of the EU Reform Treaty requires an amendment to the Constitution. While it is necessary to await this advice, I expect that the Irish people will have an opportunity to vote on the Treaty, probably in mid-2008.

The Government will wish to consult fully with other parties on the Treaty throughout the ratification process. I have already written to all members of the Oireachtas providing them with a summary of the Treaty's provisions and we will shortly be in contact with party spokesmen to arrange for further consultations on the Treaty and its ratification.

A referendum campaign will need to be preceded by an active information effort and an initial short explanatory pamphlet on the Treaty will be published next month. A dedicated website is being established shortly. In accordance with established procedures, a Referendum Commission will be created to inform the public about the Treaty and to encourage citizens to exercise their right to vote.

As was the case with the previous EU referendum in 2002, the Referendum Commission will be properly resourced to enable it to carry out its role in an effective manner. In line with normal practice, the Government would intend to publish further material on the Reform Treaty in the early part of 2008, including a White Paper.

Immigration Policy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

66 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has been party at European level to discussions amongst his fellow Ministers for Foreign Affairs on issues pertaining to immigration within the EU; his view of the decision taken by the Italian Government to allow Member States to expel citizens of another EU Member State under certain circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30887/07]

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has primary responsibility for immigration policy and, in the EU context, these issues fall within the remit of the JHA Council.

The recent decision by the Italian Government to introduce an emergency decree, which provides for immediate expulsion of EU citizens believed to constitute a threat to public security, has not been discussed by either Justice and Home Affairs or Foreign Affairs Ministers of the EU.

EU nationals are entitled to free movement within the EU, as set out in Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (the Free Movement Directive). This Directive has been transposed into Irish Law by the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) (No. 2) Regulations 2006.

Rights to free movement within the EU are not absolute. For example, in Ireland, the Habitual Residence Condition restricts access to social welfare benefits for persons who have been here for less than 2 years. In addition, there are specific circumstances under which an EU citizen may be issued with an order to leave the State, or be excluded from entering the State for a specified period, for example, if the person refuses to comply with a requirement under Regulations relating to public policy, public security or public health.

Where an EU citizen is removed from, or restricted from entering Ireland, this is done in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities Free Movement of Persons Regulations.

The Italian Government have stated that their emergency decree is in accordance with EU Regulations and this has been accepted by the Commission.

Defence Forces Training.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

67 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the type of pre-departure training and preparation the volunteers in the Rapid Response Corps have completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29325/07]

All members of the Rapid Response Corps are obliged before deployment to participate in an intensive training programme. Two training programmes were held during 2007.

The training, which was designed especially for the Rapid Response Corps, is delivered in two parts over 6 days by the Kimmage Development Studies Centre (D-TALK) in Dublin and by the Defence Forces UN School (UNTSI) at the Curragh Camp.

The D-TALK component covers issues such as working in humanitarian emergencies, humanitarian law, UN systems, UN humanitarian reform, civil/military cooperation, and medical and stress preparation. The Defence Forces address issues relating to personal security and communications in the field, as well as basic first aid.

The training has been particularly well received by the participants and I am very grateful to D-TALK and UNTSI, and to the Department of Defence, for their assistance and cooperation to Irish Aid in designing and running the courses provided.

All Rapid Response Corps members are required to undergo a medical check by medical practitioners expert in the field of travel health. Irish Aid has agreed with those medical practitioners that all Corps members are medically prepared, as far as it is possible to do so, for deployments anywhere in the world. Finally, all members must be deemed fit for duty by those practitioners before they will be considered for a deployment.

There are also ongoing opportunities for members of the Corps to volunteer for training courses organised and delivered by our UN partners.

Fifty two (52) Rapid Response Corps members are now ready to deploy if needed, having completed their pre-departure training and checks.

Commemorative Events.

Willie Penrose

Question:

68 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he proposes to honour the work of C.J. Hambro with a statue or similar memorial befitting his important work on behalf of Ireland. [30892/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, C.J. Hambro was a distinguished Norwegian political leader in the earlier part of the last century. Mr. Hambro was a defender of the rights of small nations in an era when these rights were far from being guaranteed. His belief in the national rights of small nations led him to defend the cause of Irish independence and gave rise to his admiration for Éamon de Valera.

I am aware of a recent initiative regarding a proposed commemoration of Mr. Hambro in Muckross House. While I would be willing to lend my support to such a proposal in view of Mr. Hambro's distinguished background, the issue of a commemorative memorial there is a matter for the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In this regard, I understand that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has recently been in contact with the interested party to indicate that they are not in a position to accede to such a request, but have advised of alternative possibilities for commemorating Mr. Hambro.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

69 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent matters dealt with by the clearing house of COREPER in terms of foreign policy of the European Union. [30866/07]

The Common Position 931 Working Party, formerly known as the Clearing House, is an advisory technical Working Group whose work is related to the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 1373 on terrorists' assets. The group is mandated to examine and evaluate information with a view to the listing and de-listing of persons, groups and entities pursuant to European Union Common Position 931 of 2001, to assess whether the information meets the criteria set out by the Council in Common Position 931, to prepare a regular review of the terrorist list, and to make recommendations for listings and de-listings to be reflected in the necessary legal instruments, to be endorsed by the Permanent Representatives Committee with a view to their adoption by Council.

Overseas Development Aid.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

70 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the targets established in the multi annual programme scheme were reached; the audits that were carried out on these; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29338/07]

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

73 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the basis on which the funding of projects (details supplied) for the multi annual programme scheme two, 2007 to 2011, was established; the evaluations that were carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29337/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 73 together.

The Multi Annual Programme Scheme, (MAPS), is a funding scheme which has been established with a number of core NGOs with the aim of strengthening strategic and programmatic co-operation and providing a flexible and predictable funding framework. Five NGOs participated in MAPS — Christian Aid Ireland, Concern, Goal, Self Help Development International and Trócaire.

The objective of the MAPS I Scheme, 2003-2005 were:

To facilitate receipt by NGOs of Irish Aid funding in such a way as to promote flexibility within their own programme framework of visions and strategies, insofar as these visions and strategies are in line with the Government's policy of development cooperation.

To permit NGOs with a proven capacity to act in a predictable and coherent framework insofar as funding from Irish Aid is concerned, thereby allowing longer-term relations to be established with partners in the South.

To enhance and strengthen dialogue and mutual learning between Irish Aid and the NGOs in matters relating to strategies, approaches and the adoption of best practices.

An independent evaluation of the MAPS Scheme was conducted in 2005. The evaluation endorsed the Scheme as an effective mechanism for channelling funding to major Irish NGOs. A number of recommendations were made which have been incorporated into the second phase of the Scheme which will run from 2007-2011. The Evaluation of the Development Cooperation Ireland Multi-Annual Programme Scheme 2003-2005 is available at www.irishaid.gov.ie.

The Guidelines to the MAPS II Programme provide that the amount of funding to be granted to each participating agency will be determined in accordance with:

The Government's overall development cooperation budget and the allocation of funds between the various strands of the programme.

An analysis of the overall portfolio of funds of each participating agency, ensuring that Irish Aid's contribution is balanced by grants from other institutional donors and/or voluntary contribution.

‘Liquidity ratio' of 70:30 whereby participating agencies are expected to generate 30% of their total income in the form of voluntary funds raised in Ireland or demonstrate a capacity to do so incrementally over the period of MAPS II.

The quality of the programme based on the MAPS Guidelines.

The efficient use and value for money evident in the programme proposal.

All of the MAPS II funding proposals were subjected to a rigorous appraisal and approval process by Irish Aid's Projects Appraisal and Evaluation Group which includes independent appraisal by external development specialists. In addition, a mid-term review of MAPS II will be undertaken to assess progress followed by an end of programme evaluation. As required by the MAPS scheme, MAPS partners submit each year full audited accounts.

Denis Naughten

Question:

71 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans for the distribution of overseas development aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30785/07]

The White Paper published in September last year sets out the key principles and priorities for the Irish Aid programme as it expands to meet the target of 0.7% of our gross national product allocated to overseas development assistance by 2012.

The core objective of the Irish Aid programme is to tackle global poverty and exclusion. For this reason, the White Paper reaffirms that Africa will remain the principal focus for our assistance in the coming years. The number of our partner countries will increase from eight to ten. Malawi has been selected as our ninth partner country and a programme of development cooperation will begin there next year.

Irish Aid will continue to prioritise sectors, such as health and education, which are central to the fight against poverty. The struggle against HIV and AIDS is particularly important and we allocated over €100 million to this area and other communicable diseases last year. We also need to maintain our ability to respond quickly and effectively to humanitarian disasters, which disproportionately impact the most vulnerable members of society. The Rapid Response Initiative announced in the White Paper has already considerably improved our capacity to respond to these crises, wherever they occur. Other priority areas for the aid programme in future years include good governance, gender and the environment.

Global development challenges require concerted international action. Ireland will play its part by building on our strong relationships with non-governmental organisations, multilateral institutions and global partnerships.

NGOs and missionary organisations play a key role in responding to humanitarian disasters and also in longer-term development work. Our commitment to working in partnership with these organisations is as strong as ever. Last year alone Irish Aid provided over €140 million to support the work of development NGOs.

Irish Aid is increasing the level of assistance channelled through United Nations programmes and we are working to put framework agreements in place with UNICEF, the UNDP and the UNHCR. Support for UN agencies totalled €63 million in 2006. It is crucial that development assistance is managed to the highest standards and Ireland will continue to be at the forefront of UN reform efforts and work to improve the effectiveness of overseas development assistance.

The European Union is the largest development assistance donor in the world and Ireland's contribution to this effort through the European Development Fund is expected to reach €206 million between 2008 and 2013. Ireland plays an active role in shaping and monitoring EU expenditure on aid.

We are also working with global initiatives, particularly in the areas of health and education, to deliver long-term change. Between 2002 and this year Irish Aid will have contributed €80 million to the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for example. This support has provided access for over 700,000 men, women and children to treatment and extended HIV prevention programmes and care services to many more.

Our plans for the distribution of Ireland's overseas development assistance are guided by the principles of partnership, transparency and effectiveness. The programme will continue to operate in an efficient, accountable and innovative way to meet its ultimate aim which is to respond to the needs the poorest and most marginalised people in the world.

Human Rights Issues.

Joe Costello

Question:

72 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide information on the recent claim by the National Commission on Human Rights in Kenya that police were to blame for the execution of some 500 members of the Mungiki tribe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30885/07]

I am aware of the report from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights to which the Deputy refers.

The Mungiki came into existence in 1980 as a political grouping of members of the Kikuyu tribe, but over time has transformed into a criminal syndicate which is allegedly involved in extortion and may be responsible for several murders. It goes without saying that all police operations aimed at criminal activity of any kind should comply with Kenyan law and with international human rights standards, and any allegations of wrongdoing must be fully and energetically investigated.

Preliminary investigations by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights suggest that, between June and October 2007, over 450 bodies of young men have been found which display evidence of their having been summarily executed. The very large number of killings of young men in Kenya during the period in question is a matter of concern, irrespective of who is responsible, and every effort needs to be made by the Kenyan authorities to bring the assailants to justice.

Considering the seriousness of these allegations, European Union Heads of Mission in Nairobi will be pursuing the issue with the Kenyan Government. The European Union has regular political dialogue with Kenya in Nairobi under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, and governance and human rights issues are raised regularly in this context. Our Embassy in Tanzania, which is responsible for Kenya, will also be following the issue closely and maintaining contact with EU Missions resident in Nairobi.

Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 70.

Foreign Conflicts.

John Deasy

Question:

74 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the situation in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29339/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

79 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action he has taken or proposes to take directly or through the EU or UN to bring about an improvement in the situation in Pakistan with particular reference to the need to re-establish the democratic process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30948/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

83 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government has expressed its concern at the detention of opposition leaders and spokespersons and members of the judiciary, the suspension of the constitution and the declaration of martial law in Pakistan by General Musharraf. [30877/07]

Pat Breen

Question:

105 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has expressed his concerns to the Ambassador for Pakistan in relation to the imposition of martial law in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29300/07]

Joan Burton

Question:

106 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contacts he has had with the Pakistani Ambassador in relation to current events in Pakistan. [30876/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

113 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the current position in Pakistan; if he has plans to assist over the period leading up to the upcoming election and the elections themselves in January 2008 to provide observers or other such means, on its own or with the cooperation of the European Union, in order to ensure free and fair elections. [30878/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 79, 83, 105, 106 and 113 together.

The situation in Pakistan was discussed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 19 November. My colleagues and I expressed our deep concern at developments in that country and again reiterated our call for the immediate lifting of emergency rule.

Our position remains clear. The Government of Pakistan must take urgent action to restore the Constitution, follow up on its commitments on holding free and fair elections on schedule in January, and ensure that the necessary conditions for this are put in place, and President Musharraf must honour his commitment to step down as Chief of Army Staff. At the same time we also call for the release of all political prisoners, including members of the judiciary, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders; for reconciliation with the political opposition; and for the relaxation of media restrictions.

This position, and the Government's deep concerns about the State of Emergency in Pakistan, the dismissal and arrest of members of the judiciary, the harassment and arrest of opposition figures, and the situation of lawyers and human rights defenders in Pakistan have been directly communicated to the Ambassador of Pakistan in Dublin. This also included the Governments outrage at the arbitrary house arrest of Ms Asma Jahangir, UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief and Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a Pakistani citizen. I understand that an arrest warrant has also been issued in respect of her sister, Ms Hina Jilani, Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders. I would again implore Pakistan to reconsider its actions, by cancelling the arrest warrants issued against human rights defenders and by releasing those human rights defenders already detained.

Along with our EU partners, the Government will be keeping the situation in Pakistan under close review and will do all possible to encourage the reinstatement of the Constitution, the holding of free and fair elections, and the earliest possible return to democratic, civilian rule.

In this context, the EU is continuing to look at the possibility of sending an observation mission for the elections in Pakistan. This would clearly depend on the necessary conditions being in place, but would be something that Ireland would see as valuable and would fully support. Should the mission proceed, Ireland would certainly look at contributing observers. However, if emergency rule is not lifted in advance of the elections, it is difficult to see in those circumstances how the elections could possibly be regarded as free and fair by the international community. I believe that the reinstatement of an independent judiciary would also play an important role in ensuring the validity of any elections.

Official Engagements.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

75 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the meetings he attended during his recent visit to the Western Balkans; the persons who attended these; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29326/07]

Billy Timmins

Question:

308 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his recent visit to the Balkan region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30971/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 308 together.

I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo during 6-9 November for a series of meetings with senior political figures.

While in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I met with Foreign Minister Alkalaj and Prime Minister Spiric. Discussions focused on recent political developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the country's relations with the EU, regional issues including Serbia and Kosovo, and questions of bilateral interest. I also visited Srebrenica, where I met with Mayor Malkic, and visited the cemetery and Memorial at Potocari, laying a wreath in honour of those who died in the massacre of July 1995. In my contacts, I underlined Ireland's strong support for Mr. Miroslav Lajcak, who serves as both the international community's High Representative and the European Union's Special Representative, and his introduction of measures aimed at improving the functionality of the State and compliance with the provisions of the Dayton Agreement. I also expressed our support for the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and urged all political parties to work together for progress on police reform to help ensure that this can become a reality.

In Serbia, I met with President Tadic, Prime Minister Kostunica, Deputy Kosovo Minister Alender, and State Secretary Bogojevic. Discussions focused primarily on the Kosovo status question, EU-Serbia relations, regional issues and bilateral questions of interest. During these talks, I expressed Ireland's support for Serbia's European perspective and urged the Government there to ensure full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which will clear the way for signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union.

In Kosovo, I met with President Sedjiu, Prime Minister Ceku, and other leading political figures from the Serb and Albanian communities. Meetings also took place with the Head of the UN Mission (UNMIK), Mr. Ruecker and with KFOR Commander, General de Marnhac. In all cases, discussions focused on the political and security situation in Kosovo, in view of ongoing attempts to resolve the issue of Kosovo's final status. The trip to Kosovo concluded with a visit to the Irish KFOR contingent at Camp Ville. I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the excellent work of our Defence Forces personnel in Kosovo, who are playing a vitally important role in a complex and sensitive environment.

In my discussions with politicians in Kosovo and Serbia, I expressed Ireland's strong support for the efforts of the international Troika, which is facilitating the talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the question of Kosovo's final status, and urged both parties to take a constructive approach to try to find an agreed solution to this difficult and sensitive issue.

Human Rights Issues.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

76 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that the right of return is being respected in relation to the Serb, Roma, Croat or Gorani communities to return to Kosovo; if such a return is being assisted in practice by the international forces, KFOR and the UN; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30901/07]

Along with our partners in the EU, Ireland's position on the Kosovo final status issue has been that a final settlement must provide for a multi-ethnic, secure and democratic Kosovo, consistent with EU values and standards and contributing to the stability of the region. The EU has consistently highlighted the protection of minorities, and the right to return of refugees and internally displaced persons, as key priorities in this context.

The Contact Group's Guiding Principles for a settlement of Kosovo's status in 2005 also highlighted that any future settlement should provide effective constitutional guarantees and appropriate mechanisms to ensure the implementation of human rights for all citizens in Kosovo and of the rights of members of all Kosovo communities, including the right of refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes in safety.

As part of the gradual transfer of competences from the interim UN Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) to the Provisional Institutions of Self Government (PISG), provided for under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, most of the functional responsibilities for voluntary returns have now been assumed by the PISG, primarily the Ministry of Community and Return (MCR). However, UNMIK continues to provide assistance and guidance to the MCR as appropriate. In a report dated 28 September last, UNMIK noted that although there have been noticeable improvements in the conditions for returns, such as greater acceptance of the returnees by the receiving communities and an increasing capacity of municipalities to directly implement elements of the returns projects, the main factors affecting returns continue to be lack of economic opportunities and inadequate funding for approved return projects, as well as persisting perceptions of insecurity. It also noted in this context that the number of voluntary minority returns to Kosovo continued to be low.

The Report adds that during the course of 2007, six projects to support organised returns by 140 families, with a total budget of €3.7 million, have been launched. The MCR, in consultation with the international community, has approved 47 Community Development and Stabilization projects worth €2.08 million to facilitate the equitable integration of all communities and their members currently residing in Kosovo.

The return to Roma Mahala is one of the biggest return projects in Kosovo and involves UNMIK, the OSCE, the UNHCR, and the municipality of Mitrovica. The Government, through Irish Aid, has funded this project to the amount of €250,000. The return of 24 families to their original place of residence on 16 October marked the end of the first phase of the project. At a local level, KFOR has also been involved in the development of facilities for Roma, with members of the Irish Defence Forces contingent in Kosovo contributing to the construction of a Roma education centre in the Serb municipality of Gracanica.

The Government believes that a comprehensive policy on the right to return must form an integral part of any final status settlement for Kosovo. In this context, I note that the Ahtisaari final status proposal, which Ireland has supported, includes detailed provisions on the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons, and stresses that they shall have the right to return and reclaim their property and personal possessions in accordance with domestic and international law. Irrespective of the outcome of the final status process, I believe that such provisions should be integrated into Kosovo's future legal framework. I therefore urge the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to intensify their efforts in cooperation with international organisations in Kosovo to achieve, in parallel with the status process, concrete and rapid progress on these important issues.

Overseas Development Aid.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

77 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the research programme proposed for Irish Aid in the coming year; and if such a programme includes research on technology transfer, good governance, or strategies for indigenous development. [30889/07]

The high quality of Ireland's aid programme is recognised internationally. In ensuring that Irish assistance is of the highest quality, Irish Aid recognises the importance of research in order to ensure that decisions are informed by a strong evidence base. In the coming year, Irish Aid will continue to invest in practical research, through a variety of partnerships and networks in a range of priority areas.

For example one of the key priority areas outlined in the White Paper on Irish Aid is addressing the global HIV and AIDS pandemic. Irish Aid will continue to support investment into the research and development of new prevention technologies in pursuit of a cure for AIDS. Funding will be provided to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the International Partnership for Microbicides. Both organisations are involved in clinical trials of new candidate vaccines and microbicides leading to the potential for new products to prevent the spread of HIV.

In 2008, Irish Aid will continue to support a range of operational research to evaluate the impact of global and country HIV initiatives it funds. One example is support for the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS which engages practitioners, policymakers, and scholars in collaborative problem-solving, research, and analysis to address the needs of children living in the context of HIV/AIDS.

In order to address food insecurity and hunger, we will continue to support the network of agricultural research institutions known as CGIAR (the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). The aim of this work is the production of pro-poor agricultural research that makes a difference in the food security status of the poorest people in the world.

At country level, support will be provided for research prioritised by local and national partners that will contribute to indigenous solutions to addressing poverty. For example in Uganda we will provide support for a local NGO, Raising Voices, for research on effective community based interventions to prevent gender based violence.

In South Africa, where challenges persist in delivering water and sanitation services to rural populations, Irish Aid plans to support a three year research programme through the Water Research Commission. The research will focus the development and transfer of technology for improved water quality, sustainable sanitation and franchising of water services. Models developed through this research will have practical application in the Irish Aid water and sanitation programme in Limpopo Province.

Irish Aid also supports research commissioned by the Advisory Board for Irish Aid (ABIA). In the coming year the Board will, inter alia, fund ongoing research in the areas of policy coherence, measuring the impact of aid, and good governance. A range of partners will be involved including Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin.

The research on good governance arises from the growing concerns about the impact of governance on the delivery of aid. The research will focus on these issues both from the perspective of donors, including Irish Aid, and that of recipient governments.

Research is an important tool in learning new and better ways of delivering aid more efficiently and effectively. In the development context it is essential that it is focused and practically oriented and can provide decision makers with the information to make better and more informed judgements. I believe that the research funded by Irish Aid scores very well on these criteria.

Human Rights Issues.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

78 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions that have been held within the European Council of Ministers with regard to a prisoner (details supplied) whose case has received the support of European institutions previously; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30898/07]

The individual to whom the Deputy refers, a former member of the American Indian Movement, was convicted of the 1975 murder of two United States Federal Agents by the United States District Court in Fargo, Minneapolis in 1977. Mr. Peltier was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, a sentence which has been upheld on numerous occasions by the US appellate courts. I am aware that, in December 1994 and again in February 1999, the European Parliament adopted resolutions calling for clemency for Mr. Peltier.

The European Union holds bi-annual human rights consultations with the United States, during which both general principles and individual cases are discussed. The European Union raises individual cases of human rights violations with third countries in accordance with the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights; notably, the Guidelines on the Death Penalty, the Guidelines on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. The case of Mr. Peltier is not considered to fall within any of these Guidelines. The Council of Ministers has not discussed the case raised by the Deputy.

Question No. 79 answered with QuestionNo. 74.

Middle East Peace Process.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

80 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government policy with respect to the Middle East conflict in Israel and Palestine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29343/07]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

99 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his position in relation to the road map for peace in Palestine and Israel; the progress made recently in regard to the peace process in this region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30884/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 99 together.

Ireland is a long-standing and active proponent of the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. The Government has argued strongly within the EU and internationally that a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East is more urgently needed now than at any time in the past sixty years. It must be based on a negotiated two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There is now an opportunity to make progress by restoring credibility to the peace process. Political leaders from across the region are today in Annapolis for the important international meeting hosted by the US Administration. The EU has strongly supported the preparations for this meeting, and the courageous political dialogue between the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority. It is important that these discussions result in meaningful and urgent final status negotiations. These will have to address the most sensitive issues in the conflict: borders, settlements, refugees, security, water and the status of Jerusalem. The launching of such a process will provide a new opportunity for a just and lasting regional settlement, building on the historic Arab Peace Initiative, which was reaffirmed at the Arab Summit in Riyadh earlier this year.

I believe that, to be credible, a renewed political process must not only address the core issues of the conflict, it must be bolstered by action to improve the daily lives of the people most affected. The parties must implement their obligations under the Quartet Roadmap. This must involve an end to all violence in and from the Occupied Territories, a genuine freeze on the building of settlements and the lifting of checkpoints. Prisoner releases will also make a vital contribution to the reduction of tensions. The Government also believes that there must be an end to policies aimed at isolating the people of Gaza, and has called for the re-opening of crossing points for people and for goods.

The EU will have a crucial role to play in the coming period, working directly with the parties and as an active member of the international Quartet. The EU has for long been the strongest supporter of the Palestinian people. Total EU assistance this year will amount to over €800 million. Ireland's bilateral assistance will increase to over €7 million. We will work for the success of the major international donors' conference for Palestine which is scheduled to take place in Paris on 17 December. The aim will be to provide the necessary political and humanitarian support for the building of democratic institutions and a viable economy for the future Palestinian State.

Human Rights Issues.

Ulick Burke

Question:

81 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken or can take to raise concerns regarding the possible violation of North Korean peoples' fundamental human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29391/07]

Ireland, together with our EU partners, remains seriously concerned at the grave and persistent human rights abuses and the lack of fundamental freedoms in North Korea. Regrettably, while we avail of every opportunity to raise these issues, any meaningful dialogue on human rights with the North Korean authorities has so far proved impossible.

North Korea maintains that there can be no progress on a human rights dialogue until the EU refrains from tabling resolutions against it at the United Nations. The EU has refused to accept any preconditions. Given the lack of any improvement in the human rights situation, the EU again tabled a resolution on North Korea at this year's General Assembly, which was adopted on 21 November 2007. Ireland fully supported this resolution.

Following on from the breakthrough in the Six-Party Talks process in February, an EU delegation visited Pyongyang in March. Human rights issues have also been raised on a number of recent visits to North Korea by delegations from EU member states. During a visit to North Korea earlier this year, Ireland's Ambassador, based in Seoul, accompanied by a senior official from Dublin, expressed our deep concern. Similar points were made at senior official level to the DPRK Ambassador when he visited from London earlier this year.

We will continue, with our EU partners, through the UN and other relevant fora, to make clear our serious concerns about the human rights and humanitarian situation in North Korea.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

82 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of senior and principal development specialists that have been decentralised to Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29334/07]

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, the Development Cooperation Directorate of the Department of Foreign Affairs will decentralise to Limerick. In May 2007 an advance party comprising over 50 staff moved to Limerick.

There are three categories of Specialists employed by Irish Aid: Principal Development Specialists, Senior Development Specialists, and Development Specialists.

There are currently two Principal Development Specialists working in Irish Aid in Dublin. No Principal Development Specialist has so far decentralised to Limerick.

There are currently seven Senior Development Specialists serving with Irish Aid in Dublin and two serving in Limerick. There are currently eight Development Specialists serving with Irish Aid in Dublin and two serving in Limerick.

The development specialists perform an important role in the business of Irish Aid. The specialists work alongside diplomatic and general service staff, in close contact and co-operation with each business unit within the Division. There are a number of issues to be worked out with regard to the specialist posts which are scheduled to move. Discussions are on-going at a very senior level with representatives of the specialists, with their union IMPACT and with the Departments of Finance and Foreign Affairs in order to resolve the outstanding issues. Significant progress has been made and I hope that these discussions can be brought to a successful conclusion at an early date.

Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 74.

Diplomatic Representation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

84 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the honorary consuls appointed to represent Ireland; and the way and when they can be contacted by persons seeking information. [30899/07]

At present, Ireland has a total of 86 Honorary Consuls and Honorary Consuls-General in some 57 countries who are available, as the need arises, to provide information. Their names and locations are contained in the list below.

Contact details for each Honorary Consul are to be found on this Department's website www.dfa.ie. Honorary Consulates are generally open during office hours each day, in line with local practice. An after hours emergency service is provided by the Honorary Consulate or the nearest Irish Embassy.

Our Honorary Consuls are not full-time officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs but are honorary appointees who undertake, in addition to their own occupations, to do invaluable work on behalf of Ireland. In particular, the dedicated and personal consular services that they provide to Irish citizens who find themselves in difficulty are greatly valued.

Country

Location

Name

Australia

Perth

Michael George Nolan

Australia

Melbourne

Jarlath Ronayne

Belgium

Antwerp

Ivan Rombouts

Bermuda

Hamilton

John R. Kane

Bolivia

La Paz

Peter O’Toole

Botswana

Gaborone

Barney O’Reilly

Brazil

Sao Paolo

Myles McGourty

Canada

Vancouver

John P. Cheevers

Canada

Toronto

Edward J. McConnell

Canada

Calgary

Cameron Milliken

Canada

Edmonton

Bridget Cahill

Canada

Montreal

Michael Kenneally

Channel Islands

Jersey

Pamela O’Neill

Chile

Santiago

Miguel Aylwin

China

Hong Kong

Harry Eugene O’Neill

Colombia

Bogota

Carlos Gomez Lecompte

Croatia

Zagreb

Emil Tedeschi

Croatia

Split

Ante Cicin-Sain

Ecuador

Quito

Dominique Kennedy

Egypt

Alexandria

Hisham Helmy

El Salvador

San Salvador

Robert W. Murray Meza

Finland

Helsinki

Erkki Yrjola

France

Antibes

Pierre Joannon

France

Cherbourg

Ole Bockmann

Germany

Frankfurt

Klaus von Frieling

Germany

Hamburg

G. Michael Fisser

Germany

Cologne

Brigitte Wagner Halswick

Germany

Munich

Erich L. Lejeune

Ghana

Accra

Len Comerford

Greece

Corfu

Spiridon Lemis

Greece

Crete

Ioannis Xenikakis

Greece

Rhodes

Skevos Mougros

Greece

Thessaloniki

Theadoros Mavroudis

Guatemala

Guatemala

Roberto Carroll Rios Sharp

Guyana

Georgetown

Deen Sharma

Iceland

Reykjavik

David S. Thorsteinsson

India

Bangalore

Kiran Mazumdar

India

Bombay

Cyrus Guzder

Italy

Milan

Antonietta Marsaglia

Japan

Osaka

Kunio Takeda

Jordan

Amman

Ramsey Khoury

Kenya

Nairobi

Joseph T. O’Brien

Korea

Seoul

Yang Ho Cho

Lebanon

Beirut

Khaled Daouk

Malawi

Blantyre

Sean O’Neill

Monaco

Monte Carlo

Michael Smurfit

Morocco

Casablanca

Abdelhak Bennani

Morocco

Agadir

Mahfoud Chafik Filali

Netherlands

Rotterdam

Jacobus G.A. Fontein

New Zealand

Auckland

Rodney Walshe

Nigeria

Lagos

Cecil Quinn

Oman

Oman

Mohamad Hassan Darwish

Pakistan

Karachi

Hasib Ahsan Mozzaffer

Panama

Panama

Juan Carlos Rosas O’Donnell

Peru

Lima

Michael G. Russell

Philippines

Manila

Noreen Trota

Poland

Poznan

Jacek Ksen

Serbia

Belgrade

Ann Pesic

Sierra Leone

Freetown

Wadi Aboud

Spain

Tenerife

Jaime K. Willis

Spain

Malaga

Jose Miguel de la Torre y Morin

Spain

Palma de Mallorca

Pedro Pablo Marrero Henning

Spain

Barcelona

Enrique Cucurella

Spain

Seville

Fernando de Parias Merry

Spain

Galicia

Tomas Diaz Del Rio

Spain

Gran Canaria

Victor Auz Castro

Spain

Alicante

Rory Byrne

Spain

Bilbao

Rocco Caira

Sri Lanka

Colombo

Manik Pereira

Sudan

Khartoum

Ronald Shaoul

Sweden

Gothenburg

Carl Gomer Brunius

Switzerland

Zurich

Marcel Studer

Syria

Damascus

Naji-Pierre Chaoui

Thailand

Bangkok

Gary Biesty

Thailand

Phuket

Helene Fallon-Wood

Trinidad and Tobago

Port of Spain

Brian O’Farrell

Tunisia

Tunis

Moncef Mzabi

Turkey

Istanbul

James Geary

Ukraine

Kiev

Volodymyr Sai

USA

St. Louis

Joseph B. McGlynn

USA

Houston, Texas

John B. Kane

USA

Reno

Bernard Brady

USA

Los Angeles

Finbar Hill

USA

Naples, Florida

Cynthia Byrne-Hall

Venezuela

Caracas

Peter A. Macaulay

Zimbabwe

Harare

Garrett Killilea

In addition, there is an Honorary Consular Agent in Manama, Bahrain (Mr. Tony Scannell) and an Honorary Vice-Consul in Lanzarote (Ms Eileen Izquierdo Lawlor) who has jurisdiction for the same Province, comprising Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, as the Honorary Consul in Gran Canaria.

