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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 4 Mar 2008

Vol. 649 No. 1

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 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 84, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 85 to 92, inclusive answered orally.

Proposed Legislation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

93 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when he will introduce legislation amending the provisions governing the operations of An Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. [8999/08]

In the context of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, there have been ongoing discussions between my Department and the Commission to make certain procedural and technical amendments in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. Indeed, I met with the Commission late last year and I indicated my broad approval for the preparation of the necessary legislative proposals in that regard.

I hope to bring those proposals to the Government for approval shortly.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

94 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to publish the promised Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill; if the Bill will include provisions to regulate the operation of management companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8971/08]

The Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill is currently being drafted and I intend to publish it as soon as possible this year. Because they provide property services, property management agents, together with auctioneers and estate agents, will be covered by the licensing system to be operated by the Property Services Regulatory Authority. The Authority is currently operating on a non-statutory basis but will be put on a statutory footing by the Bill.

As regards property management companies, the position is that the Law Reform Commission published a Consultation Paper on Multi-Unit Developments in December 2006. It identified a broad range of regulatory and other issues arising in relation to such developments, including problems relating to the structure and governance of property management companies and the manner in which company law currently applies to them.

The Law Reform Commission has indicated that it will publish, as soon as possible, its Report on Multi-Unit Developments which, following an extensive consultation process, will contain definitive reform proposals concerning the regulation and governance of property management companies. The Government has already directed that early action be taken by the relevant Departments to address the Commission's recommendations; the types of action to be taken will, of course, be dependent on the form that the recommendations take.

A high-level interdepartmental committee, under the chairmanship of my Department, comprising representatives of relevant Departments and Offices has been established to assist in the development of a coherent and comprehensive response to the problems arising in relation to multi-unit developments. A key task of this committee will be to identify the legislative and administrative actions to be taken in response to the Commission's recommendations and to determine a timescale for their implementation. This committee is reporting to a Cabinet Committee whose membership comprises the Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Attorney General.

Drug Seizures.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

95 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the recent increase in the amount of heroin being seized in view of the fact that this is an indication of the increase in the amount of heroin making it into the market here; and his further views on whether the Garda have sufficient resources and are giving sufficient priority to tackling the supply of heroin. [9003/08]

Consideration of the issue of heroin misuse in Ireland needs to take place in the global context within which such misuse takes place.

The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime estimates that 90% of the heroin which is consumed in the European Union originates from Afghanistan. The sharp increase both in cultivation and production of illicit opium poppy in Afghanistan, which in 2007, recorded its highest level ever continues to result in an increasing supply of the drug being available right across the European Union, including in Ireland. This development is reflected in the increasing level of seizures of the drugs which have been made by An Garda Síochána here in recent times.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána seized approximately 128 kg of the drug in 2006, 125 kg of the drug in 2007 and that approximately 49 kg of the drug has already been seized for this year for the period January 1 to February 13, inclusive. I am advised that these statistics for 2007 and 2008 are provisional pending the publication of the Garda Annual Reports for the years in question.

Undoubtedly these are very significant volumes of the drug which have been seized by An Garda Síochána. In monetary terms this equates to heroin with a street value of approximately €60.5m being captured by the Gardaí and I warmly commend their ongoing work in this regard.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that this increasing level of heroin seizures is as a result of ongoing and intelligence-led operations specifically targeting those suspected of involvement in the importation and distribution of illegal drugs and that these operations have led to a number of very significant arrests in recent times of those involved in the drugs trade.

Of course this is an ongoing work in progress and the Government fully acknowledges that tackling the problem of drug trafficking remains an ongoing challenge to be faced with vigilance.

In terms of resources, as the Deputy will appreciate, policing operations and the deployment of Garda resources are matters for the Garda Commissioner. It is and must remain the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel within the Garda organisation on a priority basis in accordance with overall policing requirements.

The Garda National Drugs Unit is the primary unit within An Garda Síochána charged with responsibility for drug supply law enforcement. As at 31 January 2008 the personnel strength of the Unit was 65.

Since the publication of the Government's National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, Garda resources in the fight against illicit drugs have increased. This is particularly evident with the creation of additional Divisional Drug Units in areas of particular need. These Drugs Units operate in Divisions throughout the country with a primary focus on local drugs activities.

Both the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Divisional units are also supported in their work by officers from other national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. Furthermore, all Gardaí are tasked with confronting drugs related issues as they arise.

The assignment of Garda personnel throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. This takes place against the background of the unprecedented expansion of An Garda Síochána which has taken and will continue to take place increasing the overall strength of the Gardaí to 16,000. Additional Garda resources are coming on stream all the time, These additional human resources will facilitate the Garda Commissioner in the allocation of additional manpower to areas most in need, including areas with a significant drug problem.

Finally, I can assure the House that I will continue to keep the measures and resources for tackling all forms of drug trafficking, including the trafficking of heroin, under review. The enforcement of the law relating to drugs continues to be a key element in the Government's policing priorities and this is reflected in An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan for 2008.

National Drugs Strategy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

96 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the reported comments of a person (details supplied) that moneys confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau should go to communities ravaged by drugs; and if he will consult with the Department of Finance with a view to putting arrangements in place to ring-fence such moneys in the future as additional funding for community development programmes in drug-ridden areas. [8998/08]

While I recognise the good faith in this suggestion, I do not envisage being in a position to accede to it. In particular, I am informed by the Minister for Finance, that in accordance with the requirements of Article 11 of the Constitution, revenue accruing to the State, including revenue which has been accumulated as a result of drug trafficking, which is seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau, is paid into the Central Fund. It is this Central Fund from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment. I am further informed that there are no proposals at present to alter these arrangements.

With certain exceptions, it is believed that earmarking revenues for a specific expenditure programme would, in general, constrain the Government in the implementation of its overall expenditure policy.

A policy of ring-fencing monies obtained by the Exchequer and the reallocation of same for a specific purpose runs contrary to the normal Estimates process and could have far-reaching implications. The Constitution requires, and Government accounting principles provide, that public monies be spent only as voted or approved by Dáil Éireann unless otherwise provided by statute.

To agree that revenues secured through the Criminal Assets Bureau be allocated for drug victims, for example, would mean that the treatment of drug victims would be financed, in part at least, by uncertain and variable revenue sources. Furthermore, if certain revenues which are variable were earmarked for particular projects within the overall fight against drug abuse, any projects thus funded would be dependent on actual revenue collected from that source. To put it bluntly, this could mean that a fall in revenue generated by that source would lead to a fall in expenditure on such drug-related projects.

The Government is already allocating very considerable resources to a wide range of Government Departments and State Agencies as well as to the Community and Voluntary treatment sectors to tackle the issue of drug misuse. For example, in 2008 the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has been allocated €64.3 million for the expenditure subhead Drugs Initiative/Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund. The vast bulk of this funding is committed by the Government in developing a comprehensive and co-ordinated response to the drugs problem at local levels.

I can assure the House that the Government remains firmly committed to the provision of significant funding to tackle the issue of drug misuse particularly in the areas where the problem is most acute.

Juvenile Offenders.

Michael Creed

Question:

97 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the aspects of the capital budget for juvenile justice that have been cut back in the current budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9081/08]

The capital budget for the Irish Youth Justice Service, an executive office of my Department, is €9 million in 2008. This capital allocation is in respect of spending on the 4 children detention schools for which my Department assumed responsibility on 1 March of last year. The allocation for 2008 is required to fund a range of projects across the 4 schools and to begin to fund the development of new children detention facilities for which planning is expected to commence shortly. The Government's commitment to spending in this area is set out in the Programme for Government and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2007 to 2013 both of which have identified the development of children detention facilities as a priority. Exchequer and NDP funding of €144.8 million has been allocated over the period 2008-2012 and spending has been scheduled over this 5 year period.

Work has progressed on a number of capital projects since 1 March 2007 and it is anticipated that the 2008 allocation will be spent in full with further projects due to start this year. No project in the children detention schools has been put back or reduced in scale as a result of the budgetary process.

In 2006 an Expert Group was appointed to make recommendations in relation to the development of the children detention schools. The Group's first progress report was completed in December 2006 and the final report was submitted to my colleague, Brendan Smith T.D., Minister for Children, in December 2007. The Minister has given careful consideration to the recommendations of that report and has brought proposals to Government recently. I understand that the Expert Group's Report will be published shortly and my colleague will make an announcement on the matter in due course.

In the last year, since my Department assumed responsibility, expenditure in the detention schools provided for improved facilities to all of the schools. This will ensure the extended life and continued operation of the existing buildings pending plans for redevelopment. The ongoing projects include the construction of a swimming pool to replace a derelict facility on the Oberstown campus and the upgrading of sanitary facilities at the Trinity House School building.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

98 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of inquiries in respect of any tribunal of inquiry, commission of inquiry or investigation for which he or his Department have or have had responsibility since 1997 to date in 2008; the name of each inquiry; the terms of reference of each inquiry; the cost of each inquiry including the cost to date where an inquiry has not been concluded; the dates of each inquiry including the projected date of conclusion where an inquiry has not been concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8965/08]

The information sought by the Deputy has been compiled by my Department and, as it comprises a substantial amount of detail, is set out in a written Tabular format for ease of reference.

In summary, there have been eight instances involving the establishment of Tribunals of Inquiry, Commissions of Investigation or other statutory inquiries under my Department's aegis since 1997. In addition, the costs associated with two inquiries under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 1990 initiated on the application of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment fell to be met, in the first instance, by my Department.

Of the eight examinations I have referred to, four have concluded their work. The Morris Tribunal, the Smithwick Tribunal, the Commission of Investigation into the handling of child sex abuse allegations against the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Commission of Investigation into the death of Mr. Gary Douch in Mountjoy prison are all continuing with their work.

The total cost of the eight examinations to date has been in the region of €67m.

The position with respect to Tribunals of Inquiry, Commissions of Investigation or other statutory inquiries under my Department's aegis over the period referred to is set out below:

Name of Tribunal of Inquiry/Commission of Inquiry/Investigation

Terms of Reference

Cost/Cost to date

Date of Commencement

Date of completion/Projected date of completion

Enquiry by Mr. Justice Francis D. Murphy under the provisions of section 21 of the Courts of Justice (District Court) Act 1946

Enquiry regarding Judge O’Buachalla’s handling of the licensing of Jack White’s Inn in the name of Mrs. Catherine Nevin and the discharge of his judicial functions in certain cases brought before him by two Gardaí.

€670,000

April, 2000

Completed — November, 2000

Morris Tribunal

Tribunal of Inquiry into complaints concerning some Gardaí of the Donegal Division.

€39.7m to end December, 2007

24 April, 2002

June, 2008

Barr Tribunal

Tribunal of Inquiry into the facts and circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of John Carthy at Abbeylara, Co. Longford on 20 April, 2000.

€19.8 Million

July 2002

Completed — July 2006

Smithwick Tribunal of Inquiry

To inquire into the following definite matter of urgent public importance: Suggestions that members of the Garda Síochána or other employees of the State colluded in the fatal shootings of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Robert Buchanan on 20 March, 1989; and to report to the Clerk of Dáil Éireann and to make such findings and recommendations as it sees fit in relation to these matters.

€3,396,528 (cost to date, as of 31 December, 2007)

31 May, 2005

Unknown, as the Tribunal will complete its work only upon the submission of its final report, the time frame of which cannot be projected given the nature of its work.

Hartnett Inquiry

Hartnett Inquiry under the Dublin Police Act, 1924, into the circumstances surrounding the arrest, treatment and detention of Mr. Brian Rossiter (deceased) in 2002.

€0.737m (to end December 2007)

14 September, 2005

Report presented to the Minister in October 2007

Commission of Investigation (Dean Lyons Case)

Commission of Investigation into the circumstances surrounding the making of a confession by Mr. Dean Lyons (deceased) regarding the deaths of Ms. Mary Callinan and Ms Sylvia Sheils in Grangegorman, Dublin in March, 1997.

€0.984m

7 February, 2006

Report presented to the Minister 28 July, 2006

Name of Tribunal of Inquiry/Commission of Inquiry/Investigation

Terms of Reference

Cost/Cost to date

Date of Commencement

Date of completion/Projected date of completion

Commission of Investigation to: (i) Investigate the handling of child sex abuse allegations against the Archdiocese of Dublin and (ii) examine implementation by dioceses of Church guidelines and the recommendations of the Ferns Report.

1. To select a representative sample of complaints or allegations of child sexual abuse made to the archdiocesan and other Church authorities and public and State authorities in the period 1 January 1975 to 1 May 2004 against clergy operating under the aegis of the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin. 2. To examine and report on the nature of the response to those sample complaints or allegations on the part of the authorities to which those sample complaints or allegations were reported, including whether there is any evidence of attempts on the part of those authorities to obstruct, prevent or interfere with the proper investigation of such complaints.

Cost to Date €1,821,856 Provision has been made in the Vote of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to meet the commission’s cost which is projected at €6.3 million over the full term.

28 March, 2006

On 30 July, 2007 the Government approved an extension of one year tothe term of the Commission to 28September, 2008

3. In the case of complaints or allegations being examined, to examine and report also on the nature of the response to any other complaints or allegations made by the complainant or against the person in respect of who those complaints or allegations were made, including any such complaints or allegations made before 1 January, 1975

4. To select a representative sample of cases where the archdiocesan and other Church and public and State authorities had in the period 1 January, 1975 to 1 May 2004 knowledge of or strong and clear suspicion of or reasonable concern regarding sexual abuse involving clergy operating under the aegis of the archdiocese of Dublin.

5. To establish the response of the archdiocesan and other Catholic Church and public and State authorities to those sample cases.

Name of Tribunal of Inquiry/Commission of Inquiry/Investigation

Terms of Reference

Cost/Cost to date

Date of Commencement

Date of completion/Projected date of completion

6. To establish the levels of communication that prevailed between the archdiocesan and other Catholic Church authorities and public and State authorities with regard to those sample complaints, allegations, knowledge, reasonable concern or strong and clear suspicion.

7. To examine, following a notification from the Minister for Health and Children, that a Catholic diocese in the State may not have established the structures or may not be operating satisfactorily the procedures set out in the Report of the Irish Catholic Bishops Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by Priests and Religious, Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response (1996) and any subsequent similar document, the position in that diocese.

8. To examine, following a notification from the Minister for Health and Children that a Catholic diocese in the State may not be implementing satisfactorily the recommendations of the Ferns Report delivered to the Minister for Health and Children on 25 October, 2005, the position in that diocese; and make a report on these matters considered by Government to be of significant public concern.

Name of Tribunal of Inquiry/Commission of Inquiry/Investigation

Terms of Reference

Cost/Cost to date

Date of Commencement

Date of completion/Projected date of completion

Commission of Investigation (Death of Mr. Gary Douch in Mountjoy Prison)

Following on from the report dated 2 March 2007 of the “Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Gary Douch, a Prisoner in Mountjoy Prison” by Mr. Michael Mellett, the Commission shall without prejudice to any criminal or disciplinary proceedings, carry out any further investigations it considers necessary into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Gary Douch including in particular; an examination of the chronology of treatment (including medical) and management (including transfers) of the individual identified in the report as “Prisoner A” taking into account all available information and documentation in that regard and examining all persons whose testimony may throw light on the issues which arise; a review of policies, practices and procedures regarding the safety of prisoners in custody whether in prison, a place of detention, the Central Mental Hospital or other institution and in particular; a review of protocols for those prisoners with specific behavioural problems or vulnerabilities (psychiatric, violent or disruptive or those in need of additional protection), a review of their application in this case, a review of any changes which have taken place since the 1st August 2006; the making of recommendations on what cost effective policies and / or legislative measures could be adopted in the future for the management and treatment of such prisoners together with an estimate of the approximate implementation costs with a view to promoting the safety and health of prisoners providing a secure and safe environment for prisoners and persons dealing with prisoners, and safeguarding the public interest.

€340,000

2nd May, 2007

Ongoing, expected to report in 2009

In addition, the costs associated with the enquiries under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 1990 underneath, initiated on the application of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment fell to be met, in the first instance, by my Department.

Name of Tribunal of Inquiry/Commission of Inquiry/Investigation

Terms of Reference

Cost/Cost to date

Date of Commencement

Date of completion/Projected date of completion

National Irish Bank Inquiry

The High Court appointed Inspectors to National Irish Bank (NIB) under section 8 of the Companies Act 1990 on the application of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

€5,842,952.92 — this was reimbursed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in April, 2005.

1 April, 1998

The Inspectors presented their Report to the High Court on 12 July, 2004.

Ansbacher Inquiry

The High Court appointed inspectors to Ansbacher (Cayman) Ltd. under section 8 of the Companies Act, 1990 on the application of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The Inspection cost was €3.45m. €1.25m was reimbursed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in early 2004.

22 September, 1999

June, 2002

Proposed Legislation.

Frank Feighan

Question:

99 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will amend the law on the matter of theatre licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9056/08]

The Government Legislative Programme published on 29 January last provides for the publication of a Sale of Alcohol Bill in late 2008. This Bill will modernise and streamline the laws relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol, including provisions relating to the grant of theatre licences and the sale of alcohol in such premises, by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2004, and replacing them with updated provisions more suited to modern conditions.

As the Deputy may be aware, I have asked the Government Alcohol Advisory Group to examine the public order aspects of the sale and consumption of alcohol, including issues relating to longer opening hours and special exemption orders, and to report to me with their assessment of how best to proceed by 31 March.

I intend then to bring forward a short Bill with urgent proposals for statutory reforms which I hope will, with the assistance of both Houses, be enacted and implemented before the Summer recess. I will of course consider giving effect to any reforms recommended by the Group in relation to theatre licences in this legislation.

Regulation of Legal Profession.

Mary Upton

Question:

100 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for the effective regulation of solicitors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8992/08]

Bernard Allen

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied with the legislation governing regulation of the legal profession; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9077/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 141 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 89 of 13 December 2007. I have nothing further to add to the details of that reply other than to say that the Government Legislative Programme published on 29 January 2008 provides for the publication of a Legal Services Ombudsman Bill in the current session.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Jack Wall

Question:

101 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of inquiries in respect of any tribunal of inquiry, commission of inquiry or investigation for which he has responsibility, in respect of which a final report has not been published; the date of the establishment; the date on which a report was submitted to his Department; the date on which such a report has been published or is expected to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8993/08]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question, Reference 8965/08 of today, which sets out the Tribunals of Inquiry, Commissions of Investigation or other Statutory Inquiries under my Department's aegis. The position insofar as such examinations where a final report has not yet been published is as follows.

Name of Tribunal/Commission of Investigation

Date Established

Date Report Submitted to Department

Date Report Expected to be Published

Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation

28 March, 2006

N/A

On 30 July, 2007 the Government approved an extension of one year tothe term of the Commission to 28 September, 2008

Smithwick Tribunal of Inquiry

31 May, 2005

N/A

Unknown, as the Tribunal will submit its final report only upon completion of its work, the time frame of which cannot be projected given the nature of this work.

Commission of Investigation (Death of Mr. Gary Douch in Mountjoy Prison)

2 May, 2007

N/A

2009

Hartnett Inquiry

14 September, 2005

October 2007

Summary to be presented shortly

Morris Tribunal

24 April, 2002

The Morris Tribunal concluded the hearing of all evidence in December 2007. It has produced five comprehensive reports to date, all of which have been published.

It is expected that the final three reports will be published when received.

Family Law Proceedings.

John Deasy

Question:

102 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the issues raised by the Final Report of the Family Law Reporting Service on changes to the in camera rule, published in early November 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9072/08]

The Report of the Family Law Reporting Pilot Project sums up the work of the one-year pilot project, undertaken by Dr Carol Coulter for the Courts Service. This initiative was permitted by a change in the law on the in camera rule in family law. Dr. Carol Coulter was engaged to carry out the reporting of family law on a pilot basis.

The Report comes in two parts. The first part deals with the reporting project itself and makes suggestions, primarily aimed at the Courts Service, for the future direction of the Family Law Reporting Project including that the project should continue. Among the 18 recommendations made in the Report are:

the Courts Service should decide if it is appropriate for it to provide a reporting service on family law, and if so, it should decide what such a service would consist of;

whether the Regulations, naming those entitled to attend family law proceedings, could be amended to allow bona fide members of the press to attend;

if the Courts Service decides to continue the project it should do so for another year — while progressing the digital recording of judgments;

from 2009, or earlier if practicable, the Courts Service should publish judgments, decisions, statistics and some reports or sample cases on the Courts Service website;

the Courts Service should consider nominating a representative to liaise with academic institutions on family law;

the creation of a new Rule of Court to allow judges to give direction in court to those reporting family law proceedings, particularly on how to maintain litigants' anonymity; and

the Central Statistics Office should be asked to extend its examination of statistics in the Courts Service to family law.

I welcome the establishment by the Courts Service of a Special Committee to oversee the Family Law Reporting Project for a further year and to consider the recommendations made in Dr Coulter's report with a view to making proposals for their implementation. I understand that the Committee has commenced its work.

Garda Investigations.

Liz McManus

Question:

103 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda investigation into the Northern Bank robbery in 2004 has been completed; if the Gardaí are of the view that money recovered in Cork in 2005 were proceeds of the robbery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8974/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána has submitted a comprehensive investigation file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in relation to this matter and that directions remain awaited.

As the issue remains the subject of ongoing consideration by the DPP, it would not be appropriate to make further comment at this stage.

Joint Policing Committees.

Liz McManus

Question:

104 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his assessment of the performance of the local police committees; when it is intended to have such committees established countrywide; if changes to the legislation setting up the committees is contemplated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8976/08]

John Perry

Question:

126 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to drawing up guidelines for the operation of the proposed roll out of the Joint Policing Boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9083/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 126 together.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a joint policing committee in each local authority administrative area. The purpose of these committees is to provide a forum where members of a local authority and senior Garda officers, with the participation of Oireachtas members and community interests, can consult, discuss and make recommendations on matters affecting the policing of the area. There are currently 29 Committees in operation in a pilot phase to gain experience rolling the Committees out to all local authority areas in the State. In general the outcome to date has been positive and the Committees are meeting definite local needs.