Diplomatic Relations.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

85 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans he has to foster relations between Ireland and Argentina; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29344/07]

Longstanding and close bilateral ties have characterised relations between Ireland and Argentina since resident diplomatic missions were opened in both Dublin and Buenos Aires in 1948.

The close nature of our relations is evident in the number of high-level visits to Argentina in recent years. In 1995, former President Robinson paid a State visit to Argentina, while President McAleese paid a State visit in 2004. In 2001, the Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern T.D., made the first official visit to Argentina. There have been Cabinet-level visits for St. Patrick's Day events in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

In March 2006, the L.E. Eithne visited Argentina and, on its return to Ireland, transported a statue of Admiral Brown, the Mayo-born founder of the Argentine navy. In September 2006, the Argentine Minister for Defence, Ms. Nilda Garré, and the Chief of Staff of the Argentine Navy, Admiral Jorge Godoy, visited Dublin to participate in the unveiling ceremony for this statue, which took place in the presence of the Taoiseach.

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the death of Admiral Brown, a lengthy programme of events took place in Argentina from 1-9 March 2007. An Irish delegation led by Major General Dermot Earley, the then Deputy Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, and Commodore Frank Lynch, Flag Officer Commanding of the Naval Service, took part in the commemoration ceremonies. In the context of this anniversary, the Argentine Navy tall ship, the Fragata Libertad, visited Ireland for 10 days from 16 June to 26 June 2007, docking in Galway and Dublin.

Consultations between senior officials of my Department and their Argentine counterparts also take place on a regular basis, most recently in Dublin in May this year.

Argentina has the largest population of Irish descent outside the English-speaking world, estimated at 400,000. In recognition of the close historical and cultural ties between Ireland and Argentina, on 7 August 2006, my Department announced first-time grants totalling €42,000 to three Irish-Argentine associations. The Fahy Club received a grant of €15,000, as did the Federation of Irish-Argentine Associations, while the Southern Cross newspaper received €12,000.

Trade relations between Ireland and Argentina are also strong, with total trade in 2006 amounting to approximately €110 million.

I very much welcome the continuing close nature of the relationship between Ireland and Argentina and I would certainly wish to see the bilateral relationship develop further under the new administration of President-Elect Fernández de Kirchner.

Irish Communities Abroad.

Billy Timmins

Question:

86 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken to strengthen links with people of Irish ancestry since 1 January 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29331/07]

Reaching out to and strengthening links with our communities abroad, and with those of Irish ancestry, is a cornerstone of Government policy. The establishment and operation of the Irish Abroad Unit within the Department of Foreign Affairs has greatly enhanced our capacity to develop and implement long term policies aimed at building relations and providing practical and financial assistance to our Irish communities overseas. Officials in our diplomatic missions have been, and continue to be, extremely active in this regard and work closely with Irish community organisations across a wide range of important issues.

The funding of community groups working with emigrants is an essential and positive element in strengthening our outreach to the wider "Irish Family" worldwide. The very substantial level of funding now available — over €15 million in 2007 — to assist in the provision of services and support to vulnerable Irish, helps also to promote and sustain valuable community structures into the future.

While the primary emphasis of Government funding continues to be directed at supporting frontline welfare services in Britain and the United States, I am pleased that the additional funding available in recent years has made it possible for me to broaden the range of projects and extend the geographic reach of our activity. In the past year, for example, I have been happy to approve funding for Irish community organisations in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and to support organisations who promote Irish heritage and cultural activities in Argentina, Mexico, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Government support for these projects represents an acknowledgement and appreciation of the role that generations of Irish, past and present, who have settled across the globe, have played in developments abroad and at home.

In April of this year, I called for a national debate on our attitude to our Diaspora at a conference on this important subject which I hosted in Dublin Castle. The conference provided the opportunity to launch a review of our overall approach to our community across the globe and, where necessary, reshape our policies in this key area. In this regard, I provided support, including financial, for the US-Ireland Forum held in New York on 7-8 November, which included discussion of the relationship with our Diaspora.

As we near the end of 2007, the plight of our undocumented citizens in the US continues to be of the utmost concern to the Government. The Government has been steadfast in its support for the undocumented. The Taoiseach and myself have used every possible opportunity to advocate on their behalf and will continue to do so in the future.

Officers in the Irish Abroad Unit and at our Embassies and Consulates abroad help to keep our people abroad in touch with Ireland and with each other. They will continue to maintain very close and interactive contact with front-line organisations that support our community abroad. This helps to ensure that the Irish voluntary sector around the world has an effective channel of communication with the Government, and that everything possible gets done to advance the interests and well-being of our overseas communities.

Question No. 87 answered with QuestionNo. 64.

Overseas Development Aid.

Willie Penrose

Question:

88 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on a cultural policy component to Irish Aid strategy. [30891/07]

The White Paper on Irish Aid underlines that culture can contribute to public awareness and understanding of complex development issues and plays an important role in building stronger public appreciation for the diversity of the partner countries and societies within which Irish Aid works.

Irish Aid strategies for improving the lives of people in developing countries are devised and delivered taking full account of local cultural factors. It is essential to have a thorough understanding and sensitivity to local traditions and customs in order to deliver effective development assistance. Moreover, activities such as theatre and art can and are harnessed in the development programme to help convey important messages, notably in the areas of HIV/AIDS and gender-related issues.

While support for explicitly cultural activities does not absorb the level of funds that go into other sectors, some support is provided directly. For instance, financial support is made available for events to mark Africa Day on 25 May to promote a more positive and comprehensive understanding of Africa in Ireland.

Irish Aid is concerned in its work to challenge negative images of Africa and to ensure that these are balanced by an understanding of the positives that Africa has to offer including in terms of history, culture and art. This diversity should be highlighted. In that respect development-related events with a cultural component will form an important part of the work of the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre which will open on O'Connell Street in Dublin early next year.

Foreign Conflicts.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

89 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the briefing provided by his Department on the issues affecting the region in preparation for the deployment of Irish troops to Chad. [30871/07]

My officials have provided information to the Department of Defence on the political and humanitarian situation in Chad, the Central African Republic and the wider region in the context of preparations for Irish involvement in EUFOR Tchad/RCA. I also briefed my Cabinet colleagues on the results of my visit to Sudan and Chad at the Government meeting on 20 November at which a decision was taken on an Irish contribution to EUFOR Tchad/RCA. For more information on my visit as well as details of the current situation in Chad and neighbouring Darfur, I refer the Deputy to my reply today to Questions Nos. 115 and 120.

As regards the Central African Republic (CAR), the already fragile situation has been exacerbated by the activities of criminal gangs, the spill-over of instability from Darfur and Chad and armed rebellions in the north-west and north-east. Since late 2006, UN reports have described the conflict in the border areas between Darfur, Chad and CAR as a threat to peace and security in the whole region. Approximately 170,000 people have fled their homes in CAR since 2005; more than 43,000 refugees from CAR reside in camps in southern Chad; and 20,000 people are thought to have fled to Cameroon. These displaced people are in dire need of protection and humanitarian assistance. Deployment of the EUFOR Tchad/RCA mission is obviously intended to assist in this regard. Gender based violence is widespread, and some rebel groups use child soldiers. Both the CAR military and police are in need of urgent reform to allow them to provide security while abiding by basic human rights standards. Since late 2006, President Bozizé has been trying to reunite the country through a process of inclusive political dialogue, involving the opposition and civil society. Through talks he also reached a peace agreement with some of CAR's rebel factions in early 2007. These efforts have been welcomed by the international community but much more remains to be done.

International Agreements.

Billy Timmins

Question:

90 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the initiatives he has taken since 2004 to assist and encourage reform of the UN Security Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29332/07]

I acted as one of the previous Secretary-General's five Special Envoys in the preparation of the UN 2005 World Summit. At the Summit, world leaders reaffirmed the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security, and despite the absence of agreement on the various models advanced, they unanimously supported the principle of its early reform. The General Assembly was asked to review progress by the end of 2005. In November 2005, a debate in the General Assembly reconfirmed widespread agreement both that there is a need to expand the Security Council with a view to making it more broadly representative and that enlargement of the Council's membership should contribute to its efficiency and effectiveness. However, the debate also showed widely divergent views concerning the size of the Council and the categories of its expanded membership, highlighting the difficulty of finding an agreed way forward.

Ireland's view is that a more representative, efficient and transparent Security Council is an essential aspect of reforming the UN to meet the many global challenges which we face. Our approach is based on the following key principles: The Security Council should be increased in size to reflect the realities of the twenty-first century; That increase should be regionally balanced, including enhancing the role of Africa; Any change should not lessen the capacity of smaller Member States, like Ireland, to continue to aspire to membership from time to time; While we would ideally wish to see the complete removal of the veto, there should be no conferral of new veto powers. An expanded Security Council should accommodate member states that play a particularly significant role in the UN system, for instance financially, in peacekeeping or through their capacity for regional leadership.

Regrettably, wide differences of view among the UN membership have meant that little progress has been made on the issue in the period since 2005. In an effort to reinvigorate the debate, facilitators were appointed last February by the then President of the General Assembly to carry out consultations on Security Council reform. The facilitators concluded that it was not possible at this stage to find an agreement which would reconcile the positions of all the different parties. Instead, they flagged the possibility of a transitional approach, with an interim arrangement which would be subject to review in the future. They suggested various possibilities for an interim arrangement such as a new category of re-electable seats with an extended term.

In May, the facilitators' report was discussed by an informal meeting of the General Assembly, and in September, the Assembly adopted a report by its outgoing President, which included the earlier findings. At a debate of the General Assembly on 12 November, the new President, Ambassador Kerim of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, stressed the need to build on this work and agree the elements that could form a basis for intergovernmental negotiations with a view to achieving concrete results during the session.

Ireland regrets the lack of progress to date on this critical issue. We welcome the efforts by the President of the General Assembly to reinvigorate the debate and we look forward to participating actively in future discussions of the issue, on the basis of the principles set out above, once the President has outlined the next steps in the process.

Overseas Development Aid.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

91 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the response from Ireland to the damage to areas in southern Bangladesh from the recent cyclone, which it is claimed might result in over 1,000 casualties; and the efforts being made by Ireland and the European Union to alleviate the distress of those affected, injured and displaced by this tragedy. [30864/07]

Cyclone Sidr, with wind speeds of up to 240 kilometres per hour, hit Bangladesh on the evening of 15 November. The storm caused extensive damage to the southern districts of the country. More than 4 million people in 28 southern districts are now known to have been directly affected by the cyclone. As of 20 November, the Government of Bangladesh had reported a death toll of 3,447 people, although this may rise. It is estimated that over 300,000 homes were destroyed and a further 626,000 houses were partially damaged. An estimated 870,000 acres of crops were affected. Extensive damage to roads, schools and public buildings is also evident.

I announced on 16 November initial assistance of €500,000 to those affected by Cyclone Sidr. This funding will be distributed through partner relief organisations operating in the region and will help meet the immediate needs of those worst affected. Funding of approximately €10 million is committed to the Cyclone Sidr emergency from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to which Ireland provided €20 million in January of this year. The CERF was established specifically to be able to immediately respond to emergencies such as Cyclone Sidr and I am glad that it is proving effective.

In addition, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) allocated approximately €175,000 from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to respond to the urgent needs of the population affected by Cyclone Sidr. Ireland is also a significant contributor to that fund, having contributed €1 million in 2006 as part of our two year agreement with the IFRC. The European Commission has announced funding of €6.5 million to assist the victims of Cyclone Sidr. This funding will help provide water, food, shelter and household items to those affected by the cyclone.

It is important to note and commend the exceptional work done by the Government of Bangladesh in disaster preparedness. An effective early warning system and a network of shelters in vulnerable coastal areas helped ensure that the loss of life in this instance was not even greater. Ireland has already pledged €125,000 to disaster preparedness projects in Bangladesh in 2007. This is in addition to emergency funding of €640,000 provided earlier this year for victims of previous floods in Bangladesh.

Nuclear Disarmament Initiative.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

92 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the decisions reached at the most recent foreign affairs meeting of the European Union he attended with regard to the most recent assessment by the IAEA of Iran’s enrichment of plutonium programme. [30879/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

330 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU and UN colleagues have engaged in the ongoing situation in Iran with particular reference to the alleged development of the nuclear industry for other than domestic purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31225/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 330 together.

The Government and our EU partners share the widespread international concern at Iran's continuing refusal to comply with its international obligations in relation to its nuclear programme.

At the meeting of the General Affairs and External Affairs Council which I attended in Brussels on 19 November, we reviewed developments on Iran, including the latest report by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr. Mohammed El Baradei, which was published on 15 November. He reported on the operation of the Work Plan agreed between the IAEA and Iran in August, indicating that progress had been made in answering outstanding questions on the history of Iran's nuclear programme, and that some of these questions have been satisfactorily resolved. However, he also reported that Iran was not yet providing the active cooperation and full transparency needed for the full implementation of the Work Plan, and stated that the Agency's knowledge of Iran's current nuclear programme was in fact diminishing. The report again confirmed that Iran continues to ignore the unanimous demand of the UN Security Council to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

I welcome the reported progress in relation to Iran's past activities, even if it is long overdue. I hope it will continue, and draw attention to the IAEA's statement that Iran needs to continue to build confidence about the scope and nature of its present programme. It is important to emphasise that progress under the Work Plan does not negate Iran's obligation to comply with the demands of the UN Security Council, which reflect the genuine and serious concerns of the international community, including Iran's neighbours.

The UN Security Council is now considering what further action it should take in view of Iran's non-compliance with its clear demands, most recently set out in Resolution 1747 of 24 March 2007. The EU is firmly committed to the search for a diplomatic solution, and is working in close cooperation with the United States, Russia and China. I hope that High Representative Solana will meet again shortly with Iran's chief negotiator on the nuclear issue. I expect that we will have further detailed discussions on the way forward at the meetings of the Council in December and in January, and that we will consider what additional measures the EU might take in order to support the UN process and the shared objectives of the international community.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

93 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his proposals for the improvement of accountability to parliaments of Member States of the European Union in relation to decision making on common, foreign and security policy and European security and defence. [30865/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

323 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the EU process for law making and the impact of the proposed treaty changes on this process; the scrutiny process in place here of EU legislation; the changes that are proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31068/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 323 together.

A key purpose of the EU Reform Treaty, which will be signed by Heads of State and Government on 13 December 2007, is to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the Union. Since 2006, the Houses of the Oireachtas and other national Parliaments in the Union have received European Commission proposals directly from the Commission. The Reform Treaty will strengthen current arrangements by giving national Parliaments longer to respond to Commission proposals and by increasing the onus on the Commission to take into account national parliaments' reasoned opinions on whether or not a Commission proposal respects the principle of subsidiarity. The Commission can be obliged by National Parliaments to review and to justify a proposal. This strengthened role for national Parliaments, which has become known as a "yellow card" system, is a positive development which will enhance accountability and democratic legitimacy within the Union.

The Reform Treaty aims to simplify the EU's decision-making procedures. In most instances, a double majority voting system will be used in the Council of Ministers whereby a qualified majority will require 55 per cent of the Member States and 65 per cent of the Union's population. The role of the European Parliament will also be strengthened by the Reform Treaty, with additional policy areas being subject to co-decision between the Council of Ministers and the Parliament. At national level, the European Union (Scrutiny) Act in 2002 improved the arrangements for scrutiny of EU business by the Dáil and the Seanad. Thanks to the work of the Sub-Committee on European Scrutiny, parliamentary oversight of proposed EU measures has been greatly enhanced. At national level, the European Union (Scrutiny) Act in 2002 improved the arrangements for scrutiny of EU business by the Dáil and the Seanad. Thanks to the work of the Sub-Committee on European Scrutiny, parliamentary oversight of proposed EU measures has been greatly enhanced. Under the Scrutiny Act, the following measures are subject to scrutiny: regulations or directives; joint actions and common positions under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP); and a range of measures in the Justice and Home Affairs area.

In relation to CFSP/ESDP measures, my Department informs the Oireachtas as to the content, purpose and the national implications of such proposals. 56 such proposals were scrutinised in detail in 2006. I also arrange to brief the Joint Committee on European Affairs, in advance of each meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, on items to be discussed, the majority of which usually relate to CFSP/ESDP issues. I welcome the establishment of the new Joint Committee on European Scrutiny under the Chairmanship of John Perry T.D. The establishment of the new Joint Committee may have implications for the Guidelines for Departments on Oireachtas Scrutiny of EU Business, which are prepared by my Department. We will consult with other Government Departments and the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming weeks in relation to the preparation of the new Guidelines.

Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Human Rights Issues.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

95 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions, under the rubric of constructive engagement, held between his Department and representatives of the Chinese Government in advance of the Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing; the progress made in particular areas in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30890/07]

In our regular contacts with the Chinese authorities at various levels we have stressed the importance that Ireland attaches to human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We have stressed our hope that every effort possible will be made to facilitate freedom of movement and expression, including the right to peaceful protest, in the run-up to and during the Olympic Games in Beijing next year. We have also highlighted the opportunity which China's hosting of the Games presents, in terms of show-casing a positive, progressive image to the world. While I welcome the decision by the Chinese Government from the beginning of this year to temporarily relax some restrictions on foreign journalists in China for a period up to and including the Games, I believe it would be a significant gesture if these rules were made permanent and expanded to include local journalists, which would allow for a deeper understanding of China and its development.

Human rights issues continue to be a constant and important point of dialogue with the Chinese authorities at both bilateral and European Union levels. The EU-China Human Rights Dialogue is the agreed formal framework through which the EU raises its concerns with China about general human rights issues, as well as individual human rights cases. The Dialogue, the most recent round of which took place in Beijing on 17 October 2007, has allowed the EU to engage with China on such issues as freedom of expression, the death penalty, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of religion and minority rights. The EU has used the Dialogue to press its case for Chinese ratification of such international instruments as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and, in that context, reform of the criminal justice system. Significant individual human rights cases are also raised and followed up in subsequent contacts with the Chinese authorities.

Human rights and the role of China in international issues such as Burma and Darfur, as well as development issues, including Africa, will be important topics for the upcoming EU-China Summit, due to be held in Beijing on 28 November 2007.

Overseas Development Aid.

Mary Upton

Question:

96 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 83 of 23 October 2007 in relation to countries expected to fail to meet the Millennium Development Goals, if he will provide details of Irish Aid’s pro-poor growth initiatives; and if such initiatives have been assessed in terms of a human rights perspective. [30870/07]

As indicated in my earlier reply referred to by the Deputy, progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been mixed. There has been good progress on reaching some targets, with more intensive effort required on others. On the positive side, if current trends continue we are on target to reach the MDG on the poverty reduction target for the world as a whole. Extreme poverty is beginning to fall in Sub Saharan Africa and child mortality has declined globally. However, there is significant geographical disparity, with progress in sub-Saharan Africa being still far too slow.

Ireland is committed to playing our part in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. We intend to keep the achievement of the MDGs at the centre of our development efforts and will encourage other donors to increase and improve the quality of their aid, as we are doing, and to ensure that governance and respect for human rights are strengthened in developing countries. Human rights are at the core of Irish foreign policy. The close relationship between human rights and development is emphasised in the White Paper on Irish Aid. Our commitment to reducing and eradicating poverty is made within the framework of achieving the MDGs and is consistent with a rights-based approach.

Aid on its own will not be enough. Achieving the MDGs will require sustained economic growth especially in the poorer African countries. Much of Ireland's aid is used to fund basic services such as health, education and water supply as well as roads and agricultural services. We are also strengthening our support for the private sector. Economic growth will increase developing countries' own revenues allowing them to finance more and better services for the poor. A growing economy also provides opportunities for poor people to increase their incomes through their own productive activities such as smallholder agriculture or through paid employment.

These poverty reducing benefits of economic growth do not just appear by chance. Pro-poor economic growth requires appropriate policies and planning by Government. As I said in my reply to the previous question on this issue, the best way to ensure that economic growth benefits the poor is for the poor to participate directly in generating that growth. The pattern of growth is critical for poverty reduction. For poor people to benefit, growth must occur in sectors of the economy where the poor are economically active and make their livelihoods. The poor must be directly involved in growing economic activity as producers, traders, processors or employees.

In its partner countries Irish Aid provides funding for public expenditure programmes at overall exchequer level and to specific sectors such as health, education and agriculture. As an important funding partner we have the opportunity and responsibility to discuss budgets and economic and other policies with our partner Governments, the International Financial Institutions and other donors. Irish Aid uses these opportunities to ensure that policies for sustaining growth in our partner countries — including those promoting macro-economic stability and improving the investment climate — should be designed to increase poor peoples' incentives, opportunities and capabilities for employment and entrepreneurship, so that they too can participate in and benefit from growth.

Irish Aid also uses this dialogue to ensure that funding of basic services and other poverty reduction programmes is protected and increased in the allocation of aid and other public resources. Progress in other, non-income areas of poverty such as education, literacy and health status is a key driver of poor peoples' ability to benefit from economic growth.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of the measures in place to ensure that development aid to all African countries is used for the benefit of those for whom it was intended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30947/07]

I would like to assure the Deputy that it is of particular importance to me that Ireland's overseas aid to African countries is used for the benefit of the poor. The overall objective of Ireland's overseas development assistance is to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries, particularly in Africa. There is a wide range of measures in place to ensure that Irish taxpayers' money is contributing to achieving positive and lasting changes in the lives of poor people.

In our bilateral Programme Countries, support is planned in close consultation with national Governments and other partners at country level. We support our partner countries' national poverty reduction plan. These plans are developed to respond to the needs of the poorest people and have a strong focus on providing basic social services such as health and education. In addition, Irish Aid is actively engaged with Governments and other donors in national policy and budget allocation discussions. These discussions are aimed at ensuring that funding for basic services and poverty reduction programmes are protected or increased. A number of Programme Countries are introducing special social protection programmes to target those who are chronically poor.

Monitoring of programmes and projects is carried out by national Auditors General, donors and civil society groups on an annual basis. Particular attention is paid to progress in relation to reducing the number of people living below the poverty line and increasing access to basic health, education and water and sanitation.

We realise that poor governance is a problem in many developing countries and there are concerns regarding corruption. This is a symptom of the level of underdevelopment that exists. We are working with other donors to help strengthen public financial management systems and the institutions of governance, such as the Offices of the Auditor General.

In addition, Irish Aid has in place, rigorous accounting and audit controls. These are essential to ensure a transparent, effective and high quality programme. Programmes are regularly audited and evaluated by independent audit firms and by the Department of Foreign Affairs' Evaluation and Audit Unit. Programmes are evaluated to ensure that funds are used for the purpose for which they are intended and for value for money.

I am satisfied that the methods used by Irish Aid for planning and monitoring programmes, together with the audit and evaluation systems we have in place, serve to protect the funding provided. Such methods are in accordance with international best practice and the highest standards in this area.

Foreign Conflicts.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

98 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the threatened invasion of northern Iraq and the implications for the semi-autonomous region controlled by those aspiring to an independent Kurdistan. [30883/07]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

116 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the current political situation in Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29342/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 116 together.

At the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council which I attended in Brussels last week, we held a detailed discussion with the Iraqi Foreign Minister on the political and security situation in Iraq. We were encouraged by the substantial improvement in the security situation in recent months. It is clear that while there are still appalling incidents of violence, there has been a significant reduction in almost all areas. The most striking improvements have been in Baghdad and in the neighbouring province of Anbar, which is a largely Sunni area and was until recently one of the most dangerous in Iraq.

It is generally agreed that there a number of factors behind these positive developments. The increased US troop deployment, along with Iraqi forces, has resulted in a more focused security effort. Sunni forces which had previously supported the insurgency have cooperated to drive out elements linked to Al Qaeda, which brought terrible suffering upon the local population. The ceasefire by the main Shia militia has seriously reduced the level of sectarian killings. None of these factors is irreversible and the situation remains fragile. However, the Iraqi people have been given some hope and there is now an urgent need to grasp the opportunity which exists for political progress.

I have always argued that, while improved security is an essential requirement for progress, there are no security solutions to Iraq's complex problems. Lasting peace and stability can only be assured through a process of genuine political reconciliation between the communities in Iraq and the cooperation of all its regional neighbours. Regrettably, progress towards political reconciliation has continued to be very disappointing. The national unity Government of Prime Minister Al Maliki has appeared paralysed by disputes between the parties, and the key issues identified as the main requirements for closer involvement of the Sunni community in Government remain deadlocked. These are the review of the new Constitution, the easing of the exclusion of former Ba'ath Party members, and the question of redistribution of oil revenues. The Government and our EU partners have made it clear that Iraq's leaders must act urgently in the new security climate to achieve real progress in these crucial areas.

A new element of concern in recent months has been the dangerous prospect of a major Turkish military incursion, directed at the PKK militia which has been responsible for serious attacks in Turkey and which maintains some bases in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. Such a development would have the potential to destabilise the one region of Iraq which has largely escaped the turmoil and violence since the invasion in 2003. The EU, the US and others have strongly urged Turkey not to launch military operations into Iraqi territory. The Council last week welcomed the dialogue now taking place between Iraq and Turkey and called on the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to ensure that their territory is not used for attacks on a neighbouring country.

The horrific violence of the past few years has forced large numbers of Iraqi families to flee their homes. There are now over two million refugees outside Iraq and a further two million internally displaced. Syria and Jordan have borne a particularly heavy burden. There have been encouraging reports that as many as 1,000 people a day have begun returning from Syrian refugee camps in the hope that the security situation may be stabilising, but the humanitarian needs are still enormous. Ireland is playing its part in helping address the crisis. On 16 November, the Government announced additional funding of €2.9 million for relief programmes in Iraq, Syria and Jordan, bringing the overall level of assistance for the Iraqi people to over €5 million this year.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Overseas Development Aid.

Jack Wall

Question:

100 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the allocation or co-operation his Department has undertaken to achieve the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s global solidarity project. [30893/07]

Irish Aid has provided significant support in recent years to the Irish Congress of Trade Union's global solidarity project under our Development Education Funding Scheme. Grants totalling €230,000 were awarded to ICTU for the 2005-2007 phase of the project and a total of €84,764 was awarded in 2003-2004. This funding reflects our support for the aims of the programme. These include ensuring an informed and active Irish trade union voice on development issues and deepening cooperation between trade unions in Ireland and in developing countries.

Activities supported through the global solidarity project include awareness raising, education, campaigning and capacity building with partner organisations in the developing world. I will give sympathetic consideration to any new funding proposals submitted by ICTU in respect of the global solidarity project.

Overseas Missions.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

101 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the mission abroad that was the most recent to be audited by the audit unit in his Department; the outcome of this audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29333/07]

Audits of Missions are carried out as part of a Departmental three-year rolling audit work plan and associated annual operational plans. The work plan consists of two streams — one focusing on Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs), the other on Vote 29 (International Cooperation). The work programme seeks to ensure that sufficient coverage is obtained to provide the Secretary General of the Department, as Accounting Officer with audit assurance that the Department's systems of oversight and financial control are working satisfactorily. The agreed annual programme of audits is approved by the Accounting Officer and endorsed by the Department's external Audit Committee.

The Missions audited under Vote 28 in 2007 included: Paris, Ottawa, The Hague, Budapest, New Delhi and Washington. One further audit remains to be undertaken, namely that of the Mission in Prague. This audit is scheduled to take place by the end of 2007. The six audits conducted to date have all yielded positive audit opinions.

The most recently completed audit was that of The Hague in the Netherlands. The outcome of this audit was that the Department's Evaluation and Audit Unit was satisfied with the operation of the internal financial control system at the Mission. It was also satisfied that the system of controls in place is sufficient to ensure that:

(a)All consular monies received are fully recorded, lodged intact and properly reconciled;

(b)Payments are made only for goods and services appropriate to the Mission, and are properly checked and authorised.

The Missions under Vote 29 oversee the disbursement of significant sums of money under Ireland's Aid Programme. They are audited annually by internationally recognised audit firms. Further assurance is provided by Internal Auditors, based at most Missions, who report to the Evaluation and Audit Unit. In addition, the Evaluation and Audit Unit itself conducts a series of audit visits annually. During 2007, it has undertaken visits to Uganda, Mozambique and Zambia. With regard to both Votes, audit issues that arise are reported to Senior Management as appropriate, and also to the external Audit Committee. Management responses are provided in reply to each audit.

Foreign Conflicts.

Jack Wall

Question:

102 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in Darfur as it affects refugees, those displaced and those seeking the prospect of return. [30894/07]

The humanitarian situation in Darfur remains extremely fragile, characterised by ongoing armed clashes, continuous new population displacements, increased violence inside the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps and seriously constrained humanitarian access to an ever growing number of conflict affected people.

In October, armed clashes in Muhajiriya (South Darfur) and Um Dukhum (West Darfur) led to a further displacement of thousands of civilians, bringing the total tally of newly displaced this year to some 270,000 people. Adding to the complexity of the Darfur crisis is the increased presence of armed men, from all sides, jeopardizing the security of the IDPs. This, in combination with Government pressure for returns to the villages of origin has led to widespread violence amongst the IDPs along tribal lines. One example of this is the long simmering animosity amongst IDPs in Kalma camp, which recently burst into a spike of violence leading an estimated 10,000 IDPs to flee to nearby camps and Nyala town. The camp remained virtually closed for humanitarian operations for a week.

There have been some moves by the Government to get people to return to their villages of origin. However, both the United Nations and many Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) do not believe that the conditions currently exist for large numbers of people to return home. During his recent visit to Sudan and Chad, my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern T.D., raised Ireland's concerns about the humanitarian situation in Darfur, as well as about access for humanitarian workers to affected populations, directly with President Bashir and with the acting Foreign Minister of Sudan, Ali Karti.

Alleviating the suffering in Darfur is a priority for the Government. Since 2006, Ireland has provided approximately €9 million directly in response to the situation in Darfur, including almost €4 million in 2007. Since 2004, Irish Aid has also committed €5m in funding for AMIS, the African Union Mission in Sudan, currently deployed in Darfur.

Human Rights Issues.