Following on from a consultation seminar last November hosted by me and my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, work is underway on revising the guidelines under which the Committees operate, in the light of the experience gained to date. Following consultation with my Ministerial colleagues, I intend to issue these revised guidelines to enable the roll out of the Committees to take place as soon as possible, which I envisage will be in the middle of this year.

Juvenile Offenders.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

105 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is intended to detain young offenders at the planned Thornton Hall Prison complex in north Dublin; if he is satisfied that this plan is consistent with Ireland’s obligations under international conventions that prohibit the jailing of juveniles in adult places of detention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8969/08]

The Children Act 2001, as amended, provides for the extension of the children detention school model to all children under the age of 18 years who are ordered to be detained by the Courts. An Expert Group on Children Detention Schools was tasked by the Minister for Children in 2006 to initiate and plan for the necessary redevelopment of existing children detention schools including the development of new facilities to accommodate the 16 to 17 year age group who are currently accommodated in St. Patrick's Institution and to advise accordingly. The Expert Group's final report has been submitted to my colleague the Minister for Children in December 2007 and he has given consideration to the matter and will make an announcement shortly.

The redevelopment of children detention school places will take time as it requires detailed planning, design and consultation with stakeholders to ensure that high quality facilities are created. In the interim it is necessary to retain the use of St. Patrick's Institution until suitable children detention school places can be created with regard to 16 and 17 year old boys.

As all prison accommodation on the Mountjoy site, including St. Patrick's Institution, is to be closed it is necessary to make provision for interim accommodation, should it be required, for 16 and 17 year old boys on the Thornton Hall campus. The campus structure of Thornton Hall will ensure that a facility for 16 and 17 year old boys is segregated from facilities being used by adult offenders. On completion of the detention school development project all children under 18 years of age being detained will only be accommodated in dedicated children facilities. This is compatible with UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and as provided for in the Children Act 2001, as amended.

Prison Drug Treatment Services.

John Perry

Question:

106 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners who participated in drug detoxification programmes in Irish prisons in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9066/08]

The dedicated multidisciplinary drug detoxification programme in the Medical Unit in Mountjoy Prison involves both prison based staff and external agencies. The aim of the Unit is to assist prisoners who have indicated a desire to move from either a situation of current drug use or existing substitution programme to drug free status.

Participation is based on assessment of suitability for the programme. Each programme lasts six weeks and can facilitate up to nine prisoners. An essential element of this programme is that suitable arrangements are organised to ensure appropriate throughcare and follow-up of participants. During 2007, a total of 56 prisoners participated in this programme.

The detoxification programme is just one of the many drug rehabilitation programmes currently being offered in Irish prisons. These programmes seek to reduce the demand for drugs within the prison system through education, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug-addicted prisoners. Particular initiatives include, inter alia, methadone maintenance, education programmes, addiction counselling and drug therapy programmes. These programmes involve a significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prison Service and visiting statutory and non-statutory organisations.

Finally, I should add that the capacity to deliver the Irish Prison Service's Drugs Policy and Strategy will be significantly enhanced by the provision of the new complex at Thornton Hall.

Departmental Publications.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

107 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of reports commissioned by the Government in the areas covered by his Department between July 1997 and 1 January 2007; the number of reports fully implemented; the number of reports partly implemented; the number of reports unimplemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9073/08]

I refer the Deputy to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 443 of 16 May, 2006 which included information detailing reports published by my Department from June 1997 to May 2006.

In addition, the reports listed below, which were produced or commissioned from May 2006 to January 2007, relate to my Department's areas of responsibility. As is evident from the list, and from the material supplied in the previous response, many of these documents are annual or other regular reports produced by my Department, or by bodies under its aegis, concerning their operations and not commissioned as advice as such. Given the breadth and complexity of the issues covered by my Department it would not be feasible to catalogue any recommendations made in the format sought without the application of a disproportionate amount of staff time. In any event, the Deputy will appreciate that reports such as those listed below form only one of a number of sources of information, advice and consultation in the policy making process and the development of policy in any given area will be generally be based on a broad range of considerations and inputs.

Name of Report

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform Annual Report 2005.

Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into certain Gardaí in the Donegal Division — Report on Explosives “Finds” in Donegal.

Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into certain Gardaí in the Donegal Division — Report on Investigation into the Death of Richard Barron and The Extortion calls to Michael and Charlotte Peoples.

Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into certain Gardaí in the Donegal Division — Report on the Garda investigation of an arson attack on property situated on the site of the telecommunications mast at Ardara, County Donegal in October and November of 1996.

Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into certain Gardaí in the Donegal Division — Report on the circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of Mark McConnell on the 1st October 1998 and Michael Peoples on the 6th of May 1999.

Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into certain Gardaí in the Donegal Division — Report on the arrest and detention of seven persons at Burnfoot, County Donegal on the 23rd of May 1998 and the investigation relating to same.

Report of the Commission of Investigation (Dean Lyons Case)

Report by Shane Murphy SC in relation to Dean Lyons

Report by Shane Murphy SC in relation to allegations against members of the Gardaí based in Donegal

Report of the Hartnett Inquiry into the arrest, detention and treatment of Brian Rossiter and the subsequent investigation of his death

The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness Report of the Working Group on the Review of the Parental Leave Act 1998

Uptake of Parental Leave and Force Majeure Leave Research by MORI MRC

Review of the Parental Leave Act, 1998: Attitudinal Survey of Employees, Employers and Trade Union Representatives regarding the provisions of the Act (Newmarket Consulting Ltd)

Report on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace in EU Member States

Extending the Scope of Employment Equality Legislation: Comparative Perspectives on the Prohibited Grounds of Discrimination

P2000 — Working Group Report on Equality Proofing

Closing the Gap Conference Report

Report of the Casino Committee

Second Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention for the year 2006-2007

Annual Report of the Parole Board 2005

Report of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the Operation of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Legislation for 2006

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Wheatfield Prison

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Arbour Hill Prison

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Fort Mitchel Place of Detention

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Castlerea Prison

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Loughan House Place of Detention

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Cloverhill Prison

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Mountjoy Prison

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Cork Prison

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Shelton Abbey Place of Detention

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to the Training Unit Place of Detention

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Limerick Prison

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to the Midlands Prison

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to Portlaoise Prison

Annual Report for 2005 of the Visiting Committee to St. Patrick’s Institution

Report of the Working Group on Privacy

Report of the Study Group on Pre-nuptial Agreements

Options Paper Presented by the Working Group on Domestic Partnerships

Report of the Legal Costs Implementation Advisory Group

The Probation and Welfare Service Annual Report 2004

The Probation Service Annual Report 2005

Reports on the Operation of Part III of the Extradition Act 1965 as amended in the years 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 made to the Houses of the Oireachtas by the Government pursuant to Section 6 of the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987 as amended by Section 15 of the Extradition (Amendment) Act 1994

Reports on the Operation of the European Arrest Warrent Act 2003 as amended in the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 made to the Houses of the Oireachtas by the Central Authority in the person of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform pursuant to Section 6(6) of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 as amended

Principles to Guide Core Funding for New Communities Organisations

First Progress Report of the Committee to Monitor and Co-Ordinate the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Task Force on the Travelling Community

Second Progress Report of the Committee to Monitor and Co-Ordinate the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Task Force on the Travelling Community

Report of the High Level Group on Traveller Issues

National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016

Business Analysis and Review of the Asylum, Immigration and Citizenship Areas

Strategic Review and Analysis of the Refugee Documentation Centre

Information Management and Information Technology Strategy for the organisations under the auspices of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Divisions of the Department directly involved in the asylum process and related immigration processes

Nally Report — Edited version (Report examining matters arising from the “Report raising concerns over the activity of An Garda Síochána Officers during 1998” dated 22 March, 2002, prepared by the police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland for the Minister for Foreign Affairs’)

Report on the Protection of Documents held in the Registry of Deeds

First Interim Report of the Archives Advisory Group

Garda Reserve.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

108 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda reservists assigned to Garda stations to date; the name and location of each station along with the number of reservists assigned there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9062/08]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

160 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda Reserve recruited to date; the stations to which they have been allocated; the number of applicants for the Reserve currently in training; when he expects that the full complement of 1,500 will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8990/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 160.

The total personnel strength of the Garda Reserve, including trainees, as at 31st January 2008 was 277. At a graduation ceremony to take place in the Garda College on Thursday 6th March, it is expected that approximately 60 more trainees will be attested. The next intake of trainees will be on the weekend of 8th and 9th March.

The 206 attested members currently operational are attached to the following Stations:

DMR (Dublin Metropolitan Region) Stations — 101:

DMR South Central Division — Pearse Street (20), Kevin Street (5), Kilmainham (3) and Donnybrook (6).

DMR North Central Division — Store Street (9), Bridewell (6) and Fitzgibbon Street (6).

DMR West Division — Clondalkin (2), Finglas (3), Lucan (3), Ballyfermot (3) and Blanchardstown (6).

DMR North Division — Santry (1), Raheny (3), Swords (3), Clontarf (1), Coolock (3), Ballymun (2) and Balbriggan (2).

DMR South Division — Crumlin (2), Sundrive Road (1), Rathmines (2) and Terenure (1).

DMR East Division — Bray (2), Dun Laoghaire (3) and Blackrock (3).

Stations outside DMR — 105:

Mayfield (2), Gurranabraher (1), Midleton (4), Mitchelstown (1), Anglesea Street Cork (13), Togher (1), Sligo (5), Galway (12), Henry Street Limerick (9), Ennis (4), Tralee (1), Waterford (7), Tramore (2), Kilkenny (4), Wexford (3), New Ross (1), Gorey (1), Newbridge (1), Blessington (1), Naas (2), Carlow (2), Clonmel (2), Cahir (1), Carrick on Suir (1), Tipperary town (1), Cavan town (2), Monaghan town (1), Drogheda (4), Dundalk (3), Kells (1), Castlebar (4), Westport (1), Ballina (3), Mullingar (3) and Letterkenny (1).

Recruitment is continuing and regular promotional efforts to attract potential Reserve members are being undertaken. Garda Reserve members undertake their training and other duties on a voluntary basis during their free time. As a result it is not possible to predict how many people will commence training in any particular month.

I cannot predict exactly when the full complement of Garda Reserve members will be reached but I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána have advised that they are making every effort to reach it.

Asylum Process.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

109 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he shares the view expressed by the Minister of State with responsibility for integration that cases taken by a voracious group of barristers were responsible for the grief and difficulty surrounding the asylum process; if he has raised this issue with the Bar Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8995/08]

I presume the Deputy is referring to remarks attributed to the Minister for Integration which were reported in the media in January of this year.

I should point out at the outset, that notwithstanding the lower number of applications in recent years, significant levels of abuse continue in our asylum process. In the region of 90% of asylum applications are determined to be unfounded after the exhaustion of all possible appeals. I say this to remind the Deputy that we can never become complacent about ensuring the integrity of our asylum processes and to demonstrate that there will always be individuals who will cynically seek to exploit the system in a way that distracts our attention from the needs of the genuine asylum seeker.

It is against this background that the current level of Judicial Reviews is a genuine cause for concern. In my view, it is clearly evident that many people use the Judicial Review process simply in order to prolong their stay in the State. As the Deputy is probably aware, delays in finalising cases in the asylum area can occur for a variety of reasons, including giving applicants and appellants the fullest opportunity possible to present their cases and the determination of Judicial Review proceedings, where such a course of action is pursued. However, it is a reality that the large scale of Judicial Reviews currently taken does contribute to significant delays in the processing regime.

It is important that the refugee status determination process in Ireland is not seen as being any less robust, when compared to that in other countries, by those who would wish to use it as a means to enter Ireland outside of the normal immigration channels. Delays in the process, however they are caused, could lead to such a view being formed. I understand that a small group of legal firms are responsible for a significant percentage of judicial reviews lodged in the asylum area and that many of the statements of grounds of these judicial reviews are of a generalised or non-specific nature. The understandable concern in relation to many of these cases is that legal action is being pursued with the primary intention of frustrating the determination process and delaying the finalisation of the processing of applications where the decision would almost certainly be that the applicants are not in fact in need of protection in Ireland.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill (which recently passed Second Stage in this House) comprehensively reforms and simplifies the current system through the introduction of a single procedure for the investigation of all grounds including protection ones put forward by applicants for protection. This reform of the processing framework will lead to the removal of the existing multi-layered and sequential process and will allow an applicant to get a final decision on their application in a more timely and efficient fashion. Along with other provisions in the Bill, this reform is intended to reduce the time taken to process each case to finality which is in the interests of the applicant and the protection of the integrity of the application process.

In conclusion, I have no difficulty in discussing these issues with the Bar Council and the Law Society and it is my intention to do so.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

110 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of murders since the beginning of 2008 in which firearms were used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8986/08]

Willie Penrose

Question:

166 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2008; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases where convictions were secured; if he is satisfied with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8985/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 166 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table shows the number of murders recorded, detected, proceedings commenced and convictions, which involved the use of a firearm, for the years 1998 to 2008 up to 26 February. Investigations into many of these cases are ongoing and, accordingly, the number of cases where prosecutions are initiated can be expected to rise. I have outlined to the House previously difficulties which can arise in detecting gangland killings and the extensive efforts being made by An Garda Síochána to overcome these.

Murders involving Firearms 1998 to 26 February 2008

Year

Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

2008

3

0

0

0

2007

18

5

2

0

2006

26

7

5

2

2005

22

5

2

2

2004

9

8

5

4

2003

20

11

4

2

2002

11

6

5

4

2001

9

5

2

2

2000

12

7

6

2

1999

12

7

7

5

1998

4

3

2

1

Figures for 2007 and 2008 are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Departmental Reports.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

111 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the report submitted to him on 14 December 2007 by the designated judge under the Interception of Postal Packages and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 Section 8(1) as substituted by the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, Section 66. [4113/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

148 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he last received a report from the Complaints Referee appointed under Section 9 of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Messages (Regulation) Act 1993; the main findings of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6505/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

501 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he last received a report from the judge designated under Section 67 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, to keep under review the provisions in the Act in regard to powers given to An Garda Síochána to access data in regard to telephone records; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6507/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

502 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he last received a report from the High Court Judge, designated under Section 8 of the Interception of Postal Packages and Telecommunication Messages (Regulation) Act 1993, to keep the Act under review; the main findings of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6506/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111, 148, 501 and 502 together.

The most recent report of the Designated Judge to the Taoiseach on the operation of both the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 and Part 7 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 was made on 14 December, 2007. This report, with no material excluded, was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 21 December, 2007.

The Deputy will be aware that the Designated Judge's oversight function and the ensuing reports to the Taoiseach, pursuant to Section 8 of the 1993 Act and Section 67 of the 2005 Act, provide an important public safeguard in relation to the State's lawful interception and telecommunications data access arrangements. In particular, these reports set out the findings of the Designated Judge's ongoing review of the operation of both the 1993 Act and Part 7 of the 2005 Act, including whether the Garda Síochána and the Permanent Defence Force are complying with their provisions.

I am pleased to note that in his most recent report, the Designated Judge expressed satisfaction that the provisions of both statutes are being complied with, after having inspected and checked the records maintained by the Garda Síochána, the Permanant Defence Force and my Department and after having received a satisfactory explanation to such queries as he raised. I welcome this finding, as I do the similar, previous findings of earlier reports of the Designated Judge.

In relation to reports by the Complaints Referee pursuant to Section 9 of the 1993 Act, such reporting provides a further safeguard in relation to the State's lawful interception arrangements by forming part of an independent complaints procedure for members of the public who believe that a communication sent to or by them has been intercepted. I am pleased to note that, to date, no such report has been received by the Taoiseach, which indicates that the Complaints Referee has, to date, never concluded, upon investigation of a complaint, that there has been a contravention of the relevant provisions of the 1993 Act.

Garda Compensation Tribunal.

Phil Hogan

Question:

112 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the Garda Compensation Tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9053/08]

Phil Hogan

Question:

137 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that members of An Garda Síochána are being refused leave to take compensation claims to the High Court by staff at his Department because their injuries are not deemed to be serious enough; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9054/08]

Tom Hayes

Question:

170 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications by Gardaí for compensation each year during the past five years; the number of applications awaiting decisions; the number of applications that were successful; the number refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9055/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112, 137 and 170 together.

Gardaí who sustained injuries maliciously inflicted upon them in the performance of their duties are entitled in accordance with the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 and 1945 to apply for an authorisation from my Department to seek compensation in the High Court. Section 6(1) of the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Act 1941 obliges me, as the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to refuse to authorise an application for compensation to the High Court where I am of opinion that the injury is of a minor character and was sustained in the performance of a duty not involving special risk. This assessment is discharged by my staff and is informed by medical reports and previous Court judgments in Garda Compensation Act cases.

The numbers of Garda compensation claims received for the years 2003 to 2007 are set out in the table below:

Claims per year

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

Received

198

257

249

194

270

During that period I authorised 771 cases and I refused 299. It is my practice never to refuse a case on the grounds that it is minor without giving the applicant a further opportunity to make representations. The number of compensation claims that are currently outstanding is 1,245.

I intend to bring legislative proposals to Government in the near future with the objective of establishing a Garda Compensation Tribunal which will deal with both minor and non minor injuries.

Deportation Orders.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

113 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his policy in relation to deportation of non-Irish nationals who under Section 3(2)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999, have served terms of imprisonment imposed on them by a court of this State; the details of those so deported to date following deportation orders made pursuant to section 3(1) of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7911/08]

I wish to refer the Deputy to the Reply given by me to his Dáil Question No. 514 of Tuesday 18 December 2007 and to the undertaking given by me at that time to provide the information requested. In the intervening time period, a cross referencing operation was undertaken which matched the data held by my Department with those records held by the Irish Prison Service. As a result of this exercise, I am now in a position to provide the Deputy with the information he requested.

The number of all non-Irish citizens released from prison and subsequently deported during the period from 1 February 2007 until 30 November 2007, including their nationalities, is as follows:

Month and Year

Nationality

Number of persons deported

3 April 2007

Canadian

1

6 June 2007

Moldovan

7 June 2007

Kosovan

1

12 June 2007

Chinese

1

28 July 2007

Georgian

1

7 August 2007

Chinese

1

3 September 2007

Australian

1

6 September 2007

Chinese

1

Total

8

My officials will undertake another cross referencing operation, matching data held by my Department with those records held by the Irish Prison Service in order to bring the statistics supplied up to the end of February 2008. I can assure the Deputy that the updated statistics will be conveyed to him at the earliest possible date.

My Department's policy — and indeed the accepted international practice — is that persons found not to have protection needs and no right to remain in the State, should be returned promptly to their home countries in order to protect the integrity of the asylum and immigration processes. To do otherwise would result in Ireland becoming a magnet for unfounded and abusive asylum claims, the consequence of which would be to undermine the immigration laws of the State and to make big demands on the Exchequer.

Sale of Alcohol.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

114 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will use the powers available to him under Section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 to provide for the traceability of alcohol sold for consumption off premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8988/08]

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

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

James Bannon

Question:

115 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he is taking to permit closed circuit television projects to go to tender which have received grant allocation subject to approval by joint policing committees and are being frustrated by the fact that such committees have been set up on a pilot basis in only a small number of areas, effectively penalising those projects in areas without a pilot policing committee. [4206/08]

In accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Joint Policing Committee for the relevant local authority area must be consulted before the local authority can approve an application to the Garda Commissioner for authorisation for a CCTV system. The 29 Joint Policing Committees currently established in a pilot phase operate under revised guidelines issued by my predecessor in May 2007. The purpose of the pilot phase is to gain experience from the operation of a number of Committees in a variety of local authority areas before rolling them out to all local authority areas in the State.

Following consultations with my colleagues the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, I intend to issue, as soon as possible, revised guidelines to enable roll-out of the committees to all local authority areas in the State. The guidelines will provide inter alia a timetable for this roll-out.

EU Directives.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

116 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is intended to implement the recent EU data retention legislation; the main features of what is proposed; if it will be carried out by primary legislation or by regulations; the consultations there have been or will be with interested groups and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8966/08]

Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the retention of data was due to be transposed by 15 September 2007. Under Article 249 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), Member States of the European Union as well as members of the European Economic Area (EEA) are bound to transpose such Directives. Failure to do so could result in the Commission bringing Ireland before the Court of Justice. The Irish challenge to the Directive to the European Court of Justice, which is grounded on the proper legal base for the instrument, does not excuse us from transposing the Directive. The Directive will ensure a high level of harmonisation of the laws governing the retention of data in the countries of the EU and EEA, which is essential in the fight against international organised crime, including terrorist crime.

Consultations have taken place with interest groups and further consultations are planned. I am at present finalising my proposals for implementing the Directive. These includes the periods of retention for the categories of data to be retained and the method of transposition, the two areas where we have some flexibility. The usual method of transposition for this class of Directive is by means of a Statutory Instrument.

I am aware of the views of the Data Protection Commissioner on the requirement to retain data and officials from my Department will be in touch with him again to discuss my proposals when they are finalised.

Garda Deployment.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

117 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the respective number of Gardaí in total in Limerick and Tallaght; the number of community Gardaí functioning in both areas; the number of Garda stations in each area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8979/08]

As of 31 January 2008 the personnel strength of Limerick Garda Division and Tallaght Garda Station was 592 and 180 respectively. The number of Community Gardaí assigned to the Limerick Garda Division and Tallaght Garda Station on 31 December, 2007 (the latest date for which figures are readily available) was 66 and 24, respectively.

The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual stations may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers. All Gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to be involved in Community Policing issues as they arise.

There is one Garda Station in Tallaght and there are 34 Garda Stations in the Limerick Garda Division which covers both the urban and rural areas.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. In doing this he takes into account all relevant factors, including population, crime rates and trends as well as operational priorities. The next allocation of Probationer Gardaí is due to take place on 13 March next. In that regard, the needs of the Garda Stations and Divisions referred to will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Garda Equipment.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

118 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost to date in the creation and functioning of the PULSE system; the original predicted cost of the PULSE system; if the system is fully or partially functioning; when those aspects of PULSE which are not functioning at present are expected to be brought on-line; if all Garda stations and associated locations have been connected to PULSE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9076/08]

Tom Sheahan

Question:

168 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he has taken to have shortcomings in PULSE addressed, particularly in the context of prosecuting limited companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9057/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 168 together.

I have been assured by the Garda authorities that the Garda Information System which includes PULSE is functioning very satisfactorily. Significant investment has been made to improve availability and response times and I am advised that as a result, since the beginning of 2007, there has been virtually no unplanned downtime. The PULSE system is more widely available than ever before, with access by both Garda and civilian personnel to over 2000 personal computers in 338 locations, including every Divisional and District Headquarters. The Deputies will be aware that the Garda Information Services Centre (GISC), which is based in Castlebar, allows Gardaí, who would otherwise have to return to their station to input or update incident data, to log the information over the telephone with the GISC, thus releasing Garda resources for visible, frontline policing across our communities.

The functionality of the PULSE system is continually upgraded and enhanced to accommodate new business requirements, policies and procedures as well as updates to reflect new legislation. I am advised by the Garda authorities that functionality in relation to the prosecution of limited companies will be provided in the next release of the system, which is scheduled to be deployed by mid-year. This new functionality will replace the current manual process used by the Garda Síochána to prosecute limited companies.

The original estimated budget for PULSE back in 1993 was in the region of €46.4m (£36.5m Punts). The system was developed over a number of phases and an number of additional items arose over the course of the project such as the need for additional external resources, costs associated with the Year 2000 and the provision of backup facilities. These additional items brought the total development cost of the system by 2001 to €61.3m. The Garda authorities advise that the average annual maintenance and upgrade costs for PULSE from 2001 to the end of 2006 amounted to €12.88m. This expenditure includes the cost of contract resources, replacement of hardware, software upgrades and software licence fees. Following the completion of a comprehensive stabilisation programme and hardware upgrade for the PULSE system in 2006, PULSE was amalgamated with other systems including the Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS) to form a new combined IT system referred to as the Garda Information System (GIS). Accordingly, since the start of 2007, specific figures relating to expenditure on PULSE are not available.

Road Safety.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

119 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount spent by his Department during 2007 for the provision of speed cameras; the amount allocated for 2008; the number of such cameras installed during 2007; the number expected to be provided during 2008; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed recently by the chairperson of the Road Safety Authority at the delays in providing such cameras; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8996/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

121 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason Garda contracts for speed detection cameras remain unfilled; the number of contracts that remain unfilled; the value of each contract; the amount of money that has been allocated for the national rollout of speed cameras; the amount that has been spent to date; the current final estimate for the total cost of the national rollout; the number of speed cameras that have been deployed to date in the national rollout; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3381/08]

Bernard Allen

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is expected that the national speed camera network will be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9078/08]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

516 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when, in view of the fact that the Government has approved funding for speed cameras, the successful contractor will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9190/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119, 121, 159 and 516 together.

A tender process for procuring an outsourced safety camera network is under way. During this process issues arose because it emerged that costs involved would be substantially higher than had been estimated when the matter was considered by Government previously, which necessitated a further examination of the matter by the Government. The Government has confirmed that it will be proceeding with the outsourcing of a countrywide safety camera network and the financial resources necessary to do so will be provided. The tender process is at an advanced stage, and it is expected that contract negotiations with the preferred bidder will commence shortly. I am not in a position to indicate at this time the cost of the project as the tender process is not complete.

Enforcement of road traffic law is one of the highest priorities of An Garda Síochána. They are continuing to focus their enforcement activity on the main causes of road deaths and serious injuries — speeding, drink driving and the non-wearing of seatbelts and also on road transport offences. The financial resources allocated to traffic related duties increased from €3.7 million in 2007 to €11 million in this year's Estimates, in addition to the amount which will be allocated for the safety camera network. An Garda Síochána were recently authorised to replace the GATSO systems currently operating with eight new state of the art mobile speed cameras. These will be operational not later than June. This will take place against the background of an increase in the Garda Traffic Corps of 170 this year and 225 last year, bringing the strength of the Corps to 1,200 by end of the year.

In addition, approval has also been given for the Gardaí to acquire an Automated Number Plate Recognition System for up to 100 Garda vehicles, which among many features, will have a speed detection capability. Gardaí will also continue to use over 400 hand held detection devices available to them.

Saving lives through making our roads safer, including through taking effective, efficient and targeted measures to reduce speeding, in line with the Road Safety Strategy will remain an absolute priority for me and the Government.

Prison Building Programme.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

120 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the proposed Thornton Hall Prison plan; the latest estimate available to his Department of the expected cost, including the cost of the site and the provision of infrastructure and ancillary services; the cost of construction and fitting out of the prison; the costs incurred to date; the estimated date for the completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8970/08]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

172 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the decisions that have been made to date in regard to the Thornton Hall prison complex; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9043/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 172 together.

Negotiations are currently underway with a commercial consortium which was selected following an EU tender procedure for the design, construction, finance and maintenance of the proposed prison facilities at Thornton Hall, North County Dublin.

The project includes the construction of the prison facilities along with the ancillary infrastructure including services. The development procedure is set out in Part 4 of the Prisons Act, 2007. I am pleased to advise the House that the Notice of Development and Environmental Impact Assessment in respect of the project was published on Friday 29 February 2008. A copy of the Notice of Development has been lodged in the Oireachtas Library.

The publication of the Environmental Impact Assessment affords all interested parties an opportunity to make their views known and have them fully considered prior to a decision to proceed with the development. It is intended, subject to the statutory planning phase and the successful conclusion of the contract negotiations, to commence construction later this year. It is envisaged that the development will take approximately three years to complete.

Due to commercial and procurement reasons, it is not possible to provide details as to the likely costs of the construction and fit out costs. The disclosure of such information is not allowed under Department of Finance PPP guidelines.

I can, however, confirm the following expenditure which has taken place to date on the project. The cost of the site acquisition was €29,900,000. An additional 8.7 acres has also been acquired to provide a dedicated access road to the main site. This was done following representations from the local community which reflected concern in relation to the effect of increased traffic generated by the prison project. In addition to allaying these concerns, the new roadway will provide significant additional benefits both during the construction and operational phases of the project. The cost of this additional land was €1,305,000.

A total of €5,634,367 has been expended to date on preliminary site works including surveys, landscaping, security and maintenance of the property, archaeological and topographical, etc., and professional fees including legal and specialist technical advice.

Expenditure to date on the project has amounted to a total of €36,839,367, including site acquisition costs.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 119.

Asylum Applications.

Jack Wall

Question:

122 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for asylum submitted in each of the past five years; the average time being taken to process applications for asylum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8994/08]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the number of applications for asylum received by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner in each of the past five years is set out in the table below:

Asylum Applications Received — 2003 to 2007

Year

No. of asylum applications received

2003

7,900

2004

4,766

2005

4,323

2006

4,314

2007

3,985

Total

25,288

Timescales for the processing of asylum applications

Asylum applications are considered under the provisions of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), at first instance by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and at appeal stage by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT).

The length of time taken to process asylum applications differs depending on whether an applicant is dealt with under prioritised arrangements or not. With effect from the 25 January 2005, new arrangements for the speedier processing of applications from certain countries were implemented. These arrangements apply in the main to nationals of Nigeria, Croatia and South Africa. They also applied to Romania and Bulgaria prior to their accession to the EU on 1 January 2007.

The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner

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

In the case of Non-prioritised cases, an interview date is usually scheduled approximately 16-18 weeks from the date of the initial application. These applications are normally finalised within a further 4-5 weeks, giving a total processing time of 20-23 weeks from the date of application.

Some cases will take significantly longer to complete, for example, due to medical reasons, non-availability of interpreters or because of judicial review proceedings. Some cases are also more complex than others with applicants coming from over 90 different countries.

ORAC continues to schedule applicants for interview on the date of application unless there are medical or other compelling reasons.

The Refugee Applications Commissioner continues to keep the procedure for processing applications for refugee status in that Office under ongoing review with a view to limiting the amount of time applicants have to wait for a recommendation to be made, without compromising on applicants rights to a fair and balanced examination of their case.

The Refugee Appeals Tribunal

The average length of time taken by the Tribunal to process and complete Substantive appeals is 21 weeks.

The average length of time taken by the Tribunal to process and complete Accelerated appeals (appeals on papers only) is 8 weeks.

The average length of time taken by the Tribunal to process and complete appeals for Prioritised cases is 9 weeks.

While many appeals are completed in a shorter time span than above, many factors such as adjournments, postponements, judicial reviews and requests by legal representatives for access to previous Tribunal decisions can impede the Tribunal from completing cases earlier. High quality, consistent and fair decision making in all cases continues to be a high priority in the Tribunal.

Improvements in Processing Timescales

The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner has made significant progress in the processing of asylum applications since the creation of the office in November 2000.

In November 2000, when the ORAC was established, there were over 9,400 applications awaiting decision at first instance. As at 31st January 2008, there were 1,272 outstanding applications awaiting a recommendation by ORAC. Of these, only 171 cases were on hands over 6 months.

The RAT has also made significant progress in the processing of asylum applications since the creation of the office in November 2000. Prior to the establishment of the RAT, substantive appeals took, on average, 36 weeks to complete. As already indicated, the average processing timescale for substantive cases is 21 weeks and 9 weeks for prioritised cases.

As at 31st January 2008, there were 3,221 appeals outstanding in the Tribunal. Of these 3,221 outstanding appeals, 2,007 were on hands over six months. A large volume of the appeals outstanding more than 6 months in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal is due to the delay in processing appeals pending the granting of access to Tribunal Decisions following the Supreme Court judgement (in the Atanasov case) on the matter. Following the judgement the RAT set up a comprehensive data bank of previous decisions of the Tribunal, suitably redacted, which is readily available for access by legal representatives of applicants. This data bank, along with other measures being applied by RAT, will be of considerable assistance in clearing the current backlog of cases.

Witness Intimidation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take to prevent the intimidation of witnesses; if such action is expected in the near future; if he has identified the number of incidents of witness intimidation in the past five years; the action taken against the perpetrators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9035/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

521 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incidents of witness intimidation in each of the past five years; his proposals to address this issue with a view to achieving a major success in this important element of the fight against crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9239/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

533 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases in respect of which witness intimidation has been identified in each of the past three years; the action or actions taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9251/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123, 521 and 533 together.

There are a number of statutory provisions in place to ensure that intimidation of witnesses does not frustrate the taking of prosecutions.

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

Statutory provisions are also in place to ensure the admissibility of witness statements in circumstances where a witness seeks to resile from a statement already provided to the Garda Síochána in the course of an investigation. Section 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides that a statement relevant to court proceedings may be admitted as evidence even if the witness, although available for cross-examination, refuses to give evidence or denies making a statement. It is a matter for the court of trial to decide if such a statement is to be admitted as evidence.

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

As it is, the Garda Síochána already rigorously enforces the provisions relating to witness intimidation and protection contained in the Criminal Justice Act 1999. In particular, where the possibility of intimidation of witnesses may be an issue, the case is closely monitored throughout the investigation, up to and including any criminal proceedings. Where a threat to or intimidation of a witness or a potential witness arises during the course of criminal proceedings, the matter may be addressed through the trial judge, who has the discretion to revoke bail or place other sanctions on the accused/suspect. Any such incident would also be the subject of a thorough investigation by the Garda Síochána with a view to seeking directions from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In this regard, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of proceedings commenced in respect of the offence created pursuant to Section 41 of the 1999 Act for the years 2003 to 2007 are as follows:

Year

Proceedings Commenced

2003

30

2004

30

2005

22

2006

42

2007

12*

(*Provisional figure only and subject to change).

Garda Deployment.

Martin Ferris

Question:

124 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has considered making provisions for the ring-fencing of Garda numbers engaged in duties other than those of the Traffic Corps, for example drugs unit officers. [9005/08]

The attested strength of An Garda Síochána as at 31 January 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 13,732. In addition 1,310 student Gardaí were at various stages of their training on that date, making a total of 15,042.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to assign members of the Force throughout the country and to national units. In doing this he takes into account all relevant factors, including population, crime rates and trends as well as operational priorities. In that regard, specific operational needs will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of policing needs throughout the country.

Garda Equipment.

James Reilly

Question:

125 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason An Garda Síochána is without a national digital radio service. [9046/08]

Following the completion of a pilot Digital Radio project by the Garda authorities, a decision was taken to procure a single nationwide digital radio service for use by the Garda authorities, other emergency services and non-commercial State bodies. This enables economies of scale as well as allowing for inter-agency communication in the event of major incidents or cross agency operations. Following completion of the tender processes by the Department of Finance a preferred bidder, TETRA Ireland Ltd, was selected. In order to ensure that the preferred bidder demonstrate its capability to deliver this key service for the emergency services, both from a technical and organisational perspective, a service performance evaluation covering a significant part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region and surrounds including Dublin Port and the Airport was carried out and completed late last year.

In parallel with the performance evaluation, detailed and intensive contract negotiations have been taking place between the Department of Finance and the preferred bidder and I understand these negotiations are nearing completion. I am also advised that preparation and planning by the Garda authorities is well advanced and implementation will closely follow the rollout of the infrastructure by the preferred bidder. The entire nationwide rollout is expected to be completed over a 2 year period.

I might add that the Garda authorities continue to maintain its existing radio infrastructure including the digital radio system servicing significant parts of the Dublin Metropolitan Region and its analogue systems throughout the country.

Question No. 126 answered with Question No. 104.

Proposed Legislation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

127 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects the Government’s promised legislation on same-sex unions will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8983/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

184 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the heads of the Civil Partnership Bill will be produced; and if the Bill will contain provisions for gay civil marriage. [9001/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 184 together.

The Scheme of a Civil Partnership Bill, containing detailed proposals, is being developed in my Department for submission to Government by the end of March 2008.

The scope of the Bill as proposed does not extend to provision for the marriage of same-sex couples.

The Government Legislative Programme includes the Bill as providing for a system of civil registration of same-sex partnerships and for the legal consequences of registration. It also provides certain protections for both opposite-sex and same-sex cohabitants.

Prison Population.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

128 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of inmates in each of the State’s prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9058/08]

I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the figures for 28 February, 2008, as requested by the Deputy are as follows:

Prison/Place of Detention

Number in Custody

Arbour Hill

138

Castlerea

236

Cloverhill

434

Cork

268

Dóchas

113

Limerick

301

Loughan House

104

Midlands

454

Mountjoy

571

Portlaoise

114

Shelton Abbey

58

St. Patrick’s Institution

203

Training Unit

81

Wheatfield

376

Total

3,451

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

129 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the fact that proceedings have been initiated in just 96 cases since 2003 to date in 2008 for offences in regard to the sale of alcohol to minors; if he is satisfied that the law is being adequately enforced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8989/08]

The information supplied in Parliamentary Question 324 of 20 February, 2008 was provided in answer to a specific question relating to prosecutions commenced, between 2003 and 2007, for an offence under section 31(2) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, as amended, and is not inclusive of prosecutions commenced in respect of any other offences relating to the sale of alcohol to minors.

Following the submission in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, the CSO is now compiling and publishing criminal statistics and has published provisional headline crime statistics since the third quarter of 2006.

I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics on the overall number of prosecutions commenced relating to the sale of alcohol to minors, for the years 2003 to 2007 and to date in 2008, directly to him.

Security Industry.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

130 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether sufficient Garda and Army resources are being dedicated to combat the ongoing threat of attack by armed gangs on cash-in-transit deliveries. [9048/08]

The security of cash in transit deliveries is an issue the Government takes extremely seriously. A number of measures have been adopted in recent years to improve security in this area.

The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot comment on Garda Síochána operational plans to prevent attacks on cash-in-transit deliveries.

Nevertheless, I can say that there are a range of measures in place to combat the threat. The Private Security Authority has commenced licensing of companies engaged in cash-in-transit. The licensing regime put in place incorporates security measures as set out by the relevant branch of the Garda Síochána. Furthermore, there are regular and ongoing discussions between the Gardaí and cash-in-transit industry stakeholders to ensure continued security of deliveries of cash. The Deputy will be aware of a number of cases where attempted robberies from cash-in-transit deliveries were foiled.

The Deputy will appreciate that decisions on the level of security provided for cash-in-transit vehicles are made by the Gardaí having taken all material facts into consideration. Where it is judged to be appropriate, the assistance of the Army is sought for a particular cash consignment. Recovery of the costs of such escorts is the subject of agreements between the Government and the Irish Banking Federation.

I am satisfied that sufficient resources are available to the Garda Síochána in their ongoing efforts to combat the criminal threat to cash movements.

Proposed Legislation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

131 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason it has been decided to seek tenders for drafting of a Courts Bill; the estimated cost of such a project; the reason it is required that the tenderer be a company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8973/08]

The Law Reform Commission published a Consultation Paper on Reform and Consolidation of the Courts Acts in 2007 as a follow up to a project it began in 2005 which aimed to reform and consolidate the Courts Acts, which comprise up to 100 Acts, including a large number that predate the foundation of the State. The Commission embarked on the project jointly with my Department and the Courts Service. A Working Group was established for the project, comprising representatives of the Commission, the Courts Service, the judiciary, the Department, the legal profession and the academic community. It is intended that a draft Courts Bill will be published as part of the final report of the Commission.

On 13 February last, my Department, in consultation with the Commission, invited tenders from suitably qualified parties to draft the Bill. The text of the Request for Tender document includes conditions, based on standard procurement practice, with which companies must comply in the event that they submit a tender. There is, however, no requirement that the tenderer must be a company. The Request for Tender document is currently displayed on the etenders website (www.etenders.gov.ie). Further information in relation to the terms of reference, general conditions of the tender invitation, etc. is available on-line in that document and queries may be raised by any interested party.

The drafting process will be carried out under the supervision of the Law Reform Commission.

The Deputy will appreciate that the estimated cost of the project cannot be disclosed during the ongoing open competitive tender process.

Youth Justice Strategy.

Billy Timmins

Question:

132 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has carried out research to establish if there is a link between educational disadvantage and juvenile delinquency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9092/08]

Diversion of young people from crime and the criminal justice system is one of the responsibilities of my Department in accordance with the provisions of the Children Act 2001, as amended. The causes of delinquent, anti-social, and criminal behaviour are often complex and may cover a range of issues which are dealt with by a number of Government Departments. While my Department has not carried out specific research in the area referred to, I can say that a quantity of research exists which identifies educational disadvantage, along with other factors including poverty, unemployment, early school leaving, addiction and inadequate parenting, as contributing to juvenile delinquency. It is generally accepted that all these factors can contribute to young people becoming involved in anti-social behaviour and delinquency.

The Government has invested heavily in tackling educational and social disadvantage over many years and across a range of Government Departments and Agencies. In my own Department, for example, the Government agreed a comprehensive programme to implement youth justice reforms including the establishment of the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS). As well as providing strategic leadership, the IYJS works on a partnership basis with Government Departments and Agencies to reduce youth offending. It funds organisations providing services (including Garda and Probation Service projects) to young people who find themselves in conflict with the law. Its main responsibilities include a remit to develop a unified youth justice policy and to devise a national strategy to deliver this policy and service. In developing its national youth justice strategy, which will cover the period 2008-2010, the issue of educational disadvantage and juvenile delinquency is one of those identified. The strategy will set out the role which various Government Departments and State Agencies will play in reducing youth offending.

The strategy will be published shortly by my colleague, the Minister for Children. In rolling out the strategy, the objective of the IYJS and relevant Departments and Agencies will be to make existing intervention measures more effective and develop new policies and programmes as appropriate, with the aim of reducing youth offending and diverting young people from such behaviour. The primary goal will be to keep children who offend out of detention by using alternatives to prosecution including referral, where appropriate, to Garda Youth Diversion projects, the Garda Juvenile Diversion programme, community sanctions and restorative justice.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he proposes to take notwithstanding the recent and ongoing successes by the Gardaí in respect of drug seizures, to combat the obvious and progressive increase in violent and organised crime; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the activities of organised criminals appears to be influencing crime trends particularly in respect of young offenders; if he has examined the degree to which the activities of high profile criminals domiciled in exotic offshore locations from which they appear to be able to run their illicit businesses with impunity clearly illustrating to all that such activity appears to be possible without retribution; the action he has taken to intercede with the authorities in such other jurisdictions with view to a serious crackdown on criminal activity and obvious tangible actions such as improved extradition procedures, special courts or other measures in line with national or EU law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9034/08]

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that organised criminal gangs operating in this jurisdiction are being targeted on an ongoing basis and profiles regarding the personnel of such groups are continually updated. Their members, operating methods, criminal interests and financial assets are likewise proactively targeted through the use of intelligence-led operations primarily undertaken by specialised units of An Garda Síochána such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Drug Unit, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau. In addition, information relating to these groupings is disseminated on a regular basis to Europol at The Hague.

An Garda Síochána maintains liaison with other law enforcement agencies throughout Europe, and elsewhere, exchanging information and intelligence on Irish criminals living abroad. This ongoing liaison has led to a number of successful joint operations, targeting the attempted importation of drugs and firearms and has resulted in a number of significant arrests here and in other jurisdictions. Where intelligence, supported by evidence, is available law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions put operations in place, as appropriate, to prevent and detect such criminality.

Where information exists that a person, who is wanted in relation to a particular crime in this jurisdiction, is living abroad and where the particular legal requirements apply extradition is sought or an application is made for a European Arrest Warrant.