Liz McManus

Question:

103 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received a recent communication from Amnesty International outlining a framework for the closure of Guantánamo Bay, the operation of which has seriously undermined international human rights law; his views on this letter; if he or members of his Department have raised the issue with US counterparts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30895/07]

I have received the correspondence from Amnesty International to which the Deputy refers. A response outlining the Government's position on this matter has been issued by my Office. As the Deputy will be aware from my responses to previous Parliamentary Questions on this matter, Ireland holds the view that those detained in Guantánamo must be treated in accordance with the requirements of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, a position which is shared by the EU as a whole. Human rights and humanitarian standards have to be maintained while combating terrorism. The Government has repeatedly stated its desire to see the United States Administration take steps to release or bring to trial all detainees in accordance with established legal norms, and to close Guantánamo Bay as soon as possible. Ireland has raised the issue of the detainees in Guantánamo Bay with the US authorities on numerous occasions. In all contacts with the US authorities, Ireland has been assured that the US is aware of their obligations under international law. The United States is well aware of the Government's concerns about reports of prisoner abuse in Guantánamo Bay as outlined above.

Humanitarian Assistance.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

104 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts, in view of the large number of fatalities following the tragic floods in Tabasco State in Mexico, which have been made by the international community in order to help the stricken and displaced following this disaster; and the contribution Ireland has made to this process. [30882/07]

I was shocked by the severity of the floods experienced in the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas in the aftermath of Hurricane Noel. These were the worst floods suffered in the southern Mexico region for 50 years. As much as 80% of the state of Tabasco was under water, while it is estimated that as many as 900,000 people were made homeless.

The response by the international community to the disaster has involved relief assistance on the ground by UN agencies, international organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), in support of Mexican Government authorities. Many countries, including Ireland, have provided funding to facilitate this assistance. Hurricane Noel also provoked considerable damage and flooding in other countries throughout the Caribbean and Central America.

On 6 November, I announced emergency funding of €1 million to assist international efforts to provide shelter and relief to those who had been worst affected by the flooding. This funding is being delivered via our key partners: the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Questions Nos. 105 and 106 answered with Question No. 74.

International Agreements.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

107 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when Ireland proposes to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption. [30900/07]

I refer the Deputy to previous replies to similar questions concerning the United Nations Convention against Corruption, most recently on 23 October 2007. The Convention against Corruption was adopted by the UN General Assembly in October 2003 and was signed on behalf of Ireland, when it opened for signature, in December 2003. The Convention entered into force on 14 December 2005.

My colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has arranged for his officials to undertake a detailed examination of the text of the Convention, in order to ascertain what, if any, changes to the domestic criminal and civil law and to administrative practice will be required in order for Ireland to ratify this Convention.

Following extensive consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, it has been concluded that Ireland largely fulfils the criminal justice requirements of the Convention either through existing anti-corruption statutes or via legislation that is in progress, such as the forthcoming Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill and the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005.

A number of other issues in the civil and administrative area will also have to be addressed in advance of Ireland's ratification of the Convention. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is pursuing these matters with the relevant Departments and Agencies.

Foreign Conflicts.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

108 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress his Department has made, unilaterally and in cooperation with EU States, to supply transport and medical supplies to humanitarian missions to Chad. [30872/07]

My colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., has recently returned from a visit to Chad. While there, he was able to observe at first hand the humanitarian situation in the country, and the tremendous difficulties involved in providing essential relief to those in need across the vast expanse of Eastern Chad. During his visit, Minster Ahern pledged an additional €2 million in humanitarian funding for Chad.

His visit confirmed the serious humanitarian and security situation obtaining in that vulnerable region and the valuable role which Ireland, as part of the EUFOR Tchad/RCA mission, can play in helping to address and improve this situation.

Since 2006, Ireland has provided humanitarian funding of over €6 million to United Nations agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in Chad. These agencies and organisations operate in a wide variety of fields, including medical relief and emergency food supply. Transportation of humanitarian relief is an integral part of many of the projects funded. The European Community's Humanitarian Aid Office has contributed in excess of €20 million towards humanitarian efforts in Chad this year.

As part of Ireland's overall emergency response, my colleague Mr. Trevor Sargent T.D., Minster of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, has provided funding of €2 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Chad. This funding was specifically for the UN Humanitarian Air Service, which provides transportation of food to remote regions.

International Agreements.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

109 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress being made in terms of the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by the G8; and his views of the progress, or lack thereof, in achieving universal access to prevention treatment and care of persons suffering from AIDS, the strengthening of health systems, the care of orphans and vulnerable children, affordable treatment and the promise to establish a G8 working group on AIDS. [30873/07]

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a framework for development for the whole international community, involving cooperation between developed and developing countries, and are not confined to the G8. Their achievement will require a large push forward, not only by donors, but also by the developing countries which will benefit from a sustainable reduction in poverty.

The MDGs report, launched last July, gave us a snapshot of the progress achieved at the midpoint of the 2015 MDG target date. It is indeed a mixed picture. On the positive side, it shows, for example, that the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from nearly a third, to less than one fifth, between 1990 and 2004. If this trend continues then the MDG poverty reduction target will be met for the world as a whole. However, this is not the case for sub-Saharan Africa. Though the poverty rate there has declined by six percent since 2000, the progress is far too slow.

Although HIV and AIDS continue to be the single biggest obstacles to reducing poverty and to attaining the MDGs, significant progress is being made in some areas. Current statistics from the United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) released last week, reveal that global HIV prevalence has levelled off and that the number of new infections has fallen, in part due to the impact of HIV programmes. However, with over 33 million people estimated to be living with HIV and an estimated 6,800 new infections occurring each day, there is still significant work to be done to achieve Universal Access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the epicentre of the epidemic. The increase in availability of HIV treatment and the impact of HIV prevention efforts are bringing results in some countries there. Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe are all showing signs of stabilising or decreasing HIV prevalence. About 25% of the people who are in need of HIV treatment are accessing anti-retroviral drugs. However, mortality from AIDS remains high in Africa due to the extensive unmet treatment need.

Key obstacles to progress include significant human resource shortages in many health sectors in sub-Saharan Africa, weak health systems, and the growing numbers of children orphaned as a result of AIDS. Over fifteen million children have been orphaned by AIDS and millions more are vulnerable.

HIV and AIDS have been on the agenda of the G8 nations and in response to a call to set up a G8 working group on AIDS, they have promised to regularly review progress made on AIDS. At the last G8 meeting in Germany in July of this year, they committed to making a total of US$60 billion available to combat HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, over the coming years. These funds are to be used to safeguard universal access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes and to develop health systems at local level. They will go a long way in making progress to achieve Universal Access.

Responding to the global problem of HIV and AIDS is a key priority for the Irish Government. Funding for HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases is now at €100 million per year. This funding is directed at programmes at international, regional and country levels to provide increased access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services. Ireland will continue to work with the international community in advocating for a sustained and resourced global response to HIV and AIDS, strengthened leadership at all levels and improved coordination of resources for effective HIV and AIDS prevention and control.

Arms Trade.

Mary Upton

Question:

110 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures his Department will recommend to be made by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, by way of orders or regulations to control brokering activities he proposes to make under the Control of Exports Bill 2007. [30869/07]

The Control of Exports Bill, when enacted, will enable Ireland to fulfil its obligations under EU Common Position 2003/468/CFSP of 23 June 2003 on the control of arms brokering. The objective of this Common Position is to control arms brokering in order to avoid circumvention of UN, EU or OSCE embargoes on arms exports, as well as the Criteria set out in the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. The proposed legislation has been drafted in accordance with the recommendations of a 2004 report by Forfás on the export licensing of military and dual-use goods in Ireland. The Department of Foreign Affairs has been fully involved in the work of the inter-departmental group charged with the implementation of the Forfás report. The Minister endorses the approach being taken in the draft legislation.

The Department will continue to collaborate with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and other authorities, on the measures necessary to give effect to Ireland's obligations under the EU Common Position.

Questions Nos. 111 and 112 answered with Question No. 61.
Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 74.
Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Foreign Conflicts.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

115 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the current political situation in Darfur and Chad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29341/07]

Denis Naughten

Question:

120 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his visit to Chad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30784/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 120 together.

I visited both Sudan and Chad from 14-16 November last. Whilst in Khartoum on 14 November, I met with President Bashir, acting Foreign Minister Ali Karti, and Minni Minnawi, the leader of the SLA faction which signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in 2006. I also met with representatives of the main UN agencies and of Irish and international NGOs which are active in Darfur. In my meetings with the Government, I expressed Ireland's disappointment at the lack of progress in implementing the DPA, and at the failure of many rebel groups to travel to Libya for the current talks process. I urged that the Government re-consider its unwillingness to agree to deployment of non-African personnel and capabilities with the UN/African Union hybrid force, UNAMID. I also emphasised in my discussions with President Bashir and the acting Foreign Minister the importance Ireland attaches to access for humanitarian agencies and personnel in their life-saving work in Darfur. I urged that the UN/Government of Sudan Joint Communiqué on humanitarian access be renewed when it expires in January.

I also expressed my concern over difficulties with implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south. I am satisfied that the Sudanese Government remains committed to the CPA and has no wish to return to war with the south. I subsequently travelled to N'Djamena on 15 November for discussions with Chadian Government representatives, including Prime Minister Coumakoye, Foreign Minister Allam-Mi, Defence Minister Nour (a former rebel leader), and the State Secretary for the Interior. I also met with opposition leader Lol Chouat, and with representatives of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations active in Chad. I outlined Ireland's expected role in the UN-mandated EUFOR Tchad/RCA mission and our commitment to the humanitarian objectives of that mission and also referred to the Government's plans to increase support for humanitarian and recovery activity in Chad. Prime Minister Coumakoye and his colleagues expressed warm appreciation for the deployment of EUFOR Tchad/RCA as well as Ireland's lead role within the Mission.

I travelled to Abeche in eastern Chad on 16 November where I visited a number of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees and met with local government and UN representatives. My visit to eastern Chad confirmed the serious humanitarian and security situation obtaining in that vulnerable region and the valuable role which EUFOR Tchad/RCA can play in helping to address and improve this situation.

Negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Darfur rebel factions began on 27 October in Libya under joint AU/UN mediation. However, the start of this process was overshadowed by the absence of many of the principal rebel groups, which boycotted the talks. The UN and AU have sent representatives to Darfur and Juba to find and speak with the rebels who did not attend, and it is hoped that the talks will recommence in December. Although there have been some improvements in recent months on humanitarian access in Darfur on foot of the UN/Government of Sudan Joint Communiqué agreed last March, the humanitarian situation is again becoming more difficult. The fragmentation of the rebel groups, growing tensions within camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and banditry in the countryside are making the tasks of both peace negotiators and humanitarian agencies increasingly difficult.

Since 2002, the stability of Chad has been threatened by armed rebellion arising from clashes between ethnic-based militias and Government forces, incursions by Janjaweed from Sudan, and inter-Chadian Arab/non Arab clashes. Following an agreement with the rebel Front Unifie pour le Changement in 2006, the Chadian Government reached a similar agreement in October 2007 with representatives of four of the main remaining armed rebel groups. This agreement calls for an amnesty and a role for rebels in government, in return for a ceasefire and the integration of their forces into the army. However, implementation will present challenges, and not all of the rebels have yet laid down their arms. The Chadian Government also reached an agreement with the peaceful political opposition in August 2007, which postponed legislative elections to 2009 while a new electoral system is introduced. Chad's unsettled internal situation has been exacerbated by a spill-over of instability from Darfur, and more than 180,000 internally displaced Chadians and 236,000 Sudanese refugees live in camps in eastern Chad.

Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Conflict Resolution.

Damien English

Question:

117 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the composition of the Conflict Resolution Unit; when and the location where the Irish academic centre will be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29328/07]

I refer the Deputy to the answer given to PQ 304 on 23rd October 2007 (attached), in which I outlined the structure of the Conflict Resolution Unit and explained that my Department is in the final phase of completing its work programme in this area, which will set out the Unit's key objectives. The Unit will be a cross-cutting one, working closely with Irish Aid and Anglo-Irish Divisions and relevant Desks in Political Division. The Programme for Government sets out a number of key goals to support Ireland's activities in the field of conflict resolution, including a Stability Fund, a system of roving ambassadors to crisis regions, and the creation of an Irish Academic Centre for Conflict Resolution. The Centre is intended to provide academic and analytical capability in the area of conflict resolution, drawing on national expertise to strengthen the policy research and knowledge base for greater Irish involvement in international conflict resolution.

Developing and drawing on Irish academic resources is an exciting but challenging goal. The Conflict Resolution Unit is currently completing a study of comparable academic centres abroad. This will identify best practice and offer a range of possible options for the remit and structures most appropriate to our own resources and goals. No decisions as to the configuration of the proposed Centre or its location have yet been taken.

Overseas Missions.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

118 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of the EU mission to Chad; the reason for delays in the mission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30949/07]

The EU military mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, entitled EUFOR Tchad/RCA, was authorised by a Joint Action of the Council of the European Union on 15 October, in accordance with the mandate set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1778 of 25 September.

The Joint Action included the appointment of Lieutenant General Pat Nash of the Defence Forces as Operation Commander. The Government on 2 October agreed to the nomination of General Nash for the position. The nomination of General Nash, and support staff, was approved by Dáil Éireann on 9 October. Following reconnaissance visits by the Defence Forces to the region, and my own visit to Sudan and Chad earlier this month, the Government on 19 November authorised the Minister for Defence to arrange, subject to Dáil approval, for the despatch of a contingent of up to 400 members of the Defence Forces for service with EUFOR Tchad/RCA, making Ireland the second largest contributor to this Mission.

Lt Gen Nash, as Operation Commander, has had primary responsibility for the Force Generation process which aims to ensure that the mission has the capacity to undertake the tasks envisaged for it by the United Nations, namely to protect civilians in danger, particularly refugees and displaced persons, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, and protect UN personnel.

To date, three Force Generation meetings have taken place, and very significant commitments of personnel and equipment have been made, including by third countries outside the European Union. It is the Union's and the Operation Commander's hope that formal Initial Operating Capability can be declared by year end, or very soon thereafter. Deployment of the Irish contingent would take place in line with the overall deployment.

As with the Force Generation process for any substantial mission, certain shortfalls have been identified. In this case, transport aviation and medical support facilities have been the key shortfalls thus far. The Taoiseach has indicated to the House that deployment of members of the Defence Forces will be conditional on adequate logistical support being in place. Given the importance of the Mission, and its key role in addressing the humanitarian crisis and regional instability resulting from the Darfur crisis, I expect that these shortfalls will be addressed in the coming period and the Mission will proceed on schedule.

EU Treaties.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

119 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding ongoing talks on an eventual entry into the European Union by Turkey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30888/07]

Following the adoption of conclusions by the Council on 3rd October 2005, accession negotiations were opened with Turkey. Under the terms of the agreed Negotiating Framework, these accession negotiations are an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed beforehand.

In all, there are thirty five negotiating chapters which deal with a range of policy areas. To date, four chapters have been opened with Turkey. Benchmarks have been agreed for thirteen other chapters. These benchmarks identify areas where further progress should be made by Turkey before negotiations begin on these particular chapters. On 6th November last, the European Commission published its annual package of enlargement reports. These include an assessment of progress made by candidate countries in meeting EU membership criteria.

In respect of Turkey, the Commission noted that following the constitutional crisis in spring of this year, early parliamentary elections were held in full respect of democratic standards and of the rule of law. Against this background, only limited progress was achieved on political reforms during 2007. Significant further reforms are needed in particular on freedom of expression, the rights of non-Muslim religious communities and on civilian control of the military. Further progress is also needed in the fight against corruption, the judicial system, trade union rights and women's and children's rights. In the South-East, Turkey needs also to create the conditions for the predominantly Kurdish population there to enjoy full rights and freedoms.

The Commission reports that Turkey continued to make progress against economic criteria for accession over the course of the last year. With regard to the alignment of Turkey's legislation with that of the EU, progress was reported in a number of areas and further alignment should be pursued in areas including agriculture, fisheries, food safety and the environment. The Commission also noted that Turkey has not yet fulfilled its obligations under the Ankara Protocol by opening its ports and airports to vessels and aircraft from the Republic of Cyprus. In December 2006, the Council of Ministers agreed that eight specific negotiating chapters cannot be opened, nor will any chapters be provisionally concluded, until the Commission verifies that Turkey has fulfilled its commitments under this Protocol.

Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 115.

Foreign Conflicts.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

121 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views that in view of this country’s experience in the resolution of conflict in the island of Ireland, the Irish Government could assist the Government of Sri Lanka in conflict resolution in its own peace process, therefore preventing a slide towards full civil war; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29768/07]

I am deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka. Ireland, together with our partners in the EU, takes a close interest in developments in Sri Lanka, and in the peace process in particular and regrets the fact that neither party appears willing to engage in meaningful negotiations. We continue to take the firm view that there can be no military solution and that the only way to a just and lasting peace in Sri Lanka is a rapid return to comprehensive talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to resolve outstanding differences. Ireland remains firmly committed to assisting the Norwegian facilitator in his work in this regard.

The EU continues to play an active role as one of the four Co-Chairs of the 2003 Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka. At their last meeting in June 2007 the Co-Chairs expressed their concern about the conflict and said that there can be no justification for the use of military means. An important part of the work of my Department's new Conflict Resolution Unit will be drawing together the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process in a way which will make it possible to share them in a useful fashion. While of course all conflicts have their own specific character, there may be lessons from Northern Ireland that could be useful to the parties in Sri Lanka in re-engaging in their peace process. I recall that over the last few years there have been a number of visits, including by Mr. John Hume and Mr. Martin McGuinness, aimed at sharing experiences. The Government would of course be willing to offer advice if sought by relevant parties but there currently appears little scope to do so in light of the negative situation there.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Population Estimate.

Richard Bruton

Question:

123 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach the number of total population and the aggregate number of households in each year since 2002; and his estimate for 2007 and 2008. [30501/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is shown in the following table in respect of April of the years indicated.

Numbers of Persons and Private Households, 2002-2007

Population

Private Households

Thousands

2002

3,917.2

1,344.4

2003

3,978.9

1,383.8

2004

4,043.8

1,405.9

2005

4,130.7

1,453.9

2006

4,234.9

1,488.4

2007

Not yet available

1,533.3

The population estimates for 2003-2006 inclusive are being revised at present and it is expected that the revised series incorporating the 2007 estimates will be published in December 2007. The estimated number of private households is taken from the Quarterly National Household Survey. Estimates for 2008 on a consistent basis are not available.

Departmental Agencies.

Richard Bruton

Question:

124 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach the number of new boards, agencies, bodies, commissions and offices which have been established in the past ten years and the number which have been abolished under the remit of his Department. [30502/07]

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

Body

Year of Establishment

Abolished/Still in Existence

National Forum On Europe

2001

Still in existence

Taskforce on Active Citizenship

2006

March 2007

(First) Information Society Commission

1997

December 2000

(Second) Information Society Commission

2001

December 2004

National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP)

2001

Still in existence

National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO)

2007

Still in existence

Campus and Stadium Ireland Development (CSID)

2000

Still in existence

Digital Media Development Limited

2000

Still in existence

National Millennium Committee

1998

April 2000

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

125 Deputy Damien English asked the Taoiseach the number of people as of 31 October 2007 who were employed in his Department; the number who were permanent employees; the number who were temporary staff; the number who were contracted staff; if he will provide comparative figures for 31 October 2002; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [30618/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the tables below:

Data in respect of staff employed in the Department of the Taoiseach as at 31 October, 2007

Number Employed

Permanent Staff

Temporary Staff

Contract Staff

215

190

0

25

Data in respect of staff employed in the Department of the Taoiseach as at 31 October, 2002

Number Employed

Permanent Staff

Temporary Staff

Contract Staff

222

192

0

30

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

126 Deputy Damien English asked the Taoiseach the amount spent by his Department in 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 for air travel, business class flights and first class flights in tabular readable form. [30633/07]

The table below provides details of the amount spent by my Department between 2004 and to date (end of October) in 2007 for air travel, business class flights and first class flights:

Year

Business class

First class

Economy

Total

2004

187,432

65,256

77,937

330,625

2005

76,830

95,108

67,288

239,226

2006

108,211

Nil

78,557

186,768

2007 (up to end October)

90,049

Nil

64,646

154,695

TOTAL

462,522

160,364

288,428

911,314

The costs included refer only to commercial flights and do not refer to any details in relation to the Ministerial Air Transport Service which are borne by the Department of Defence.

Damien English

Question:

127 Deputy Damien English asked the Taoiseach the amount spent by his Department on courier documents, registered post and standard post to date in 2007 in tabular readable form. [30648/07]

The total amount spent by my Department on courier documents, registered post and standard post, up to the end of October 2007 is detailed in the table below:

Details

Amount spent to end of October 2007

Courier Documents

7,350

Registered Post

303

Standard Post

58,150

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

128 Deputy Damien English asked the Taoiseach the ten largest bonus payments made to staff in his Department and each of its agencies in the past 12 months. [30663/07]

The scheme of performance-related awards in the civil service applies to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades. Details of awards to individual officers under the performance related scheme are not disclosed on the basis that they are confidential to the officer concerned. However, during 2007, awards totalling €51,200 were made to 4 officers in my Department in respect of 2006 (as shown on page 10 of the CPA report for 2006). Details of the operation of the scheme are available in the report of the Committee for Performance Awards which can be accessed on the website of the Department of Finance (www.finance.gov.ie). In October of this year, eight individual Departmental staff members were given employee recognition awards of €500 each.

With regard to the bodies under the aegis of my Department: no bonus payments made to the staff of the Law Reform Commission in the past twelve months; and the ten largest bonus payments made to staff in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the last 12 months are as follows:

1. €20,400

2. €11,500

3. €11,500

4. €11,500

5. €500

6. €500

7. €500

8. €500

9. €250.

10. €250

Payments 1 to 4 were made to staff at or above Assistant Secretary level and were approved by the Committee for Performance Awards. Payments 5 to 10 were made under a scheme for the payment of exceptional performance awards to staff below the level of Assistant Secretary; and the ten highest bonus payments paid to staff in the Central Statistics Office in the last twelve months are as follows:

1. €8,456.71

2. €6,820.49

3. €6,423.93

4. €6,384.50

5. €6,081.27

6. €6,075.49

7. €6,054.93

8. €6,039.98

9. €5,788.34

10. €5,864.35.

The above payments were awarded to permanent field staff under the CSO Completion Payments Scheme. The staff are at Clerical Officer grade.

Damien English

Question:

129 Deputy Damien English asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants in his Department who have transferred to other Departments or left the Civil Service in each of the past five years in tabular readable form. [30678/07]

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

Year

Transferred to other Government Departments in the past 5 years

Left the Civil Service in the past 5 years

2003

4

5

2004

14

7

2005

9

6

2006

14

7

2007

10

2

Damien English

Question:

130 Deputy Damien English asked the Taoiseach the number of allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing that have been reported to his Department by departmental staff since 1 January 2007. [30693/07]

No allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing have been reported to my Department by Departmental staff in the period concerned.

Census of Population.

Phil Hogan

Question:

131 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Taoiseach the number of persons aged under four years in County Carlow according to the recent census; if he will provide a breakdown of the figures according to the main urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30836/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table:

Geographic Area

Age

Under 1 year

1

2

3

4

0-4

Carlow County

713

767

802

823

737

3,842

Towns with a population of 1000 and over*

Bunclody-Carrickduff, Carlow/Wexford

31

29

24

32

25

141

Carlow, Carlow/Laoighis

310

362

350

355

295

1,672

Graiguenamanagh-Tinnahinch, Carlow/Kilkenny

12

18

14

21

18

83

Muinebeag, Carlow

27

32

38

33

33

163

Tullow, Carlow

49

43

50

43

47

232

Urban/Rural**

Urban

333

382

389

384

330

1,818

Rural

380

385

413

439

407

2,024

*Numbers shown are for the total population of the town and may include environs in neighbouring counties e.g. Carlow Town Environs extend into Laoighis.
**Numbers shown are from the Aggregate Urban/Rural areas with Carlow County boundaries. Urban area includes all persons in towns with a population of 1,500 or more. Rural area is the remainder.

Departmental Properties.

Damien English

Question:

132 Deputy Damien English asked the Taoiseach the buildings occupied by his Department which are and which are not fully accessible to people with disabilities in tabular readable form. [31036/07]

My Department occupies and administers the West Block of Government Buildings, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2 and for many years has been conscious of our duty to ensure access to our buildings and services by people with disabilities. At the time of the adaptation of the building for the Department in the early 1990's, many facilities were provided, which have subsequently been improved upon, and we will continue to review facilities and upgrade them as necessary. As part of our endeavours to adopt best practice, hearing loops to facilitate those with hearing aids have been installed in the Welcome Pavilion, at Reception, in the Press Centre and in all conference rooms throughout the building. People with disabilities can access all areas of Government Buildings included in the Saturday Tours and a portable hearing loop is also available on request.

The Department of the Taoiseach website is continually monitored to ensure compliance with WAI and W3C Accessibility Guidelines. We have also recently installed a number of induction coupler telephones and Minicoms (Telephone devices for the Deaf, TDD's) throughout the Department. My Department provides access to information to people with a disability in a variety of formats on request (this can include Braille, simple text documents or large print). Assistive technologies are supplied to staff and visitors as necessary and accessibility tools are part of the standard desktop used in my Department. As part of this Department's ongoing Customer Services initiatives, an access audit of the Department was carried out in December 2006. The intent was to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Disability Act, 2005 and to further improve on the Department's existing facilities and services. Arising from the audit, a programme of work has been prepared in conjunction with OPW to address many of the issues raised. The access audit identifies a range of barriers that potentially restrict access for disabled people to the built environment and its recommendations now form part of the Department's ongoing and strategic plans to ensure its buildings and services are accessible to all.

The audit report noted that due to the building's features, its location and protected heritage conservation status, most of the major works that are required to comply with Best Practice for accessibility are not practical to effect. However, it also found that the building was open and well designed for universal accessibility. The Department's Disability Monitoring Committee will continue to explore and implement opportunities to improve services to people with disabilities. This Committee seeks to ensure that the range of services provided by the Department is accessible to people with disabilities and that staff of the Department engage proactively in the process. In line with the requirements of the Disability Act, 2005, we have also appointed an Inquiry Officer (who will deal with complaints where the Department fails to comply with the Act) and an Access Officer (to ensure compliance with the Act in terms of facilities, services and the built environment). We also have a Disability Liaison Officer and an Employee Assistance Officer.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

133 Deputy Damien English asked the Taoiseach the cost of running his Department’s press office in each of the first three quarters of 2007 in tabular readable form. [31051/07]

The cost of running the Press Office in my Department for the first three quarters of 2007 is detailed in the table below:

Details of total cost of running the Press Office in Department of the Taoiseach in 2007

1st quarter

263,226

2nd quarter

172,408

3rd quarter

164,968

Total

600,602

Departmental Websites.

Damien English

Question:

134 Deputy Damien English asked the Taoiseach the websites that are run by his Department and each of its agencies; the date on which each became live; if the sites are kept updated; the cost of each site to the State to date; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [31066/07]

As requested by the Deputy, the table below outlines the websites associated with the Department of the Taoiseach:

Name of Website*1

Date went live

Updated regularly

Cost to date

www.taoiseach.gov.ie Department of the Taoiseach www.betterregulation.ie Better Regulation www.bettergov.ie Better Government

June 2002*2

A Web Liasion Officer has been appointed to maintain each Division’s area of the various Departmental websites.

116,497.46*3

www.isc.ie Information Society Commission

October 2002

No. The term of office of the previous Commission ceased at end December 2004.

15,058.51

www.activecitizenship.ie Taskforce on Active Citizenship

May 2006

Last update followed the completion of the Final Report of the Taskforce in March 2007

17,429.88

www.ncpp.ie (includes two micro sites www.workplaceofthefuture.ie and www.workplacestrategy.ie) National Centre for Partnership and Performance

March 2002

Yes

48,550

www.nesdo.ie (includes a microsite www.futuresireland.ie) National Economic and Social Development Office

October 2004

Yes

16,611

www.nesc.ie National Economic and Social Council

October 1998

Yes

18,764

www.nesf.ie National Economic and Social Forum

November 2000

Yes

16,000

*1The table does not include details in relation to agencies such as the Law Offices of the State and the CSO, who are not funded from the Vote of the Department of the Taoiseach. Details in relation to the National Forum on Europe are also not included as it is an independent body comprising representatives of the political parties in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

*2A review of the Department's existing websites commenced in 2001. As a result of this review, the current suite of three websites in their present form went live on 6 June, 2002.

*3The main websites associated with the Department of the Taoiseach are treated as a suite of three sites. The cost indicated in the table reflects the costs associated with all three websites as follows: Department of the Taoiseach main website; Better Regulation website; and Better Government website. The majority of costs relating to the three websites have been incurred since 2002. They reflect annual maintenance/upkeep and software upgrade costs for the websites. The figures given do not include any costs associated with providing content.

Departmental Bodies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

135 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Taoiseach the organisations or authorities operating within his Department’s policy area, set up by statute or statutory instrument, for which he does not have official responsibility to Dáil Éireann. [31119/07]

I am officially responsible to Dáil Éireann for the general activities of my Department. However, there may be specific activities undertaken by officials of my Department for which I do not have official responsibility e.g. decisions made in relation to freedom of information applications. I account to the Dáil in a limited way in respect of a number of state offices, for example, the legal offices of the state and the Central Statistics Office. By and large, I answer questions in the House in relation to matters of administration connected with those offices. Similarly, the nature of my responsibility to the House in respect of any Tribunal, Commission or other independent inquiry established "under the aegis" of my Department is confined primarily to the arrangements relating to their establishment and ongoing administration. The specific nature of my accountability in respect of any body operating within my Department's policy area has long been established by precedent in each case.

Health Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Question:

136 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach his estimate from the household budget survey of the aggregate expenditure by families on doctors, prescribed medicine or over the counter medicines, hospital consultants, hospitals or nursing homes and so on; and his estimate of spending under the different elements of health expenditure. [31188/07]

The Household Budget Survey (HBS), which is carried out every five years by the Central Statistics Office, provides information on the average weekly income and expenditure of all private households in the State. The table below provides information on the average weekly expenditure by private households on medical costs from the most recent HBS, which represented the period October 2004 to December 2005:

Average Weekly household expenditure on medical costs — HBS 2004-2005

Category

Medical fees:

Doctor1

3.71

Dentist

2.70

Optician

0.32

Acupuncturist

0.07

Chiropractor

0.12

Massage

0.14

Physiotherapist

0.37

Orthodontist

0.15

Speech therapist

0.03

Other medical fees

0.18

Total medical fees (A)

7.79

Medicines:

Medicines on prescription

4.54

Other medicines (e.g. painkillers, cough mixtures etc)

1.78

Medical disinfectants

0.13

Vitamins and supplements

1.01

Alternative/complimentary medicine

0.37

Total medicines (B)

7.83

Hospital/residential care

Hospital charges (before insurance refunds)

6.92

Payments for stay in residental care

0.13

Total hospital/residential care (C)

7.05

Total Medical Costs (A + B + C)

22.67

Health insurance refunds2 (D)

-6.25

Net Medical costs (A + B + C - D)

16.42

1Includes hospital consultant fees.

2Includes overall medical insurance refunds.

Census of Population.