Where there is justification and a legal basis, those suspected of involvement in criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in relation to specific crimes. A member of An Garda Síochána must, at all times, have reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has been involved in criminal activity before they can arrest and question any person in relation to criminality.

An Garda Síochána will continue to be proactive in the use and further development of links with other foreign law enforcement agencies to ensure that a comprehensive and coordinated approach is applied to the problem of Irish criminals resident abroad. In this respect, there already exist a number of bilateral agreements with foreign jurisdictions concerning serious and organised crime which facilitate greater cooperation and permit the exchange of staff and the transfer of expertise between the parties to these agreements.

The ongoing activities and successes of the Criminal Assets Bureau, in cooperation with similar agencies in other jurisdictions, also ensures that this type of criminality is being tackled, regardless of the location of the criminal concerned.

Prison Drug Treatment Services.

James Reilly

Question:

134 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drug detoxification places available in each of the State’s prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9065/08]

At present, any person entering prison giving a history of drug use and testing positive for drugs on committal are offered a medically assisted symptomatic detoxification for operational reasons. Patients can, as part of the assessment process, discuss other treatment options with healthcare staff, which may include methadone maintenance.

The Medical Unit in Mountjoy Prison has spaces specifically allocated for a dedicated drug detoxification programme. Each multidisciplinary programme lasts 6 weeks and the programme has a capacity of 9 prisoners at a time.

Prisoners who present, either on committal or otherwise, with other substance misuse related problems have available to them a range of medical, nursing, psychological, and counselling services which are tailored to the particular needs of their situation.

Finally, I should add that the capacity to deliver the Irish Prison Service's Drugs Policy and Strategy will be significantly enhanced by the provision of the new complex at Thornton Hall.

Drug Seizures.

Joe Costello

Question:

135 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the quantity and values of seizures of heroin, cocaine, cannabis and other drugs here during 2007; the proportion of the overall flow of drugs into Ireland believed to be represented by these seizures; the new initiatives he is planning to control the flow of illegal drugs into Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8968/08]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the following table shows the approximate quantities of heroin, cocaine, cannabis and other main illegal drugs seized in 2007*:

*Drug Seizures in 2007

Drug Type

Quantity

Street Value

Heroin

125.2 Kgs

24,920,000

Cannabis Resin

1.7 Tonne

12,416,000

Cannabis Herb

1.76 Tonne

3,676,000

Ecstasy Tables

360,279 tablets

3,602,000

*Cocaine

1.7 tonne

119,480,000

Amphetamine

34 kgs

510,000

Total

164,604,000

*The figures provided for 2007 are operational, provisional and may change.

In terms of estimating the proportion of drug seizures made in this jurisdiction by our law enforcement authorities in relation to the overall volumes of drugs being trafficked, obviously given the clandestine nature of this illegal activity this is extremely difficult to quantify with any degree of certainty and is therefore speculative.

However to assist the Deputy, what can be said in this regard though is that the global illicit drug trade is, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reputed to exceed billions of US$ annually.

That UN office estimated in 2005 that global seizures for that year accounted for 44% of cocaine production, 28% of cannabis resin, 25% of opium production, 7% of amphetamines and 4.7% of ecstasy.

As I am sure the Deputy appreciates, drug misuse remains one of the most complex social ills faced globally. Our drug law enforcement response is of course a vital feature of our overall response in addressing the issue but we cannot just look at the issue from a supply reduction perspective only.

Rather, we must examine the drugs problem in the wider context in which it takes place and take cognisance of the fact that the demand for and the use of illegal drugs is what fuels the drugs trade. The measures that we have in place to address the problem must take account of this.

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

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, under the stewardship of my colleague and Minister of State Mr. Pat Carey, T.D., is the lead Government Department in co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy and has recently begun the process of developing our new Strategy for the years 2009-2016.

This work will involve a wide ranging consultative process, in which my Department will actively participate, which will fully inform the development of our new Strategy.

My Department's remit in this area, while not exclusively, is primarily in the area of drug supply reduction, and drug law enforcement remains a key feature of the Government's drug policy framework.

An Garda Síochána invokes a number of broad strategic responses in addressing the issue. These include the following:

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

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

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

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

This work is ongoing and An Garda Síochána will continue to pursue these strategies and continue to tackle organised crime and drug trafficking primarily through the use of specialist units and targeted intelligence led operations.

To further assist in our law enforcement efforts against drug trafficking, a number of new initiatives have been recently introduced.

Some examples of this includes the following:

The establishment in January 2008 of the Organised Crime Unit onto a permanent footing with full time staff assigned to it. The Unit now has a personnel strength of 70 and, in conjunction with the Garda National Drugs Unit and local Gardaí, will continue to implement initiatives such as Operations Anvil and Oak which target criminals involved in the trafficking of drugs.

The recently established Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (Narcotics) MAOC(N) in Lisbon, of which Ireland is a founding member. The Centre has the specific objective of intercepting narcotic shipments, in particular cocaine, to the European Union from Latin America.

A number of provisions introduced in the Criminal Justice Acts 2006 and 2007 have provided for further measures which will enhance the powers of the Gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of drug offences.

I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to keep the measures and resources for tackling all forms of drug trafficking under review. The enforcement of the law relating to drugs continues to be a key element in the Government's policing priorities and this is reflected in An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan for 2008.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements.

John Deasy

Question:

136 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department is still examining the recommendations of the report of the study group on pre-nuptial agreement published in early 2007; when that study is expected to be completed; when the heads of a Bill on the recommendations of the report is expected to be prepared; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9071/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions No. 64 and 131 on 7 November 2007. The recommendations made in the Report of the Study Group remain under review in my Department.

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 112.

Disability Support Service.

David Stanton

Question:

138 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 120 of 7 November 2007, if the National Disability Strategy Stakeholder Monitoring Group received a further progress report on the strategy from senior officials at the end of 2007; if this report and the previous two reports will be published; if the Stakeholder Monitoring Group also have a role in monitoring the implementation of the sectoral plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9022/08]

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

Under the terms of Towards 2016, the National Disability Strategy Stakeholder Monitoring Group was established in December, 2006 to monitor progress on the overall implementation of the National Disability Strategy. The Group comprises representatives of stakeholder groups, senior officials and the National Disability Authority, while my Department also serves as Secretariat to the Group. The Group received a third report on the National Disability Strategy by senior officials of the relevant Government Departments in January, 2008. The reports provided to date have been presented to Dr. Jimmy Devins, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Disability and Mental Health and they have been presented to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion. The three reports to date were not prepared on the basis that they would be published.

Under the provisions of the Disability Act, 2005, six Government Departments prepared Sectoral Plans in key sectors including transport, built infrastructure, housing, training and employment, health and social welfare provision. The Sectoral Plans were presented to the Oireachtas and they were published in December, 2006. The Departments have provided targets and costings for the implementation of the Sectoral Plans and have established separate fora with stakeholder representatives to monitor progress on the implementation of the plans.

Garda Diversion Programme.

Alan Shatter

Question:

139 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of children to whom the Garda diversion programme as provided for under the Children’s Act 2001 has been applied in each year since its coming into force in 2002; the number of Gardaí involved in the programme; the number of children whose subsequent to involvement in the programme have been subject to criminal charges for subsequent alleged offences; and the steps proposed by him to extent application of the programme. [4022/08]

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that the number of children to whom the Garda Diversion Programme has been applied in each year since 2002 is as follows:-

Year

Proceedings Commenced

2002

17,493

2003

17,043

2004

17,656

2005

17,567

2006

20,016

2007

16,753

I have also been informed by the Garda Authorities that the National Juvenile Office does not collate figures in relation to the number of children who have been involved in the Garda Diversion Programme and have been subject to criminal charges for subsequent alleged offences.

As of 31 December 2007, the number of Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLO) was 93, and the Garda Commissioner has given a commitment to appoint an additional 28 JLOs by 2010. Of course, while JLOs are specifically dedicated to this service, a significant number of Gardaí are also engaged in liaising with juveniles on a day-to-day basis. As for the deployment of Garda resources generally, I am assured that Garda personnel assignments throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed by Garda management. This is to ensure that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

The Garda Diversion Programme is an initiative, first introduced in 1963, to provide an opportunity to divert juvenile offenders from criminal activity. The programme provides that if certain criteria are met, a juvenile offender under 18 years of age may be cautioned as an alternative to prosecution. It enables referral to the Garda Youth Diversion Projects which operate separately from the Programme and aim to divert young people away from crime and anti social behaviour. There are currently 100 of these type of projects operating throughout the country and this number will be extended to 168 in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government. Additional resources have been allocated to fund the further expansion of these projects with total funding set at €11.909 million for 2008.

Drug Seizures.

Michael Ring

Question:

140 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action taken in relation to drugs confiscated here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5683/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that drugs which are classified as controlled in the Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1977/1984) which are seized by members of An Garda Síochána in the course of investigations are destroyed upon the determination of court proceedings.

Such drugs are destroyed under the supervision of a Detective Inspector from the Garda Technical Bureau following analysis, evidential requirements and the written authorisation of a member of An Garda Síochána, not below the rank of Inspector.

The Garda Technical Bureau also facilitates destruction of controlled drugs which have been received at the Bureau from Custom officials under the supervision of a Garda Inspector and with written authorisation from an appropriate Customs Officer. Each operation is documented and all associated records are maintained by the Garda Technical Bureau.

For security reasons, I cannot divulge further details of the disposal logistics.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that drugs which are classified as controlled in the Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1977/1984) which are seized by members of An Garda Síochána in the course of investigations are destroyed upon the determination of court proceedings.

Such drugs are destroyed under the supervision of a Detective Inspector from the Garda Technical Bureau following analysis, evidential requirements and the written authorisation of a member of An Garda Síochána, not below the rank of Inspector.

The Garda Technical Bureau also facilitates destruction of controlled drugs which have been received at the Bureau from Customs officials under the supervision of a Garda Inspector and with written authorisation from an appropriate Customs Officer. Each operation is documented and all associated records are maintained by the Garda Technical Bureau.

For security reasons, I cannot divulge further details of the disposal logistics.

Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 100.

Civilianisation Programme.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

142 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí freed from desk duties by civilian employees to date; the steps he will take to increase civilianisation within An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9067/08]

I have requested the Commissioner to supply the information sought by the Deputy and on receipt of same I will forward it to him.

Departmental Reports.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

143 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report of the Hartnett inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied); the reason the report has not been published; if it is intended to publish the report in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8961/08]

I received the report of Mr Hugh Hartnett SC into the arrest, detention and treatment of Brian Rossiter and the subsequent investigation of his death. I referred the report to the Attorney General for advice in relation to its publication. His advice was that there were legal impediments to publication of the full report.

However, he also advised that more limited forms of disclosure were possible and I have acted on the basis of that advice. I made a copy of the full report available, subject to conditions of confidentiality, to the Cork city Coroner, who is conducting an inquest at present, and to those members of the Garda Síochána whose conduct was the subject of investigation under the terms of Mr Hartnett's warrant of appointment. In addition I have made voluntary discovery of the full report to the family's legal representatives within the context of ongoing legal proceedings. I also gave a copy of the full report to the Garda Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In so far as wider publication is concerned, I am in the process of preparing a summary of the report which I intend to publish shortly. The summary will include all of the report's findings and conclusions on each item of Mr Hartnett's terms of reference together with comprehensive information on the reasons for those findings.

Garda Equipment.

Brian Hayes

Question:

144 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that police sources in the United Kingdom have access to equipment which can identify drivers who have no licence or insurance through a system that operates through patrol cars; if his Department has had discussions with An Garda Síochána regarding this matter to see if these pieces of equipment can be installed within An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4024/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a pilot project using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems in Garda vehicles has been successfully completed. Approval to proceed with a nationwide system has been conveyed and the Garda authorities will shortly hold a tender competition for the supply of the system. The primary focus of the system will be to check against watch lists that relate directly to the vehicle through its number-plate. Accordingly, to ensure maximum efficiency of the system, it is planned that the system will concentrate on checks against databases of stolen and untaxed vehicles and other vehicles brought to the attention of the Gardaí.

With regard to the extent to which the system could be used to check for no insurance or driver licences, I am advised that this would depend on the potential development of databases linking vehicles with licences and insurance. I am, however, advised that the proposed ANPR system could be used for this purpose if such databases could be developed.

Missing Persons.

Willie Penrose

Question:

145 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to have the results of efforts to establish the identify of the body of an unidentified female, washed ashore at Kilmuckridge, County Wexford, on 12 December 1995, which was recently exhumed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8984/08]

Following a complete review, conducted by An Garda Síochána, of all aspects of the burial of the remains of an unidentified woman in County Wexford in 1995, and at their request, I authorised the exhumation of the remains. The exhumation took place on 28 November, 2007 and a post-mortem examination was conducted by the State Pathologist.

I am informed that samples of bone were forwarded to the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham, for DNA analysis and comparison on 29 November, 2007. Following this work the body remains unidentified. Details of the DNA profile have been requested for provision to the Forensic Science Laboratory for comparison with existing and future DNA profiles obtained of missing persons or their relatives.

Immigration Policy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

146 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he is taking to improve migrant screening at points of entry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8950/08]

Additional resources have recently been allocated to the Garda National Immigration Bureau which will enhance the enforcement capacity of the Bureau in respect of immigration legislation and operations conducted in furtherance of this role.

Operation ‘Sonnet' is an ongoing initiative targeting the land border with Northern Ireland and other strategic locations in Garda border divisions to detect illegal entry to the state by foreign Nationals.

Operation ‘Gull' an operation within the Common Travel Area, which is directed by the Garda National Immigration Bureau, in co-operation with the UK Border and Immigration Agency and the Department of Social and Family Affairs (DFSA), continues to detect abuse of the Asylum process and Social Welfare systems of both jurisdictions.

In addition, my officials are examining the development of an Irish Border Information System (IBIS) capable of collecting, analysing and storing passenger information on all air and sea travel into and from the State. I expect that a Memorandum containing detailed proposals in this regard will be submitted to Government in the near future.

The Immigration Residents and Protection Bill 2008, currently before the Oireachtas, will assist An Garda Síochána in its enforcement role regarding immigration legislation and the removal of illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers. The Bill restates many of the existing legislative provisions dealing with border control and, in certain circumstances, updates those provisions to take account of experience gained and advances in technology etc. In particular, the Bill provides a legislative basis for the greater use of biometric information, for identification purposes, at a number of stages in the immigration process including border control at ports of entry. In addition, I have also signalled my intention to bring forward an amendment on Committee Stage to allow for the making of regulations requiring information to be provided by carriers, before departure for the State, in respect of specified intended arrivals.

Public Order Offences.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

147 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons given anti-social behaviour warnings and anti-social behaviour orders between 1 October 2007 and 1 March 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9075/08]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

177 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons given anti-social behaviour warnings in the period January to February 2007 and January to February 2008; the number of anti-social behaviour orders sought in the same periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9074/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

179 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons given anti-social behaviour warnings since the new system came into operation on 1 January 2007; the number of anti-social behaviour orders sought in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8991/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

461 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of anti-social behaviour warnings issued and the number of ASBOs sought in County Wicklow. [8713/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147, 177, 179 and 461 together.

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the most recent figures available show that from 1 January, 2007 to 31 January, 2008 480 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 145 to children. There have been 6 formal good behaviour contracts, which are used only in the case of children, made.

There were three applications by An Garda Síochána to the courts — two for a civil order (adult) and one for a behaviour order (child). Two applications remain before the courts, and one application was unsuccessful.

During this period the Wexford/Wicklow Garda Division, which includes County Wicklow, issued no behaviour warnings to adults or children.

I am further informed that between 1 October, 2007 and 31 January, 2008 214 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 65 to children. There were 4 formal good behaviour contracts made during this period.

Between 1 January, 2007 and 28 February, 2007 8 behaviour warnings were issued to adults. From 1 January to 31 January, 2008 (the latest date for which figures are available) 35 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 14 to children. There were 2 formal good behaviour contracts made during this period.

Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 111.

State Pathologist.

Tom Hayes

Question:

149 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that it was appropriate for a recent documentary (details supplied) on the work of the State pathologist to reference live cases and explore the details of previous cases much to the distress of victims’ families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9052/08]

I can inform the Deputy that while my Department was aware that this programme was being made and gave permission for the State Pathologist to participate in it, the actual content of the programme was not within the Department's control and editorial responsibility rests with the programme makers and broadcasters. The Department was assured by the production company that next of kin had been contacted in those instances where individual cases featured, in light of the sensitive nature of the material. In one such instance, and shortly before broadcast, one of the families in question did contact the Department expressing dissatisfaction with the extent to which their concerns had been taken on board by the production company. Our understanding is that there was further subsequent interaction between the company and the family in question with a view to resolving those concerns, but the Department was not a party to those discussions.

While I am not aware that other families were similarly dissatisfied, the Department would very much regret if this was the case. For the sake of completeness, I should add that the decision to facilitate the programme makers in the instant case with access to the State Pathologist was taken some years ago. I do not envisage a programme of this character being facilitated in future.

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

150 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will take steps towards making additional resources available to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and his views on whether the contingent of just 30 investigators is sufficient to deal with the case load in view of the fact GSOC received 3,500 complaints since May 2007, 900 of which related to alleged criminal behaviour on the part of the Gardaí. [9000/08]

At the outset I should say that we have secured almost 100 sanctioned posts for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. In that context, section 80(2) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 obliges the Ombudsman Commission to submit a report to me on its effectiveness and on the adequacy of the functions assigned to it within two years of its establishment. I am in receipt of an e-mail copy of that report and I understand that printed copies will be delivered to me shortly. Copies of those reports will in due course be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

The report is being examined by my officials at present. However I am aware from ongoing contact with the Ombudsman Commission that they are of the view that certain amendments to the Act of 2005 would facilitate a better utilisation of resources. I intend to bring proposals for suitable legislative changes to Government in the near future.

Finally, I should say that I have secured authorisation for a total of 40 investigative posts for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and a recruitment process in relation to the outstanding vacancies for those specialised positions is currently in train.

National Drugs Strategy.

Joe Carey

Question:

151 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on spending a day with a Garda drug unit in order to gain a real life experience of the problem of drugs in this State and a realisation of the deficiencies in the resources allocated to An Garda Síochána. [9080/08]

Drug misuse remains one of the most complex social ills faced globally and the Government is fully aware of, and does not in any sense, underestimate the nature and extent of the problem of drugs which we experience in this State.

The Government remains resolutely committed to tackling the problem through our current National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008.

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

Our drug law enforcement response is of course a vital feature of our overall response in addressing the issue but we cannot just look at the issue from a supply reduction perspective only.

Rather, we must examine the drugs problem in the wider context in which it takes place and take cognisance of the fact that the demand for and the use of illegal drugs is what fuels the drugs trade. The measures that we have in place to address the problem must take account of this.

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, under the stewardship of my colleague and Minister of State Mr. Pat Carey, T.D., is the lead Government Department in co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy and has recently begun the process of developing our new Strategy for the years 2009-2016.

As Minister, as well as in my capacity as public representative, I am well aware of the challenges which tackling the trade in drugs poses for An Garda Síochána.

Specifically, in terms of resources, as the Deputy will appreciate, policing operations and the deployment of Garda resources are matters for the Garda Commissioner. It is and must remain the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel within the Garda organisation on a priority basis in accordance with overall policing requirements.

The Garda National Drugs Unit is the primary unit within An Garda Síochána charged with responsibility for drug supply law enforcement. As at 31 January 2008 the personnel strength of the Unit was 65.

Since the publication of the Government's National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, Garda resources in the fight against illicit drugs have increased. This is particularly evident with the creation of additional Divisional Drug Units in areas of particular need. These Drugs Units operate in Divisions throughout the country with a primary focus on local drugs activities. The total strength of the Divisional Drug Units at the beginning of the year was 314.

Both the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Divisional units are also supported in their work by officers from other national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. Furthermore, all Gardaí are tasked with confronting drugs related issues as they arise.

The assignment of Garda personnel throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed.

This takes place against the background of the unprecedented expansion of An Garda Síochána which has taken and will continue to take place.

Additional Garda resources are coming on stream all the time. These additional human resources will facilitate the Garda Commissioner in the allocation of additional manpower to areas most in need, including areas with a significant drug problem.

Finally, I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to keep the measures and resources for tackling all forms of drug trafficking under review.

The enforcement of the law relating to drugs continues to be a key element in the Government's policing priorities and this is reflected in An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan for 2008.

Offensive Weapons.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

152 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on amending the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990, and Offensive Weapons Order, 1991 to provide for the banning of samurai sword type weapons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8972/08]

As the House is aware, the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990, prohibits possession in a public place of knives or any other articles which have a blade or are sharply pointed or any article made or adapted to cause injury. Any person found guilty of such an offence is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months or both. Possession in a public place of any article intended to cause injury to, incapacitate or intimidate a person is also an offence and carries a sentence on indictment of a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both. The same penalties also apply where a person in the course of a dispute or fight produces any article capable of inflicting serious injury.

As I indicated recently, at my request, the Garda Commissioner undertook to review the current legislation pertaining to offensive weapons. I understand that this review will be finished shortly and I will fully consider any proposals it may contain.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Martin Ferris

Question:

153 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to address the problem of persons under 18 hassling adults to purchase alcohol for them outside off-licences; and the measures that will be contained in the up-coming Liquor Licensing Bill or otherwise to tackle the problem. [9004/08]

As the Deputy is no doubt aware, I have asked the Government Alcohol Advisory Group to examine the public order aspects of the sale and consumption of alcohol and to report to me by 31 March. Among the key issues being examined by the Group is the adequacy and effectiveness of existing sanctions and penalties, particularly those relating to the sale and supply of alcohol to, and alcohol consumption by, under-age persons.

I look forward to receiving the Group's Report, and their recommendation on how best to proceed in this and related matters, by the 31 March deadline. I intend then to bring forward urgent proposals for legislative reforms which, with the assistance of both Houses, will be enacted and implemented before the Summer recess.

Juvenile Offenders.

Michael Creed

Question:

154 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on reform activities in juvenile detention centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9082/08]

In December 2005, the Government agreed to put in place a series of reforms for the youth justice system. These reforms concerned all aspects of youth justice, and included the establishment of the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS). The principal reform in relation to juvenile detention was the transfer of responsibility for the children detention schools to the IYJS, an executive office of my Department, following an amendment to the Children Act, 2001. Another key reform was the extension of the children detention school model to all children being detained. The Government also agreed to the establishment of an Expert Group on Children Detention Schools to begin planning for the redevelopment of detention school services.

I am pleased to say that significant progress has been made in recent years. The IYJS was established in December 2005. The Children Act 2001, as amended, has been fully commenced and the transfer of the children detention schools from the Department of Education and Science to the operational remit of the Irish Youth Justice Service has been completed. The Irish Youth Justice Service has a remit which addresses all aspects of youth justice including Garda Youth Diversion Projects, Young Persons Probation Projects, detention services and general youth justice policy.

Since 1 March 2007, 16 and 17 year old girls, who would previously have been detained in the prison system, are now only accommodated in Oberstown Girls School. With regard to 16 and 17 year old boys, planning is underway to accommodate this group in children detention schools and my colleague, Mr. Brendan Smith, T.D. Minister for Children, will soon publish a report of the Expert Group on Children Detention and make a statement on the matter in the coming weeks.

Passport Applications.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

155 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of passports routed through his office in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8977/08]

I assume the Deputy is referring to cases where I am approached in my capacity as a public representative to seek assistance with the Passport Office. While I, of course, offer appropriate assistance in that regard records are not maintained which would enable me to provide the precise information sought by the Deputy.

Garda Training.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

156 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is appropriate that the Garda Síochána is without a dedicated firearms training range; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9047/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a dedicated firearms training range has been installed at the Garda College, Templemore and that a second similar range is being installed at a Dublin location and will be operational by April 2008. These prefabricated modular firearms ranges facilitate live fire shooting in a carefully contained indoor environment which adheres to all range safety requirements.

In addition, the Garda Síochána has two mobile firearms automated training systems for use at locations throughout the country and also has access to a total of nine Army firearms ranges around the country for the purpose of live firearms training.

Forensic Science Laboratory.

Noel Coonan

Question:

157 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will implement the recommendation of the Review of Resource Needs in the Forensic Science Laboratory and the Wider Scientific Context in Ireland (detail supplied) that 40 additional posts should be created at the State Forensic Laboratory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9049/08]

A total of 30 additional posts have been sanctioned for the Forensic Science Laboratory since December 2006, representing an increase of approximately 40% in approved staffing. This substantial extension of the Laboratory's capacity takes into account the findings of the Review referred to by the Deputy as to current demands on the organisation, as well as the need to plan for the implementation of the proposed DNA database. The question of the resources required to operate the database once established, which was also examined in the Review, and to which the Deputy may be referring, will of course be addressed further as the project is developed.

Judicial Appointments.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

158 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the changes which have been introduced in the UK under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 under which judges are selected on merit, and merit alone, by a Judicial Appointments Commission and single recommendations for appointments for each office are made by such Commission; if he has proposals for reform along similar lines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7965/08]

I am aware of the procedures in place for judicial appointments in the United Kingdom. As the Deputy will be aware, in this jurisdiction the position is that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board was established pursuant to the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995. Its purpose is to identify persons and inform the Government of the suitability of those persons for judicial office.

The Board consists of the Chief Justice, the Presidents of the High Court, Circuit Court and District Court, the Attorney General, nominated representatives of the Bar Council and the Law Society and three persons nominated by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Section 16 of the Act provides that the Government, when advising the President in relation to the appointment of a person to a judicial office, must first consider persons who have been recommended by the Board. It is important to note that the Board cannot submit nor recommend the name of a person unless that person meets the eligibility requirements set out by law in relation to the post in question. Furthermore, the Board cannot recommend the name of any person unless in the opinion of the Board the person concerned:

has displayed in his/her practice as a solicitor or barrister a degree of competence and a degree of probity appropriate to and consistent with the appointment concerned,

is suitable on grounds of character and temperament,

is otherwise suitable,

and

complies with section 19 of the Act (this section provides that a person who wishes to be considered for appointment to judicial office must undertake in writing his or her agreement, if appointed to judicial office, to take such training as may be required by the Chief Justice or the President of the Court to which the person concerned is appointed).

Section 17 of the Act provides that the procedures do not apply where the Government proposes to advise the President to appoint to judicial office a person who is already a judge or, subject to certain conditions, holds certain European or international judicial offices as set out in section 5 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 as amended.

The Standards in Public Office Act 2001 requires applicants to certify that their tax affairs are in order. Section 22(1) of the Act prohibits the Board from recommending a person for judicial office unless the person has furnished to the Board a tax clearance certificate and a statutory declaration that his/her tax affairs are in order.

While the ultimate decision as to who should be recommended to the President for appointment to judicial office still rests with the Government, the Government's practice has been, since the establishment of the Board, to recommend only persons who have been recommended as suitable for appointment to judicial office by the Board, in other words, a person whom the Board considers, in addition to having the necessary legal qualifications and experience, has displayed competence in his/her profession, is suitable on grounds of character and temperament and is otherwise suitable.

I have no plans to alter the way in which judges are nominated or appointed. However, the operation of the law continues to be kept under review in my Department.

Question No. 159 answered with Question No. 119.
Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 108.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Frank Feighan

Question:

161 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the budgetary allocation for the Probation and Welfare Service each year for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9051/08]

I can inform the Deputy that the budgetary allocation for the Probation Service for each of the past five years is detailed below, in tabular form.

The Deputy will note that there is a drop in the funding allocation for the current year. This is due to the fact that funding for Juvenile initiatives (€10.5 M.) is now under the remit of the Irish Youth Justice Service and this funding has transferred to the IYJS Vote. However, the Young Persons Probation (YPP), a division of the Probation Service, continues to work closely with the Irish Youth Justice Service in a collaborative way to deliver services to juveniles and in the implementation of the Children Act, 2001, as amended.

Year

Allocation

€m

2004

39.966

2005

44.939

2006

49.719

2007

59.323

2008

54.019

Garda Equipment.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

162 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí provided with stab-proof vests and bullet proof vests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9064/08]

The detailed allocation of Garda resources, including equipment, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner to be decided on the basis of his identified operational needs. I am advised by the Garda authorities that two types of protective body armour are currently in use by Gardaí. Detectives are issued with protective vests that have bullet and stab proof properties. A total of 1,500 of these vests have been issued to date and all detectives have access to them. Uniformed personnel are issued with lighter and more flexible protective vests which incorporate bullet and stab proof properties and to date 11,500 such vests have been issued to Members.

Drugs in Prisons.

Joe Costello

Question:

163 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to end the flow of drugs to prisons, in view of the disclosure that inmates have tested positive for drugs 40,000 times over the past three years; the prisons or places of detention that are regarded as drug free; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8967/08]

Over the past 10 years a wide range of security measures have been put in place aimed at reducing the supply of contraband, including drugs, into our prisons. These measures include:

Tighter control and monitoring of prisoner visits in all closed prisons;

New visiting arrangements in most closed prisons, with visitors required to be pre-approved by the Governor and required to provide identification on each visit;

Greater use of screened visits;

Greater vigilance in examining mail by prison censors and searching of other items entering the prison;

Increased random searching of cells and their occupants;

Stricter searching of all persons committed to custody and prisoners returning from court, temporary release, after visits or on receipt of intelligence;

Use of modern cameras and probe systems which assist in searching previously difficult areas such as hollow chair or bed legs, under floor boards and other cavities;

Installation of nets over exercise yards to prevent access to contraband items, including mobile phones and drugs; and

Use of phone detectors and phased installation of telephone blocking technology.

In addition, a number of new security initiatives are shortly being introduced in all closed prisons including:

The introduction of enhanced security screening for all persons (visitors and staff) entering our prisons;

The establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service involving approximately 30 handling teams; and

The establishment of Operational Support Units dedicated to and developing expertise in searching and gathering intelligence on illicit material being hidden inside our prisons; they will be available in addition to the normal prison staff and can target specific security problem areas.

There are currently drug free units in the following prisons — Wheatfield Prison, St. Patrick's Institution, Castlerea Prison and Mountjoy Prison. There is also an intensive detox programme in operation in Mountjoy Prison. Allied to this the Training Unit, Arbour Hill Prison, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey are regarded as drug free institutions.

The Prison Rules 2007 which came into operation in October 2007 gave effect to section 35(2)(j) of the Prisons Act, 2007 which provides for "testing prisoners for intoxicants including alcohol and other drugs". Mandatory drug testing provides information on trends in drug misuse, enables the identification and referral of drug abusers to treatment programmes, enables enhanced focusing of resources and acts as a deterrent to drug misuse. Mandatory Drug testing will also serve to provide important information to prison management that will contribute significantly to decision making in relation to the management of individual prisoners' sentences. At present, mandatory drug testing takes place in the Training Unit, St. Patrick's Institution, Castlerea Prison, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey. All prisoners must be drug free to attend an open centre and the intention is to roll out a programme of testing to the remaining institutions during 2008.

Gambling Casinos.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

164 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, having regard to the conclusions of the inter-Departmental Review Group on the Gaming and Lotteries Acts in 2000 to the effect that the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 effectively prohibits the operation of casinos here and that the ban on casino type gaming included in that Act should be retained in any new legislation, he will confirm policy in this area; if he has been advised that the 1956 Act has no application to casino type gaming carried on in members’ clubs; if so, the official status of that advice; if specific defects in the legislation have been identified; if the issue has been tested in the Courts or if it is planned to have it so tested; his proposals in relation to the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8962/08]

The Report referred to by the Deputy — Review of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956-86 — did not treat in detail with the question of the operation of casinos in this jurisdiction, only to the extent that it reaffirmed the position adopted by the Government in June 1996, arising from a report of a Casino Task Force established by the then Minister for Finance, not to give further consideration to the introduction of legislation to provide for casinos. In that context the authors of the report Review of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956-86 felt that they were not in a position to make any recommendations regarding the area of casinos other than that: "The ban on casino-type gaming included in the 1956 Act, should be retained in the new legislation to confirm current policy in this area."

Under Irish law, gaming and gambling is illegal, except where it is specifically permitted under the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act. Certain gaming activities are prohibited. The prohibition identified in the report referred to by the Deputy relates to the activities that are undertaken in casino-style operations, i.e. games where by reason of the nature of the game, the chances of all players including the banker are not equal. It is by reference to this provision that casinos are not lawful in the State.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that they are aware of a number of private clubs offering casino-like activities around the country. These private clubs are visited by the Gardaí and I am informed that to date irregularities have not been detected that would justify a prosecution under the Gaming & Lotteries Acts 1956-86. I am assured that such premises will continue to receive Garda attention and if breaches of the legislation are detected the directions of the DPP will be sought. The Deputy will, I am sure, understand that it is a matter for the Garda authorities to investigate breaches of the legislation, and to take whatever action is appropriate.

In addition, the legislation proposed to give effect to the Third Money Laundering Directive (2005/60/EC), currently being drafted as the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering) Bill 2008, will impose on any establishment providing casino-type activities, including private members' clubs, certain obligations in relation to compliance with the Directive.

As the Deputy is aware, in August, 2006, the Government agreed to the proposal of my predecessor for the establishment of a Committee (the Casino Regulation Committee) to report on the possibilities for a legislative basis for the strict regulation of casino-style operations in the State.

This Committee completed their Report in April last year. It is a lengthy document which deals with a range of complex and inter-related public policy issues. Following consultation with my colleagues in Government I am pleased to say that the Report in question will be published within a fortnight. At that time I will be in a position, also, to announce the steps I intend to take to advance the situation in the most appropriate manner. Needless to say, I do not propose to comment on the Report or any of its recommendations in advance of its publication.

Garda Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

165 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action taken in regard to the report into the circumstances in which the Gardaí failed to act on information supplied through Interpol from the Austrian authorities in relation to the alleged involvement of people based here in a global child pornography ring; the reason the report will not be published; if he is satisfied that adequate procedures are in place to ensure that information supplied is dealt with in future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8987/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Chief Superintendent appointed to conduct an investigation into the matter concerned has submitted a report to the Garda Commissioner.

I am further informed that his report provides a comprehensive review of the actions taken by all parties in relation to the information supplied by the Austrian authorities through Interpol and makes a number of recommendations to ensure that such an occurrence does not happen in the future.

The report is currently being considered by the Garda Commissioner.

Question No. 166 answered with Question No. 110.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

167 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that sufficient steps are being taken to address alcohol abuse by minors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9068/08]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed response to Question No. 22 of 13 December last in which I outlined in detail the statutory provisions in relation to under-age consumption of alcohol.

As the Deputy is no doubt aware, I have asked the Government Alcohol Advisory Group to examine the public order aspects of the sale and consumption of alcohol, including issues relating to increased availability and excessive consumption of alcohol, and to report to me with their assessment of the best way forward by 31 March.

I intend then to bring forward proposals for changes in the law relating to the public order aspects of the sale and consumption of alcohol which will, I hope, with the support of both Houses, be enacted and implemented before the Summer recess. I will of course consider giving effect to any reforms recommended by the Group in relation to under-age consumption of alcohol in this legislation.

Question No. 168 answered with Question No. 118.

Prison Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

169 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will phase out the practice of slopping out in prisons; and if so, the time-frame within which he will do so. [9002/08]

The Irish Prison Service has embarked on a major capital programme involving the replacement of the four prisons at the Mountjoy campus, Portlaoise Prison, Cork Prison and parts of Limerick Prison. The primary objective of this programme is the modernisation of the prison estate, a key component of which will be the provision of in-cell sanitation as a key part of each of these new building projects.

It is intended that within the next three to five years all prison accommodation will be equipped with full in cell sanitation. In this context a new fully equipped 138 place cell block is due to open at Portlaoise Prison later this year and construction is well advanced on another new block at Wheatfield which will provide 144 additional places.

The current status of the Thornton Hall Prison project is that negotiations are currently underway with a commercial consortium, which was selected following an E.U. tender procedure for the design, construction, finance and maintenance of the proposed prison facilities. This will replace the existing Mountjoy Prison.

I am pleased to advise the House that the Notice of Development and Environmental Impact Assessment in respect of the project was published on Friday 29 February 2008. A copy of the Notice of Development has been lodged in the Oireachtas library.

Question No. 170 answered with Question No. 112.

Proposed Legislation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

171 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in the talks between his Department and representatives of the judiciary regarding the introduction of a judicial council; when he expects that the Judicial Council Bill will be published and enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8982/08]

Finian McGrath

Question:

477 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will resolve an issue (details supplied). [8832/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 477 together.

I refer the Deputies to my answer to Parliamentary Question number 224 of 31 January 2008. The position remains the same.

Question No. 172 answered with Question No. 120.

Denis Naughten

Question:

173 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to review the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8951/08]

At the time of its enactment, the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 represented a very substantial modernisation of the law as it then stood. The Act has operated very satisfactorily and I have no plans for a fundamental review of its provisions. However, as one would expect in an area of law such as this, it has been necessary to amend it on several occasions since its enactment. I set out the main amendments below.

Section 24 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002 inserted Part 2A into the 1994 Act: it provided for offences relating to entering and occupying land without consent.

Section 3 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 built upon the 1994 Act by providing for exclusion orders which would allow the District Court to prohibit a person, upon conviction of an offence under Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 of the Act of 1994, from entering or being in the vicinity of specified catering premises between such times, and during such a period as the Court may specify.

Section 184 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provided for two new sections, 23A and 23B, to be inserted into the 1994 Act which provide for a fixed penalty procedure in relation to offences under sections 4 and 5 of the 1994 Act, as an alternative to proceedings being taken in the first instance.

Section 185 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 amended Section 19 of the 1994 Act to make it an offence to assault or threaten to assault or to impede medical personnel in a hospital, people assisting such personnel or a peace officer acting in the course of duty. It also expanded the definition of ‘peace officer' to include fire brigade and ambulance staff.

I am currently examining the judgement of the High Court in the case of Niall Dillon-v-DPP, a case relating to begging. It may be necessary to deal with that judgement by way of an amendment to the 1994 Act. I expect to be in a position to make an announcement about that shortly.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Criminal Law Codification Advisory Committee was established last year under Part 14 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to oversee the development of a programme for the codification of the criminal law. The Committee proposes to include public order offences in the first code instrument to be prepared as part of its work programme for the period 2008 to 2009. The Committee expects to examine the 1994 Act in that context.

Garda Operations.

Joe McHugh

Question:

174 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of sniffer dogs on a Garda divisional basis; if there are plans to have a permanent dog in the north-west region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8905/08]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the Garda Dog Unit, which operates nationwide although based in the Dublin Metropolitan Region, has twenty-eight dogs broken down into the following specialist categories:

Category

Number

General Purpose

15

Drugs and Firearms

6

Explosives

4

Tactical Search

1

Victim Recovery

2

As part of the Unit above, a pilot scheme is already in place in the Southern Region with two Garda handlers and four dogs (two drug dogs and two general purpose dogs) allocated to Anglesea Street, Cork and Henry Street, Limerick.

The pilot scheme is currently being evaluated before any decisions will be taken with regard to further regionalisation of the service.

With regard to the number of dogs currently deployed by the Revenue Customs Service, I understand that 12 detector dog teams are in operation with the following breakdown per region:

Region

Number

Dublin Region

6

East/South East Region

2

South West Region

3

Border/Midlands/West Region

1 (based in Sligo)

Of these twelve detector dog teams, ten are used for drug detection, one is trained to detect tobacco and in response to enhanced powers given to the Revenue Customs Service in the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2005 a cash detector dog team has been deployed.

In addition to performing searches for the Revenue Customs Service, the detector dogs teams are also used in Garda drugs searches, on request. The Sligo-based detector dog team is regularly called out to assist the Gardaí in the North West region.

Prison Education Service.

Pat Breen

Question:

175 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners in each of the State’s prisons availing of education and training courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9061/08]

Simon Coveney

Question:

183 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners undertaking education and training programmes other than literacy programmes at each of the State’s prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9060/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 183 together.

Education in prisons is delivered by way of partnership between the Irish Prison Service and a range of educational agencies from the community. Vocational Education Committees (VECs) and Public Library Services make the largest contribution to, and are the mainstay of, the Prison Education Service.

The Department of Education and Science provided an allocation of 220 whole-time teacher equivalents to the prisons through the VECs in the academic year 2007/08. This has enabled education to be provided in all prisons, as well as special teaching arrangements where prisoners are segregated (e.g. Portlaoise, Mountjoy, Wheatfield, Limerick, Midlands, Castlerea and Cork).

Other Agencies also contribute significantly to prison education, for example:

The Open University

The Arts Council

Other third-level colleges, such as the National College of Art and Design

Three full-time librarians, employed by Dublin Public Libraries, work in prisons in the Dublin area.

With regard to the curriculum objectives, methods and course content are largely those of adult education. FETAC accreditation is widely used in prison education with all prison Education Units being accepted as meeting the quality assurance standards demanded by FETAC.

Participation in education generally varies with factors such as access, facilities, turnover of population and segregation. During 2006 approximately 50% of all prisoners were involved in some education. 25% of the total prison population was intensively involved, i.e. for more than 10 hours per week of classes. This level of involvement in education whilst in prison is very high by international standards.

The Irish Prison Service places a strong emphasis on the provision of work and training activities for prisoners. Training activities are chosen to give as much employment as possible for those in prison and to give opportunities to acquire skills which will help them secure employment on their release. There are a wide range of training workshops operating within the institutions e.g. metalwork, printing, computers, braille, woodwork, construction, industrial contract cleaning, craft, horticulture, electronics etc. In addition, the work and training function covers such essential services as catering and laundry services. The environmental waste management programme and the health and safety function also operate under the aegis of the work and training service. External accreditation of certified training is available for a number of courses run within the institutions.

The Work Training Service comprises an authorised complement of over 250 posts. Currently, there are over 90 workshops operating, actively catering for in excess of 800 prisoners each day.

Human Rights Issues.

David Stanton

Question:

176 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 7 of 13 December 2007, if he has received advice regarding changes which need to be made to the National Disability Strategy in order to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities from the high-level group, cross-Departmental implementation group; if not, when he expects to receive same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9023/08]

Ireland was in the first group of countries to sign, subject to ratification, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when it opened for signature on 30 March, 2007.

A high-level, cross-departmental implementation group was established in 2007 to advise on any changes to the Government's National Disability Strategy that may be required to enable the State ratify the Convention. This group has developed a work programme to address matters that need to be aligned with the UN Convention in order that ratification may take place.

It is the Government's intention that the Convention will be ratified by Ireland as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure that all necessary requirements under the Convention are being met.

In so far as my own Department is concerned, there is a need to reform the law on legal capacity of vulnerable adults. The Government's Legislative Programme contains a commitment to bring forward a Mental Capacity Bill. That Bill is an important element of the programme of work on the Convention. I am glad to report that the Scheme of the Bill is at an advanced stage of development in my Department.

Question No. 177 answered with Question No. 147.

Cultural Events.

Billy Timmins

Question:

178 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the concept of the organisation of an international parade day for foreign national communities in order to increase an awareness of their culture and contribution to society here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3808/08]

I am not aware of any particular demand from migrant groups for the holding of an event such as that suggested by the Deputy.

A number of events, stressing the cultural heritage of various migrant groups are currently held both at a national and local level. Such events allow communities to learn about each other's backgrounds and cultures.

Integration, however, implies that new cultures and traditions become part of a unified society. For that reason, I believe that considerable advantage lies in inviting new communities to participate in local and national parades thus emphasising the unification aspect of integration.