Richard Bruton

Question:

137 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach his latest estimate of the number of houses here distinguishing those which are owner occupied, occupied by tenants and vacant; and his estimate of the population living in owner occupied and in rented homes. [31189/07]

The total housing stock in April 2006 was 1.77 million units according to the Census carried out at that time. Of these, 1.46 million were occupied by their usual residents on Census Night. The remaining 310,000 units consisted mainly of vacant houses or flats and holiday homes. Of the 1.46 million occupied housing units 1.09 million were owner occupied, accounting for a population of 3.1 million. A further 323,000 housing units were rented, with 807,000 residents. No nature of occupancy was stated in the case of some 47,000 housing units, and 22,000 were occupied free of rent. This covers the remaining 166,000 persons resident in permanent housing units. The above figures are taken from Volume 6 — Housing of the 2006 Census.

Departmental Records.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

138 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Taoiseach the procedures in place to protect personal data within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31245/07]

To protect personal data within my Department, we comply fully with the provisions of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003, the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003 and the National Archives Act 1986 in managing both electronic and paper based records. The physical personal files of Departmental staff are stored in locked, fire proofed safes in secured, designated locations within my Department. These may only be accessed by authorised staff. Access to personal information held electronically within my Department is controlled by application security and confined to relevant authorised personnel only. In addition, the Department has the services of a qualified archivist to advise on all aspects of records management.

Departmental Correspondence.

Joan Burton

Question:

139 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Civil Service Personnel Code, An Cód Pearsanra is made available for public inspection by his Department; if so, the format in which it is made available; if not, the reason for same; if he will lay an up to date copy of the Civil Service Personnel Code before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31386/07]

The Personnel Code is issued and updated by the Department of Finance. The Code aims to make the various instructions governing personnel matters readily available to all civil servants. The Code is contained in four volumes and holds relevant circulars, circular letters and letters to heads of Departments and Personnel Officers on terms and conditions of civil servants. The Code covers matters such as recruitment, employment legislation, retirement, conduct, sick leave, disciplinary and grievance procedures. Since January 2002 the Personnel Code is available to civil servants electronically on the website www.personnelcode.gov.ie. Members of the public can also access this website. In the light of the information being freely available it is not considered necessary to lay the Civil Service Personnel Code before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Tax Code.

Damien English

Question:

140 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax paid on a litre of petrol selling for €1.22 to the public. [30595/07]

Damien English

Question:

141 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax paid on a litre of diesel selling for €1.20 to the public. [30596/07]

Damien English

Question:

142 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax paid on a litre of petrol selling for €1.52 to the public. [30597/07]

Damien English

Question:

143 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax paid on a litre of diesel selling for €1.50 to the public. [30598/07]

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

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax paid on a litre of petrol and diesel selling at the stated prices is as set out in the following schedule. I would draw to the Deputy's attention that excise on both petrol and diesel is relatively low in Ireland compared to our main trading partners, particularly the UK.

Commodity

Price per Litre (a)

Excise Content

VAT Content

Total Tax Content

Tax Exclusive Price

Tax as a % of Price

(Cent)

(Cent)

(Cent)

(Cent)

(Cent)

%

Petrol

122.0

44.268

21.17

65.44

56.56

53.6

Petrol

152.0

44.268

26.38

70.65

81.35

46.5

Diesel

120.0

36.805

20.83

57.63

62.37

48.0

Diesel

150.0

36.805

26.03

62.84

87.16

41.9

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

144 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of people as of 31 October 2007 who were employed in his Department; the number who were permanent employees; the number who were temporary staff; the number who were contracted staff; if he will provide comparative figures for 31 October 2002; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [30613/07]

Details of staff employed in my Department are listed below:

Numbers of people* serving at

31 October 2002

31 October 2007

Permanent/Probationary

666

646

Temporary/Contract

19

39

Total

685

685

* The numbers represent the actual number of people employed, rather than the wholetime equivalent.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

145 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount spent by his Department in 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 for air travel, business class flights and first class flights in tabular readable form. [30628/07]

The following table gives details of the amount spent by my Department on flights taken in the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date for 2007.

Year

Spend on First Class Flights

Spend on Business Class Flights

Spend on Economy Flights

Amounts recouped from the EU*

2004

Nil

309,165

150,430

84,863

2005

38,459

107,744

183,500

45,232

2006

46,067

66,512

197,413

72,043

To Date in 2007

Nil

70,417

176,316

58,664

*Certain meetings attended by Departmental officials are recoupable from EU.

Damien English

Question:

146 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount spent by his Department on courier documents, registered post and standard post to date in 2007 in tabular readable form. [30643/07]

The following table gives details of the amount spent on courier services, registered post and standard post to date in 2007.

Amount spent to date in 2007

Courier Services

95,897

Standard Post

236,204

Registered Post

15,150

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

147 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the ten largest bonus payments made to staff in his Department and each of its agencies in the past 12 months. [30658/07]

The payments made to staff in my Department and its agencies over the last 12 months range from €14,000 to €20,000. I would not consider it appropriate to itemise the payments made to each of the individuals concerned. This information does not include the NTMA, where the pay and conditions of staff are the subject of confidential and personal contracts.

Damien English

Question:

148 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of civil servants in his Department who have transferred to other Departments or left the Civil Service in each of the past five years in tabular readable form. [30673/07]

The number of Civil Servants from my Department who have transferred to other Government Departments or have left the Civil Service directly from my Department in each of the past five years is detailed below:

Transferred to other Government Departments

Left the Civil Service

2007

18

15

2006

49

14

2005

32

30

2004

16

21

2003

25

20

Damien English

Question:

149 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing that have been reported to his Department by Departmental staff since 1 January 2007. [30688/07]

I presume the Deputy is referring to issues which, in particular, are dealt with in section 5 of the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 in relation to complaints made in good faith to the Standards in Public Office Commission. No allegations of victimisation for whistle blowing were reported to my Department by Departmental staff in the period concerned.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

150 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the capital gains tax roll-over for businesses which upgrade to a new premises was abolished; the reason for doing so; the amount of tax take gained as a result for each year since this change was introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30697/07]

Capital gains tax roll-over relief was abolished in Budget 2003 as a means of widening the CGT tax base after the CGT rate was halved from 40% to 20% in Budget 1998. Other changes to the CGT code in the 2003 Budget included the abolition of indexation relief and the change in the CGT payment date. These changes were made in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates low. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that information is not compiled on a basis which enables an estimate to be made of the tax yield from abolishing the capital gains tax roll-over for businesses upgrading to a new premises. Accordingly, the specific information is not readily available and it either could not be obtained or could not be obtained without conducting a protracted investigation of the Revenue Commissioners' records.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Jack Wall

Question:

151 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare seeking a marital separation can not obtain a certificate from the Revenue Commissioners stating that their tax affairs are in order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30707/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Affordable Housing Certificate presented for signature to them by the taxpayer required confirmation that the taxpayer had not previously claimed income tax relief in respect of interest paid on money borrowed to purchase or build a dwelling. The Revenue Commissioners were unable to certify the certificate as the taxpayer has claimed and received tax relief at source in respect of mortgage interest paid on the family home since 2005. The Revenue Commissioners have no record of a request from the taxpayer for a certificate stating that their tax affairs are in order. Following the Deputy's query a letter, dated 21 November 2007, issued to the taxpayer confirming that their income tax affairs are in order.

Tax Code.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

152 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost in 2008 of reducing the top rate of income tax by 1%. [30717/07]

Using the data in the Pre-Budget 2008 income tax ready reckoner, a 1% reduction in the top rate of income tax would cost about €280 million in a full year. The cost quoted is provisional, subject to revision and estimated to the nearest €5 million. The ready reckoner is available on my Department's website, at

www.finance.gov.ie.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

153 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost in 2008 of delivering commitments he made to the people here on taxation reform during the immediate run-up to the general election 2007. [30718/07]

As I have indicated in recent responses to similar questions, the Programme for Government is an agreed five year programme between the Government parties, in which we have set out our guiding economic and budgetary policy principles. We are fully committed to pursuing the implementation of responsible fiscal policy. Formulation and agreement by Government of spending and taxation plans for 2008 is currently ongoing. These will be presented to the House on Budget Day, 5 December and will represent the first instalment of this Government's delivery of the agreed Programme for Government. As is the norm all Budget measures will be costed in the usual comprehensive fashion.

John Deasy

Question:

154 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason for the delays in issuing refunds of tax; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that people are being advised by tax offices that they may not receive their repayment before Christmas 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30738/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not aware of any delays in issuing tax refunds to PAYE taxpayers and that they are currently being dealt with within the time limit indicated in the Commissioners' customer service standards. I am also informed that repayment cheques for refunds relating to reviews carried out for 2006 and prior years will continue to be generated up to 14 December inclusive and will all be posted prior to the last day for mailing in order to guarantee delivery before Christmas, which is 19 December. Reviews for the current year which are dealt with through the issue of amended Tax Credit Certificates (TCCs) will continue to be generated up to 7 December inclusive. No further amended TCCs for 2007 will issue after this date because employers would not have the opportunity to input them into their payroll systems in time to have any repayment due included in the employee's last pay cheque before Christmas.

Joe Carey

Question:

155 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on whether the removal of the refund on excise duty on fuel used in passenger transport services will cause hardship for the industry; the alternative scheme he will introduce following the discontinuation of the rebate of excise duty on fuel used in the passenger transport service; when the new scheme will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30816/07]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

157 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the concerns and anxieties of passenger transport services at the proposed removal of refund of excise duty on fuel used in these services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30848/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 157 together.

The 2003 EU Energy Tax Directive incorporated special derogations which allowed specific excise duty reliefs to be applied in a number of Member States. In the Irish context, these derogations allowed for reduced rates to apply to fuel used for public transport services which includes school transport services. While these derogations expired on 31 December 2006, Ireland, along with other Member States, sought retention of its derogations beyond that date. However the European Commission, who are the deciding authority, have to date refused all such requests. The Commission maintain that, in keeping with the EU Energy Tax Directive, Member States must apply at least the EU minimum rates of excise on fuels in such circumstances and that any further favourable excise treatment is not allowable. In this regard the Commission's decision was published on its website in March 2007. At the Commission's behest my officials have indicated that Ireland will avail of the forthcoming Finance Bill to make the necessary legislative changes to conform with the Directive. In the circumstances, the relevant line Departments who have primary responsibility in this regard are, in conjunction with my Department, exploring alternative non-tax support mechanisms that could be put in place where appropriate to maintain the assistance currently being provided, subject of course to compatibility with EU State Aid requirements. In the interim the reduced rates applicable to fuel used will be maintained.

Flood Relief.

Dan Neville

Question:

156 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a section of stream (details supplied) in County Limerick will be serviced. [30838/07]

As stated in my letter of 15 November, 2007 to the Deputy, maintenance work on the river referred to will be undertaken before the end of the year.

Question No. 157 answered with QuestionNo. 155.

Tax Code.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

158 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax treatment on the compensation paid to Greencore following the closure of the sugar industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30910/07]

The tax affairs of individual taxpayers are a matter for the Revenue Commissioners who, under the duty of confidentiality which they have to taxpayers, do not comment on particular cases.

Flood Relief.

Finian McGrath

Question:

159 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding a project (details supplied). [30999/07]

The Office of Public Works has been carrying out works on the River Tolka in the Dublin City area in conjunction with Dublin City Council since 2003. The works have been carried out as a result of the recommendations contained in the River Tolka Flooding Report completed in 2003. The Report recommended a number of works which should be undertaken to provide the standard level of protection against a flood with a 1% probability of occurring in any year along both banks of the channel in the Richmond Road area. All these measures have now been undertaken, including raising of some existing walls, the construction of new walls and embankments, widening of the channel and the replacement of Distillery Road Bridge. Dublin City Council was asked by residents of the Tolka Road area in 2006 to have the river wall replaced in the area downstream of Distillery Road Bridge to Luke Kelly Bridge. The original Report indicated that the existing wall was structurally sound and not in need of replacement. However, following these requests from the local residents, the City Council again had the wall assessed in 2006, and this assessment confirmed that the wall was in good condition. As the wall does not require replacement from a flood defence perspective, such a replacement does not fall within OPW's remit on activities under the Flood Relief programme.

Departmental Properties.

Damien English

Question:

160 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the buildings occupied by his Department which are and which are not fully accessible to people with disabilities in tabular readable form. [31031/07]

A table outlining my Departments buildings and their accessibility status is provided below:

Building

Fully Accessible

Government Buildings, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2

Yes

Unit 2, Central Business Park, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Yes

Lansdowne House, Lansdowne Road, Dublin 4

Yes

14-16 Lower Hatch Street, Dublin 2

Yes

2-4 Merrion Row, Dublin 2

Yes

Ballagh House, 73-79 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2

Accessible by prior arrangement

Frederick Buildings, Sth Frederick Street, Dublin 2

Accessible by prior arrangement

File Archive Building — Jamestown Business Park

Not accessible

There is full or partial accessibility to all buildings occupied by my Department, except to our file archive building in Jamestown Business Park. In the case of Ballagh House and Frederick Buildings access is via the respective car parks. The Department will be vacating the offices in Ballagh House in 2008 and Frederick Buildings will be upgraded as part of the Office of Public Works Universal Access Programme for public offices. The Department has appointed Access and Disability Liaison Officers, in accordance with section 26(2) of the Disability Act 2005, who are available to assist both the public and staff with any issues relating to access to the Department's buildings.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

161 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost of running his Department’s press office in each of the first three quarters of 2007 in tabular readable form. [31046/07]

The direct costs associated with my Department's Press Office are detailed below:

Quarter 1 2007

Quarter 2 2007

Quarter 3 2007

Total

Salaries and Employer’s PRSI

53,192.70

60,125.03

53,762.93

167,080.66

Travel and Subsistence

535.37

656.67

535.80

1,727.84

Other

9,976.00

7,348.32

4,299.92

21,624.24

Grand Total

63,704.07

68,130.02

58,598.65

190,432.74

The cost of shared services such as telephone, ICT and heating costs are not broken down by Business Unit.

Departmental Websites.

Damien English

Question:

162 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the websites that are run by his Department and each of its agencies; the date on which each became live; if the sites are kept updated; the cost of each site to the State to date; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [31061/07]

In the time available, it has not been possible to collate the data required by the Deputy. This process is underway and my Department will forward the information to the Deputy as soon as the process is completed.

Flood Relief.

Sean Fleming

Question:

163 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when works carried out by the Office of Public Works at a location (details supplied) in County Laois will be completed; and the progress on this matter. [31101/07]

It is estimated that these works will be completed by April next.

Departmental Bodies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

164 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the organisations or authorities operating within his Department’s policy area, set up by statute or statutory instrument, for which he does not have official responsibility to Dáil Éireann. [31114/07]

The extent of my responsibility varies in accordance with the nature of the legal arrangements. I have responsibility in relation to Government policy in each case. The legislation and statutory instruments establishing organisations or authorities operating within my Department's policy area varies according to the nature of the body involved, the functions it performs and the need for it to be independent in the performance of these functions.

Departmental Offices.

Niall Collins

Question:

165 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his plans to carry out improvements at offices (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31122/07]

A feasibility study is being undertaken on a proposal to extend the existing premises with a view to resolving congestion issues.

Decentralisation Programme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

166 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount spent in 2006 and 2007 on leasing properties for Government Departments or State agencies which are not being used because decentralisation has not proceeded as planned. [31165/07]

I am informed by the Commissioners of Public Works that no money has been spent in 2006 and 2007 for Government Departments or State agencies on leasing properties which are not being used because decentralisation has not proceeded as planned.

Site Acquisitions.

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

167 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of green field sites the Office of Public Works identified in Skibbereen for a new community school; and the problems associated with them that deemed each unsuitable. [31167/07]

The Commissioners of Public Works act as agents for the Department of Education and Science for the acquisitions of sites for schools.

In the case of Skibbereen a total of twelve sites were examined and assessed. One site was withdrawn by the Vendors. One site was regarded as suitable by the Local Authority but would require very extensive pre-construction works. The remainder were regarded as unsuitable by the Local Authority for various reasons.

It would seem that the solution to the problem in this case is for the Local Authority to make a variation to its existing Local Area Plan identifying/zoning land for Educational use or to zone such land in the next Development Plan whichever is soonest.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

168 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when it is expected to issue certificates containing tax credits, standard cut-off points and so on to taxpayers which will incorporate the changes that are made in Budget 2008; and if an initial certificate based on existing 2007 provisions will first be issued at or before the start of the tax year on 1 January 2008. [31190/07]

I an informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, on the completion of the required computer developments, it is intended to commence by mid January, 2008 the issue of Tax Credit Certificates to employers and employees reflecting any changes that are made in the forthcoming Budget.

In cases where a change in circumstances has been notified to Revenue by a taxpayer, a revised Tax Credit Certificate, based on existing 2007 provisions, will be issued to employers prior to the start of the new tax year on 1 January, 2008. In all other cases the existing certificate will continue to be used by the employer until receipt of the new certificate reflecting any changes made in the Budget. Upon receipt of the new certificate, the employer will make any tax adjustments required, backdated to 1 January 2008.

Richard Bruton

Question:

169 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his latest estimate of the numbers of persons who are claiming a refund or relief (details supplied); and the aggregate value of the tax relief provided. [31191/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant information available which has been compiled on the basis of income tax returns is as follows:

Tax refund/tax credit/relief

Year

Numbers availing

Estimated cost to the Exchequer

€ million

Refund of DIRT

2006

900

1.19

Rent a room

2004

2,300

2.70

Childminding tax exemption

N/A

N/A

N/A

Service charges

2004

229,600

12.70

Third level education fees

2004

26,600

11.10

Rent paid in private tenancies

2004

118,500

33.00

Job assist allowance

2004

550

0.40

Trade Union subscriptions

2005

256,400*

10.9*

*Provisional and likely to be revised.

Statistics on the childminding tax exemption, which was introduced by Section 13 of the Finance Act 2006, are not available at this time. Preliminary data derived from 2006 income tax returns filed by self-employed taxpayers via the ROS system should become available from early 2008.

Richard Bruton

Question:

170 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of persons in the present tax code who are single, who are married one earner couples, married two earner couples and widowed. [31192/07]

It is assumed that what the Deputy requires are the numbers of income earners, both PAYE and self-employed, on the income tax record for the current income tax year. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested is as follows:

Projected number of income earners for 2007.

Single

Married one-earner

Married two-earner

Widowed

Total

1,398,600

379,600

427,400

79,800

2,285,400

Figures in the table are rounded to the nearest hundred.

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2004 adjusted as necessary for income and employment growth and are therefore provisional and likely to be revised.

It should be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Richard Bruton

Question:

171 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of persons who are claiming the additional personal credit for a one parent family; and the way this number has increased since the year 2000. [31193/07]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated numbers of income earners availing of the one parent family tax credit from 2000/01 to date are as set out in the following table:

One parent family tax credit — numbers availing

Year

Numbers

2000/01

101,200

2001

97,600

2002

102,700

2003

109,200

2004

101,700

2005

106,800

2006

111,700

2007

115,800

The figures for 2005, 2006 and 2007 are estimates from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2004 adjusted as necessary for income and employment growth for the years in question and are therefore provisional and subject to revision.

The numbers availing represent income earners who were in a position to absorb at least some of the one parent family tax credit and thereby give rise to an Exchequer cost. They do not include the numbers of potential claimants whose entitlements to other tax credits were sufficient to reduce their liability to tax to nil without reference to the one parent family tax credit. The numbers availing of the credit are rounded to the nearest hundred as appropriate.

The costs and numbers shown as availing of tax reliefs and credits represent income earners who were in a position to absorb at least some of each tax credit or relief and thereby give rise to an Exchequer cost. They do not include the numbers of potential claimants whose entitlements to other tax credits were sufficient to reduce their liability to tax to nil without reference to the home carer's credit.

A married couple which has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Richard Bruton

Question:

172 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of people who are claiming home-carers credit at present. [31194/07]

I refer the Deputy to the answer I gave to a similar question (PQ 30483/07, Dáil Question 70) which he tabled on 22 November last.

OPW Projects.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

173 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the heating system in the National Library will be replaced with an air conditioned system, similar to the effective system in operation at the Berkeley Library in Trinity College; if it is included in the work being carried out on the library at the moment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31206/07]

There are no immediate plans to replace the heating system in the National Library with air conditioning. The Berkely Library in Trinity College is a modern building and very different from the National Library in Kildare Street, which is a very old building (built in 1890) and a protected structure. Buildings such as the National Library pose significant challenges in balancing conservation needs with the provision of services such as air conditioning.

When undertaking any new projects in the National Library, the Commissioners of Public Works assess the feasibility of installing air conditioning and if practical, install it, e.g., the former NCAD building. The new Book Repository, which is the top priority for the National Library, will be air conditioned.

Departmental Offices.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

174 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of the former offices of the Department of Social and Family Affairs at Barrack Street, Dundalk; if there are plans to dispose of the building on the open market; the costs of maintenance and security on the building which has been empty since the Department of Social and Family Affairs moved to new premises in 2002; if he will provide a breakdown of these costs for each year since then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31211/07]

The future of the building is currently being considered in the context of Public Service demand for accommodation in the Dundalk area.

The following Maintenance related costs were incurred since the Department of Social and Family Affairs moved:

Year

2004

Cleaning front of Building

240.00

2005

Securing gate at rear of building

39.73

2006

Transfer of records

2,224.60

2007

Boarding up windows to make property secure and safe

885.30

Data Protection.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

175 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the procedures in place to protect personal data within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31240/07]

My Department complies with the Data Protection Act and is registered as a data controller with the Data Protection Commissioner under Section 16 of the Data Protection Acts, 1988 and 2003. My Department has a limited number of disclosees to whom data may be disclosed and the Department consults with the Office of the Data Commissioner on these matters.

All of my Department's databases and systems that hold data utilise controls which limit access solely to those authorised to carry out certain prescribed functions. In relation to paper files stored in my Department, appropriate levels of security are applied to ensure confidentiality.

Review Body on Higher Remuneration.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

176 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost per year of pay raises awarded to An Taoiseach, Ministers, Ministers of State and TDs over the past five years. [31343/07]

The table below shows for each of the years 2004 to 2007 the year-on-year increase in cost of the pay of the Taoiseach, Ministers, Ministers of State and TDs. This takes account of all pay increases (i.e. those arising from nation wage agreements, recommendations of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector and the Benchmarking Body).

Report No. 38 of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector recommended that the salary of a TD should be set at the ordinary maximum of the grade of Principal (standard) in the civil service and should be revised for the future on that basis. Following implementation of this recommendation the salary of TDs is no longer examined by the Review Body.

The salaries of the Taoiseach, Minister and Minister of State are made up of two elements: the office holder's salary plus the TD's basic salary. While the TD's element of the salary is determined in the manner set out above, the office holder's element is examined from time to time by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration. The office holder's salary does not attract increases recommended by the Public Service Benchmarking Body.

Office Holder

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Taoiseach

No increase

5,806

8,379

14,416

12,308

Minister (14)

No increase

54,810

79,156

136,038

122,528

Minister of State (17)

No increase

29,053

41,956

72,080

85,174

TD Basic (166)

No increase

1,242,510

744,178

695,872

748,494

Note: The table gives the approximate cost for the year on the basis of 14 Ministers, 17 Ministers of State and 166 TDs serving. In the case of Ministers of State the numbers serving increased from 17 to 20 in 2007. The 2007 shows the full cost, however not all members of State were appointed for the full year. The TD rate is calculated on the basic rate (i.e. exclusive of long service increment).

Psychological Service.

Martin Ferris

Question:

177 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of clinical psychologists available to schools in County Kerry. [30520/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

178 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide an undertaking to increase the number of clinical psychologists available to County Kerry schools. [30521/07]

Martin Ferris

Question:

179 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children currently awaiting being seen by a clinical psychologist; and the average waiting time. [30523/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 to 179, inclusive, together.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement including that of Clinical Psychologists. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

I would point out that my colleague the Minister for Education and Science provides, through the National Education Psychological Service, a psychological service to schools.

Homeless Persons.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

180 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children under the age of 18 currently homeless in Dublin City; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30529/07]

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

Catherine Byrne

Question:

181 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the services and facilities available to homeless children in Dublin City at night time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30530/07]

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

Assisted Human Reproduction.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

182 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if experimentation on human embryos is a specific offence here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30703/07]

At present there is no legislation in Ireland governing the intervention in the natural process of creating human life; instead, medical practice is governed by guidelines issued by the Medical Council. These provide that the creation of new forms of life for experimental purposes or the deliberate and intentional destruction of in vitro human life already formed is professional misconduct.

In March 2000 the then Minister for Health and Children established the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (CAHR). Its terms of reference were: to prepare a report on the possible approaches to the regulation of all aspects of assisted human reproduction and the social, ethical and legal factors to be taken into account in determining public policy in this area.

The CAHR comprised largely of persons with expert knowledge spanning medical, scientific, social and legal domains. This expertise was a prerequisite to a precise examination of the issues concerned and the Commission published its report in May 2005. Its report was the first step in determining a policy response to Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) and it made 40 recommendations on AHR services in Ireland.

The Government decided to refer the report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children so that the Committee could consider and report in due course on its views of the recommendations of the Commission. The Committee was considered an appropriate forum in which to subject the report to structured democratic and political analysis and scrutiny.

In the meantime, cognisant of the amount of work required, I instructed my Department to begin work on the development of an appropriate regulatory framework. As part of the analysis of the complex issues involved in developing an appropriate regulatory framework for this area (including the issue raised by the Deputy), the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children -when completed- along with any judgement of the Supreme Court in the RvR (frozen embryo) case, will be taken into account.

Vaccination Programme.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

183 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that 8,000 leaving certificate pupils and several hundred junior certificate pupils will be leaving secondary schools in west Dublin and North Kildare incompletely vaccinated, against the recommendations of the 2002 National Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland in view of the country being awash with 70,000 doses of DiTe vaccine; if this difficulty has been communicated to her Department by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30754/07]

Mary Upton

Question:

220 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the National Immunisation programme; DiTe or Td vaccine for secondary school pupils as advised by the 2002 National Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland has never been implemented in the former ERHA region and is five years overdue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30751/07]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

223 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason second level schools in west Dublin and North Kildare are being denied important vaccinations in the former ERHA area headquartered in Naas and other parts of the country; the reason the national immunisation programme of Td vaccinations in secondary schools as advised by the 2002 National Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland has never been implemented in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30758/07]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

224 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children the National Immunisation Office has not released the DiTe vaccine for immunisation in schools despite receiving a large consignment from SSI recently and that doctors are available to vaccinate; if her attention has been drawn to the concern being expressed by parents, teachers and parents in schools in relation to diphtheria and tetanus boosters, which students were supposed to belatedly receive in November 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30759/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183, 220, 223 and 224 together.

The Deputies' questions 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 Deputies.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

184 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of introducing a disability payment of €40 per week for people with disabilities regardless of whether they are in work or not. [31166/07]

The social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, includes a commitment that the issues around the introduction of a cost of disability payment will be considered following the development of a needs assessment system under the Disability Act. This follows an inter-departmental examination of the issue by a working group and research commissioned on its behalf by the National Disability Authority.

Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 establishes a system for the assessment of individual needs for people with a disability. The assessment of need process has been implemented for persons aged under 5 years of age with effect from 1st June 2007. It is intended that the assessment of need process for all persons with a disability will be in place by 2011. My Department is committed to considering the issues around a cost of disability payment following the development of this needs assessment system.

In the meantime, there is already significant assistance available to mitigate the impact of the additional costs incurred by people with a disability. These measures include weekly/monthly allowances, additional income supports, other benefits such as medical cards/free travel/mobility allowance and tax concessions.

Child Care Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

185 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the implementation of the recommendations of the November 2006 Joint Committee Report on Child Protection. [31347/07]

Alan Shatter

Question:

186 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the action taken to date to implement the recommendations contained in the report of the Joint Committee on Child Protection published in November 2006; and the action she proposes to take during the next 12 months. [31368/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

265 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date in relation to each of the recommendations in the Report of the Joint Committee on Child Protection. [31213/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

266 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if a particular Minister or Department has been given overarching responsibility for bringing forward recommendations from the Report of the Joint Committee on Child Protection. [31214/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185, 186, 265 and 266 together.

The Report of the Joint Committee on Child Protection contains over 60 recommendations. The majority of these recommendations fall within the remit of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, with other recommendations falling within the remit of other State departments and agencies. The Office of the Minister for Children (OMC) has taken overall responsibility to ensure that the recommendations contained in the Report are addressed by the appropriate department or agency. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform are also putting into place a co-ordinating structure of responsibility to address recommendations that fall within their remit. The OMC have requested up to date reports from the departments and agencies concerned and on receipt of same will reply to the Deputies directly.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

187 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the pharmacies dispute; and if she will work with them in resolving the matter and their concerns. [30509/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

214 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will have the impact of the Health Service Executive proposals on pharmacy services fully evaluated and have a fair and independent process for the determination of fees and services. [30723/07]

Willie Penrose

Question:

235 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made to date in relation to resolving the issues that have arisen as a result of the Health Service Executive’s decision to refuse to continue to negotiate with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union on the price changes that have been proposed; if her attention has been drawn to the significant impact that these changes will have on pharmacies throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30962/07]

Michael Creed

Question:

236 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will appoint an independent arbitrator to resolve the dispute between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30974/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187, 214, 235 and 236 together.

As the Health Service Executive (HSE) has operational responsibility, under the Health Act 2004, for the management and delivery of health and personal social services, the issue of revised reimbursement prices for community pharmacy under the GMS and community drugs schemes, following the announcement by the HSE on 17 September 2007 of new wholesaler arrangements, is being managed by a HSE-led team which includes representation from my Department.

The revised pricing arrangements were arrived at following a detailed consultation process accompanied by independent economic analysis. In the light of the position on competition law previously outlined by me, the HSE obtained legal advice, confirmed by advice to my Department, that a fair and transparent consultation process was the most appropriate means to allow for the determination of new reimbursement arrangements. This process involved direct discussion with wholesaler companies and a call for public submissions, published on 20th December 2006, in response to which a total of 161 submissions (including 143 from community pharmacy contractors) were received.

Following the completion of public consultation, and informed by the independent economic analysis, carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants, new reimbursement arrangements were announced by the HSE on 17th September 2007. The report by Indecon was published by the HSE on 13 November 2007. All aspects of the Indecon report were considered by the HSE in making its determination. To address concerns expressed by the IPU, on behalf of community pharmacists, about the implications of the legal advice on competition law on their right to negotiate fees through the Union, a process of dialogue was established, chaired by Bill Shipsey SC, to explore ways in which concerns raised by the IPU about the implications of this legal advice might be addressed. Despite suspension of this process during the recent withdrawal by individual pharmacists of methadone services, there has recently been renewed engagement between the Irish Pharmaceutical Union and the HSE under the auspices of Mr. Shipsey.

I am also exploring, in consultation with the Attorney General, the other relevant Government Departments and the HSE, the best way of progressing the development of a new contract with pharmacists.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

188 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist on a query in relation to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [30510/07]

The aim of the home help service is to enable older people and other dependent persons, who would otherwise need to be looked after in residential care, to live at home. The HSE acknowledges the importance of home helps as part of the community services team in supporting older people and other dependent persons to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.