The Minister of State, Conor Lenihan, T.D. who has responsibility for integration policy, shares my views on this matter.

Question No. 179 answered with Question No. 147.

Prisoner Escapes.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

180 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners who have escaped or absconded from prisons here in each of the past ten years; the number who were serving sentences for serious crimes; if he is satisfied with the effort made to locate them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8980/08]

I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the statistics as requested by the Deputy for the last 10 years are as follows:

Year

Number of Escapes

Number of Absconds

1998

8

93

1999

14

184

2000

8

123

2001

13

95

2002

11

121

2003

12

70

2004

7

66

2005

9

81

2006

6

90

2007

7

136

The compilation of statistics relating to all offences for which prisoners have been convicted in the context of their current sentences or previous ones, if applicable, on an individual prisoner basis, would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort to prepare and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources.

I can inform the Deputy that there were 71 persons listed as being unlawfully at large on 4 February, 2008 having absconded from an open centre since 1998. I can also advise that there were 2 persons listed as being at large having absconded while being supervised on an external work party and a further 4 prisoners who absconded while on a supervised outing with a staff member such as a chaplain, again each case post dates 1998. In addition there are 3 persons at large having escaped from the custody of prison officers since 1998.

In most cases of absconsion, the offender is very much at the lower end of the risk to the public spectrum. An Garda Síochána is in regular contact with the Irish Prison Service in relation to a range of operational issues, including prisoners who have escaped or absconded. The Gardaí are informed where prisoners are unlawfully at large and have the power to detain, arrest, and return such persons to prison.

Prison Education Service.

Simon Coveney

Question:

181 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of literacy tutors working in each of the State’s prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9059/08]

Literacy work has been a strong element of the Prison Education curriculum since the early 1980's. The literacy curriculum concentrates on the needs of the individual and respects the adult status of the student, his/her prior knowledge, skills and life experience. It is also concerned with improving self-esteem and building confidence.

During the academic year 2007/08, the Department of Education and Science has provided an allocation of 220 whole-time teacher equivalents to the prisons.

An Adult Basic Education Development Worker is employed with specific responsibility for implementing and supporting developments and initiatives in the area of literacy, numeracy, English for speakers of other languages and basic education. Because of the literacy deficit of the prisoner population, literacy work forms an element of more than just the timetabled literacy classes. All teachers are aware of the literacy needs and these are dealt with as part of the general coursework of prisoners. This is a very effective method of linking the literacy learning programme of prisoners to an area they can engage with and is widely used in adult education.

The Irish Prison Service is implementing the new assessment framework devised by the National Adult Literacy Agency; "Mapping the Learning Journey", an assessment framework that identifies learner progress, provides tangible feedback and indicates areas on which to focus. It is a useful tool for both learning and teaching.

Progress has been made linking the education and training needs of prisoners since 2003, with the literacy action plan prepared by the prison education unit of each prison becoming one vehicle for integrating the efforts of the education and training sectors in prisons. Peer tutoring, promoting family literacy and developing post-release support for prisoners who undertake literacy tuition in prison are also promoted by the Prison Education staff wherever feasible.

Each student coming into the Prison Education Centre will have an individual interview to assess his/her educational needs and interests. Those with literacy difficulties are prioritised and slotted into class almost immediately. Every effort is made to publicise literacy classes and encourage as many prisoners as possible to avail of classes.

Irish Prison Service.

Joe Carey

Question:

182 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the findings and recommendations of the Irish prison chaplains annual report 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9079/08]

The Deputy will acknowledge that whereas the 2006/2007 Annual Report of the Irish Prison Service Chaplains contains certain criticisms of the prison system it also rightly recognises the significant progress that is being made in improving the system. The Report highlights and welcomes some of the major developments which have taken place in the period covered by the Report. In particular, the Report welcomed the advances that are being made in enhancing the range of rehabilitative services within the prisons and the provision of additional staffing to support these activities.

There are a number of other important issues raised in the Report to which the Deputy refers, and I would like to take this opportunity to respond to some of these:

Sentence Management

The Irish Prison Service is currently planning for the roll out of Integrated Sentence Management (ISM), which will be funded under the National Development Plan, starting in 2008 and delivered progressively over the lifetime of the Plan. The end result will see a prisoner-centred, multidisciplinary approach to working with prisoners with provision for initial assessment, goal setting and periodic review to measure progress.

Sex Offenders Programme

With regard to the Sex Offender Programme, there is no question of any sex offender who wishes to participate on this programme being denied a place due to the lack of availability. The Irish Prison Service will provide as many programmes for these offenders as are required. It should also be noted that in addition to the men currently undertaking that programme, circa sixty other sex offenders have participated during the last year in one-to-one work related to their offending.

Reintegration

In relation to the Report's comments on reintegration, the Irish Prison Service, in partnership with community based groups, has developed a number of projects supporting prisoner reintegration in recent years. These projects have focused on the range of issues facing prisoners on their release such as homelessness, unemployment etc.

Education

Educational services are now available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies in the community including the VECs, Public Library Services, Colleges and the Arts Council. During the academic year 2007/08, 220 whole-time-equivalent VEC teachers are the main providers of these education programmes.

St. Patrick's Institution

As the Deputy will note, the Chaplains' Report commends the recent efforts by the prison management at St. Patrick's Institution to improve conditions there, including the improved educational facilities and the provision of separate accommodation and education units there for those under 18 years and those over 18 years.

Drugs Policy

The Chaplain's Report also welcomed positive developments in the area of drug treatment. Significant additional resources have been dedicated to enhancing the range and quality of drug treatment services in the prison since the launch of the Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy ‘Keeping Drugs Out of Prisons' in 2006. This has included the appointment of additional Addiction Nurses, Psychologists and Prison Officers and the awarding of a contract for the provision of 24 Addiction Counsellors. The range and quality of drug services in prisons has been significantly improved and the Irish Prison Service will continue with their phased implementation of the policy of investing in these services.

Question No. 183 answered with Question No. 175.
Question No. 184 answered with Question No. 127.

Departmental Funding.

Dan Neville

Question:

185 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Taoiseach the reason an application for an Access, Skills and Content Initiative 2007 made by groups (details supplied) in County Limerick was unsuccessful in an application made in 2007. [8913/08]

The application from Desmond Ability Resource Complex, under the Access Skills and Content (ASC) Initiative which is administered by my Department, in common with the other applications received, was assessed against the published criteria (copy available at http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie). An initial evaluation based on the material submitted, was carried out by the Information Society Policy Unit of my Department and then by a Committee comprising relevant experts from other Departments and agencies.

The information, provided in the application did not establish a sufficiently strong case to secure the funding sought, given the limited resources available and the other applications received. A further call for proposals will issue shortly in respect of the 2008 allocation for eInclusion and in that context there may be scope to provide a further opportunity for an application of this nature.

Departmental Bodies.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

186 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach the progress in relation to the implementation of the report of the Taskforce on Active Citizenship which was published in March 2007; if he will confirm the establishment of the active citizenship office; the work that office carried out to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8736/08]

The Taskforce on Active Citizenship completed its work in March 2007 and presented a set of recommendations to Government on measures that could be taken to increase active citizenship and civic participation.

The Government agreed in principle to the recommendations and is proceeding to implement them. To achieve this, an Office of Active Citizenship has been established in my Department and is currently developing a plan to implement the recommendations, following consultations with relevant Government Departments.

The Heads of Departments, in examining the implications of the Taskforce's recommendations, have identified how their existing strategies and programmes take account of the Taskforce recommendations. These are being considered by the Office with a view to presenting an implementation plan to Government over the coming months.

There has been a hugely positive response from both public and private stakeholders in pursuing the active citizenship agenda which I believe will ensure more vibrant, sustainable community life in the years to come. In particular, the Office, which is chaired by Ms. Mary Davis, continues to consult with various business interests in order to encourage greater connectivity to the community through this sector. Building on existing initiatives, there is a significant contribution this sector can make to communities nationwide.

Consultations are also being held with the wider educational sector with particular regard to raising awareness of the potential for service learning and volunteering.

Economic Growth.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

187 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach the details of the respective assumptions made by the Central Statistics Office in terms of expectations of growth in the economy in arriving at its M1 and M2 projections for migration flows to and from Ireland to 2036 in its publication Population and Labour Force Projections, 2006-2036. [8774/08]

The projections, which were published in December 2004 and relate to the 2002 Census, provided from a (then) current perspective two contrasting scenarios to reflect the likely range of possible outcomes in respect of international migration. No explicit assumptions were made in respect of expected growth in the economy. Instead, two migration assumptions M1 and M2 were framed by the Expert Group in such a way as to give a likely range for migration over the projection period, having regard to recent experience across a range of factors such as the structure of the population and likely national and international trends in relevant areas.

Issues that were taken into consideration in framing the two scenarios included:

the capacity of our infrastructure to cope with continuing high population growth;

reduced labour supply due to the decline in births in the 1980s and 1990s;

demographic ‘pull' factors arising from a more rapidly aging population structure in other European countries;

sharply decreased pool of Irish migrants living abroad.

Updated projections based on the 2006 Census have been finalised and will be published shortly.

Enterprise Audits.

David Stanton

Question:

188 Deputy David Stanton asked the Taoiseach the Department, with reference to the commitment in the programme for Government that an enterprise audit will be conducted to review the use of existing and redundant agricultural buildings and manufacturing plants in rural areas, that will be responsible for ensuring that this enterprise audit is carried out; the agencies that will carry out this audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9337/08]

In line with the commitment we have made in the Programme for Government, we are currently finalising arrangements for an enterprise audit to review the use of existing and redundant agricultural buildings and manufacturing plants in rural areas.

As the Deputy will appreciate, this is a comprehensive undertaking involving a number of state agencies and Government Departments. Final arrangements have yet to be made, but I can assure the Deputy that it will be completed during the lifetime of this Government.

I am happy to inform the Deputy that the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will coordinate with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

This Government is fully committed to creating vibrant rural areas nationwide with a strong agriculture and enterprise sector. In previous Governments I have been privileged to lead, we have placed a new emphasis on the development of rural areas. Under this Government, we have continued and strengthened this commitment up to 2012.

Disabled Drivers.

Finian McGrath

Question:

189 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will assist in the case of a person (details supplied). [8819/08]

Finian McGrath

Question:

190 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will assist in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [8827/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 190 together.

The initial application for a Primary Medical Certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, is made to the Senior Medical Officer of the relevant local Health Service Executive administrative area.

If the Primary Medical Certificate has been refused in this case, the named person may appeal the refusal to the Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. I would point out that the Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions.

Cross-Border Projects.

Joe McHugh

Question:

191 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the measure that will be introduced through the North/South Ministerial body to address funding issues with respect to community projects currently coming to the end of Peace II funding; the Department that will provide mainstream funding for such projects (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8911/08]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), one of the six North South Implementation Bodies set up under the Good Friday Agreement. Its primary role is to manage two cross border European Union funded programmes, the PEACE programme and the Ireland/Northern Ireland/Scotland INTERREG programme. The SEUPB reports to the North South Ministerial Council.

I have been informed that the organisation referred to is in receipt of funding under the PEACE II Programme.

The SEUPB has no function in relation to general Departmental funding. However, there will be further EU funds available under the PEACE III Programme. The total amount of funding available in the PEACE III programme is €333 million. This amount is divided between the three priorities of the programme, Priority 1, Reconciling Communities, has been allocated €191 million, Priority 2, Contributing to a Shared Society, has been allocated €122 million and Priority 3, Technical Assistance, €20 million. The SEUPB is the Managing Authority for the new programme and further details in relation to it and the processes to be followed in applying to the programme are available from the SEUPB website at www.seupb.org.

Garda Operations.

Joe McHugh

Question:

192 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of sniffer dogs being trained in this country; the length of time it takes for each dog to be trained; if he has plans to allocate further funding to the training of such dogs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8912/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Customs Service currently deploys 12 detector dog teams at strategic locations throughout the country. All these dogs were initially trained in the UK. It normally takes between 8 and 12 weeks to train a detector dog. This is followed by joint training of the officer and the dog together, which takes up to a further 9 weeks. The final part of this training involves orientation and deployment in the actual working environments in the State where the dog will be used. Continuation and refresher training is also provided on an ongoing basis. The dogs are used to detect drugs, tobacco and cash. Passive dogs are used as this allows for the screening of passengers as well as merchandise and baggage.

In keeping with their commitment to the Government's National Drug Strategy, the Commissioners have considerably enhanced their drug detection capability in recent years on a number of fronts. In respect of detector dog teams alone, the number of these has been increased from 6 in 1993 to 9 in 2003 and now stands at 12. The Commissioners constantly monitor and review the effectiveness of resource deployment and allocate additional resources, where there is a need to do so.

The Commissioners also believe in ensuring the detector dog teams maintain a high public visibility at the ports, airports, postal depots and freight forwarders' premises in which they routinely operate. The Customs' detector dogs also assist an Garda Síochána, whenever requested to do so.

Architectural Heritage.

Richard Bruton

Question:

193 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the developments under consideration in the context of regeneration of the General Post Office site; if a framework plan will be published for public consultation; and if he has developed a timetable for the project. [8709/08]

Richard Bruton

Question:

195 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the latest plans for renewal works at the General Post Office; the scope of the plans that are under construction; the process of public consultation that is envisaged; the timescale envisaged for completion of the project. [8777/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 and 195 together.

In the context of the approaching Centenary of the Easter Rising and having regard to the significant commercial developments taking place in the area, the Government has arranged for a consideration by officials, co-ordinated by the Department of the Taoiseach, of the regeneration of the General Post Office and the possibilities for development of cultural and amenity facilities in the complex.

This is a preliminary study to assess the potential and to contemplate the critical time path of any development, the possible costs involved and the implications arising for the operations of An Post. The conclusions of the study will be presented in the first instance for the consideration of Government and then brought to the Oireachtas Consultation Group on the Centenary of the Rising.

The study will require several months and a timetable for any ensuing project would be assessed later.

Tax Code.

Tom Hayes

Question:

194 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the new rules on the exemption of stamp duty for family members which was announced in Budget 2008 will come into law. [8775/08]

Where a parent transfers a site to a child for the purpose of constructing the child's principal private residence, relief from Stamp Duty applies where market value of the site does not exceed a specified threshold.

The threshold was increased to €500,000 in respect of disposals made on or after Budget day (5 December 2007).

Question No. 195 answered with Question No. 193.

Irish Language.

Richard Bruton

Question:

196 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if there is a change in the policy under which persons who have a proficiency in Irish are awarded credit in promotion competitions for such proficiency; if new circulars have been issued modifying the application of this policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8778/08]

I can confirm that there has been no change in the policy under which persons who have a proficiency in Irish are awarded credit in promotion competitions for such proficiency and no new circulars modifying the application of the policy have been issued by my Department. However, the overall arrangements under which candidates are awarded credit for proficiency in Irish is currently under review in consultation with the unions represented at the civil service general council.

EU Directives.

Dan Neville

Question:

197 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on a matter (details supplied). [8889/08]

Dan Neville

Question:

198 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will make a statement regarding the Energy Tax Directive 2004; and the position regarding fuel rebate for school services. [8920/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 198 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, has refused all such requests.

Consequently, as the Deputy may be aware, the Finance Bill 2008 includes the legislative changes to withdraw the relief in respect of fuel used for public passenger transport vehicles. The relief will be withdrawn with effect from 1 November 2008 and the appropriate full excise rates will apply from that date.

However, the Department of Transport and other relevant line Departments are, in conjunction with my Department, exploring alternative mechanisms that may be used to direct Exchequer resources toward such services from that date, subject of course to compatibility with EU State Aid requirements.

Tax Collection.

Joan Burton

Question:

199 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 71 of 26 February 2008, the number of taxpayers and the proportion of taxpayers for the years 2007 and 2008 paying tax at the standard rate who are nominally liable to pay tax at the higher rate before such credits are taken into account. [9008/08]

As the Deputy is aware, the data relating to the numbers paying tax at the higher rate, the standard rate and exempt were set out in my reply to her question on 26 February 2008. An explanation as to why the data are presented in this way is contained in the 2007 Budget booklet, pages C.23 to C.28.

As I indicate in my previous reply on 26 February 2008, what matters to earners is the amount of their earnings that they keep in their pockets. For all income earners, whether single or married, the position is that their take home pay has increased very significantly in real terms over the last ten years.

As indicated in An Agreed Programme for Government, the aim over the term of Office of this Government is to keep the overall tax burden low and implement further changes to enhance the reward for work while increasing the fairness of the tax system.

Departmental Properties.

Richard Bruton

Question:

200 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the location and floor area of each building in respect of the properties in Dublin which have been released or sold as a result of the decentralisation programme; and the way in which each building has been released. [9126/08]

The area and method of sale of the properties released in Dublin are shown in the following table.

Location

Area Sq. M

Method of Sale

14-16 Lord Edward Street

1,940

Public Tender

26-27 Eden Quay

720

Public Tender

72-76 St. Stephen’s Green

6,207

Public Tender

Chantilly, Rathmichael, Co Dublin (site)

13,300

Private Treaty

Faculty Building, Shelbourne Road

2,509

Public Tender

Former Vet College, Shelbourne Road (site)

8,300

Public Tender

Gardiner Street

1,002

Private Treaty

Lad Lane (site)

3,900

Public Tender

Land adjacent to RHK (site)

1,537

Private Treaty

Parnell Square West

1,340

Public Tender

St. John’s Road (site)

33,200

Public Tender

The above disposals have realised €355.6m. In addition, four properties valued at €75m were transferred to the Affordable Homes Partnership.

In addition to the above, space has been freed up by a number of Departments in Dublin following a series of relocations under the Decentralisation Programme.

The OPW, in consultation with the relevant Departments, is in the process of compiling a schedule of the space freed up which will distinguish between space which:

1. has been reallocated to meet new requirements;

2. has been reallocated to meet shortfalls in existing accommodation provisions;

3. is available for reallocation/disposal.

Tax Code.

John O'Mahony

Question:

201 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to reduce VAT on defibrillators from 21% to 13.5% as the funds to purchase such defibrillators are raised by voluntary groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9127/08]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

202 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his plans to reduce VAT on defibrillators from 21% to 13.5 % in view of the fact that funds raised by voluntary groups go by way of VAT to the Exchequer and that having a defibrillator is not a luxury but a necessity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9143/08]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

203 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will favourably consider reducing the VAT rate on defibrillators operated by voluntary local groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9146/08]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

206 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on reducing the rate of VAT on defibrillators from the rate of 21% to 13% as it would greatly reduce the cost of such for community based organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9174/08]

Joe Costello

Question:

209 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on correspondence (details supplied); if he will reduce VAT on defibrillators from 21% to 13.5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9183/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

211 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views in relation to a submission (detail supplied); if action is feasible in relation to the request in view the health value the device has and is giving to communities particularly those isolated from services and to sporting organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9228/08]

Willie Penrose

Question:

213 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will take steps as part of the Finance Bill 2008 currently being discussed to reduce the rate of VAT on defibrillators from 21% to 13.5%, as it is generally voluntary and community bodies who are engaged in raising funds at local level to provide for defibrillators right throughout the country as they are a necessity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9262/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

216 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will cut the rate of VAT on defibrillators in order to assist voluntary sporting organisations and community groups to better afford this potentially life saving equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9450/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 to 203, inclusive, 206, 209, 211, 213 and 216 together.

The position is that in matters relating to the VAT rating of goods and services, I am constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In this regard, I would point out that the rate of VAT that applies to a particular good or service depends on the nature of the good or service and not on the status of the consumer. In this instance, there is no provision in EU law that would permit the removal or reduction of VAT based on the social or economic status of the consumer or sporting, voluntary, local or community based groups.

In relation to the VAT rate that applies to defibrillators, the position is that under the VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. The zero VAT rate cannot therefore be applied to defibrillators which are subject to the standard rate.

In addition, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. While Annex III does include the supply of medical equipment for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include defibrillators for general use. The reduced rate cannot be applied to the supply of defibrillators.

Therefore the only rate of VAT that can apply to the supply of defibrillators is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

Tax Collection.

Niall Collins

Question:

204 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding an application for stamp duty refund by persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [9163/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in this case stamp duty has been charged at the rate appropriate to investors. In order to consider the question of a refund, the Revenue Commissioners wrote to the persons in question in July 2007 and again in January 2008 seeking further information in support of their claim. This information has not been received to date. On receipt of a reply the claim for a refund will be considered.

Departmental Agencies.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

205 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the customer service targets operated by the Revenue Commissioners; and the way performance related to these targets in 2007. [9171/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Revenue's Customer Service Charter reflects the mutual expectations of Revenue and its customers and seeks to ensure that the organisation conforms to the highest principles of professional public service. Revenue measures its performance against the standards set out in the Customer Service Standards document.

The results for 2007 will be published in Revenue's Annual Report for 2007 due out in April next. The published Standards and the service Standard results for 2006 & 2005 are as follows:

2006

2005

%

%

Complaints

Processed impartially within 20 working days

100

100

Telephone Service

PAYE 1890 Calls (answered)

65

47

Other calls answered within 30 seconds

78

79

Registrations

VAT 100% within 10 working days

91

86

Other 100% within 5 working days

79

87

Returns, declarations, Applications

ROS 100% within 5 working days

93

91

Non ROS 80% processed within 10 working days

Income Tax

37

36

Corporation Tax

40

32

Other

96

91

Non ROS 100% processed within 20 working days

Income Tax

64

54

Corporation Tax

71

67

Other

97

97

AEP Immediate Response

Immediate response

Immediate response

Repayments

Non ROS 80% processed within 10 working days

76

76

100% processed within 20 working days

90

88

ROS 100% within 5 working days

Income Tax

79

79

Corporation Tax

68

68

Correspondence, e-mail, fax

80% processed within 20 working days

82

82

Applications for Tax Clearance Certificates

100% processed within 6 working days

90

86

The Charter and Customer Service Standards documents are available on Revenue's website www.revenue.ie.