The level of home help required by an existing or new client is informed by an assessment of need which is carried out by HSE professional staff. This is monitored and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that the assessed needs of clients continue to be met. This would include a requirement to provide additional home help hours, if needed. In that regard, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Treatment Services.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

189 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will name the 13 centres designated by Professor O’Higgins to be centres of excellence for cancer care; when that designation was made; when the decision was taken to change the numbers from 13 to 8; the rationale behind the change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30511/07]

The Report on the Development of Services for Symptomatic Breast Disease (‘the O'Higgins Report') was published in 2000. The Report recommended 13 specialist breast cancer centres nationally based on a requirement for each centre to manage a minimum of 100 new primary breast cancer cases per annum as follows: South Eastern Health Board — Waterford Regional Hospital; Southern Health Board — South Infirmary and Cork University Hospitals; Mid-Western Health Board — Limerick Regional Hospital; Western Health Board — University College Hospital Galway; North-Eastern Health Board — Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; North-Western Health Board — Sligo General Hospital, (Letterkenny General Hospital linked to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry); Midland Health Board, — Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore or Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise; Eastern Health Board — Mater Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, St Vincent's University Hospital, St James' Hospital and Tallaght Hospital.

Last June I approved National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services under the Health Act 2007 which were prepared by a multi-disciplinary expert group chaired by Professor Niall O' Higgins. The Standards require that each centre providing breast cancer care manages a minimum of 150 new cases per year. Based on the new Standards, and the fact that the BreastCheck screening programme will reduce significantly the number of symptomatic breast cancer presentations, the Health Service Executive (HSE) determined that we require a total of eight specialist breast cancer centres nationally.

Arising from the designation of eight cancer centres nationally and in order to comply with the Standards, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has directed a number of hospitals with very low case volumes to cease breast cancer services. The National Hospitals Office has already planned the redirection of this symptomatic caseload. Further staged reductions in the number of hospitals providing breast cancer services will occur over the next two years in line with the development of quality assured capacity in the eight designated centres.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

190 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the Mater Hospital is in a position to cater for female cancer patients from Longford and Westmeath now that Mullingar Hospital has been told to stop dealing with these patients; the number of such patients who were treated in Mullingar Hospital during 2006 and 2007; the transport arrangements that have been put in place to enable people to get to and from the Mater who do not have transport themselves; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30512/07]

Arising from the designation of eight cancer centres nationally and in order to comply with the National Quality Assurance Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has announced that within the coming weeks, breast cancer services at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar will be transferred to the Mater Hospital in Dublin. In 2006 a total of 19 breast cancer procedures were carried out at the Midland Regional Hospital at Mullingar.

The HSE and the Mater Hospital are in discussions concerning the planning of an orderly transfer of patients from Mullingar. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the specific questions regarding the transfer of services from Mullingar to the Mater Hospital.

Mobility Allowances.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

191 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the mobility allowance is only payable to persons between the ages of 16 and 66; her views on making this allowance accessible to parents of young children under the age of 16 who require transportation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30527/07]

The mobility allowance is a monthly payment administered by the Health Service Executive, which provides financial support to severely disabled people, between the ages of 16 and 66, who are unable to walk or use public transport and is intended to enable them to benefit from a change in surroundings, for example, by financing the occasional taxi journey. I have no current proposal to amend the scheme.

Nursing Homes Scheme.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

192 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Minister for Health and Children when payment will be made under the long stay hospital scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [30536/07]

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.

John Cregan

Question:

193 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the domiciliary care allowance will be made payable to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick in view of the fact that a psychologist’s report has been submitted to the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30537/07]

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

Medical Cards.

Brian Hayes

Question:

194 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of discretionary medical cards distributed by the Health Service Executive per region, including eastern, midland, mid western, north eastern, north western, south eastern, southern and western; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30551/07]

Brian Hayes

Question:

195 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of eligible individuals and family units for discretionary medical cards by the Health Service Executive per region including eastern, midland, mid western, north eastern, north western, south eastern, southern and western; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30552/07]

Brian Hayes

Question:

196 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of discretionary medical cards registered on the primary care reimbursement service database; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30553/07]

Brian Hayes

Question:

197 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money paid to general practitioners for discretionary medical cards in 2007; the number of discretionary medical cards this figure is based on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30554/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 to 197, inclusive, together.

I understand that the Health Service Executive (HSE) has detailed operational guidelines in place for the assessment of applications for a medical card or GP visit card. The purpose of these guidelines is to ensure that every person entitled to a medical card or GP visit card is given the opportunity to avail of their entitlement and that there is a consistent approach to means-testing nationally.

The guidelines include provisions dealing with the exercise of discretion in the medical card/GP visit card application process, where an applicant would not qualify solely on the basis of an assessment of means. The term "discretionary medical card" has come to be applied to cards awarded to persons whose income exceeds the guideline figure and whose health status is such that they have greater care requirements than the average medical card holder.

In 2001, in the context of industrial relations negotiations aimed at giving effect to the extension of eligibility for a medical card to all persons aged 70 or over, it was agreed to pay additional amounts totalling €2 million per annum to contracted GMS GPs in respect of a notional figure of 20,000 "discretionary medical card" patients. The payments to individual GPs were calculated on a pro rata basis in relation to the size of each GP's GMS patient panel. In 2002, in the context of further difficult industrial relations discussions and in order to ensure the continued provision of GMS services to the eligible population, it was agreed that the pro rata payment in respect of "discretionary medical cards" would be increased such that it would be calculated by reference to an estimated population of 75,000 holders of such cards. It was contended by the Irish Medical Organisation that the number of persons with a "discretionary medical card" was in the region of 75,000 and information received by the Department from several health boards appeared to support a number of this order.

My Department and the HSE are currently working on the development of a new GMS GP contract. It is intended that the remuneration arrangements attaching to this will involve a simplification of the current arrangements, which include the capitation and a range of associated payments, including those in respect of "discretionary medical card" patients.

As aspects of the Deputy's questions relate 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, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Treatment Services.

James Reilly

Question:

198 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department or the Health Service Executive received a letter from a medical professional expressing concern about cancer services at Portlaoise Hospital prior to the recent letter referred to in the media from a consultant in 2005; if so the action that was taken on foot of that letter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30563/07]

My Department has not located any letter relating to cancer services at Portlaoise other than one in July 2005 which has been referred to in the media and by the Deputy. If the Deputy believes that there was another letter, I would ask him to let me have details so that I can have further enquiries made.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

199 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of women screened by the BreastCheck mobile unit in County Roscommon since it opened in early 2007. [30587/07]

Finian McGrath

Question:

200 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the time-lines in place, in view of the fact that the roll-out of BreastCheck has not commenced and the National Cancer Screening Service has not responded to this Deputy’s question (details supplied) for individual counties and areas in the regions for the roll-out of BreastCheck. [30588/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 and 200 together.

The National Cancer Screening Service has informed my Department that a response to the Deputy's question of 20 October was issued on 8 October 2007. I understand that the Service advised that 1,200 women had been screened by BreastCheck in County Roscommon up to that date.

The Service also advised that the screening sequence for roll out to other counties in the West will be dictated by BreastCheck's operational considerations such as maximising uptake, most efficient use of mobile and static units and radiographic personnel.

Hospital Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

201 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the in-house cleaning costs and contract cleaning service costs for each hospital in the State in tabular readable form. [30594/07]

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, including cleaning costs, 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.

Damien English

Question:

202 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the average cost of providing hospital meals to patients in each year since 2002 with a breakdown for each Health Service Executive region in tabular readable form. [30599/07]

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

Health Services.

Damien English

Question:

203 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the average management costs for the Health Service Executive in cash terms and as a percentage of the HSE’s budget to date in 2007. [30600/07]

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

Health Service Staff.

Damien English

Question:

204 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent to date on salaries by the Health Service Executive in 2007 with a breakdown in management, administrative staff, medical staff and all other staff in tabular readable form. [30601/07]

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

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

205 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people as of 31 October 2007 who were employed in her Department; the number who were permanent employees; the number who were temporary staff; the number who were contracted staff; if she will provide comparative figures for 31 October 2002; and if she will provide the information in tabular readable form. [30615/07]

The wholetime equivalent number employed in offices of my Department at the end of October 2007 was 586.77 including 20 temporary/contract staff. This figure includes staff employed in

the Department of Health and Children, including the Office of the Minister for Children

the General Register Office

the Adoption Board

the Office of the Ombudsman for Children

the Office of the Disability Appeals Officer and

the Repayment Scheme Appeals Unit.

The figure does not include Ministers, staff who are seconded to other Departments, staff on career break, etc.

The figure of 566.77 permanent staff includes a number of staff who are temporarily transferred or seconded from other Government Departments or agencies such as the Office of the Attorney General and the Health Service Executive. These staff will return to their parent Department or agency once the term of their secondment or transfer expires, normally after three years.

At the end of December 2002, 645.18 wholetime equivalents, including approximately 17 temporary/contract staff, were employed in the offices of my Department. At that time those offices consisted of

the Department Health and Children

the General Register Office

the Adoption Board and

the Social Services Inspectorate.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

206 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by her Department in 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 for air travel, business class flights and first class flights in tabular readable form. [30630/07]

The table below identifies the amounts invoiced for air travel by the travel company currently holding the contract for Civil Service Departments and the amounts paid by the Department in the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and to the 9th November, 2007. The differential between the amounts invoiced and the amounts paid is due to the timing difference between receipt and payment of invoices.

Year

Business

Economy

First Class

Total Invoiced

Total Paid

2004

160,693

173,933

334,627

361,648

2005

98,441

151,367

249,809

250,751

2006

113,996

141,913

255,910

248,178

2007

39,296

107,791

147,087

171,053

Damien English

Question:

207 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount spent by her Department on couriered documents, registered post and standard post to date in 2007 in tabular readable form. [30645/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Service

Spent to date in 2007

Couriered Documents

13,829

Registered Post

11,513

Standard Post

154,666

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

208 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the 10 largest bonus payments made to staff in her Department and each of its agencies in the past 12 months. [30660/07]

The scheme of performance related awards in my Department relates to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and the Chief Medical Officer only. The Committee for Performance Awards oversees the scheme, monitors its application and brings independent judgement to bear in approving objectives for the officers concerned and in approving recommendations for awards. Details of awards to individual officers under the performance related scheme are not disclosed on the basis that they are confidential to the officer concerned. As shown in the Committee for Performance Awards Report for 2006 (page 10), awards totalling €100,000 were made in 2007 to 8 officers in my Department in respect of 2006. Details of the operation of the scheme are available in the report of the Committee for Performance Awards which can be accessed on the website of the Department of Finance atthe following link: http://www.finance.gov.ie/ documents/publications/reports/CPArep2006.pdf.

Based on Report No. 38 of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, a scheme of performance related awards has been in operation in the Health Services since 2002, for senior management grades. The Scheme provides for a total award pool of 10% of the payroll of the qualifying grades and awards of up to 20% of salary may be made to individuals.

In relation to the specific details requested by the Deputy, my Department is asking the relevant health agencies to reply directly to the Deputy.

Damien English

Question:

209 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of civil servants in her Department who have transferred to other Government Departments or left the Civil Service in each of the past five years in tabular readable form. [30675/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is detailed in the following table:

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007 to date

Total

Resigned

13

6

9

7

7

42

Retired

3

9

6

11

8

37

Transferred on Promotion

2

4

8

6

8

28

Transferred not on Promotion

6

8

2

8

5

29

Decentralised under current Government Programme

0

0

3

25

21

49

Total

24

27

28

57

49

185

Damien English

Question:

210 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing that have been reported to her Department by Departmental staff since 1 January 2007. [30690/07]

I am advised that my Department's Human Resources Unit has not received any allegation of victimisation for whistleblowing since 1 January 2007.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

211 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will add Huntington’s Chorea to the list of long-term illnesses particularly as it used to be classified as Parkinson’s disease until 1993 when it was identified as a separate condition and Parkinson’s is included on the list of long-term illnesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30714/07]

Under the 1970 Health Act, the Health Service Executive may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition, through the Long Term Illness Scheme (LTI). The LTI does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments. The conditions are: mental handicap, mental illness (for people under 16 only), phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. There are currently no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions.

Products which are necessary for the management of the specified illness are available to LTI patients. Other products are available according to the patient's eligibility.

People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process the Health Service Executive can take into account a range of measures including the household income guidelines, particular circumstances and the medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. In addition people over the age of 70 years have an automatic entitlement to a medical card regardless of income. Application should be made to the local area office of the HSE.

In November 2004, I introduced a new graduated benefit — the GP Visit Card to extend free GP care and treatment to individuals and families on moderate incomes.

In June 2005, I simplified the means test for both medical and GP visit cards. It is now based on an applicant's and spouse's income after income tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, childcare and travel to work. In 2005 the income guidelines for medical cards were increased by a cumulative 29 per cent. The income assessment guidelines used for the GP visit card are 50% higher than those used for medical cards. These improvements have made the assessment process much fairer and ensure that those on low to moderate incomes can qualify for free GP care.

Non-medical card holders can use the Drug Payment Scheme, which protects against excessive medicines costs. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month, or approximately €20 per week, towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

In addition, the deputy will be aware that non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

Health Service Staff.

Tony Gregory

Question:

212 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children if the community ophthalmologist employed elsewhere by the Health Service Executive will be sanctioned to take up their appointment to the Rathdown Road Clinic in Dublin 7 following their recent selection; if she will ensure that this appointment will not be held up by the HSE recruitment embargo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30716/07]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

213 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the recently appointed community ophthalmologist at Rathdown Road Clinic has not been permitted to take up the post due to the Health Service Executive recruitment embargo. [30719/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 213 together.

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

The current recruitment pause is a temporary measure initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan and will be reviewed at the end of this month. In any instance where a critical or essential vacancy arises it may be filled through redeployment of existing staff by the line manager or re-assignment of responsibilities based on assessment of priority need.

Notwithstanding this, the HSE recognises that there are some circumstances where appointment of staff may be necessary in frontline services. Accordingly, a process has been put in place to evaluate, monitor and approve requests for derogation from the general recruitment pause. A group has been established which meets weekly to consider such applications.

Question No. 214 answered with QuestionNo. 187.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

215 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a long term illness book was taken off a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the reason they were not notified of this by the Health Service Executive; and the reason this child is suffering as their parent is unable to get the special food for them. [30729/07]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

James Reilly

Question:

216 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of administering the nursing home repayment scheme (Donations) fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30740/07]

In accordance with Section 11 of the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 a Repayment Scheme (Donations) Fund has been established for the purposes of utilising donated money to provide improvements in the public health services for dependent older persons and persons with disabilities.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has indicated that it will administer the Fund and absorb any associated administration costs. All donated monies will be used entirely for the benefit of the patient which will include the provision of patient comforts.

The HSE has informed my Department that as of 16 November 2007 there has been over 260 expressions of interest from clients and donations have been received amounting to over €43,000. The HSE has also informed my Department that many claimants have indicated that they would make a donation directly to their local institution.

Bernard Allen

Question:

217 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will receive a decision on their claim for repayment in respect of charges for long-term care. [30744/07]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

218 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30747/07]

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

Community Care.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

219 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 101 of 17 October 2007. [30749/07]

I have been advised that the Health Service Executive (HSE) has issued a reply to the Deputy in relation to Question No. 101 of 17 October 2007.

Question No. 220 answered with QuestionNo. 183.

Health Service Staff.

Timmy Dooley

Question:

221 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide this Deputy with an organisational structure for the Health Service Executive in Clare including role descriptions and responsibilities of all personnel. [30753/07]

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Immunisation Programme.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

222 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a new drug (details supplied) which helps prevent meningitis and septicaemia; if there are plans for this drug to be permitted here as a means of fighting meningococcal septicaemia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30757/07]

Ireland's recommended immunisation programme is based on the guidelines of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. These guidelines are prepared with the assistance of an active committee from associated disciplines in paediatrics, infectious diseases, general practice and public health. A vaccine to prevent against meningococcal infections, including meningococcal septicaemia, caused by the Meningococcus C strain of the bacteria is already included in the primary immunisation schedule. The vaccine referred to by the Deputy is pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PVC) which protects against pneumococcal infections, which include pneumonia, septicaemia and bacterial meningitis. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recently completed a review of our immunisation schedule and the Chief Medical Officer of my Department has received the updated guidelines. These new guidelines include the addition of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PVC) to the schedule. PVC vaccine provides a high level of protection to young children from pneumococcal infections. It is proposed to introduce the new schedule in 2008.

Questions Nos. 223 and 224 answered with Question No. 183.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael Ring

Question:

225 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a wheelchair will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo as they are suffering great hardship with the wheelchair they have as it is totally unsuitable for their needs. [30781/07]

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

Health Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

226 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the care facilities here for the treatment of teenage cancer; her plans to develop these facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30813/07]

We have made substantial progress in cancer care for children and adolescents already and we are determined to build on that progress in the context of the National Cancer Control Programme. Prof. Tom Keane took up his position as interim Director of the National Cancer Control Programme last Monday.

The HSE is putting arrangements in place to enable Prof. Keane to take control of all new cancer developments from 1 January 2008 and progressively all existing cancer services and related funding and staffing. Further investment in cancer control will be based on the reform programme now being implemented by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

227 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 will be assisted. [30826/07]

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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

228 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 will be assisted. [30827/07]

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.

Child Care Services.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

229 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of staffing grant aid for a childcare centre (details supplied) in County Kerry; if she will commit to providing the existing childcare subvention scheme until December 2008 to allow time for her Department to address the anomalies and difficulties created by the proposed new scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30911/07]

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

Under the 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) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a weekly subvention in respect of their child. A higher subvention 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 for subvention 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.

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 received this month. Where 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.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the Group in question has been approved for transitional funding under the NCIP Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS), and a letter of approval has issued this week from the Childcare Directorate of my Office. This funding will, for the first six months of 2008, be based on the level of funding currently being provided to the Group under the EOCP staffing support grant scheme and subject to the necessary contractual arrangement with Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP.

Health Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

230 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a minimal dentist service available in the Cavan Monaghan region and a schoolchild (details supplied) in County Monaghan due for a dental appointment in September or October 2007 has been told no such appointment is available due to no dentist being available; her views on whether this could have serious consequences for the child’s future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30912/07]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

231 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo went on the waiting list to be called for an appointment; when exactly did they go on the waiting list; the length of time they have been on the waiting list to the present time; and when can they expect to be called as this query was not answered in the last parliamentary question reply from the Health Service Executive. [30936/07]

My Department has been informed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive that it wrote, on 15th November 2007, to the Deputy in reply to his previous parliamentary question of 31st October 2007 about this case. The Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive has been asked by my Department to look into the further matters now raised by the Deputy in the case and to reply directly to him on these.

Community Care.

Pat Breen

Question:

232 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a place for residential living; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30951/07]

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

Psychological Service.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

233 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Longford whose mother is waiting a long time for an appointment with the psychologist in the Health Service Executive. [30959/07]

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.

Community Care.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

234 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who has been in residential care for a number of years and who is looking forward to being housed in community housing; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this move is being long delayed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30960/07]

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.

Questions Nos. 235 and 236 answered with Question No. 187.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

237 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 291 of 26 June 2007, when the community houses in question were purchased; the condition they were in at that point; the condition that they are currently in; and the time-scale of the refurbishment works. [30978/07]

I understand that the Deputy has had further correspondence from the Health Service Executive within the last seven days on the matters raised by her in this Parliamentary Question.

General Practitioner Co-Operatives.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

238 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on progress towards the establishment of the much needed out of hours general practitioner service in Tallaght, Dublin 24; her views on the strong support for such a development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30983/07]

Out of hours co-operatives allow general practitioners to put in place arrangements to provide services to their patients, while their surgeries are closed in the evenings, on weekends and bank holidays. The development of GP co-operatives is in line with the overall health service policy of strengthening primary care services and ensuring that to the greatest extent possible, people's care needs are met in the primary care setting.

Out of hours co-operatives are now in place in all Health Service Executive (HSE) areas, providing coverage in all or in part of all counties. In 2007, almost €37 million is available to the HSE to fund the operation of GP out of hours services. This figure does not include the fees of the participating doctors.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for this service, it is the appropriate body to provide the information sought by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

National Drugs Strategy.

Billy Timmins

Question:

239 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children when she asked the Health Research Board to establish a national drug related death index; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30986/07]

The Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform jointly asked the Health Research Board in 2005 to establish a National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI).

This Index was established to comply with Action 67 of ‘Building on Experience: National Drug Strategy 2001-2008'. The Index is a census of drug and alcohol-related deaths and deaths among substance users in Ireland which is one of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction's (EMCDDA) key indicators to measure the consequences of the drug situation.

Prior to the establishment of the NDRDI, the main source of information on drug related deaths was the General Mortality Register. Statistics in the General Mortality Register are collected by the Central Statistics Office which measures — as it is required to do — direct drug-related deaths based on an international classification system. It does not have a reliable measure of deaths which are indirectly related to drug use and so does not provide the full picture of drug-related deaths. For example, a death through an infectious disease contracted through drug use may not feature in the General Mortality Register as drug-related.

To remedy the above limitations the NDRDI was established. The data for the Index is drawn from a number of sources including the General Mortality Register; the Coroner's Service; the Hospital In-patient Enquiry (HIPE); and the Central Treatment List. The Index includes statistics from the coroner's service on "sudden and unexpected deaths with positive drug toxicology or a history of drug dependency". These data are extracted from closed coroner files. Files may not be closed for a period of time due to a number of reasons such as awaiting toxicology results, pathology results, Garda reports and delay in criminal court proceedings. These processes must be complete before an inquest is held and the file closed. For example, for some deaths which occurred in 2003 the inquest was held in 2005. This indicates that there may be up to a 2 year delay before the cause of death is ascertained and the file is closed. 2004 is the latest year for which data is available as the work is done retrospectively.

A steering committee, co-chaired by the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform provides general and technical advice on the development of the Index and the first report from the NDRDI will be available in late 2008.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Mary Upton

Question:

240 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the nursing home refund due to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 20 can not be awarded to their family; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30989/07]

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.

Child Care Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

241 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to a letter (details supplied); if she will change the terms of the new subvention scheme for crèches to accommodate similar gaps in the funding system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30997/07]

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

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) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a weekly subvention in respect of their child. A higher subvention 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 for subvention 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.

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 of this year, the transitional period between now and 1 July 2008 is being used to monitor and review the impact it will have on individual services, on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data received as part of the application process for transitional funding. Where 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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

242 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when payment from the nursing home repayment fund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [31006/07]

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.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

243 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 265 of 16 October 2007, the amount paid to each of the 41 firms in tabular form. [31012/07]

The additional information sought by the Deputy 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.

Departmental Properties.

Damien English

Question:

244 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the buildings occupied by her Department which are and which are not fully accessible to people with disabilities in tabular readable form. [31033/07]

All the buildings occupied by my Department are fully accessible to people with disabilities. These are:

Name of Building

Address

Fully Accessible for People with Disabilities

Department Headquarters

Hawkins House, Hawkins Street, Dublin 2.

Yes

General Register Office (Genealogy Research)

Irish Life Mall, Dublin 1.

Yes

Adoption Board

Shelbourne House, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Yes

General Register Office

Government Buildings, Convent Road, Roscommon.

Yes

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

245 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of running her Department’s press office in each of the first three quarters of 2007 in tabular readable form. [31048/07]

There are 5 Departmental staff in my Department's Press Office and I also have a special adviser in this area. The associated annual pay cost is €346,489 (cost for Departmental staff calculated on the mean of the scale). The estimated quarterly costs for mobile phones for the Press Office is €1,262. The costs for media monitoring for the first three quarters of 2007 were as follows:

January-March: €27,725.55

April-June: €19,258.78

July-September: €16,000.49.

The costs for information communications technology, heat and lighting are not recorded on an individual office basis in my Department.

Departmental Websites.

Damien English

Question:

246 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the websites that are run by her Department and each of its agencies; the date on which each became live; if the sites are kept updated; the cost of each site to the State to date; and if she will provide the information in tabular readable form. [31063/07]

The following tables list all the websites currently run by my Department and associated costs. All the sites are live and are regularly updated, except where the site is now maintained for information purposes only. The cost table shows estimated expenditure for website infrastructure in my Department since 2000. It is not possible to quantify the costs specific to each website, as in many cases they share a common infrastructure.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has direct responsibility for the planning and management of health sector developments for both the HSE itself and the majority of other health agencies. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the HSE and those agencies.

In relation to other health agencies which are directly funded through my Department, arrangements are being made to have the required details collated. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as this exercise iscompleted.

Web Site

Departmental Business Owner

Year site went live

Status

www.adoptionboard.ie

The Adoption Board

2004

Updated regularly

www.blooddirective.ie

Blood Policy Division

2006

Updated regularly

www.cchepc.ie (Consultative Council on Hepatitis C)

Blood Policy Division

2001

Updated regularly

www.fluoridationforum.ie

Public Health Division

2000

Not Updated – For information purposes

www.mentalhealthpolicy.ie

Mental Health Division

2004

Not Updated – For information purposes

www.groireland.ie

The General Register Office

2000

Updated regularly

www.healthreform.ie

Health Reform Unit

2003

Not updated – For information purposes

www.dohc.ie

ICT Internal

2000

Updated regularly

www.lcnhi.ie (Leas Cross Nursing Home Investigation)

Long Stay Charges Unit

2007

Updated regularly

www.studentcouncil.ie

Office of the Minister for Children

2004

Not Updated – For information purposes

www.nco.ie (subsequently subsumed into the OMC)

Office of the Minister for Children

2004

Not updated – For information purposes

www.omc.gov.ie (also incorporates www.childrensdatabase.ie)

Office of the Minister for Children

2007

Updated regularly

www.cpsqa.ie (Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance)

Patient Safety and Quality Unit

2007

Updated regularly

Year

Estimated Costs for Web Infrastructure

2000

26,895.90

2001

33,841.54

2002

46,673.91

2003

47,618.44

2004

72,380.65

2005

62,774.98

2006

50,632.13

2007

45,540.35

Health Services.

Michael McGrath

Question:

247 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be accommodated in a public nursing home bed at St. Finbar’s Hospital, Cork. [31073/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider this 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.

Departmental Bodies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

248 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the organisations or authorities operating within her Department’s policy area, set up by statute or statutory instrument, for which she does not have official responsibility to Dáil Éireann. [31116/07]

While it is not clear what is meant by the reference to ‘official responsibility' in the Deputy's question, I trust the following information will assist.

As Minister for Health and Children I am responsible for the legislative and policy framework for our system of health and social services. Broadly speaking, this involves setting, evaluating and developing policies for the sector. These policies are implemented by a range of bodies which have their own statutory functions and governance arrangements covering operational policy, management, administration, service delivery and accountability.

It should be noted also that such bodies are subject to general Government policy with regard to matters such as remuneration.

In the above context I set out for the Deputy's information a list of organisations and authorities in the health sector:

The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council

The Adoption Board

The Consultative Council on Hepatitis C

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service

The National Haemophilia Council

The National Cancer Registry Board

The National Cancer Screening Services Board

The Women's Health Council

The Health Research Board

The Health Information and Quality Authority

The Dental Council

The Medical Council

The Postgraduate Medical and Dental Board

The Irish Medicines Board

The Mental Health Commission

An Board Altranais

National Council for the Professional Development of Nursing and Midwifery

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children

The Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services

The Children Acts Advisory Board

The National Social Work Qualifications Board

The Health and Social Care Professionals Board

The Health Service Executive

The Health Insurance Authority

The Voluntary Health Insurance Board

The Crisis Pregnancy Agency

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland

The National Council on Ageing and Older People

The Drug Treatment Centre Board

The Office of Tobacco Control

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

In addition to the above mentioned bodies, the Food Safety Promotion Board was established under the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999 and reports to the North-South Ministerial Council.

Youth Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

249 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to ensure the provision of youth cafes in cities and towns that have a high number of young people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31121/07]

Youth cafés offer great potential for providing a wide range of developmental, educational and information programmes to young people.

The launch of the National Recreation Policy in September this year highlighted Government's commitment to the development of youth cafés. While a number of youth cafés have emerged around the country on an ad hoc basis, funded by a variety of providers, an integrated approach is now proposed in the provision of youth cafés. A number of steps are already in train to support this process.

A small survey of some of the existing youth cafés (around 20) has been completed by my Office to establish vision, objectives, structures, governance, funding, staffing, accessibility and overall usage.

I have formally requested the National Children's Advisory Council's support in the production of a toolkit and guide to setting up a youth café.

In the meantime, consideration is being given to how best to develop a coherent structured programme for the development of youth cafés as well as the most appropriate lead agency for the management and administration of a funding scheme.

Hospital Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

250 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the annual cost of delivering into the hospital system the additional 3,000 hospital beds required. [31159/07]

The Health Strategy 2001 included a commitment to provide an additional 3,000 acute hospital beds. Significant progress has been made on this commitment. The average number of in-patient beds and day places available in public acute hospitals was 12,145 in 2001 (11,374 in-patient beds and 771 day places). The provisional number recorded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) for 2006 was 13,771 (12,574 in-patient beds and 1,197 day places).

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to provide an additional 1,500 public acute hospital beds. About 1000 beds will be delivered through the co-location initiative and the balance of 500 through the HSE capital plan.

My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to supply the Deputy with an estimate of the annual running costs of the additional beds.

Medical Cards.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

251 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to increase the full medical card qualification threshold. [31160/07]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

252 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the annual cost of increasing the full medical card threshold to €337.35 per week for 2008 in order that all those on the minimum wage would qualify. [31162/07]

Richard Bruton

Question:

259 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the date in 2008 on which the income limits for medical cards are due to be reviewed; if provision has been made within the pre-Budget 2008 outlook for the indexation of income limits; if the index of industrial wages will be used; and if the movement in the most recent twelve months as published on 31 October 2007 by the Central Statistics Office is what is intended by the Programme for Government. [31197/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251, 252 and 259 together.

Since the beginning of 2005 I have introduced a number of significant changes to the manner in which the assessment for medical cards and GP visit cards is undertaken. The assessment guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29%. Applications are now considered on the basis of income net of tax and PRSI and allowance is made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work. In June 2006, I agreed with the Health Service Executive (HSE) a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those used in respect of medical cards. As of 1st November 2007, the number of persons holding a medical card exceeded 1.27 million, an increase of some 125,000 since the beginning of 2005.

My Department does not hold data which would enable it to assess the effect, and hence estimate the cost, of increasing the medical card threshold to €337.35 per week in order that all those on the minimum wage would qualify. However, based on a recent medical card costing exercise undertaken by my Department, on foot of a Parliamentary Question, it is estimated that the average annual cost of providing a medical card to a person aged between 18 and 65 years is approximately €1,200 per annum.

This figure does not take account of the following:

Potential additional cost in terms of income forgone by public hospitals in respect of A&E attendance and in-patient charges;

The possible cost, depending on the circumstances of a person retaining a medical card, of such benefits as aids and appliances;

Costs in other areas of Government in which the holding of a medical card may be used as a means of determining entitlement to services or benefits.

The Programme for Government commits to the following:

Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage;

Doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability;

Allowing people with disabilities to work without losing key essential medical card cover after 3 years;

Implementation of an annual publicity campaign and making applications easier so as to increase uptake amongst those who are eligible for Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards.