Question No. 206 answered with Question No. 201.

Tax Collection.

Joan Burton

Question:

207 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when he and his Department became aware of the proposed sale by a whistle-blower to European Governments of a list of residents from different jurisdictions with bank accounts in Liechtenstein as has recently happened in Germany; if there has been a proposal to provide the relevant Irish authorities with such a list in return for a some of money; if such an offer has been followed up; if a list of Irish residents with Liechtenstein bank accounts has been, or will be established as a result of such or any other initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9179/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they recently became aware that the German tax authorities have access to a list of individuals holding funds in a financial institution in Liechtenstein. That jurisdiction is one of three jurisdictions which has been listed by the OECD as an uncooperative tax haven. Revenue inform me that they have initiated enquiries with the German tax authorities to establish whether any Irish residents appear on this list.

Niall Collins

Question:

208 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the policy of the Revenue Commissioners in relation to payments (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9181/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that it is their policy and practice to encourage and support voluntary and timely compliance both as regards the filing of returns and the payment of taxes due.

Where a person or business experiences particular short-term cash flow difficulties which impact on the capacity to meet the relevant tax obligations, Revenue encourages such an individual or business to make contact with the Collector-General at the earliest opportunity. The Collector-General would be prepared to explore any reasonable proposals that would bring about full compliance with the tax obligations. Such proposals may include a phased payment arrangement, but such an arrangement would include interest. The specific proposals for phased payments in any individual case would depend on the overall circumstances, including the health of the business, and would be discussed with the taxpayer and/or his agent.

Question No. 209 answered with Question No. 201.

Flood Relief.

Finian McGrath

Question:

210 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the person who has responsibility for maintaining drainage of rivers (details supplied) in County Galway. [9194/08]

Primary responsibility in relation to the prevention of flooding to property adjoining rivers rests with the owners of the property. In the case of channels that were included in a scheme carried out under arterial drainage legislation the Office of Public Works or the relevant County Council have a maintenance responsibility. The channels referred to were not part of any such scheme.

Question No. 211 answered with Question No. 201.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a tax refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9237/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer is jointly assessed with her spouse for income tax purposes. Her spouse is self-employed and therefore, as a chargeable person, is obliged to submit an annual tax return. Following receipt of a completed tax return, a notice of assessment is issued to the taxpayer's spouse and any tax overpaid by the taxpayer may then be refunded. The taxpayer was employed and paid tax in the years 2004, 2005 and 2007. However, completed tax returns for the years 2004 and 2005 are outstanding. These have been previously requested from the taxpayer's spouse. A completed tax return for 2007 is also outstanding and is due to be filed by the taxpayer's spouse on or before 31 October 2008. On receipt of these outstanding tax returns, the taxpayer's entitlement to a tax refund can then be determined.

Question No. 213 answered with Question No. 201.

Sean Fleming

Question:

214 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a tax certificate will be issued to a company (details supplied). [9267/08]

I am advised by The Revenue Commissioners that an application for a subcontractors certificate (Form C2) was received from the taxpayer on 6 February 2008. On 12 February 2008 the application was returned to the taxpayer advising him that as he was not registered as self employed his application could not be processed. He was advised as to how to register as self employed and was supplied with the relevant form for completion.

On 15 February 2008 the taxpayer returned the completed application and he was registered as self employed on 20 February 2008. On 22 February 2008 the C2 application was processed. Revenue will advise the taxpayer when his certificate is available for collection. This contact will be made in the course of the next few days.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

215 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the measures being taken by his Department and its agencies to reduce their carbon footprint in 2007/2008. [9443/08]

My Department and its agencies have implemented or are in the process of implementing measures to reduce their carbon footprint in 2007/08.

The Office of Public Works it is currently engaged in a multifaceted strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the overall carbon footprint of Government occupied buildings, as follows:

A state wide staff energy awareness campaign entitled "Optimising Power @ Work" in 250 large state office buildings. The target is to reduce carbon emissions by an average of 15% in each building over the course of the project.

A Heating Fuel Conversion Programme to convert the heating systems of approximately 20 large state buildings from their existing fossil fuel burners (oil/natural gas) to biomass burners. The biomass fuel will be in the form of Wood Pellets or Wood Chips. Apart from the obvious benefit that biomass provides, the conversion programme is intended to stimulate the native production of these fuels.

Maximising energy efficiency through the design and construction of newly commissioned buildings.

In relation to my Department and the other offices and agencies under its aegis, I have been informed that a range of measures are being implemented to reduce the carbon footprint of these offices and agencies, including:

Energy audits and energy awareness campaigns.

Increased sourcing of energy from renewable source.

Recycling policies in relation to paper and other materials with every effort made to purchase eco-friendly products.

The use of green energy efficient IT servers and of virtualisation technology to consolidate the number of servers required.

Use of software products that automatically shut down personal computers according to a centrally controlled schedule.

Question No. 216 answered with Question No. 201.

Children in Care.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

217 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children who have been placed in care centres outside of Ireland as a result of court decisions; the number who have been placed in each centre, each year for the past five years; the annual cost of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8812/08]

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 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.

Pension Provisions.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

218 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views regarding the old age pension for retired medical officers in the dispensary system; her Department’s position on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8846/08]

The Health Service Executive administers the Local Government Superannuation Scheme and therefore is the appropriate organisation to address the Deputy's query. 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 Research Funding.

Joe McHugh

Question:

219 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will explore funding opportunities through Interreg or the Belfast Agreement to fund research for people suffering from duchenne muscular dystrophy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9168/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

285 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is prepared to explore potential avenues of funding for duchenne muscular dystrophy research through the North-South Ministerial Council; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9167/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 and 285 together.

I met with Muscular Dystrophy Ireland in October last year. I wish to assure you that I am very aware of the situation for the families with children suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I am aware also of their hopes regarding a proposed clinical trial led by the MDEX consortium in the UK. The funding of health research being carried out in the UK is not appropriate to the Good Friday Agreement, North South Ministerial Council or the INTERREG Programme, as referred to by the Deputy in his questions. The Department of Health and Children does not directly fund research and I have recommended that the researchers apply to the Health Research Board for joint funding of the proposed trial. However, the researchers would of course have to compete with all the other proposals being received by the Health Research Board.

I understand that Muscular Dystrophy Ireland held the first information day on "Advances in the Care of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy" for families and doctors last Sunday 2nd March. I was pleased to be able to support Muscular Dystrophy Ireland by providing over €9,000 towards the costs associated with the information day.

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

220 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason chiropody is not regarded as a core element of entitlement for medical card holders; her views on entering into a contract with chiropodists in order that medical card holders would not find themselves restricted in the use of chiropody services and obliged to pay top-up fees to chiropodists for access to the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9650/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

235 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason medical card holders are being requested to pay a top up charge when they attend a chiropodist for treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8825/08]

James Reilly

Question:

241 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the eligibility for medical card holders, particularly pensioners and card holders on disability allowance to access chiropodist care; if the cost of such care is fully covered by the medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8849/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 220, 235 and 241 together.

There is no statutory obligation on the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide chiropody services to GMS patients; however in practice arrangements have been made in several regions to provide these services. Before the establishment of the HSE the nature of any arrangements for community chiropody services and the level of service provided were a matter for individual health boards and so a degree of variation in practice developed over time. I understand that priority is usually given to certain groups of people, including people who are medical card holders aged 65 years and over. In several regions the service is provided by private chiropodists by arrangement with the HSE.

My Department is currently preparing legislation to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services. The Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework.

I consider that it is inappropriate for private chiropodists who are providing services on behalf of the HSE to charge patients a top-up fee, and I have conveyed this view formally to the HSE. My Department requested the HSE to review the fee arrangements in place for the provision of chiropody services, with a view to ensuring that such additional fees will no longer be levied on persons in receipt of this service. While considerable work has taken place to develop arrangements which would ensure that no top-up charges are applied, it is necessary to ensure that any such arrangements and the process by which they are arrived at comply with the terms of the Competition Act 2002.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

221 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has been informed that they may have to wait two years for a mammography despite the fact that there is a family history of breast cancer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8729/08]

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 question 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 matter raised.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

222 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow will have the heart surgery they have been waiting 18 months for; and if the surgery will be scheduled urgently. [8749/08]

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.

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

223 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of orthodontists in County Waterford and the south east generally; and her views on whether more are needed. [8750/08]

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

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

224 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting times for orthodontic work in County Waterford and the south east generally. [8751/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, 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 Staff.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

225 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children the anticipated time scale for a resolution to the consultant contract negotiations to allow the appointment of a consultant colorectal surgeon in a hospital (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8756/08]

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has 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 therefore the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy directly.

Domestic Violence.

Jack Wall

Question:

226 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to address the link between violence against women and mental ill health; if she plans to implement the Women’s Health Council’s recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8757/08]

The Government is committed to the full implementation of "A Vision for Change" the report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy and has accepted the report as the basis for the future development of mental health services. Although "A Vision for Change" does not specifically mention gender based violence, it identifies violence as one of the risks that may lead to mental health problems. The Report recommends a mental health system that addresses the needs of the population through a focus on the requirements of the individual and that mental health promotion programmes should particularly focus on those interventions known to enhance protective factors and decrease risk factors for developing mental health problems.

The Womens Health Council Report ‘Violence Against Women and Health', 2007 made recommendations in relation to: training of health professionals in dealing with violence against women, improved screening and counselling of women presenting at health services for violence against women, strengthening the advocacy role of the health services, and improved data collection.

Implementation of these recommendations is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jack Wall

Question:

227 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views in relation to the amount of funding allocated to expert counselling and support organisations in the community and voluntary sector for women who experience violence; her plans to increase funding to this important sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8758/08]

The distribution of funding for the provision of services to women victims of violence and the provision of health and personal services is a matter for the Health Services Executive. 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 Facilities.

Enda Kenny

Question:

228 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children her Department’s policy on the placement of vending machines in hospitals and facilities under the remit of her Department, particularly the policy with regard to public hospitals, proposed co-located hospitals and hospitals or health facilities constructed under the public private partnership scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8765/08]

The placement of vending machines in hospitals and other health facilities is a matter for the Health Service Executive and the management of the individual hospital or facility concerned. I am aware that the installation of vending machines gives rise to a debate in the context of the supply of foodstuffs and beverages on healthy food choices. In this context, I should add that the National Taskforce on Obesity, which reported in 2005, recommended that the health sector in their strategic planning and delivery should advocate and lead a change in emphasis from the primacy of individual responsibility to environments that support healthy food choices and regular physical activity. The provision of healthy choices must therefore be a key consideration where food is provided in hospitals or in other health facilities.

My Department has asked the Health Service Executive to examine the issues raised by the Deputy and to reply directly to him.

Infectious Diseases.

Enda Kenny

Question:

229 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children her policy on MRSA; the progress made in meeting her targets for the reduction of MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8766/08]

I would like to assure the Deputy that tackling all Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs), including MRSA continues to be a priority for the government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The HSE launched a National Infection Control Action Plan in March 2007. An Infection Control Steering Group, chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan. Over the next three to five years, the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk. These targets will be achieved through the development of national and local level action plans to reduce the potential for spread of infections between persons in healthcare settings, and, in addition, will focus on reducing antibiotic use in Ireland. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

A National Surveillance System has recently been established by the HSE to collect data and provide information on a quarterly basis on four key areas, to monitor HCAIs in our health system: Staphylococcus bacteraemia; Antibiotic consumption; Alcohol gel use; MRSA surveillance in Intensive Care Units.

The HSE intend to publish available data on the above for 2006 and 2007 in April this year and then quarterly thereafter. The data will be listed by individual hospital and in due course also by each Local Health Office. This will greatly assist in the monitoring of improvements in infection control. It will in particular highlight recent trends in the key areas identified and represent a benchmark against which we can assess progress in the future and particularly when and where that progress is being achieved.

Improvements on hygiene are critical to effective infection control. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) undertook a comprehensive review of hygiene in our hospitals in 2007 against hygiene standards developed by the Irish Health Services Accreditation Board. HIQA published its report, the National Hygiene Services Quality Review, on 13th November 2007. The report represents a thorough assessment of how hygiene services are provided and managed in 51 HSE-funded acute care hospitals. Hospitals generally performed well on hygiene in the service delivery area. Most hospitals achieved either extensive or exceptional compliance with the standard in the service delivery section of the report. However, the results were poor on governance. While the good hygiene practice of front line staff highlighted in the report is vital, real improvement in this whole are also depends heavily on good leadership and a system of governance. HIQA is currently working with managers and clinicians to develop national standards for Infection Prevention and Control. When completed these, along with the national hygiene standards, will provide a comprehensive framework to help reduce the spread of infection and improve the quality of our health care.

The availability of isolation facilities is an important factor in the overall solution to the issue of reducing incidence of infection. I have instructed the HSE that designated private beds should be used where isolation facilities are required for patients who contract MRSA and this policy has been adopted by the HSE. New environmental building guidelines have been prepared by the HSE to inform infection control policy in all new builds and refurbishments. A process of consultation on the draft guidelines is currently on-going. The HSE is committed to ensuring that such facilities are in line with best international practice including the provision of adequate numbers of single units.

While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of infections and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Departmental Advertising.

Enda Kenny

Question:

230 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the costs of a public advertisement campaign (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8767/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the HSE under the Health Act 2007 and funding for all health services, including infection control, has been provided as part of its overall Vote. The public advertisement campaign referred to by the Deputy was undertaken by the HSE. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

231 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8802/08]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

232 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare did not qualify for the health repayment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8805/08]

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.

Medicinal Products.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

233 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress since the Adjournment debate of 18 December 2007 on thalidomide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8810/08]

The Minister met with the Irish Thalidomide Association on 17th January 2008 and she decided to refer the five individuals claiming exposure to thalidomide in Ireland for clinical assessment using the services of an independent international medical examiner. Officials of the Department have been in touch with Dr Peter Kohler, Stockholm, Sweden and I understand that he is willing to undertake the clinical assessment at the Red Cross Hospital, Stockholm and provide his expert opinion on each individual case. The Department is in contact with Dr Kohler with regard to his requirements prior to assessment and arrangements for carrying out the assessment. The Department has been in contact with the five individuals and will contact them further when the arrangements are in place.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Dan Neville

Question:

234 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people with learning disabilities sent abroad for rehabilitation; the reason individuals are sent abroad for treatment; the cost of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8817/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5s and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 220.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

236 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [8826/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Pat Breen

Question:

237 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if an advert has been placed by the recruitment department (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8836/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5s and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

238 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been told that they have to wait over two years for an out-patient appointment to see a consultant in relation to a knee problem. [8840/08]

The management of out-patient waiting lists is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the individual hospitals concerned. However, in 2005, at my request, the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) set up a number of out-patient pilot projects. These have been operating successfully in a number of hospitals around the country for various specialties.

Public hospitals are invited by the NTPF to participate in the out-patient pilot scheme to treat public patients who are waiting longest for first time appointments with a consultant. The NTPF is currently accepting and agreeing proposals from public hospitals for 2008. It is planned that up to 13,500 out-patient appointments will be offered this year under this scheme. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy

Health Service Allowances.

Bernard Allen

Question:

239 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork was refused financial assistance towards their taxi expenses in view of the fact that they broke their arm and needed to attend the orthopaedic hospital regularly. [8841/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

240 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be called for surgery. [8843/08]

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

Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Question No. 241 answered with Question No. 220.

Medical Cards.

Denis Naughten

Question:

242 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the provisions available for health care for nationals of Romania and Bulgaria who are legally working here; if such people can apply for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8852/08]

Entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means. Any person, regardless of nationality, who is accepted by the Health Service Executive (HSE) as being ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to either full eligibility (Category 1, i.e. medical card holders) or limited eligibility (Category 2) for health services.

In general, a person should be regarded as being ordinarily resident in Ireland if he or she satisfies the HSE that it is his/her intention to remain in Ireland for a minimum period of one year. A national of an EU country who is employed or self-employed in Ireland, is entitled to either full or limited eligibility regardless of the duration of his/her residence in Ireland. Therefore, nationals of Romania and Bulgaria who are legally working in Ireland are entitled to either full or limited eligibility and may apply for a medical card in the normal way.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

243 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Meath on humanitarian grounds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8854/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged over 70, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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:

244 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8855/08]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

245 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied). [8860/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Joe Carey

Question:

246 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that graduate physiotherapists are not being employed by the Health Service Executive yet gravely ill patients are having to wait up to two years in order to secure an appointment with a physiotherapist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8868/08]

Joe Carey

Question:

247 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to address the serious waiting list for access to physiotherapist services provided by the State; and if she will provide an undertaking that graduate level physiotherapists will be employed by the Health Service Executive to address this crisis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8869/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 246 and 247 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 health care professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the health care needs of the population into the future.

There has been a growing demand for, and investment in, physiotherapy services over the last number of years. A particular priority for this Department and the Department of Education and Science in recent years has been the expansion of the supply of therapy graduates. Training places for physiotherapists have increased by 137.5% since 1997 (from 64 to 152). My Department has worked closely with the HSE in the provision of clinical placements for these students; an essential component of the therapy degree programmes.

I am aware that an issue has arisen whereby some physiotherapy graduates have had difficulty in obtaining employment. My Department has been addressing this situation in a proactive manner over the last year with a view to ensuring that the various factors which contributed to it are addressed. In this regard, the Department has chaired a working group with the HSE comprising the relevant stakeholders and has identified the contributing factors to this complex situation. An Action Plan has been developed to address these matters and the situation is being closely monitored.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter in relation to waiting lists for access to physiotherapy services raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested that the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive investigate the matter and issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

248 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a CT scanner is provided at Ennis General Hospital, County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8873/08]

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.

Ambulance Service.

Joe Carey

Question:

249 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the aspects of the Strategic Review of the Ambulance Service 2001 that have been implemented in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8874/08]

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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

250 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the emergency care resources available at Limerick Regional Hospital in terms of staff, equipment and bed capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8875/08]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Joe Carey

Question:

251 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the development works that have taken place at Limerick Regional Hospital since 2003 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8876/08]

My Department provided funding of €0.094m to the Mid-Western Health Board for Oncology specific capital developments at Limerick Regional Hospital during 2003. In addition, funding of €12.425m in 2003 and €6.104m in 2004 was provided to the Mid-Western Health Board to support a range of minor capital initiatives, including equipment replacement across the Board's area, including any such projects at the Mid-West Regional Hospital.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy in relation to the period from 2005 to date. My Department has requested that the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive investigate the matter and issue a reply directly to the Deputy in relation to developments at Limerick Regional Hospital.

Hospital Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

252 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hospitals here equipped with CT scanners; the reason a hospital is not provided with a CT scanner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8877/08]

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.

Joe Carey

Question:

253 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of journeys made by ambulance from Ennis General Hospital to Limerick Regional Hospital for CT scans in the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007; the average cost of such a trip; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8878/08]

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.

Child Care Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

254 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on a case (details supplied). [8882/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Child Care Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) which, together with the earlier Equal Opportunities Child care Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), are implemented by the Office of the Minister for Children.

The main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their child care costs are Child Benefit and the Early Child care Supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone is expected to amount to expenditure of over €500m in 2008. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of child care they choose. In addition to these universal supports, Government child care policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families including supports under the Community Child care Subvention Scheme 2008-2010 which has been introduced under the NCIP. As far as I am aware, the Department of Education and Science does not at present have any proposal to administer pre-school services or fund pre-school teachers as part of the general education system.

The Community Child Care Subvention Scheme (CCSS) was introduced in January 2008 and has an allocation of €154.2 million over the next 3 years. The Scheme provides an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community child care services generally and complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Under the scheme, the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. Services are required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which is to 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 is, in turn, reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

When I announced the framework for the Community Child Care Subvention Scheme in July of last year, I signalled my intention to undertake a review of the Scheme on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which was to be forwarded to my Office in October 2007 as part of the application process. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the review was completed last December and the following adjustments to the scheme were approved by the Government: the child care subvention rates, which form the basis for assessing the level of grant funding payable to community child care services, were increased from €80 to €100 per week in the case of Band A parents and from €30 to €70 per week in the case of Band B parents; services will also be grant aided to enable them to provide reduced child care fees for parents in Band C who are marginally above the Family Income Supplement (FIS) threshold and low income parents who qualify under this measure will benefit by €45 per week per full-time place; where a parent moves to a lower Band (e.g. from social welfare into employment), the subvention paid in respect of them will be withdrawn on a tapered basis with the effect that where a parent would no longer qualify for a Band A payment, he or she will be treated as a Band B parent in the following year; special provisions will be provided for in the case of child care services where, for valid reasons, it is not possible to assess grant funding on the basis of annual parental declarations alone (e.g. women's refuges, special services for children of drug misusers) and, in exceptional cases, where special levels of funding provision may be required; in recognition of the on-going input of the community and voluntary sector, and to provide stability for services which would otherwise receive very low levels of grant subvention (e.g. small rural services) a minimum annual grant level of €20,000 was introduced; as a transitional measure during 2008-2010, services which could otherwise face a significant decrease in their existing level of grant support from July 2008, will continue to receive grant aid equal to not less than 90% of their previous grant level during July-December 2008, equal to not less than 85% of that amount in 2009, and equal to not less than 75% of that amount in 2010. The transitional grant funding is conditional on all requirements of the Scheme being complied with, including the return of annual applications together with completed parent declaration forms and the implementation of tiered fees based on the subvention levels for Band A, B and C parents.

The changes which have been introduced will ensure that the most affordable child care is available to families according to their means. Put simply, the tiered fee structure is the most effective way of ensuring that the considerable and ongoing Government support for the community child care sector, will be targeted at those who need it most. I am sure that the Deputy will agree that, with an allocation of €154.2 million over a 3 year period for the Community Child care Subvention Scheme, the Government is continuing to offer very generous support to this important sector of Ireland's child care infrastructure.

Medical Cards.

Denis Naughten

Question:

255 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the full statutory entitlements of a person in receipt of a medical card; the services which are discretionary under the medical card system; her plans to review the current entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8890/08]

Full eligibility for health services is granted to persons who, in the opinion of the Health Service Executive are unable to provide general practitioner, medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship, with the exception of persons aged seventy years and over, who are statutorily entitled to a medical card. Persons with full eligibility are entitled to general practitioner services, prescribed drugs, medicines and appliances, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultant services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultant services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances, child health services, home nursing and a maternity and infant care service. Determination of an individual's eligibility status is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

Other services such as allied health professional services may be available to medical card holders but are not based on a statutory entitlement. Medical card holders may also be entitled to free transport to school for children who live 3 miles or more from the nearest school, exemption from state examination fees in public second-level schools and financial help with buying school books. They are also exempt from paying the health levy.

My Department is currently preparing legislation to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services. The Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework. It is expected that proposals will be submitted to Government in the first half of 2008.

Child Care Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

256 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had or her plans with the Department of Education and Science to introduce State funded nationwide pre-schooling for all children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8892/08]

The introduction of a State funded, nationwide pre-school system for all children is a matter on which I have not had specific discussions with the Minister for Education and Science and, as far as I am aware, there are no proposals at present to introduce such a system.

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Child Care Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which will invest €575 million over 5 years. Capital funding under the NCIP is available to support the building and refurbishment of preschools and grant aid is also available to support the operational costs of community-based preschools with a focus on disadvantage, under the recently introduced NCIP Community Child care Subvention Scheme.

My Office was also responsible for the making of the revised Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006 which came into effect in September 2007 with improved standards of regulation for this area. The Government also supports parents with their child care costs through Child Benefit and the Early Child care Supplement which are universal payments to all parents. The latter payment is the responsibility of my Office and it is expected to give rise to expenditure of some €500 million in 2008.

Vaccination Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

257 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the BCG vaccine is not available for a person (details supplied) in County Louth; when the vaccine will be available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8914/08]

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

Medical Cards.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

258 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to increase the income guidelines for medical cards and general practitioner visit cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8918/08]

The assessment of eligibility to medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged 70 and over who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the person 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. Section 58 of the Health Act, 1970, as amended, provides for GP visit cards for adult persons with limited eligibility for whom, in the opinion of the HSE, and notwithstanding that they do not qualify for a medical card, it would be unduly burdensome to arrange GP medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.

In recent years there have been significant improvements to the way in which people's eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is assessed. Since the beginning of 2005, the qualification guidelines have increased by a cumulative 29%. Assessment is now based on a person's and, where relevant, his/her spouse's income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. In June 2006, there was a further increase in the qualification threshold for the GP visit card to 50% above that for a medical card. Furthermore, under the assessment guidelines, applicants whose weekly incomes are derived solely from Department of Social and Family Affairs payments or HSE payments, even if these exceed the stated threshold, qualify for a medical card.

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.

My Department is currently carrying out a review of the eligibility criteria for medical cards, which is expected to be completed by autumn 2008. When that review is completed, my Department will consider how best to progress the commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to medical card eligibility. The review of the eligibility criteria for medical cards will also 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.

Ambulance Service.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

259 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the ambulance bases in operation across the Health Service Executive south; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8923/08]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

260 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when repayment will be made under the health repayment scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [8934/08]

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.

Medical Cards.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

261 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children if payments have been made to dentists (details supplied) for their treatment of medical card holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8945/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, 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.

HSE Service Plan.

Joan Burton

Question:

262 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children when, during each year from 2005 to 2008 she has approved or will approve the annual service plan for the Health Service Executive which sets out the level of services which it is proposed to provide in any given year; the procedure for this approval; their different arrangements, which may have previously existed in some areas and for some services which have ceased to or will cease to exist as a result of her approval of the plan in each of the years 2005 to 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9006/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) National Service Plan (NSP) for 2005 was approved by me as Minister on 16th March 2005, the NSP for 2006 was approved on 22nd December 2005; the NSP for 2007 was approved on the 7th February 2007 and the NSP 2008 was approved on 10th December 2007. In addition, there was an addendum to the NSP in 2006 which was approved in July 2006, and an addendum to the 2008 NSP which was approved on 20th February 2008. These two addenda were requested from the HSE in relation to the provision of significant additional financial resources for the HSE as a result of the respective Budget Day announcements. Approval in all cases is conveyed by the issue of a letter of approval from the Minister to the Chairman of the Board of the HSE.

Under Section 31 of the Health Act, 2004 the Executive must prepare and submit to the Minister its Service Plan for the coming year within 21 days of the publication by the Government of the Estimates for the financial year. The Service Plan must, amongst other things, indicate the type and volume of health and personal services to be provided by the Executive for the duration of the plan and within the financial resources allocated to it. Once the Plan is submitted to the Minister, it must be approved or a direction issued to the HSE to amend the Plan, within 21 days. The Minister must also ensure that a copy of an approved National Service Plan is laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas within 21 days after the plan is approved by the Minister.

Since the Health Act 2004 was enacted, significant improvements have been made to the format and content of the NSP in order that it more fully and comprehensively satisfies the requirements of the Act. There is an absolute necessity for the HSE to operate within the limits of its Voted allocation in delivering, at minimum, the levels of service activity specified in its annual National Service Plan. Clearly, this means that the Voted allocations, approved employment levels and service activities — both within the HSE itself and in HSE funded agencies such as the major voluntary hospitals — all need to be planned and actively and prudently managed from the very start of the year.

The Department has an agreed monitoring framework with the HSE and receives detailed comprehensive monthly and quarterly reports from the HSE on all aspects of progression of the NSP. There are quarterly ‘high level' meetings between the Secretary General of my Department and the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE, and their respective management teams, in order to discuss issues arising in relation to implementation and progression of the NSP. In addition, there is ongoing liaison and dialogue between various sections within the Department and the corresponding directorates in the HSE.

All of the approved National Service Plans referred to have provided both for the maintenance of previously existing levels of health and personal social services, and for the enhancement of those existing levels of service by various new service developments.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Joan Burton

Question:

263 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the national review of autism services, particularly in so far as this relates to the catering for the health needs of children through a service (details supplied); if a model code of practice has been developed for the provision of autism services; if not, when this is foreseen; her views on the possible allocation of sole responsibility for the assessment of the educational needs of children with autism to the Department of Education and Science; if preparations have been made for such a transfer of responsibility; when she will bring forward legislation to establish a concrete legal framework for the provision of community care services by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9007/08]

Throughout the country different approaches have emerged in relation to service delivery for individuals with autism. Early Intervention Services exist in many parts of the country. Some are run by the Health Service Executive and others are run by the non-statutory agencies. At present there are inconsistencies in approach and delivery of early services. The Health Service Executive is committed to redesigning these services in line with the transformation programme and best practice.

My Department is currently preparing legislation to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services. The Eligibility for Health and Personal Social Services Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework.

It is expected that proposals will be submitted to Government in the first half of 2008.

Representatives of the Department of Health and Children, Department of Education and Science, the Health Service Executive and the National Council for Special Education meet on a monthly basis to address issues arising in relation to the implementation of the Disability Act, 2005 for children under 5 years, which commenced on 1 June last. The group is also planning for the roll out of Part 2 of the Disability Act, 2005 and the Education for Persons with Special Needs Act, 2004 to children between 5 and 18 years and to adults. Issues in relation to the timely and appropriate provision of health and education supports to children with a range of disabilities including autism are being considered in the context of these discussions.

The recently-established Office for Disability and Mental Health will focus in particular on facilitating the delivery of integrated health and education support services for children with special needs, by further developing these existing mechanisms for co-operation and co-ordination between the health and education sectors.

The Deputy's question in relation to the national review of autism services 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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

264 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason payment under the long stay repayment scheme was not issued to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 on behalf of their deceased mother in view of the fact that they have submitted all the necessary information to support their claim; if she will reconsider this application. [9014/08]

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.

Nursing Home Accommodation.

Michael Ring

Question:

265 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide this Deputy with a copy of the most up to date Health Service Executive building regulations and specifications for nursing homes. [9019/08]

The Board of the Health Information and Quality Authority recently submitted draft National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland for the approval of the Minister for Health and Children, as required under section 10(2) of the Health Act, 2007. These draft standards contain specifications in relation to amongst other things, environmental aspects of nursing homes, including room sizes, number of bathrooms etc. The initial draft, published by HIQA on 8 August, 2007 for public consultation is available at www.hiqa.ie.

The Standards and the Regulations required to underpin them will be subject to a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) before finalisation. The RIA process is expected to commence shortly and both the Standards and Regulations can be expected to be in place later this year.

In the meantime the nursing home sector is governed by the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and subsequent regulations. The Nursing Home (Care and Welfare) Regulations, 1993 set out the standards which the private nursing home sector must adhere to for the purpose of registration under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990. Copies of this legislation are available from Government Publications. They are also available at www.irishstatutebook.ie. The Health Service Executive inspects private nursing homes on the basis of these standards. All inspections are unannounced and nursing homes are now inspected at least twice a year. Reports of inspections are published on HSE website.

The Deputy will be aware that there is an obligation on the person -in-charge of the nursing home to meet and comply fully with all relevant statutory provisions (e.g. Planning Acts and Regulations, Building Regulations and HACCP Regulations etc).

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

Hospital Services.

David Stanton

Question:

266 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and location with regard to stroke in-patient services, of dedicated stroke units here; the number of beds available for stroke victims; the location of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9020/08]

David Stanton

Question:

267 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds for stroke victims in hospitals here each year for the past five years respectively; if any of these beds are for use by stroke sufferers only; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9021/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 267 together.

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

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

268 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when persons (details supplied) will be facilitated with orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9025/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, 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.

Mental Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

269 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 477 of 30 January 2008. [9026/08]

I am informed by the Health Service Executive that a reply will issue to the Deputy this week.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

270 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 473 of 30 January 2008. [9027/08]

My Department has been informed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive that a reply has issued to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

271 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 434 of 30 January 2008. [9028/08]

I understand from the Health Service Executive that a reply on this matter issued to the Deputy last Friday 29th February 2008.

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

272 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when replies will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question Nos. 106 to 109 of 13 December 2007. [9029/08]

As outlined in my earlier responses to the Deputy in relation to Parliamentary Question Nos. 106 to 109 of 13 December 2007 and No. 506 of 30 January 2008, in order to provide the Deputy with the estimates of cost requested it was necessary for my Department to obtain certain information from the Health Service Executive (HSE). My Department received further information from the Executive yesterday in this regard and will provide the Deputy with the estimates of cost requested as soon as possible.

Mental Health Services.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

273 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on incorporating a lodge (details supplied) in County Kerry as a mental health day care centre for persons affected in the Kenmare and surrounding areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9086/08]

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.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

274 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the provision of a 40 bed residential unit for the older mental health patients in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9087/08]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

275 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the long awaited high dependancy unit will be built on the grounds of St. Finians Hospital, Killarney, County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9088/08]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

276 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children the stage of advancement of the community mental health teams; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9089/08]

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 Services.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

277 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will sanction the sum of €300,000 applied for to her Department by the Health Service Executive south for a project (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9094/08]

As the Health Service Executive has operational and funding responsibility for the provision of health and personal social services, it 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 this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Finian McGrath

Question:

278 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist persons (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [9096/08]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Niall Collins

Question:

279 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the Health Service Executive have received a completed application for nursing home charges refund for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and when payment will be made for the said refund. [9128/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

280 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for keyhole surgery. [9137/08]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

281 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans for the development of services at Roscommon County Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5709/08]

Denis Naughten

Question:

282 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans for the reconfiguration of services at Roscommon County Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5710/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281 and 282 together.

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Niall Collins

Question:

283 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) for a nursing home charges refund. [9138/08]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

284 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is considering the introduction of a funding scheme to assist voluntary groups providing defibrillator services; when the details of this scheme will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9147/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, 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.

Question No. 285 answered with Question No. 219.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Joe McHugh

Question:

286 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the timeframe for the building of a new accident and emergency department in Letterkenny General Hospital; the funding committed by the Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9169/08]

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.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

287 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will request the Department of Finance to reduce the VAT from 21% to 13% on the rate of defibrillators as it would greatly reduce the cost for voluntary organisations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9175/08]

My Department has sought the advice of the Department of Finance on the issue of reducing or removing VAT on Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs). The Department of Finance has advised that VAT on AEDs cannot be removed or reduced as Irish VAT laws must comply with the requirements of EU VAT law. Under the VAT Directive, member states may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. Annex III does not include general medical equipment such as AEDs for general use.

Eating Disorders.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

288 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the services available to people suffering from eating disorders; the number of public beds available forpeople suffering from eating disorders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9180/08]

St Vincent's Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin provides a referral service for public patients with eating disorders and has three dedicated national public beds for the assessment of such patients. Patients with eating disorders are also placed in St Patrick's Hospital and St John of God's when required. In a limited number of cases, consultants make referrals to other specialised eating disorder private services in Dublin or the UK.

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

The report has been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of the mental health services.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

289 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children when the proposed mediator or arbitrator will be appointed to resolve the difficulties regarding the orthodontic problems which constitute huge waiting lists all over the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9182/08]

I have not appointed a mediator or arbitrator to explore any aspect of the public orthodontic services waiting list. However, I have appointed a mediator to resolve an issue between a small number of consultant orthodontists and the HSE.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

Joe Costello

Question:

290 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason blood donors records were being transported in the public arena by a staff member of the New York blood centre without security on a New York street; the steps being taken to prevent such records being stolen in future; the steps being taken to allay donors’ fears; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9184/08]

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) entered into an Agreement with the New York Blood Centre Inc (NYBC) for the provision of a data query tool on 23 October 2007. The purpose of the data warehousing and reporting tool is to improve the existing IBTS blood banking system computer system, Progesa in order to provide a better service to its donors and clients. Under the terms of that agreement, the IBTS exported data on CD from its Progesa system. The data was encrypted using a 256 bit key encryption, prior to export on a CD.

The IBTS is very conscious of its obligations under the Data Protection Acts to take appropriate security measures against unauthorised access to, or unauthorised alteration, disclosure or destruction of data. In this instance, the IBTS is confident that it has complied with these obligations by virtue of the robust security measures which have been taken by the Service and NYBC and considers that the risk of any person being in a position to bypass password controls and decrypt the data is extremely remote. The IBTS informed the Data Protection Commissioner as quickly as possible of the details of the case and the Commissioner has been in regular contact with the IBTS on the matter. The Commissioner has noted publicly that the IBTS had a legitimate reason to send the data out of the country, that it had taken its responsibilities to donors and clients seriously and that the information had been securely encrypted.

The IBTS has written to each donor affected to reassure them and to advise them of the possibility, however remote, that their personal data might be accessed. An information line has been set up for anyone with concerns.

Hospital Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

291 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the north east transformation programme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9186/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised my Department that the North East Transformation Programme is approaching the end of its initial phase of detailed planning and is moving towards detailed design and implementation. Operational management and transformation management arrangements in the North East have now been linked in order to achieve full integration of the transformation programme with the management of operations.

My Department understands that the HSE North East made a presentation recently on the North East Transformation Programme to meetings of two Committees of the Regional Health Forum — Dublin and North East. The HSE advises that it emphasised a clear commitment that existing services in the region will remain in place until they are replaced with higher quality, safer or more appropriate services. It also emphasised that an indicative list of measures outlined in the presentation is a draft work in progress.

The HSE has advised that it is not possible until the detailed planning phase is complete to be definitive as to what aspects of North East Transformation can be implemented during 2008/2009. The indicative list which was included in the presentation is dependent on a range of factors including significant change management and changes to work practices. The degree and pace of change will also be influenced by the extent to which resources can be freed up by the HSE for re-investment in transformation initiatives.

Finally, the HSE has advised that no decisions have been taken on reducing services in the North East. The HSE is facing a challenging year and is exploring, in the case of the North East, how best to deliver on service plan targets within the level of resources available.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

292 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children when the CT scanner, which was promised for Monaghan General Hospital will be put in place: if it is in private storage at the present time; the location of same; if this can be justified as expenditure at a time when there is so much vacant space in Monaghan General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9187/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including the provision of a CT scanner at Monaghan General Hospital, 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.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

293 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if Crohn’s disease could be added to the approved list in order to qualify for a long-term illness book; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9189/08]

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 medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Non-medical card holders and people whose illness is not covered by the LTI can use the Drug Payment Scheme, which protects against excessive medicines costs. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €90 per calendar month 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, non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

Medical Cards.

James Bannon

Question:

294 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath on long-term disability allowance, with a disabled child, has lost their medical card despite no change in financial circumstances, resulting in an inability to purchase essential medication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9198/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged over 70, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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.

Hospital Staff.

James Bannon

Question:

295 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford has been refused a transfer from Sligo General Hospital to a hospital in the midlands region on the grounds that the national transfer policy relates only to the transfer of employees in the management/administrative job category; the reason this should not extend to other staff grades; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9201/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

296 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting list for speech and language therapy in the Ballyfermot area; and the steps being taken to address this issue. [9206/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

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 these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Youth Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

297 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding a service (details supplied) in Dublin 10 will be entitled to for 2009. [9207/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

298 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding a service (details supplied) in Dublin 10 will be entitled to for 2009. [9208/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

299 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reasons for the cuts in the funding for a service (details supplied) in Dublin 10; if her attention has been drawn to the implications of such cuts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9209/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

300 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the cuts in the funding for a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 10; if her attention has been drawn to the implications of such cuts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9210/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

301 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a project (details supplied) in Dublin 10. [9211/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 297 to 301, inclusive, together.

The launch of the National Recreation Policy last September highlighted Government's commitment to the development of youth cafés.

As the Deputy will be aware there are already a number of youth cafés in operation around the country. Funding for these existing initiatives such as the Base is provided through a number of bodies including local City/County Council and Health Service Executive. The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs also operate a number of relevant funding programmes aimed at supporting community development, locally based community and voluntary groups as well as programmes aimed specifically at supporting projects for disadvantaged youth.

At this stage, my focus is to bring better coherence to the approach taken to date, retaining the strong inter-agency element and identifying an appropriate model(s) for youth cafés for future developments. Since September my office has undertaken a small survey of some of the existing cafés looking at mission/objectives, management and organisation, service levels and the role of young people. I requested the National Children's Advisory Council's advice on the development of a youth café model and research work has been commissioned by the Council in this regard. I am anticipating the Council will be in a position to report to me by the end of May. This work will guide government in ensuring that funding is targeted and co-ordinated most effectively on a model or models of youth cafés which meet the needs identified by young people themselves. Discussions are underway with my Cabinet colleagues regarding a youth café programme and appropriate funding mechanisms. I am considering which agency could best lead on the programme and how to ensure any funding which might be made available augments, without displacing, the existing inter-agency resources.

The Base in Ballyfermot is receiving sponsorship from six bodies including Dublin City Council, the National Development Plan and the HSE. Of those agencies, HSE is the only current funder under the remit of the Minister for Health and Children. I have referred the specific question regarding funding of the Base to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

302 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason addiction services in the Aisling Clinic, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10, have reduced medical staff, despite a six month waiting list for heroin addicts trying to access the services. [9212/08]

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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

303 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is a waiting list of over six months in the Ballyfermot for addicts seeking to go on a stabilisation methadone programme to help address their addiction; and the way this list compares with waiting lists for methadone in other areas of Dublin. [9213/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

304 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the number of the community drugs outreach teams covering Dublin and mid-Leinster has been reduced from 14 to eight with no cover available for anyone going on maternity or sick leave; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9214/08]

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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

305 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the cutbacks in funding to drug addiction services and in Health Service Executive staff working with addicts is contrary to the National Drugs Strategy; the steps she will take to reverse all such cutbacks or end the staff recruitment embargo. [9215/08]

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

Child Care Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

306 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made to fund on a proper basis a facility (details supplied) in Dublin 10 in order that it can employ staff to fully utilise the brand new building and run the innovative programmes aimed at addressing in a holistic way the child-care needs and other needs of chaotic users and others; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9216/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

307 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a project (details supplied) in Dublin 10; and if any Department official or any member of the local Health Service Executive has taken up the invitation of the child-care centre’s management committee to visit and see for themselves the innovative building and the programmes they run for children and addicts. [9217/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 306 and 307 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) which replaced the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which was also administered by my Office. I understand that the Group in question received capital funding totalling €1.16 million under the EOCP and, as a result, has recently entered their new building.

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) under the NCIP, was introduced by my Office in January of this year and has an allocation of €154.2 million over three years. This Scheme will continue to support community-based childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. The Group in question has been approved under the CCSS for transitional funding for the period January-June 2008 of €37,375. I understand that they received their first instalment of this grant on 22 February.

Community childcare services qualify for grant aid on the basis of the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. In general, the parent profile of services, and the amount of subvention they will receive, are determined on the basis of completed parent declaration forms which are returned as part of the application process. However, in the case of some specialist services, such as that operated by the Group in question, it is recognised that some additional arrangements may be necessary. Officials from my Office have been in correspondence and discussions with the manager of the service in this regard and will continue to assist the Group in completing their assessment for funding for the period July-December 2008. The Group will be informed of their grant aid as soon as it has been determined.

Given the roles played by Pobal, the City and County Childcare Committees and the Health Service Executive in the assessment process for grant applicants under the EOCP and NCIP, it is not considered necessary at this point for officials from my office to visit the service to assess the appropriate level of grant aid under the CCSS.

Medicinal Products.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

308 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Ballyfermot, Dublin 10 has one of the highest, if not the highest number of people in receipt of prescribed benzodiasophenes; and the steps she is taking to address the health issues which lead to so many people becoming reliant on such drugs on a continuous basis and to see if there is over prescription of the drugs. [9219/08]