My Department is at present considering the most appropriate approach to the implementation of these commitments. In addition my Department and the HSE will continue to monitor on an ongoing basis factors which may have a bearing on the setting of the qualification thresholds for a medical card or GP visit card, such as changes in income levels generally, the nature of typical household outgoings and changes to the various social welfare schemes.

My Department is also examining the steps necessary to give effect to the Towards 2016 commitment to review the eligibility criteria for the assessment of medical cards in the context of medical, social and economic/financial need with a view to clarifying entitlement to a medical card.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

253 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount it would cost to extend the cervical cancer screening programme across the State in 2008. [31163/07]

The Deputy's question in relation to the National Cervical Screening Programme is the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to this matter.

Medical Cards.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

254 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated annual cost of increasing the number of years for which a person entering the labour market can keep their medical card from three to five as recommended by the National Economic and Social Forum Report Creating a More Inclusive Labour Market 2006. [31164/07]

The Health Service Executive has detailed operational guidelines in place for the assessment of medical card applications. The purpose of these guidelines is to ensure that every person entitled to a medical card or GP visit card is given the opportunity to avail of their entitlement and that there is a consistency of approach to means-testing nationally. The guidelines include provisions dealing with persons in receipt of certain allowance/benefits, for a period of 12 months or more, who are entitled to retain their medical card for 3 years on taking up employment. These include persons receiving Job Seekers Allowance and Job Seekers Benefit.

My Department does not hold data which would enable it to assess the effect, and hence estimate the cost, of increasing the number of years from 3 to 5 for which a person entering the labour market may keep their medical card, as recommended in the 2006 Report by the National Economic and Social Forum titled ‘Creating a More Inclusive Labour Market'. However, based on a recent medical card costing exercise undertaken by my Department, on foot of a Parliamentary Question, it is estimated that the average annual cost of providing a medical card to a person aged between 18 and 65 years is approximately €1,200 per annum. Accordingly, the estimated average additional cost of allowing a person with full eligibility and entering the labour market to keep their medical card for five years instead of three is approximately €2,400.

This figure does not take account of the following:

Potential additional cost in terms of income forgone by public hospitals in respect of A&E attendance and in-patient charges;

The possible cost, depending on the circumstances of a person retaining a medical card, of such benefits as aids and appliances;

Costs in other areas of Government in which the holding of a medical card may be used as a means of determining entitlement to services or benefits.

The Programme for Government commits to the following:

Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage;

Doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability;

Allowing people with disabilities to work without losing key essential medical card cover after 3 years;

Implementation of an annual publicity campaign and making applications easier so as to increase uptake amongst those who are eligible for Medical Cards and GP Visit Cards.

My Department is at present considering the most appropriate approach to the implementation of these commitments.

Child Care Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

255 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been draw to the fact there are concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a playgroup (details supplied) having to pay substantially higher fees; will result in some parents withdrawing their children, and will place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and the employment security of those providing the services; the action she will take to address these concerns; and her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme. [31174/07]

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

Under the 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) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a weekly subvention in respect of their child. A higher subvention 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 for subvention 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.

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 received this month. Where 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.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the Group in question has been approved for transitional funding under the NCIP Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS), and a letter of approval has issued this week from the Childcare Directorate of my Office. This funding will, for the first six months of 2008, be based on the level of funding currently being provided to the Group under the EOCP staffing support grant scheme and subject to the necessary contractual arrangement with Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

256 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact there are concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by a playgroup (details supplied) having to pay substantially higher fees that will result in some parents withdrawing their children, and will place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and the employment security of those providing the services; the action she will take to address these concerns; and her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme. [31175/07]

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

Under the 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) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a weekly subvention in respect of their child. A higher subvention 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 for subvention 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.

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 received this month. Where 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.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the Group in question has been approved for transitional funding under the NCIP Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS), and a letter of approval has issued this week from the Childcare Directorate of my Office. This funding will, for the first six months of 2008, be based on the level of funding currently being provided to the Group under the EOCP staffing support grant scheme and subject to the necessary contractual arrangement with Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP.

Mental Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

257 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects that a new multi-disciplinary team for the child and adolescent mental health services in east Limerick will be appointed to address the long waiting times for this important service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31176/07]

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 matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Levy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

258 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimate of health levy contributions in 2007 and in 2008; and the rates, thresholds and ceilings assumed in the pre-budget 2008 outlook. [31196/07]

The estimated receipts from health contributions (the health levy) for 2007 are €1,265,734,000. Any changes in relation to the rates, threshold and ceilings for 2008 will be announced as part of the provisions of Budget 2008.

Question No. 259 answered with QuestionNo. 251.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

260 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of patient payment provided for in the pre-budget 2008 outlook figures in the drug refund scheme; and if no change has been made, when she will announce intended changes for 2008. [31198/07]

The Drug Payments Scheme, which protects against excessive medicines costs, is available to non-medical card holders. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is available to all age groups, is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines.

The Pre Budget Outlook 2008 provides for the same level of patient payments under the Drug Payment Scheme as are in force in 2007. Any change for 2008 related to the scheme will be announced as part of Budget 2008.

Hospital Charges.

Richard Bruton

Question:

261 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of charges provided for in the pre-budget 2008 outlook in respect of the charges for attending public hospitals as a public or private patient; and if no change has been made, when she will announce intended changes for 2008. [31199/07]

The Pre Budget Outlook provided for the same level of charges for attending public hospitals as a public or private patient as are in force in 2007. Any change related to the charges will be announced as part of the provisions of Budget 2008.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Richard Bruton

Question:

262 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting times for different appointments or procedures after which a patient can have recourse to the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and the procedures for which it has not been possible to provide treatment within promised treatment times via the fund. [31200/07]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, my Department has asked the Chief Executive of the Fund to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Nursing Home Charges.

Richard Bruton

Question:

263 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of charges provided for in the pre budget 2008 outlook, in respect of the charges in public nursing homes or contracted nursing home beds for patients already there; and if no change has been made, when she will announce intended changes for 2008. [31201/07]

The rate of charges applicable to long stay care have not been increased since their introduction in July 2005. These charges are currently under review and a decision will be taken in the matter in due course.

Hospital Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

264 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that acute orthopaedic services have been severely downgraded in the past 12 months in the Health Service Executive South Region (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31209/07]

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

Questions Nos. 265 and 266 answered with Question No. 185.

Data Protection.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

267 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the procedures in place to protect personal data within her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31242/07]

All data held in my Department, both paper and electronic are handled in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Acts 1998 and 2003. The Department has policies in relation to the acceptable use of ICT facilities and the handling of manual records including personal information as set out in the Department's Records Management Protocol. The policy in relation to usage of ICT facilities exists to ensure that ICT systems are protected from a range of threats. Procedures exist for the management of computer backups and the secure storage of the requisite media in offsite locations. Prior to the disposal of obsolete equipment, all data are removed in line with best practice. My Department deploys a range of ICT security measures including firewalling, virus, spam and spyware protection to ameliorate any risks to its data.

Handling of manual records including data of a personal nature are covered under the Department's Records Management Protocol which has been issued to all staff. The protocol also covers, where appropriate, the management of records of a personal and/or a sensitive nature. Such records can be flagged as restricted files with limited access to specified named persons. Secure cabinets and store rooms are available for storage of such records. Handling of GRO data is governed by the Civil Registration Act 2004 and the security procedures in place are in accordance with best practice.

My Department is aware of the ongoing challenges in relation to protecting its data and is constantly reviewing its procedures.

Child Care Services.

John O'Mahony

Question:

268 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided by playgroups (details supplied) in County Mayo having to pay substantially higher fees and will result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and the employment security of those providing the services; and if she will take action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31247/07]

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

Under the 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) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a weekly subvention in respect of their child. A higher subvention 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 for subvention 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.

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 received this month. Where 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.

Applications from Groups entering the new scheme are currently being processed and when validated, these Groups are issued with letters from the Childcare Directorate of my Office approving transitional funding under the NCIP Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS). To date seven of the Groups named by the Deputy have been approved transitional funding. This funding will, for the first six months of 2008, be based on the level of funding currently being provided to the Group under the EOCP staffing support grant scheme and subject to the necessary contractual arrangement with Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP.

Child Support.

Jack Wall

Question:

269 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are facilities available through her Department or the Health Service Executive for children to obtain support mechanisms that can assist the children with their health needs and as such their educational opportunities (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31248/07]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

270 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31253/07]

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 matter raised by the Deputy. The 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.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

271 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children utilising the services presently provided in Skull, County Cork having to pay substantially higher fees and will result in some parents withdrawing their children, place at risk the continuing financial viability of this childcare service and place at risk the employment security of those providing the services; if she will take immediate action to address these concerns; her proposed amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31254/07]

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

Under the 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) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a weekly subvention in respect of their child. A higher subvention 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 for subvention 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.

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 received this month. Where 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.

Michael Creed

Question:

272 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the genuine concerns that the new childcare subvention scheme will result in parents of children presently using the services provided by a centre (details supplied) having to pay substantially higher fees; and if she will take immediate action to address their concerns by introducing amendments to the proposed childcare subvention scheme. [31342/07]

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

Under the 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) or parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a weekly subvention in respect of their child. A higher subvention 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 for subvention 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.

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 received this month. Where 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.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the Group in question has been approved for transitional funding under the NCIP Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS), and a letter of approval has issued this week from the Childcare Directorate of my Office. This funding will, for the first six months of 2008, be based on the level of funding currently being provided to the Group under the EOCP staffing support grant scheme and subject to the necessary contractual arrangement with Pobal, who manage the day to day operation of the EOCP and NCIP.

Medical Cards.

Jack Wall

Question:

273 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if a child (details supplied) in County Kildare suffering from dyspraxia is entitled to a medical card in their own right; the criteria laid down as Government policy as to the criteria a child must adhere to in order that they would be entitled to a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31344/07]

The assessment of eligibility to medical cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged over 70 who have an automatic entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants. Under Section 45 of the Health Act, 1970 medical cards are provided for persons who, in the opinion of the HSE, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.

This provision also entitles qualifying dependants to avail of a medical card. The HSE may also grant a person full eligibility for a particular service, where the person would be unable, without undue hardship, to provide that service for themselves or their dependants.

In assessing an application for a medical card on behalf of a child, the HSE uses guidelines based on the means of the child's parent(s)/ guardian(s), which includes their income, certain allowable outgoings and the effect of other factors which may impact on their ability to meet the cost of GP services. Under the assessment arrangements, income derived solely from Department of Social and Family Affairs payments or HSE payments is disregarded, even if these exceed the assessment guideline limits.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

274 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the facilities available to children to access an occupational therapist service in the Kildare-west Wicklow areas of the Health Service Executive; the number of OTs available in this region of the service; if there are vacancies for OTs; if so, when the positions will be filled; if there is a waiting list for such services; and if so, the period a child (details supplied) in County Kildare will have to wait for an appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31345/07]

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

Road Network.

Dan Neville

Question:

275 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Transport the tertiary road grants to Limerick County Council for 2007. [30837/07]

The improvement and maintenance of non-national roads in its area is a matter for each individual road authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.

Specific grants for the improvement and maintenance of tertiary county roads were not allocated to local authorities in 2007. Works on such roads may, at the discretion of the local authority, be funded on foot of discretionary grants or under the pavement restoration programme.

The grants allocated to Limerick County Council in 2007 under those grant categories were:

(a)Restoration Improvement €8.612 million

(b)Restoration Maintenance €3.098 million

(c)Discretionary Improvement €0.956 million

(d)Discretionary Maintenance €1.130 million.

Community Development.

Christy O'Sullivan

Question:

276 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the amount of funding made available for local improvement schemes and community involvement schemes to Cork County Council in 2006 and 2007 respectively. [31216/07]

The grants allocated under the Local Improvements Scheme to Cork County Council in 2006 and 2007 were €1,889,115 and €2,365,465 respectively.

The Community Involvement in Road Works Scheme is a voluntary scheme for works on non-national public roads. Specific grants are not allocated to local authorities for the Scheme. However, local authorities may reserve a portion of their Discretionary Grant allocation for eligible schemes. Furthermore, up to 7.5% of a county council's Restoration Programme grants may be set aside for Community Involvement Schemes in cases where local contributions (in money or in kind) meet not less than 25% of the total cost of a project.

State Airports.

Pat Breen

Question:

277 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport when consultations will commence with the trade unions on the business plan for Shannon Airport as committed under the State Airports Bill 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30505/07]

The State Airports Act, 2004 provides the framework for the establishment of Shannon and Cork as independent airports. Under the Act, both the Minister for Finance and I will have to be satisfied as to the state of operational and financial readiness of the three airports before any vesting of assets can take place.

Shannon Airport Authority recently submitted its draft business plan to the DAA. I understand that there will shortly be engagement between the two parties on the plan's content. A similar engagement will be expected to occur between the Cork Airport Authority and the DAA relating to the Cork airport business plan, once that plan has been submitted to the DAA.

Subject to satisfactory progress being made on the plans, I await the DAA's overall considered views on airport separation to enable the plans to be examined by the Minister for Finance and myself.

While there is no express provision for consultation with the trades unions on the business plans in the State Airports Act 2004, my Department has given commitments to consult with the Irish Congress of Trades Unions. At the appropriate time my Department will be in contact with ICTU with regard to these consultations.

Air Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

278 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 439 and 440 of 6 July 2007, if commitments of 400,000 transatlantic passengers received by himself will be affected by a reduction of Aer Lingus direct US services from Shannon Airport for the winter of 2008 as rumoured in recent days; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30506/07]

It is understood that Shannon Airport is making every effort to ensure that year-round transatlantic services are maintained. I would be confident that the Airport Authority, with the continued support of business and tourism interests in the region, can respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by Open Skies.

Experience has shown that the liberalisation of aviation markets results in a greater level of competition among airlines, lower fares and the development of a wider range of services. I understand that several studies have projected that the Open Skies agreement will lead to considerable economic benefits for Ireland, for the business sector, for the tourism industry and for the air transport industry itself.

It should also be borne in mind that the new services by Aer Lingus from Washington, San Francisco and Orlando, and the potential for additional services by US carriers, provide the opportunity to substantially grow more North American business to Ireland. Traditional travel patterns and the attractiveness of the tourism product in the West, suggest that over 50% of such incremental business will involve visits to Ireland's Western regions.

On 7 November, Aer Lingus announced that it would for Summer 2008 maintain daily direct flights between Shannon to New York and Shannon to Boston and a daily flight to Chicago via Dublin. This reflects a continuation of the schedule now being operated over the winter 2007/2008 period. In comparison with the 2007 summer schedule the difference in the 2008 schedule is that the Chicago service is operated not on a direct basis but indirectly via Dublin.

The operation of two daily direct services between Shannon and the U.S. entails the provision of well over 400,000 seats to/from Shannon.

Public Transport.

Pat Breen

Question:

279 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport if the rebate on excise duty on fuel used in passenger transport services is to end; if the private transport sector has been advised; if alternative measures will be put in place as many of these operators have already signed contracts and set fare levels for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30507/07]

Joe Carey

Question:

295 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the removal of the refund on excise duty on fuel used in passenger transport services will cause hardship for the industry; the alternative scheme he will introduce following the discontinuation of the rebate of excise duty on fuel used in the passenger transport service; when the new scheme will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30815/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 and 295 together.

I refer the Deputies to the Minister for Finance's reply to Question No. 64 which he answered on 22nd November 2007.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

280 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Transport if he plans to grant all primary and secondary school students free travel on public transport during school hours in order to ease traffic congestion; his views on such a move; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30528/07]

Commuting by private car is growing in Ireland and our economic success and growing population has contributed to the increase in transport demand. One such area relates to school travel. Figures from the 2006 Census indicates that the percentage of primary school children being driven to school by car has risen to 55% in 2006 compared to 27.7% in 1991.

The Transport 21 investment programme is providing significant public transport benefits and it also includes proposals to manage travel demand. There are also a number of initiatives targeted at school children to reduce reliance on the car as a mode of transport. My Department has provided funding to the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) who have introduced measures in schools to increase the number of children who walk and cycle, improve safety on the school run, reduce school-related congestion and improve physical health and fitness. The programme has been very successful and currently has 29 schools with a combined student population of approximately 10,400 with 545 teachers. A further roll-out of the programme is being considered at present.

The Minister for Education and Science is responsible for the school transport scheme and there are no plans at present to extend the existing free transport in urban areas for certain school children. The Government is committed to delivering a Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan, which will consider all policies impacting on travel demand. This will be published in 2008 after a full public consultation process and issues such as free transport for schoolchildren in urban areas can be considered further in that context.

Road Safety.

Shane McEntee

Question:

281 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Transport when the report of the expert group on the reduction of blood alcohol concentration levels for drivers will be finalised and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30531/07]

The Road Safety Strategy 2007 to 2012 identifies the need to legislate for and introduce a reduction in the legal Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) for drivers, but does not specify what that level should be. I am awaiting the advice of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) on the matter, and am aware that the RSA has sought the advice of its Policy Advisory Panel and expects that recommendations will be made to the RSA Board in early 2008.

The RSA Advisory Panel will take into account known driver behaviour, past offending rates, analysis of data held by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, enforcement issues and best international practice and advise on the most appropriate BAC level to deliver the optimum road safety dividend.

Road Network.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

282 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Transport the Government’s commitment to the outer orbital route/Leinster orbital route, bearing in mind the identification of the Drogheda, Navan and Naas section of the road as the optimum part of the route in April 2007; when funding will be allocated to the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30568/07]

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The planning design and implementation of individual national road projects (including the allocation of funding) is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under sections 17 and 19 of the Roads Act, 1993 in conjunction with the relevant local authorities concerned.

Both Transport 21 and the National Development Plan committed the NRA to carrying out a feasibility study on the Orbital Route. Earlier this year, the NRA completed an updated feasibility study which built on an earlier 2001 study, looking in particular at the costs and benefits of such a route.

As part of the study various possible route corridors were examined in detail. A corridor linking Drogheda to Navan to Naas was identified as the optimum route having regard to the policy objectives set out in the various policy documents on the route. Funding for construction of an orbital route is not provided under either Transport 21 or the National Development Plan.

Public Transport.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

283 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of private bus operation licences granted in Dublin in each of the past five years; the routes served; the date on which the application for the licence was made; the date on which it was approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30583/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

284 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the number of private bus operation licences in Dublin that have been refused in each of the past five years; the routes that would have been served; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30584/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

285 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the new routes to be operated by Dublin Bus that have been approved in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30585/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 283 to 285, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy available to my Department is currently being collated and will be forwarded to the Deputy in the coming days.

The Road Transport Act, 1932 as amended, provides the statutory basis for regulating the provision of public bus services by private bus operators. The Act provides for the grant of annual continuous licences, annual seasonal licences and occasional licences.

Section 11 of the Act establishes specific criteria for the determination of applications, which provide that

The service is required in the public interest having regard to the passenger road services and other forms of passenger transport available to the public on or in the neighbourhood of the route of the proposed service

Whether the service is sufficient in terms of frequency and duration to meet the requirements of the public

Whether the applicant has the organisation and equipment necessary to carry out the service.

Failure to meet the test established by reference to those criteria will result in the refusal of an application.

Information relating to applications that are being processed or applications that were not approved, including details relating to the identity of the applicant and the services to which the application relates are commercially sensitive to the operator concerned and are treated as confidential and will not form part of the information to be supplied.

Dublin Bus is not subject to licensing in accordance with the provisions of the 1932 Road Transport Act, as amended. However, the initiation or alteration of a bus service by the Company is subject to compliance with the necessary regulatory requirement of giving advance notice to my Department and to compliance with the provisions of Section 25 of the Transport Act 1958 concerning competition with licensed private operators. The details of all current licences issued to private operators are available to view on my Department's website. All services in operation by Dublin Bus are available on that Company's website and are listed in the Company's scheduled timetable.

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

286 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the number of people as of 31 October 2007 who were employed in his Department; the number who were permanent employees; the number who were temporary staff; the number who were contracted staff; if he will provide comparative figures for 31 October 2002; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [30619/07]

As of 31 October 2007 there are 456.82 staff employed in my Department. This is a whole time equivalent (wte) figure and all staff included are permanent employees. There were 10 temporary staff employed in my Department as of 31 October 2007. All these staff are on contract.

The functions of the Department of Transport changed following the Government election in 2002 and this led to substantial movement of staff among Departments. While there are no readily available figures for staff employed on 31 October 2002 the figure on 31 December 2002 was 509.47 (wte). The Department does not have a figure available for temporary staff employed at that time.

Staffing numbers between 2002 and 2007 are not directly comparable since, in addition to the changes in functions in 2002 referred to above, the Department experienced staff movements as a result of a number of other changes in functions since then. These include the Department taking responsibility for maritime issues on 1 January 2006, the establishment of the Road Safety Authority on 1 September 2006 and the recent transfer of responsibility for non-national roads and related matters to the Department from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

287 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the amount spent by his Department in 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 for air travel, business class flights and first class flights in tabular readable form. [30634/07]

The total amount spent by my Department in 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 for air travel, business class flights and first class flights is as follows:

Year

Economy

Business

First Class

Total

2004

77,462

183,644

261,106

2005

121,119

73,161

5,721

252,001

2006

133,899

113,044

246,943

2007

119,523

121,337

2,133

242,992

Damien English

Question:

288 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the amount spent by his Department on couriered documents, registered post and standard post to date in 2007 in tabular readable form. [30649/07]

The total amount spent by my Department on couriered documents, registered post and standard post to date in 2007 is as follows:

Standard

99,009

Registered

1,317

Couriered

33,751

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

289 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the 10 largest bonus payments made to staff in his Department and each of its agencies in the past 12 months. [30664/07]

The scheme for performance-related awards in the Civil Service applies to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades. Details of awards to individual officers under the performance-related scheme are not disclosed on the basis that they are confidential to the officer concerned. However I can say that during 2007 awards totalling €64,000 were made to 5 officers in my Department in respect of 2006 (as shown in the Committee for Performance Awards report for 2006).

With regard to the Agencies of my Department, details where applicable are as follows:

Commission for Aviation Regulation: €6,000

National Roads Authority: €34,591

Road Safety Authority: €22,443.

Staff remuneration in Commercial State bodies is a day-to-day matter for each body.

Damien English

Question:

290 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the number of civil servants in his Department who have transferred to other Government Departments or left the Civil Service in each of the past five years in tabular readable form. [30679/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being collated and as it cannot be given within the specified timeframe it will be forwarded directly to the Deputy when available.

Damien English

Question:

291 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the number of allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing that have been reported to his Department by Departmental staff since 1 January 2007. [30694/07]

There were no allegations of victimization for whistleblowing reported to my Department by Departmental staff since 1st January, 2007.

Road Safety.

Richard Bruton

Question:

292 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce regulations which would allow motor cyclists to use bus lanes; if he has assessed the evidence that this would lead to greater safety on the roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30732/07]

The primary purpose of bus lanes is to facilitate and promote bus based public transport and the use of bus lanes is provided for in the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 and 1998.

The Road Safety Authority is researching the potential for use of bus lanes by motorcyclists and one of the measures in the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012 is to complete a comprehensive safety analysis of that issue in 2008 to inform future policy.

Public Transport.

Tom Hayes

Question:

293 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that, as the European Commission has opened a formal State aid investigation in relation to grants received by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus, the Irish Government is complying with the standstill obligation required under EU State aid rules in relation to the funding currently under investigation by the Commission; the proposed source of funding for the recent contract award for 209 buses published in e-tenders on 17 September 2007; and if such an award had been concluded after the Irish Government had received notice that the Commission was to initiate a formal State aid investigation. [30793/07]

The compensation paid to Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus in respect of its public service obligations complies with the requirements of Regulation 1191/69 under Article 73 on action by Member States concerning the obligations inherent in the concept of a public service in transport by rail, road and inland waterway. The standstill obligation referred to by the Deputy is therefore not applicable.

I understand that the contract award notification referred to by the Deputy refers to the purchase of new buses by Bus Éireann for its Public Service Obligation fleet and its Expressway fleet and that the contracts concerned were awarded over the period April – July 2007. Of the 209 buses 60 are for the Expressway fleet and are funded from Bus Éireann's own resources. My Department has approved total funding of €73m in September 2006 and April 2007) towards the purchase by Bus Eireann of new buses for its PSO services.

Road Traffic Offences.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

294 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport the number of penalty points incurred by motorists within the 30km zones, 80km zones and the 100km zones; the revenue collected by these fines; the way this revenue is distributed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30808/07]

The enforcement of penalty points and the collection of fixed charge payments for road traffic offences are matters for the Garda Authorities. The collection of court fines is a matter for the Courts Service.

Question No. 295 answered with QuestionNo. 279.

Air Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

296 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport the action he has taken to date to restore connectivity between Shannon International Airport and London Heathrow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30818/07]

Joe Carey

Question:

297 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport his views on the designation of the Shannon to London Heathrow route as a public service obligation route; if on behalf of the Government, he will be making an application to the European Union for a PSO designation on the Shannon to London Heathrow route; when this application will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30819/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

I fully recognise the importance of air connectivity to Shannon Airport and the West of Ireland generally. This country already has an air services Public Service Obligation (PSO) scheme in operation. The scheme provides for the subvention of air services from Dublin to Kerry, Galway, Knock, Sligo, Donegal and Derry. These PSO routes serve regional airports which, because of their remote locations or limited runway facilities, find it difficult to attract commercial scheduled air services.

The relevant EU Council Regulation, (EEC) No. 2408/92 of 23 July 1992, allows a Member State to establish a PSO route in respect of scheduled air services to an airport serving a peripheral or development region in its territory, where such air services are considered vital for the economic development of the regions concerned and where air carriers are not prepared to provide them on a commercial basis. In addition the Department is aware that there may be opportunities for State intervention under the Community Guidelines on Financing of Airports and Start up aid to Airlines departing from Regional Airports (2005/C 312/01).

My Department has recently written to the EU Commission with a view to having an in-depth engagement on the options for facilitating the provision of air services to meet the connectivity requirements of the West of Ireland in a liberalised, competitive aviation market. My officials have requested an early meeting with the Commission on the matter.

Road Traffic Offences.

Damien English

Question:

298 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the estimated number of uninsured drivers on the road; the assessment he has made of the way this figure compares internationally; the steps he proposes to vastly reduce this number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31018/07]

The number of uninsured drivers is estimated by the insurance industry to be in the range of one hundred thousand drivers or 6%. This is calculated by taking the number of registered vehicles from the National Vehicle and Driver File maintained by the Vehicle Registration Unit and subtracting the number of exempted vehicles, e.g., State vehicles. The resulting figure is compared to the number of policies in force. An allowance is also made for fleet insurance where a number of vehicles are insured on a single policy.

The Internal Market Directorate of the European Commission has undertaken a survey among Member States of the European Union on uninsured vehicles, within the European Union. There are a number of factors which must be taken into account when making international comparisons.

The calculations methods used among Member States when arriving at the number of uninsured vehicles are very diverse.

Some Member States have not disclosed the method used to calculate the estimate of uninsured vehicles, or the number of vehicles on which the estimate is based.

Insurance in Ireland and the UK is on the driver whereas in other Member States, insurance is on the vehicle.

The most comparable Member State is the UK because the insurance is on the driver rather than the vehicle. Their estimate at approximately 5% is similar to Ireland. However the method used to arrive at this figure is not comparable to the method used in Ireland.

Several steps have been taken in recent years to reduce the level of uninsured driving. The Garda Traffic Corps has been substantially expanded to improve compliance with all road traffic legislation including motor insurance requirements. Legislation has also been put in place to extend the powers of the Gardaí to permit the seizure of all uninsured vehicles. In addition, since the introduction of the Penalty Points system, 6,778 persons have received penalty points for uninsured driving up to the end of October 2007.

Departmental Properties.

Damien English

Question:

299 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the buildings occupied by his Department which are and which are not fully accessible to people with disabilities in tabular readable form. [31037/07]

For the purposes of the Deputy's question, the interpretation being taken of full accessibility is the capacity of each building to provide access to disabled persons by means of the main entrance.

Building

Accessibility

25 Clare Street, Dublin 2.

No. (Rear access only).

44 Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Yes.

Frederick Buildings, South Frederick St, Dublin 2.

No. (Only through basement area).

59 Dawson Street, Dublin 2

No.

Leeson Lane, Dublin 2.

Yes.

Irish Life Centre, Lower Abbey St, Dublin 1.

Yes.

Road Transport Operator Licensing Unit, Clonfert House, Bride Street, Loughrea, Co. Galway.

Yes.

Vehicle Registration Unit, Shannon Town Centre, Shannon, Co. Clare.

Yes.

Irish Coast Guard, Acorn Business Campus, Mahon Industrial Estate, Blackrock, Cork, Co. Cork.

Yes.

Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Valentia Island, Co. Kerry.

Yes.

Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Malin Head, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal.

No.

Coast Guard Stores, Unit 1, Rosemount Business Park, Ballycoolin Business Park, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.

Yes.

Marine Survey Office, Government Buildings, Sullivan’s Quay, Cork

Yes.

Marine Survey Office, Town Council Buildings, Abbeyview, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal

Yes.

Disability access to buildings occupied by my Department is kept under regular review and the Department liaises closely with the Universal Access Unit in OPW in order to progressively upgrade existing disability access.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

300 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the cost of running his Department’s press office in each of the first three quarters of 2007 in tabular readable form. [31052/07]

The following table provides the information requested by the Deputy.

The expenses for each quarter includes salary costs, overtime, travel and subsistence costs and all other associated office costs incurred by the Press Office.

Quarter 1

1 January 2007 to 31 March 2007

Total cost

€73,192.18

Quarter 2

1 April 2007 to 30 June 2007

Total cost

€73,363.87

Quarter 3

1 July 2007 to 30 September 2007

Total cost

€73,087.28

Departmental Websites.

Damien English

Question:

301 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the websites that are run by his Department and each of its agencies; the date on which each became live; if the sites are kept updated; the cost of each site to the State to date; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [31067/07]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to websites run by my Department is outlined below. The costs stated reflect only the costs incurred since responsibility for certain websites transferred to my Department. The operation of websites by agencies under the remit of my Department is a day-to-day operational matter for those agencies.

Website

Date became live

Site contents updated by Line Divisions

Cost of Site to date

Transport.ie Subsites AAIU.ie RoadHaulage.ie SafetyOnTheWater.ie1 IrishCoastguard.ie2

March 2003 August 2003 February 2002 2001 1999

Site and subsites contents are updated regularly by Line Divisions.

109,283

www.transport21.ie

July 2006

Regularly, at least once a week or more frequently if required.

8,591

Motor Tax Online3 (www.motortax.ie )

February 2004

The site receives daily updates from the core National Vehicle Driver File (NVDF).

1SafetyontheWater.ie came live under my Department in September 2007.

2IrishCoastguard.ie came live under my Department in March 2007.

3Motor Tax Online is under the remit of the National Driver and Vehicle File. Functions transferred from the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government to my Department in October 2007. Costs prior to October 2007 amounted to €3.5 million.

Public Transport.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

302 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Transport when the Dublin Bus Swords service will be sanctioned to use the Dublin Port Tunnel; if this can be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31075/07]

As I previously advised the Deputy in my reply to his Parliamentary Question on 31st October, 2007, my Department issued a licence on the 3rd October, 2007 in accordance with the Road Transport Act, 1932 to a private operator for a high frequency bus service from Swords via the Port Tunnel to the City Centre.

On the 19th November, 2007, the private operator commenced the operation of some of the licensed services. It is a condition of the licence that the services are in operation in their entirety within 4 months from the date of issue of the licence. Following the introduction of the high frequency service, my Department is considering the Dublin Bus proposal to re-route four of its existing Route 41X services from Swords via the Port Tunnel. My Department will advise Dublin Bus of the outcome as soon as possible.

Parking Regulations.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

303 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 69 of 8 February 2007, the date that a photograph from Amsterdam showing partial parking on footpaths was received from Dublin City Council; if the circumstances, conditions and safety implications have been dealt with; if he has sufficient information to make the necessary amendment to the 1997 regulations to permit partial parking on public footpaths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31077/07]

Contacts between my Department and management in Dublin City Council on this matter are continuing, and my Department received photographs on 15 November showing arrangements for the parking of vehicles fully rather than partially on a footpath, in what appears to be a variation of the on-street loading bay parking provided for in this country.

The paramount matter to be considered in relation to permitting parking fully or partially on pavements is the impact of any such measure on the safety and convenience of pedestrians and persons in wheelchairs who use the footpaths. The most recent Parliamentary Question on this subject is No. 415 of 5 December 2006.

Motor Vehicles.

John Cregan

Question:

304 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Transport the number of vehicles travelling on roads here. [31080/07]

The number of vehicles under current licence (taxed) at 31st October 2007 was 2,421,712. The tabular statement below provides a breakdown by motor taxation class.

Number of Mechanically Propelled Vehicles by Taxation Class at 31st October 2007.

Taxation Class

Number

Private Cars

1,868,028

Goods Vehicles

342,034

Agricultural Tractors

69,300

Motorcycles

36,875

Small Public Service Vehicles

26,151

Exempt Vehicles

24,581

Vintage Vehicles

16,397

Mobile Machines

7,597

Large Public Service Vehicles

8,430

Motor Caravans

8,297

Excavators, Trench Diggers etc.

5,508

Small Dumpers and Forklift Truck

3,990

General Haulage Tractors

1,251

Schoolbuses

984

Hearses

781

Youth/Community Buses

665

Island Vehicles

632

Off Road Dumpers

211

Total

2,421,712

Departmental Bodies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

305 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the organisations or authorities operating within his Department’s policy area, set up by statute or statutory instrument, for which he does not have official responsibility to Dáil Éireann. [31120/07]

In an overall policy context I have official responsibility to Dáil Éireann for all the bodies that operate under the aegis of my Department.

Data Protection.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

306 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the procedures in place to protect personal data within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31246/07]

All personal data in electronic format is protected using industry best practices. Access to such data is restricted to those officers who have a business requirement to use it. All staff, contractors and consultants to my Department are subject to the Official Secrets Acts and are required to sign appropriate confidentiality agreements and usage policies.

All data replicated from the Department's network to laptops is automatically encrypted. Mechanisms are in place to remotely delete data from any laptop stolen from the Department which connects to the Internet. Procedures are also in place to ensure that all personal data being accessed by teleworkers is not downloaded but is retained securely on Department servers.

Where personal data needs to be, for business reasons, transferred to third parties (for example, transferring salary details to staff bank accounts), this is carried out in a fully secured electronic manner. In the case of the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) large data volumes to third parties are transferred through secure encrypted channels.

My Department regularly reviews its data security in the light of changing circumstances and needs. The most recent such review dealt with an emerging requirement for more mobile data and involved external specialist expertise. The report was delivered on 22 August 2007 and has been evaluated and appropriate measures implemented. Personal data on physical files is secured by restricted access to buildings and is locked away in filing cabinets to which only appropriate staff members have access.

Honorary Awards.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

307 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of citizens broken down by reference to each quarter in the past 10 years, who have approached himself or the Government in circumstances where a title of nobility or of honour was proposed to be conferred on the citizen by another State; the number of such cases in which the prior approval of the Government under Article 40.2 of the Constitution was sought; the number of such cases in which the prior approval of the Government was sought and given; the number of such cases in which the prior approval of the Government was sought but not given; the number of cases, if known to the Government, in which prior approval was neither sought nor obtained and, in such cases, the respective numbers where a title of honour or nobility was conferred or not conferred on a citizen by another State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31105/07]

The vast majority of notifications on proposed awards to Irish citizens received in the Department of Foreign Affairs from foreign Governments relate to honorary awards which do not confer titles of nobility or honour. They are dealt with at official level in the absence of a Constitutional requirement that they be brought to the Government.

Since 1997, we are aware of three cases where titles of nobility or of honour were conferred on Irish citizens by another State, one in 2001 and two in 2005. In all three cases, we understand that the persons concerned were also citizens of the State conferring the awards. The prior approval of Government was sought and granted in two of these cases; in the third case, the approach to the Department was made two days after the award. This approach referred to an earlier request in 2005 in which the Department had been asked to approve and had agreed to an honorary award for the person concerned. In the event, the honorary award was changed to a substantive one. While taking account of this background, the Department also emphasised to the Government concerned the importance on all such occasions for the prior approval of the Government to be obtained.

Question No. 308 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

309 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department has carried out an efficiency savings analysis with a view to cutting out unnecessary costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30535/07]

Strong systems and financial controls are in place across my Department to ensure efficiency and value for money in both Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 29 (International Cooperation).

My Department is committed to completing and publishing five major Value for Money reviews in the period 2006-2008. Two of these, dealing with funding for emigrant services and the Government's response to the Tsunami, have been completed and published. A further report, on Ireland's official development assistance to Mozambique, will be published shortly and a fourth, on the Passport Service, is nearing completion. The final Value for Money review in this cycle will be on expenditure in the fight against HIV/AIDS in developing countries; a tender process is currently underway to identify a suitable company to conduct the review. All of these reports, when completed, are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and sent to the relevant Select Committee.

More broadly, my Department has established a Procurement Management Unit which is responsible for promoting a strategic approach to the achievement of value for money by (a) integrating value for money principles within the Department's management processes; (b) developing and implementing an annual Corporate Procurement Plan for the Department; and (c) promoting best procurement and project management practices throughout the Department.

The preparation of the Department's Corporate Procurement Plan involves a detailed analysis of purchasing expenditure for the purpose of identifying specific areas where better value for money outcomes and efficiencies can be achieved by improved purchasing practices. The Plan identifies actions such as aggregation of requirements which may be used in appropriate cases to enhance the Department's purchasing power and thereby achieve better value from suppliers. For example, the Department currently avails of aggregated arrangements, along with other Government Departments, for air travel booking services and the purchase of desktop computers and I understand that these arrangements have yielded significant financial benefits and administrative efficiencies.

In addition, in the design and implementation of the new biometric passports, my Department was one of the first participants in the public sector-wide peer review system for the management of major ICT projects, which helps ensure that cost and time targets are realistic and achievable.

Under the Management Information Framework, which is a key element of the Government's Strategic Management Initiative, my Department has implemented a range of measures to ensure more efficient financial transactions and more effective under the Management Information Framework, which is a key element of the Government's Strategic Management Initiative, my Department has implemented a range of measures to ensure more efficient financial transactions and more effective use of resources, as well as to assist decision-making about resource allocation. These include new budgeting and financial systems and the preparation of detailed financial procedures manuals for both Vote 28 and Vote 29.

As is the case for all Government Departments, the new Strategy Statement currently under preparation in my Department will set out performance indicators against which our progress in achieving our goals can be measured. Combined with increasing delegation of budgetary responsibility to Heads of Divisions, this means that we are better able to align our resource allocations to our business objectives. These measures, together with a rigorous approach by line managers on an ongoing basis, ensures that the Department's financial resources are used efficiently and effectively, in line with the Government's policy priorities.

Diplomatic Representation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

310 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the nature of the diplomatic representation of Qatar here; and if this has changed in recent years. [30541/07]

The State of Qatar has accredited an Ambassador to Ireland on a non-resident basis. The current Ambassador of the State of Qatar, H.E. Mr. Khalid Rashid Al-Hamoudi Ali-Mansouri, is resident in London and the Ambassador presented his Credentials to President McAleese in January of this year.

The previous Ambassador of the State of Qatar to Ireland, H.E. Mr. Nassar bin Hamad M. Al-Khalifa, was also resident in London and he presented his Credentials to the President in May 2001. Diplomatic relations were established between the State of Qatar and Ireland in September 1974.

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

311 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of people as of 31 October 2007 who were employed in his Department; the number who were permanent employees; the number who were temporary staff; the number who were contracted staff; if he will provide comparative figures for 31 October 2002; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [30614/07]

The following table sets out the numbers of permanent, temporary and contract staff who were employed by my Department on 31 October 2002 and on 31 October 2007 respectively. These figures do not include approximately 300 staff who are recruited locally to work in our Missions abroad.

The figures for temporary staff refer to clerical staff employed on fixed term contracts to work in the Passport Offices during the peak season, as well as temporary Services Officers. The figures for contract staff refer to Ministerial Private Office staff, interns and Development Specialists who are all employed on a fixed term contract basis.

Numbers employed on 31 October 2002

Numbers employed on 31 October 2007

Permanent Employees

1,041.5

1,200

Temporary Employees

21.0

1

Contract Employees

60

65

Total

1,122.5

1,266

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

312 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount spent by his Department in 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 for air travel, business class flights and first class flights in tabular readable form. [30629/07]

The table below contains a breakdown of all air travel in the past four years. The significant reduction in the 2007 figures is primarily due to an ongoing effort being made by my Department to achieve better value from air travel.

The table identifies the class of air travel undertaken by staff at Headquarters. In the case of our 75 Missions outside the State, each Mission operates within the confines of a travel budget assigned on an individual Mission basis. In using this budget, Missions must adhere to the travel guidelines set down by my Department, which give strict criteria for instances where economy, business or (significantly less likely) first class travel may be undertaken.

2004

2005

2006

2007 (to 21/11/07)

HQ Economy

1,155,677

943,298

980,982

713,943

HQ Business

1,815,311

2,268,207

1,875,938

1,531,087

HQ First Class

24,130

7,587

11,258

580

Missions Total

1,554,533

1,452,751

1,469,550

1,119,128

Total

4,549,651

4,671,843

4,337,728

3,364,738

Damien English

Question:

313 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount spent by his Department on couriered documents, registered post and standard post to date in 2007 in tabular readable form. [30644/07]

My Department operates a diplomatic mail service to facilitate secure communication between the State and our Missions abroad. Ireland currently has a network of 75 resident diplomatic and consular Missions abroad and 87 Honorary Consulates. To date in 2007, the operation of Ireland's diplomatic mail service has cost €941,675.

The expenditure, to date in 2007, on postage accrued by my Department is €1,254,582. Over a million Euro of this expenditure was spent by the Passport Office forwarding passports to our citizens. While we do not differentiate in our accounting system between registered and standard postage costs, passports are normally sent to citizens through An Post's "swiftpost", which is a type of registered post service. In regard to courier services, the costs accrued to date in 2007, both at Headquarters and across our Missions, amount to €179,431. For convenience, I am setting out the above in tabular form.

Secure Diplomatic Mail

941,675

Postage (including passport distribution)

1,254,582

Courier Services

179,431

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

314 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the 10 largest bonus payments made to staff in his Department and each of its agencies in the past 12 months. [30659/07]

In 2007, the following were the ten largest bonus payments made in the Department of Foreign Affairs under the Scheme of Performance-related awards for those at Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary level:

€25,850

€22,800

€22,100

€21,750

6 payments of €19,200

These bonus payments were subject to tax and PRSI. Some 45 officers at Assistant Secretary and Deputy Secretary level participated in this Scheme, and the awards ranged widely over the scales in question. The awards were made by the independent Committee for Performance Awards, following recommendations by the Secretary General of my Department and I, as Minister, was not involved in the decisions taken.

Damien English

Question:

315 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of civil servants in his Department who have transferred to other Government Departments or left the Civil Service in each of the past five years in tabular readable form. [30674/07]

The following table sets out the number of civil servants in my Department who have either transferred to other Government Departments or who have left the Civil Service in the period 2002 to 2006.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Transferred to other Government Departments

22

9

20

15

37

Retirements

9

6

11

10

20

Resignations

23

22

14

4

13

Special Leave

19

17

23

18

17

Dismissal

0

1

0

0

0

Death in Service

1

0

1

0

3

Total

74

55

69

47

90

The figures for the number of staff who have left the Department on special leave include officers on career break and those who have taken up positions in EU institutions or other international organisations of which Ireland is a member. In all such cases, the terms of these officers' special leave provide for their possible return to the Department at a future date.

Damien English

Question:

316 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing that have been reported to his Department by Departmental staff since 1 January 2007. [30689/07]

Since 1 January 2007, no allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing have been reported to the management of my Department by its staff.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Tony Gregory

Question:

317 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 249 of 13 November 2007, if the person referred to has since been transferred; if there are concerns as to their state of health; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30918/07]

I can confirm that the person concerned was transferred on 15 November 2007 to the preferred prison, to which the Deputy referred in Parliamentary Question No. 249 of 13 November 2007.

My officials have made renewed enquiries as to the state of health of the person. The prison authorities advise that the individual was examined medically on arrival on 15 November and that there are no indications of particular health concerns.

My Department will continue to monitor the case until the release of the person in question, which we understand should take place before Christmas.

Passport Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

318 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the 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. [25154/07]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to application processes operated by my Department to provide services to the public and also applications involving Local Authorities.

Passport Application Process

To date in 2007, the Passport Office has processed 665,590 applications. The majority are channelled through the Passport Express service operated by An Post, and in the case of Northern Ireland, by the Royal Mail. The Passport Office guarantees that a person using these services will receive his or her passport within 10 working days provided that the application is complete and in order.

It is also possible to apply for a passport using the ordinary postal service, through Embassies and Consulates abroad and in person at the Passport Offices in Dublin and Cork. The turnaround time for these applications varies depending on the time of year and the level of demand on the passport service.

In the case of urgent travel it is possible to provide a forty eight hour service, and in the case of emergency a same day service. This emergency service is also available at weekends. The level of service provided by the Passport Office is continually reviewed to ensure maximum efficiency, effectiveness and value for money.

Consular Application Processes

The Department also processes applications for Irish citizenship by Foreign Births Registration and for letters of freedom for Irish citizens who require them in order to get married abroad.

In general, the processing of applications for Irish citizenship by Foreign Births Registration for persons resident in Ireland is currently taking about six weeks, from the initial submission of applications until the Certificate confirming citizenship is issued, provided that full documentation is presented. The timescale for processing these applications at our Missions abroad can vary depending on the volume of applications received, whether the documents initially submitted were correct and complete, and other local circumstances. Efforts are made to process applications as quickly as possible while ensuring that the legal requirements under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts are met and that only applicants who are entitled to Irish citizenship are approved.

A letter of freedom to marry, often referred to as a Certificate de Coutume or a Nulla Osta, is only valid for a marriage ceremony that takes place within 120 days after it is issued. Applicants are advised to apply in good time and there is at present no significant waiting time for these applications to be processed. I might also mention that the Department provides a same day service for authentication of official documents.

The level of service for Foreign Births Registration and for letters of freedom is kept under constant review. In particular, we have focused on the development and implementation of IT applications which can improve application procedures. For the convenience of members of the public, we have recently begun to provide these services from the Department's Offices in Cork, in addition to the existing service provided in Dublin.

Irish Aid

As the Deputy is aware, Irish Aid have a number of programmes where development agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations can apply for funding for development projects. On occasion, some Local Authorities have applied for funding for specific development initiatives and these have been considered on the merits of the applications.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Billy Timmins

Question:

319 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent measures he has taken to develop Ireland’s foreign policy in the context of the EU common foreign and security policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30985/07]

The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is intended to impart greater coherence and unity to all elements of the European Union's action in the international arena and in its relations with external actors. As such, the CFSP covers the entire range of the Union's foreign policy concerns. While some new measures are envisaged in the Reform Treaty to enhance the Union's external coherence and visibility, including the establishment of a new post of High Representative, the CFSP will remain essentially inter-governmental in nature, with policy and decisions continuing to be made by Member States.

Ireland remains strongly positive about our participation in the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The general principles underlying the CFSP very much accord with our own priorities and values, in particular the emphasis on multilateral cooperation and the role of the UN, promotion of democracy and human rights, conflict prevention and resolution, and the eradication of poverty. Involvement in the CFSP gives us the chance to shape policy within a bloc which is much more influential than we could be acting only by ourselves. The inter-governmental nature of the CFSP, with unanimity continuing to be the general rule for decision-making, allows Ireland to influence positively the determination of the Union's foreign policy priorities and ensure that they accord to the maximum extent possible with our own national priorities.

Ireland participates actively in discussion of all CFSP issues with our EU partners, both in Brussels and in the coordination of EU positions in international organisations and at international conferences. In practice, this is the principal day-to-day focus of the relevant officials in my Department. I meet my EU colleagues each month at meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. Within the CFSP, Ireland is particularly active in urging common EU action on international issues to which we attach particular importance, such as the situations in Darfur, Burma and the Middle East, and on issues where traditionally we have led internationally, such as non-proliferation and disarmament, and respect for human rights.

Within this broad context, there remains ample scope for us to take specifically national initiatives, or to work with small groups of like-minded partners. Instances include the formation of the Conflict Resolution Unit, our continuing role in the New Agenda Coalition in regard to nuclear disarmament, and our role in the Oslo Process on cluster munitions.

Departmental Offices.

Damien English

Question:

320 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the buildings occupied by his Department which are and which are not fully accessible to people with disabilities in tabular readable form. [31032/07]

As will be seen from the following table, seven of the nine buildings in Dublin occupied by my Department, together with the Passport Office in Cork and the temporary Irish Aid office in Limerick, are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Of the remaining two buildings, most of the public areas in Iveagh House have in recent years been made accessible to people with disabilities. The Department is examining how all public areas in Iveagh House can be made fully accessible, although the structure of this heritage building will present difficulties in this regard. The Department's archives building in Finglas, which does not have any public areas, is partially accessible.

The new Irish Aid Headquarters in Limerick, which will be ready in the first half of next year, and the new Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre in O'Connell Street Dublin, which will be operational next month, will be fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Building

Fully Accessible to People with Disabilities.

Not Fully Accessible to People with Disabilities.

Iveagh House, 79-80 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2

Almost all public areas fully accessible

Jamestown Business Park, Jamestown Road, Finglas, Dublin 11

Hainault House, 69-71 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2

76-78 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2

Bishops Square, Redmond’s Hill, Dublin 2

Molesworth Building, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2

Hatch Street, Dublin 2

Fingal Bay Business Park, Balbriggan, Co Dublin

Passport Office Cork, 1A South Mall, Cork

Cumberland House, Cumberland Street, Dublin 2

Irish Aid Headquarters, 108 O’Connell St., Limerick City (Temporary Premises), Irish Aid Headquarters, Riverstone House, Henry Street, Limerick City (Permanent Premises)

Irish Aid Volunteering & Information Centre, Findlater House, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

321 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the cost of running his Department’s press office in each of the first three quarters of 2007 in tabular readable form. [31047/07]

The figures below, in tabular readable form, represent the costs of running the press office in my Department from January to September 2007, excluding salaries.

Quarter 1

48,504.44

Quarter 2

56,679.43

Quarter 3

29,992.44

Departmental Websites.

Damien English

Question:

322 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the websites that are run by his Department and each of its agencies; the date on which each became live; if the sites are kept updated; the cost of each site to the State to date; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [31062/07]

The Deputy may be aware that my Department recently launched an upgraded website (www.dfa.ie) to replace its previous site. This initiative includes upgrading the websites of all our Missions throughout the world based on a standard template consistent with the Department's site.

Nine such Mission sites are currently operational. These include our Embassies in Paris (www.embassyofireland.fr) and in Berlin (www.embassyofireland.de). The programme to rollout Mission sites will continue into 2008. The Department maintains a separate site for Irish Aid. All sites are updated at appropriate intervals.

The cumulative costs of the relevant sites are as follows:

Site

Launch Date

Costs To Date

Department Site, including Missions

December 2006

57,604

Irish Aid

2003

282,067

Advisory Board for Irish Aid

2004

33,901

Question No. 323 answered with QuestionNo. 93.

Departmental Agencies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

324 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the organisations or authorities operating within his Department’s policy area, set up by statute or statutory instrument, for which he does not have official responsibility to Dáil Éireann. [31115/07]

At present, there is only one organisation which operates under the aegis of my Department which was established on a statutory basis.

The Ireland — United States Commission for Educational Exchange (the Fulbright Commission) finances study, research, teaching and other educational activities between Ireland and the United States of America. It was established in 1957 by means of the Scholarship Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1957 as amended by the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991.

The Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America) Act, 1991 also provided for the establishment of the Ireland – United States Educational Fund (which is controlled by the Minister for Finance). The income accruing to the Fund is made available to the Fulbright Commission for the purposes of its functions.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have certain responsibilities in regard to the Commission. Under section 3(1) of the 1991 Act, I am responsible for the appointment of four members of the eight-member Commission. Under section 5(10) of the 1991 Act, I am responsible for laying before both Houses of the Oireachtas, a copy of the annually audited accounts of the Ireland – United States Educational Fund and the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General thereon.

While I, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, have certain specific responsibilities as outlined above, the Commission enjoys autonomy of management and administration, by reason of section 2(5) of the Educational Exchange (Ireland and the United States of America), Act, 1991.

Overseas Development Aid.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

325 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which world aid promised to African countries has not been delivered; the proposed plan to address outstanding matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31220/07]

In recent years, the international community has redoubled its efforts to address the serious challenges facing the continent of Africa. The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 marked a watershed in uniting the international community around a single set of development objectives. Agreed targets include halving extreme poverty and providing universal primary education by 2015. The MDGs have resulted in renewed determination and pledges to meet the needs of the world's poorest countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), development assistance provided by the world's major bilateral donors has almost doubled — from less than US$54 billion in 2000 to around US$104 billion in 2006. During the same time period, support to Africa increased significantly and allocations to sub-Saharan Africa rose from US$11 billion to around US$28 billion. It is clear that Africa is receiving real and substantial increases in development assistance. These increases are set to continue. Ireland's own Official Development Assistance (ODA), the main geographical focus of which is on Africa, has increased from €250million in 2000, to over €800million in 2006.

More generally, there are strong indications that development assistance is having a positive effect in Africa. In its "Africa Development Indicators 2006" report, the World Bank noted that, in contrast to the 1990s, conflicts have declined and growth has improved. Improved growth rates will contribute to achievement of the MDGs. It also notes that, since the second half of the 1990s, many low income African countries, including Mozambique and Uganda, have lifted significant percentages of their citizens above the poverty line. Africa is at the heart of Ireland's programme of official development assistance and we have played an important role in the positive news emanating from both of these countries.

Development assistance is important to continued social and economic progress on the continent of Africa and it is imperative that donor nations continue to make progress towards the UN goal of 0.7% of GNP for ODA. However the governments of the developing nations of Africa also have a responsibility to promote good and accountable governance to ensure that poverty reduction is at the heart of their national development plans. It is the combination of external assistance from donors such as Ireland, allied with an internal commitment to poverty reduction by African nations, which will make a real and sustainable change for the better in the lives of the poor in Africa.

Question No. 326 answered with QuestionNo. 65.

EU Membership.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

327 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the Balkan States are in communication with the EU in the context of future membership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31222/07]

At the EU-Western Balkans Summit at Thessaloniki in 2003, European Union leaders reiterated the European perspective of the countries of the Western Balkans, and affirmed that the future of these countries lies within the EU, once they have fulfilled all of the requirements necessary for membership.

Croatia is engaged in accession negotiations with the EU. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has obtained candidate status, although its negotiations on accession have not yet commenced. The EU is in the course of completing Stabilisation and Association Agreements with other countries in the region.

On 6 November last, the European Commission published its annual package of enlargement reports. These include an assessment of progress made by candidate countries, including Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in meeting EU membership criteria. They also assess progress made by countries elsewhere in the Western Balkans towards realisation of their European perspective

The Commission reports that accession negotiations with Croatia are advancing well. Areas where further progress is still needed include judicial and administrative reform, minority rights, and refugee return.

With regard to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Commission reports on some progress in reforms and considers that the pace of reforms needs to be accelerated in key areas.

While noting progress in many areas, the Commission considers that the region as a whole needs to move forward in building modern democracies and developing a political culture of dialogue and tolerance. The Commission reports that Albania and Montenegro, which have signed Stabilisation and Association Agreements with the EU, have made progress in a number of areas but still face major challenges. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to move ahead with reforms, in particular in governance and police reform. The Commission acknowledges that Serbia has the administrative capacity to make substantial progress towards realising its European perspective. However, there will need to be full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) before the Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiated with the EU in recent months can be signed.

Question No. 328 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

329 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in regard to discussions at EU level on the Cyprus issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31224/07]

The United Nations has the lead role in the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. The Government fully supports the leadership of the UN Secretary General in this important work, and we welcome the ongoing efforts of the Secretary General's Special Representative to Cyprus, Mr. Michael Moeller, to bring the two sides together to seek progress toward a political settlement.

On 8 July 2006, the UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Dr. Ibrahim Gambari, brokered an agreement between the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, and Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat, representing the Turkish Cypriot community, on a set of principles, recognising that the status quo was unacceptable and that a comprehensive settlement was both desirable and possible. They agreed to begin immediately a two-track process involving discussions by committees of issues affecting the day-to-day life of the people and, concurrently, of substantive issues leading to a comprehensive settlement. However, these committees were not subsequently established, due to disagreements on their respective mandates and terms of reference. Following a hiatus, consultations at official level on these issues resumed at the end of January 2007, though so far without any breakthrough.

On 5 September, the Special Representative facilitated a meeting between President Papadopoulos and Mr. Talat, the first such encounter between the two leaders since last year. While regrettably no substantive progress was made on this occasion, we welcome the reopening of political dialogue which this meeting represents. Both sides have also recently sent submissions to the UN Secretary General, outlining new proposals to take the process forward. The Secretary General has not formally commented on these proposals as yet. We are encouraged that the two sides are continuing their contact through the UN, and remain hopeful that this dialogue may yet help to unblock the stalemate in the process.

Ireland will continue, through our Embassy in Nicosia and in contacts with the Embassies of Cyprus and Turkey in Dublin, to encourage both sides to renew their commitment to the negotiating process and the achievement of the objective of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal State through an honourable, balanced and durable settlement protecting and guaranteeing the basic interests and aspirations of all.

At EU level, proposals have been brought forward by the Commission to encourage the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community. At its meeting in January 2007, the Council of Ministers noted progress, in particular as regards the implementation of a financial aid regulation. The Council called for work to continue aimed at adopting a Regulation "on special conditions for trade with the areas of the Republic of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control". The Commission's direct trade proposal has subsequently been the subject of discussion at working group level, but consensus has not yet been found on a way forward.

Question No. 330 answered with QuestionNo. 92.

World Trade Negotiations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

331 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed in the agricultural and industrial sectors at some of the recent EU developments in the context of the WTO; if he proposes to take action to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31226/07]

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr. Michéal Martin T.D., has overall responsibility for negotiations on the current global trade round taking place in the framework of the World Trade Organization. My Department works closely with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in developing and implementing policy aimed at ensuring that Ireland's interests are promoted and protected in the negotiations. It had been hoped that the negotiations would be largely concluded by the end of 2007. However, it is now certain that they will extend well into 2008.

Ireland fully supports a successful conclusion to the current round of WTO negotiations. I can assure the Deputy that the Taoiseach, my colleagues the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and myself avail of every opportunity to advance Ireland's interests in the negotiations. The Government will continue to press for an overall balanced outcome to the negotiations across the different strands, including agriculture, industrial goods and services. The Government will strongly oppose any proposal that places an unfair burden on agriculture. Ireland also attaches the highest importance to promoting the interests of the world's poorest countries in the negotiations.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

332 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the international community is capable of positively contributing to an improvement in the situation in Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31227/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

333 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he has had discussions with EU or UN colleagues in the matter of the ongoing situation in Darfur; the degree to which it is expected the international community can make a positive impact on the situation there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31228/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 and 333 together.

Negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Darfur rebel factions began on 27 October in Libya under joint AU/UN mediation. However, the start of this process was overshadowed by the absence of many of the principal rebel groups, which boycotted the talks. The UN and AU have sent representatives to Darfur and Juba to find and speak with the rebels who did not attend, and it is hoped that the talks will recommence in December. The unwillingness of the Government of Sudan to agree to the inclusion of specific and essential non-African personnel and capabilities is hampering the deployment of the UN/African Union hybrid force, UNAMID. Although there have been some improvements in recent months on humanitarian access in Darfur on foot of the UN/Government of Sudan Joint Communiqué agreed last March, the humanitarian situation is again becoming more difficult. Banditry, the fragmentation of the rebel groups and growing tensions within camps for Internally Displaced Persons are making the tasks of both peace negotiators and humanitarian agencies increasingly difficult.

Meanwhile, delays in the implementation of the north-south Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) have led to heightened tensions within the Government of National Unity, culminating in the withdrawal of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) from that Government in October. However, from my discussions with President Bashir, I am satisfied that the Sudanese Government remains committed to the CPA and has no wish to return to war with the south.

The European Union strategy in this troubled region has three dimensions – support for political processes to bring about peace, support for peace-keeping to allow peace to take hold and to improve security, and humanitarian and development aid to alleviate suffering and help build the foundations for sustainable development. On all of these tracks, we are working closely with the UN and with the African Union, both in Darfur and in southern Sudan. The situation in Darfur is regularly discussed at meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, most recently in Brussels on 19 November. I also discussed the Darfur crisis when I met with UN Secretary General Ban in New York on 2 October. During my visit to Sudan earlier this month, I raised with the Sudanese government the need for full, effective and prompt deployment of UNAMID. I expressed Ireland's disappointment at the lack of progress in implementing the May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement, and at the failure of many rebel groups to travel to Libya for the current talks. I also expressed my concern over difficulties with implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south. I once again impressed upon the Sudanese Government the importance of humanitarian access to those in need of our help.

The will of all the parties involved – the Government of Sudan and all the different rebel groupings – is absolutely crucial to the success of our efforts. Bitter experience has shown that it is impossible to impose a sustainable peace from the outside. Ireland remains open to considering carefully targeted measures against any party standing in the way of a peaceful resolution of the situation in Darfur. However, we believe that ongoing efforts by the AU and UN to broker peace should be supported and given time to succeed.

Ireland and the European Union stand ready to assist in addressing some of the underlying causes of the conflict through targeted development assistance, once the conditions allow. Since 2006, Irish Aid has provided over €33 million in funding for humanitarian and development purposes in Sudan, including Darfur.

Question No. 334 answered with QuestionNo. 65.

Human Rights Issues.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

335 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the ten African countries which currently have an unacceptable human rights record; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31230/07]

I refer the deputy to my reply to Question No. 328 of 23rd October 2007, (below), which deals with all the issues raised in the question.

As has been made clear in reply to previous questions, it is not the policy of the Government to draw up any kind of "league table" of countries in relation to human rights abuses. Ireland closely monitors developments in the human rights situation throughout the world and where the situation warrants, we make known our concerns to the Governments in question, either bilaterally, through the EU, or through action at the UN General Assembly or the UN Human Rights Council.

The risk of human rights violations is of course greater where political, economic and administrative systems are weak. Development is essential to allow people the full enjoyment of their human rights, and Africa lies at the heart of Ireland's development co-operation programme. Irish Aid supports specific actions designed to promote human rights, including by strengthening government systems and in-country human rights institutions, in particular through legal training. Irish Aid has a specific focus on governance in several programme countries.

The link between security and human rights protection is a key concern in many parts of Africa. Where state authorities do not have the will or capacity to enforce the rule of law, people are extremely vulnerable to serious human rights violations, with little prospect of redress. Some of our most serious human rights concerns relate to countries which are currently suffering from conflict, or which have recently emerged from conflict, such as Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sustained efforts are required to restore the kind of stability within which human rights can be protected. Ireland supports the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission in this regard, as well as the considerable efforts of the European Union. On a national basis, Ireland also promotes security and stability in Africa through our active development aid programmes and through our participation in peacekeeping, most recently as part of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from 2003-2007. Ireland's contribution to the planned ESDP mission to eastern Chad and the Central African Republic will help improve security for the many refugees and displaced people in that region.

The EU, in its political dialogue with African countries under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, regularly raises issues which arise in the development of democracy and the need for protection and promotion of human rights. The EU also pursues human rights issues when appropriate through the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council. Ireland is fully associated with EU statements on human rights in these bodies. We actively supported the UN Human Rights Council's consensus resolution on Darfur, which was adopted in March 2007. Ireland and the EU have also made statements of concern about Zimbabwe at the Human Rights Council this year.

Together with our EU partners, Ireland has been a consistent and strong supporter of the International Criminal Court, recognising it as an essential means to combating impunity for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The Court's Prosecutor has opened investigations in relation to four situations, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Uganda, the Central African Republic and the Darfur region of Sudan, and we will continue to monitor this work closely.

In addition to the United Nations and European Union, the African Union also has an important and growing role to play in the protection of human rights in Africa. The aims of the African Union include the promotion of peace, security, and democracy on the continent, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights, in accordance with the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. The emergence of African standards in this area is a very welcome development. The African Union is an important strategic partner for Ireland and the European Union and for the international community generally.

We will continue to proactively address human rights challenges in the course of our work in support of peace, security and development for all of the people of Africa.

Overseas Development Aid.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

336 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that development aid from Ireland is directed to those for whom it was intended and that adequate safety measures are in place to ensure this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31231/07]

The overriding objective of Ireland's overseas aid programme is to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries through assisting in bringing about positive and lasting change in their lives.

Across the development programme, strategies are devised in close consultation with national governments and other stakeholders to ensure that the support provided complements national poverty reduction plans and targets those most in need. These strategies include monitoring frameworks to ensure that our assistance is effective and that it is implemented for the benefit of those for whom it is intended.

Irish Aid has in place rigorous accounting and audit controls which are essential to ensuring a transparent, effective and high quality programme. Irish Aid programmes are regularly and intensively audited and evaluated by independent audit firms, by Irish Aid's Evaluation and Audit Unit and by the independent Audit Committee of the Department. Programmes are evaluated to ensure that funds are used for the purposes intended and in respect of outcomes and value for money.

I am satisfied that the methods used by Irish Aid in devising its strategies, combined with its audit and evaluation systems, serve to protect the funding provided in accordance with best international practice and highest standards in this area.

Data Protection.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

337 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the procedures in place to protect personal data within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31241/07]

All officials of my Department are bound by the provisions of the Official Secrets Act. In addition, on the day of their appointment, all officials of my Department are made aware of their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act. All data held in my Department, including personal data, is protected by both physical and technical safeguards. The provisions of the Data Protection Act are kept under regular review by my Department, to ensure our ongoing compliance. The categories of personal data retained by my Department are reviewed annually, to ensure that our obligation to register thesewith the Data Protection Commissioner is discharged.

County Enterprise Boards.

Michael Ring

Question:

338 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there is grant assistance available for a person who is considering setting up a business (details supplied). [30712/07]

My Department does not provide direct funding or grants to businesses but provides funding to a number of State Agencies, including the County and City Enterprise Boards, Enterprise Ireland and FÁS, through whom assistance is delivered directly to businesses.

The 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) provide a source of support to small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of feasibility, employment and capital grants. All of the CEBs operate to the same criteria in relation to the assistance which they can offer i.e. they can support the establishment and/or the development of enterprises provided that the projects, which should generally be in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector, have the capacity to achieve commercial viability and which over time may develop into strong exporting entities. In addition, the CEBs deliver a range of non-financial supports to improve management capability development within micro-enterprises designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow.

Enterprise Ireland provides funding and expertise to companies with ten or more employees in the indigenous manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors who wish to expand through increased export activity. Through its network of 34 overseas offices, Enterprise Ireland assists client companies to create and implement successful strategies for market entry, development and growth.

EI Clients must be Irish owned, be a manufacturing or an internationally trading services enterprise or be an overseas company in the food, drink and timber sectors seeking assistance to locate in Ireland, must employ more than 10 people or be a high growth start-up according to criteria defined by the Board of EI. In addition Enterprise Ireland must be satisfied that the company will produce products for sale primarily in world markets; produce products of an advanced technological nature for supply to internationally trading or skilled sub-supply firms within the State; and produce products for sectors of the Irish market which are subject to international competition or is a service industry, as defined by relevant ministerial order. Enterprise Ireland may support the development of new and existing waste recovery/recycling firms, on the basis of demonstrated need, that produce value added raw materials or products for export. There should be a particular focus on R&D and technology development as well as management and skills development for this sector.

Should the person concerned wish to contact Enterprise Ireland in order to discuss the supports that may be available, subject to the qualifying criteria outlined above, they should contact the following Enterprise Ireland Executive; Mr. Gerry O'Brien, Enterprise Ireland, High Potential Start Up Business Unit, Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4, (Tel. No. 01-6092171).

Alternatively if the proposed project falls within the remit of the County and City Enterprise Boards I would suggest that the person concerned should make direct contact with their local CEB and explore what level of assistance, if any, may be available to them. Contact details for individual CEBs can be found by accessing the following website; www.enterpriseboards.ie.

Work Permits.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

339 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a decision will be made on an application for a work permit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; the expected period of time it will take to complete the processing of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30736/07]

The Employment Permits Section has indicated that a work permit has issued in this case.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

340 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will review urgently the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who is legally here and who has applied for a work permit to his Department. [30515/07]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that the above named applicant's Spousal/Dependant Permit was issued recently in this case.

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

341 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people as of 31 October 2007 who were employed in his Department; the number who were permanent employees; the number who were temporary staff; the number who were contracted staff; if he will provide comparative figures for 31 October 2002; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [30611/07]

The following table identifies the number of permanent employees; the number of temporary staff and the number of contracted staff in my Department for the periods 31 October 2002 and 31 October 2007.

31st October 2002

31st October 2007

Permanent staff (Full time equivalents)

1,065

992.12

Temporary staff

24

15.00

Staff on contract

16

25.00

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

342 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount spent by his Department in 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 for air travel, business class flights and first class flights in tabular readable form. [30626/07]

The total amount spent by my Department on air travel for each year from 2004 to date is set out on the table below. The table also shows the amount charged to my Department for Business Class and First Class flights each year.

Year

Total spent on air travel

of which:

Business Class

First Class

2004

718,175.30

244,827

17,021

2005

555,004.52

148,232

9,683

2006

434,571.54

72,8340

2007 (to date)

281,872.18

83,4690

The amount spent on air travel on the above table does not include the following: travel using the Government jet, the costs of which are borne by the Department of Defence; costs due to be refunded to the development agencies under the aegis of my Department in respect of travel organised by those agencies – this primarily relates to trips in 2007; travel fully paid for by international organisations and/or other authorities. Of the total on the table above, the following sums were refundable from international organisations such the European Commission:

Year

Amount Refundable

2004

277,622.06

2005

181,875.60

2006

114,963.98

2007 (to date)

113,134.98

Damien English

Question:

343 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount spent by his Department on couriered documents, registered post and standard post to date in 2007 in tabular readable form. [30641/07]

My Department has spent the following amounts on couriered documents and registered / standard post to date in 2007:

Couriered Documents

27,951.17

Registered Post/Standard Post *

168,864.30

*It is not possible to disaggregate the amount spent on registered / standard post.

The above figures do not include any spending by the offices and agencies of my Department.

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

344 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the 10 largest bonus payments made to staff in his Department and each of its agencies in the past 12 months. [30656/07]

The scheme of performance-related awards in the civil service applies to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades. Details of awards to individual officers under the performance related scheme are not disclosed on the basis that they are confidential to the officer concerned. However, I can say that during 2007 awards totalling €168,000 were made to 14 officers in my Department and associated Offices in respect of 2006 (as shown on page 10 of the report of the Committee for Performance Awards for 2006).

CEOs of Agencies under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment are eligible to apply for a performance related bonus award of up to 20% of annual salary, as sanctioned by the Department of Finance in line with recommendations of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector Report No 42, 2007. At present the following agencies have a performance related bonus award scheme:

FÁS

Forfás

IDA

Enterprise Ireland

H.S.A.

Science Foundation Ireland

Details of awards to individual officers under the performance related scheme are not disclosed on the basis that they are confidential to the officer concerned.

Damien English

Question:

345 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of civil servants in his Department who have transferred to other Government Departments or left the Civil Service in each of the past five years in tabular readable form. [30671/07]

The following table identifies the number of civil servants in my Department who transferred to other Government Departments and those who left the Civil Service in each of the past five years.

Year

Transferred to other Government Departments

Staff who left the Civil Service

2002

10

9

2003

21

10

2004

43

27

2005

34

39

2006

41

38

Damien English

Question:

346 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing that have been reported to his Department by Departmental staff since 1 January 2007. [30686/07]

As far as I am aware, there have been no allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing reported to my Department by any of my staff since 1 January 2007.

Industrial Development.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

347 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he or his officials were first advised that a company (details supplied) had made a decision or were expected to make a decision to postpone indefinitely plans to build a new facility at Carrigtwohill in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30698/07]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

349 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he was informed by the IDA that a company (details supplied) had made a decision or were expected to make a decision to postpone indefinitely plans to build a new facility at Carrigtwohill in County Cork. [30700/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 347 and 349 together.

I reported to the Dáil on 24th October last that I first learned of the indefinite postponement of the Amgen project by way of conference call with the Irish General Manager and the Executive Vice President of Operations of Amgen Inc. on the morning of 3rd of October 2007. The Secretary General of my Department, the Chairman and CEO of IDA Ireland were also present when the call was received.

This decision was made as a result of a review of the Company's own operations and is based purely on developments related to the company's global business. I have been assured by the Company that their decision does not reflect in any way on the business environment in this country.

World Trade Negotiations.

Mary Upton

Question:

348 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the SADC EPA region, in signing an interim goods-only free trade agreement has expressed that it wishes not to commit itself to future negotiations in services and investment which are not suitable to its economic, social and environmental development priorities (details supplied); if he will take the constructive proposals into account; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30699/07]

At the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP)-EU Joint Council of Ministers in May of this year, all 6 ACP regions, together with the EU, reaffirmed their intention to conclude full EPAs (including provisions on services and investment) before the deadline of the 31st of December 2007. After that date the current trading arrangements under the Cotonou Agreement must end if the EU and our ACP partners are to meet our international obligations in the World Trade Organization.

However, some of the ACP regions have since indicated that it will be difficult for them to agree the terms of a full EPA by that deadline. In those cases, the EU is proposing to put in place new arrangements to deal with trade in goods after the 31st of December and to continue with negotiations for all other aspects of a full EPA into next year.

At the EU General Affairs Council of the 21st of November last, the Development Ministers considered the current state of the negotiations for EPAs and issued Conclusions. In those Conclusions, the Council noted the right of all ACP states and regions to determine the best policies for their development and acknowledged that the ambition for the scope of an EPA may differ from one region to another. The Council continues to support the inclusion of provisions on trade in services, investment and other trade related areas in EPAs, as it believes that such provisions fulfil the objectives of economic and trade cooperation as set out in the Cotonou Agreement and contribute to the release of the full development benefits of EPAs. As far as the negotiations of services provisions go, the Council has said clearly in the Conclusions that it supports a flexible and phased approach.

Ireland agrees that the negotiations must be conducted in a spirit of goodwill, flexibility and understanding. We have always said that any resulting agreements must be supportive of ACP countries development needs and their poverty reduction strategies. Accordingly, any proposal from an ACP region, such as the one from the SADC region, should be considered.

In the case of trade agreements such as the EPAs, it is the Commission who have the competence on behalf of the EU to negotiate, and not the individual Member States. As far as the SADC region is concerned, I understand from the Commission that it remains optimistic that agreement on an EPA can be reached with at least some of the countries in that region by the deadline of the 31st of December 2007.

Question No. 349 answered with QuestionNo. 347.

Industrial Development.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

350 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason a verbal and implied written commitment cannot be given to a company (details supplied) in County Sligo in relation to the reimbursement of design fees and the possible redistribution of topsoil on IDA property that was not honoured despite the fact that this company paid full market for the site and are providing 25 extra jobs at cost to the IDA or to the Irish tax payer. [30794/07]

Under the Industrial Development Act of 1986, as amended by the Acts of 1993 and 1995, IDA Ireland has the power to acquire, hold and dispose of land and any other property or any interest therein for the purpose of facilitating an industrial undertaking. Only when the Agency intends to dispose of land, other than in accordance with facilitating an industrial undertaking, is the consent of the Minister of the day required.

Accordingly, the management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency, as part of the statutory responsibility assigned to it by the Oireachtas, and, other than considering applications for consent, it is not a matter in which I have a function.

I have already written to the Deputy on this matter in reply to previous representations. In view of the request for additional information I have brought the Deputy's concerns to the attention of the Secretary of IDA Ireland and asked that he reply directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Work Permits.

Denis Naughten

Question:

351 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason a 15 year old non-Irish national is not entitled to a work permit, even though their parents are legally resident in this country and in view of the fact that a 15 year old Irish citizen is entitled to work; if he will review the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30943/07]

The Employment Permits Section has indicated that, in general, employment permits are only issued in respect of full-time positions and for persons over the age of 18. However, under the current Spousal/Dependant Permit Scheme the Employment Permits Section can consider applications in respect of eligible Dependants over the age of 16. This is in line with the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1996, which stipulates that for regular employment a person must be over the age of 16.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

352 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a work permit is expected to issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30953/07]

The Employment Permits Section has indicated that they received an application in respect of the above named on the 12/12/2006. This application cannot be considered until the applicant's immigration status has been resolved with the immigration authorities. However, in the event that her immigration status is resolved then the Employment Permits Section would look favourably on the work permit application.

European Council Meetings.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

353 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will be attending the Council of Ministers’ meeting on 5 December 2007 when the EU Agency Workers’ Directive will be decided on. [30972/07]

I intend to go to the Council of Ministers' meeting on 5th December which will consider the Amended proposal for a Directive of The European Parliament and Council on temporary agency work.

Competition Legislation.

Michael Creed

Question:

354 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the application of the competition legislation in the context of the dispute between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union; if it was the intention of that legislation to prohibit negotiation between an employer and a representative organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30973/07]

I understand that both the Health Services Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health separately received legal advice on the interpretation and application of the Competition Act 2002. Section 4 of that Act prohibits anti-competitive practices, such as price fixing, by "undertakings". An "undertaking" is defined in the Act as "a person being an individual, a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons engaged for gain in the production, supply, or distribution of goods or the provision of a service". This definition has been in use in Irish competition law for some time and is supported by EU case law. Section 4 mirrors Article 81 of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

Under the 2002 Act, the Competition Authority is the independent statutory body responsible for enforcing competition law. The Authority has previously found that self-employed persons are "undertakings" for the purposes of the 2002 Act, and as such collectively bargained agreements concluded by representative bodies on behalf of such persons are prohibited agreements under section 4. The Competition Act does not prohibit negotiations between an employer and a representative organisation when such a body is representing employees.

Departmental Properties.

Damien English

Question:

355 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the buildings occupied by his Department which are and which are not fully accessible to people with disabilities in tabular readable form. [31029/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the following tabular statement:

Address of Building

Fully Accessible

Not accessible

23 Kildare Street, Dublin 2

Yes

Davitt House, Dublin 2

Yes

Earlsfort Centre, Dublin 2, Plans are in train for disability access in 2008

No

Companies Registration Office, Parnell House, Dublin 1

Yes

Office of The Director of Corporate Enforcement, 16 Parnell Square, Dublin 1

Yes

Labour Relations Commission/Labour Court, Tom Johnson House, Dublin 4

Yes

Patents Office, Government Buildings, Kilkenny

Yes

National Employment Rights Authority/Companies Registration Office, Carlow

Yes

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

356 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost of running his Department’s press office in each of the first three quarters of 2007 in tabular readable form. [31044/07]

The breakdown of the cost of running the press office (inclusive of salaries) of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for the first 3 quarters of 2007 are as follows:

2007

Total Cost

1st Quarter

72,389.05

2nd Quarter

100,578.63

3rd Quarter

74,893.67

Departmental Websites.

Damien English

Question:

357 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the websites that are run by his Department and each of its agencies; the date on which each became live; if the sites are kept updated; the cost of each site to the State to date; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [31059/07]

The websites run by my Department are set out on the following tabular statement.

In relation to websites run by the agencies, these websites are a vital tool for all agencies in providing information to their clients and to the wider public. The establishment and running of such sites is a day-to-day operational matter for the agencies concerned and one in which I have no function.

Address of Website

Date website became live

Are sites kept updated

Cost of each site to the State

Comments

www.entemp.ie

Operational since 1998

Yes

195,131.69

www.lrc.ie

January 1999

Yes

52,373

Figure relates to 2004 total redesign of website & hosting and maintenance charge since 2001

www.esf.ie

2002

Yes. Updated in 2004. Currently being updated.

22,500

www.equal-ci.ie

July 2001

Yes

21,858.00

Total cost 43,717.08 but 50% paid for by ESF

www.ideasbank-equal.info

January 2006

Yes

1,500

Total cost 3,000 but 50% paid for by ESF

www.basis.ie

May, 2001

Yes

3.6 million

Includes all expenditure to date on the development, maintenance, hosting, advertising, updating, and staff costs (from 2000 to 2005 when funded by the Information Society Fund)

www.patentsoffice.ie

December, 1998

Yes

492,961

Includes all expenditure to date on hardware, development, maintenance and updating; of which the Information Society Fund contributed 334,393 for the following specific services: Online Payments of Renewal Fees Online Access to Official Registers Online Database Searching Online Journal Searching, Browsing and Downloading

www.labourcout.ie

May, 2001

Yes

19,000 p.a.

www.worklifebalance.ie

March 2001

Yes

22.497.94

Total cost 49,654.68. (27,156.74 of this was paid out of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform’s Equality for Women Measure until the expenditure was transferred to this Department Vote in late 2003).

Employment Appeals Tribunalwww. eatribunal.ie

April 2006

Yes

88,387.11

Address of Website

Date website became live

Are sites kept updated

Cost of each site to the State

Comments

The National Employment Rights Agency (NERA) website will be www.employmentrights.ie. It is currently under construction.

At the moment there is a single live page at the above address with links to the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment site.

It will be updated when it is launched. Dedicated staff member has been assigned for this purpose.

52,285.10

www.cro.ie

Current Website October 2003

Yes

239,681

In addition to www.cro.ie, the CRO operates www.core.ie which is a document processing environment and communications mechanism. The cost of “CORE” cannot be easily identified as it is an integral part of the CRO’s overall computer system.

www.odce.ie

Current Website February 2007

Yes

54,086

ww.odca.ie

1999-2000

Details not available

www.odca.ie has been operational for a number of years but has now been replaced by the website of the National Consumer Agency www.consumerconnect.ie, except for a public register of credit intermediaries. Work is progressing on redeveloping this register and transferring it to www.consumerconnect.ie, which is expected to take place in the coming weeks. At that stage the website www.odca.ie will be closed. www.odca.ie cost in the region of 2,000 per annum.

www.clrg.org

Current Website1st November 2001

Yes

141,965

Work Permits.

Michael McGrath

Question:

358 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has worked here with a valid work authorisation visa since 2003 must now apply for a green card in order to continue to remain and work in the country. [31072/07]

The Employment Permits Section has indicated that the issue of any renewal permit, including a Work Authorisation, can only be considered when it transpires that the foreign national concerned worked for the full term of the existing permit. If there is any break in employment then this constitutes a new application.

I understand that a new Green Card Permit issued in respect of the above named on the 5th September 2007.

Departmental Agencies.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

359 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the organisations or authorities operating within his Department’s policy area, set up by statute or statutory instrument, for which he does not have official responsibility to Dáil Éireann. [31112/07]

My Department has a very broad remit with many Offices of the Department, as well as Agencies, charged with carrying out their specific remit as well as acting in an advisory role.

In general, I am accountable to Dáil Éireann in respect of the legislative basis and policy framework for these Bodies. However, I am not accountable for their "day-to-day" operational activities.

These Offices and Agencies are listed as follows:

Offices:

Companies Registration Office (CRO)

Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT)

Labour Relations Commission (LRC)

Labour Court

National Employment Rights Authority (NERA)

Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE)

Patents Office

Registrar of Friendly Societies (RFS)

Agencies:

Competition Authority

Enterprise Ireland (EI)

FÁS

Forfás

Health and Safety Authority (HSA)

IDA Ireland

InterTradeIreland

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA)

National Consumer Agency (NCA)

National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)

Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB)

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)

Shannon Development

35 County & City Enterprise Boards (CEBs)

Data Protection.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

360 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the procedures in place to protect personal data within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31238/07]

The procedures followed are in compliance with the Data Protection Act, and include technical safeguards in respect of personal data. To date my Department has assigned responsibility to thirteen Data Controllers who are responsible for all aspects of personal information held in my Department. These appointments are reviewed annually to ensure that all existing and new areas of work within my Department are registered with the Data Protection Commissioner.

On 13 November 2007 an Office Notice setting out the main provisions of the Official Secrets Act, the Data Protection Acts and the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour issued to all staff in my Department.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

361 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the public swimming pool programme has been reinstated; if applications received in his Department are being dealt with at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30846/07]

Under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which is administered by my Department, grant aid is provided to local authorities towards the capital costs of a new or replacement public swimming pool or the refurbishment of an existing pool provided by local authorities themselves or by other bodies where the application for capital funding is supported by the local authority. Under the Programme, a local authority undertakes four stages in developing a swimming pool project. These, in order of progress, are: Feasibility Study/ Preliminary Report; Contract Documents; Tender and Construction. Local authorities may not proceed to the next stage of a project until prior approval issues from my Department. Grant aid is formally allocated when the tender is approved. The Department's technical advisors, the Office of Public Works (OPW), evaluates each stage.

The current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme closed to new applications on 31 July 2000 and the priority since then is to continue to support those projects remaining within the programme. Of the 57 projects within the current round, 43 projects have been formally allocated grant aid, of which 29 have been completed and 14 are under construction or about to start construction. 3 projects are out to tender and the remaining 11 are at earlier stages in the process.

My Department is completing a Value for Money and Policy Review Report of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme at present. The Report is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date and what changes, if any, are required to ensure its effective and efficient delivery. Thereafter, following consideration of the recommendations in the Report, it is my intention to launch a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme. When the programme is re-opened, it will be open to all local authorities to submit applications under the terms that will apply.

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

362 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of people as of 31 October 2007 who were employed in his Department; the number who were permanent employees; the number who were temporary staff; the number who were contracted staff; if he will provide comparative figures for 31 October 2002; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [30606/07]

As my Department was only established in June 2002 and its final complement of staff was not in place until the end of that year, it is not possible to make a meaningful comparison with the numbers of people serving at 31 October 2002. To facilitate a more realistic comparison, I am comparing numbers at 31 October 2007 with those at 31 December 2002 in respect of the Department including the National Archives. The National Museum of Ireland and the National Library of Ireland which were part of the Department in 2002 were established as separate corporate bodies in the meantime.

Date

Total Staff Serving

Total Contract & Temporary

31 December 2002

175.00

6

31 October 2007

177.22

6

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

363 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount spent by his Department in 2004, 2005, 2006 and to date in 2007 for air travel, business class flights and first class flights in tabular readable form. [30621/07]

The following table sets out the expenditure incurred by my Department since 2004 on air travel as requested by the Deputy:

Total

Business Class

2004

275,234

134,623

2005

87,733

29,366

2006

74,546

9,575

2007

67,622

18,037

In relation to the breakdown between business and first class costs, my Department does not retain details on the class of travel undertaken. However, my Department's contracted air travel services supplier has provided the breakdown outlined above, although only in respect of the amounts which they invoiced to the Department. Such a breakdown would not include expenditure associated with occasions when travel arrangements were made other than through the Department's air travel services supplier such as individual staff members arranging their own travel; travel costs incurred by third parties; or where travel is arranged by the Department of Foreign Affairs or one of my Department's agencies. In all such cases, the Department reimburses the individual/body concerned.

Damien English

Question:

364 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount spent by his Department on couriered documents, registered post and standard post to date in 2007 in tabular readable form. [30636/07]

The amount spent by my Department on couriered documents, registered post and standard post to date in 2007 is as follows:

Service

Spent to date in 2007

Couriered Documents

20,115

Registered Post

110

Standard Post

27,310

Departmental Staff.

Damien English

Question:

365 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the ten largest bonus payments made to staff in his Department and each of its agencies in the past 12 months. [30651/07]

The scheme of performance-related awards in the civil service applies to Deputy and Assistant Secretaries and equivalent grades only.

On the basis that the awards are confidential to the officer concerned details of individual awards are not disclosed nor is the total amount awarded under the scheme made known in respect of Departments where there are less than 5 officers covered by the scheme which would allow them to be identified, which is the case in my Department. Details of the operation of the scheme are available in the report of the Committee for Performance Awards which can be accessed on the website of the Department of Finance at www.finance.gov.ie/documents/ publications/reports/CPArep2006.pdf.

The payment of performance related awards to staff in agencies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for the relevant agency.

Damien English

Question:

366 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of civil servants in his Department who have transferred to other Government Departments or left the Civil Service in each of the past five years in tabular readable form. [30666/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table in respect of positions in the Department including the National Archives and including the National Museum of Ireland and National Library of Ireland prior to their establishment as corporate bodies in May 2005:

Year

Staff who transferred to other Departments

Staff who left the Civil Service

2002 (from September)

2

10

2003

3

27

2004

7

32

2005

9

12

2006

50

3

2007

25

30

Damien English

Question:

367 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing that have been reported to his Department by departmental staff since 1 January 2007. [30681/07]

There have been no allegations of victimisation for whistleblowing reported in my Department by Departmental staff since 1 January 2007.

Sports Capital Programme.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

368 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding funding to a club (details supplied) in County Dublin as this club urgently needs refurbishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30734/07]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, grants are allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

The organisation in question was allocated grants totalling €100,000 in 2006 and 2007. The 2006 grant allocation of €50,000, which was allocated towards surface replacement, has all been drawn down bar the retention amount of €2,500 which will be paid upon receipt of proof of completion of the project. The 2007 grant allocation of €50,000, towards gym equipment, has been formally approved and my Department is awaiting further documentation in order to process the payment.

The date of the next round of the Programme has not yet been decided. As in previous years, advertisements announcing the next round of the Programme will be placed in the national press.

It will be open to the club, should they have a project which satisfies the Terms and Conditions of the Programme, to submit an application at that time.

Tourism Industry.

Joe Carey

Question:

369 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on whether the removal of the refund of excise duty on fuel used in passenger transport services will cause hardship for the tourism industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30817/07]

Questions in relation to excise duty are matters for my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, Mr Brian Cowen TD, in the first instance.

I understand that the Department of Finance, in conjunction with other relevant Departments including my Department, is exploring alternative non-tax support mechanisms that could be put in place, where appropriate, to maintain the assistance currently being provided, subject of course to compatibility with EU State Aid requirements.

Obviously, pressures on costs affecting tourists or tourism-related businesses, including pressures caused by the removal of reliefs, could lead to further pressure on the competitiveness of Ireland's tourism industry, which operates in a highly competitive marketplace.

I understand that the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, has previously advised the House that, in the interim, the reduced rates applicable to fuel used will be maintained.

Departmental Agencies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

370 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism further to previous parliamentary questions which were not completely answered, the budgets, members and staff of all the boards, bodies, authorities, agencies and quangos under the remit of his Department from 1997 to 2007. [30852/07]

The information sought by the Deputy in respect of the organisations under the remit of my Department since its establishment in mid 2002 is set out in the following table, with the exception of the budgetary information. This is set out in my Department's Estimates, which are published annually as part of the Estimates Volumes.

Current Boards, Bodies, Authorities and Agencies

Name

Date of Establishment

Number of Board Members

Authorised Staff Numbers

Arts Council

1951

13

49

Bord Scannán na hÉireann

The Irish Film Board was established under the Irish Film Board Act 1980

7

16

Culture Ireland

2005

13

5

National Museum of Ireland

Originally established in 1877. Established on a statutory basis in 2005

16

184

National Library of Ireland

Originally established in 1877. Established on a statutory basis in 2005

12

109

National Gallery of Ireland

1854

17

129

Irish Museum of Modern Art

1990

15

67

Crawford Gallery Cork

2006

16

14

Chester Beatty Library

1969

11

34

National Concert Hall

1981

15

71

Irish Manuscripts Commission

1928

20

1

National Archive Advisory Council

1986

12

Irish Sports Council

1999

11

30

Horse Racing Ireland

2001

14

157 (+615 part-time staff)

Bord na gCon

1958

7

137 (+532 part-time staff)

National Sports Campus Development Authority

2007

13

4.5

Fáilte Ireland (National Tourism Development Authority)

2006

13

419

Tourism Ireland (North/South Body)

2000

12

156

Shannon Development (Tourism Division)

1959

*

31

*Directors appointed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Departmental Properties.

Damien English

Question:

371 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the buildings occupied by his Department which are and which are not fully accessible to people with disabilities in tabular readable form. [31024/07]

There are currently three buildings occupied by my Department, two of which are located in Dublin at Kildare Street and South Frederick Street. Both of these buildings are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Staff in my Department also occupy offices in temporary accommodation at Fossa in County Kerry. With the exception of a small number of offices located on the first floor, the majority of staff are located in a large open plan office at ground floor level, which is accessible to people with disabilities.

My Department is in the process of decentralising to Killarney, County Kerry. Construction is currently underway on a new headquarters in Killarney, which will be fully accessible to people with disabilities and is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

Departmental Expenditure.

Damien English

Question:

372 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the cost of running his Department’s press office in each of the first three quarters of 2007 in tabular readable form. [31039/07]

The direct cost of running my Department's Press Office in each of the first three quarters of 2007, including salary costs, is set out in the following table:

Period

Total

Quarter 1

59,590

Quarter 2

59,580

Quarter 3

76,990

Departmental Websites.

Damien English

Question:

373 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the websites that are run by his Department and each of its agencies; the date on which each became live; if the sites are kept updated; the cost of each site to the State to date; and if he will provide the information in tabular readable form. [31054/07]