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 4, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 5 to 81, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 82 to 89, inclusive, answered orally.

Foreign Conflicts.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

90 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the position in Darfur; the initiatives taken by the European Union in order to assist in the ongoing humanitarian disaster in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10300/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

285 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which he and his EU or UN colleagues continue to monitor the situation in Chad, Darfur and neighbouring countries with particular reference to addressing war, strife, starvation and human rights abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10705/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the ongoing situation in Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10706/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90, 285 and 286 together.

The situation in Darfur remains dire, and the suffering of its people continues unabated. The fracturing of the main rebel groups over the past year, and the apparent determination of the Government of Sudan to pursue a military solution, at a high price in suffering for ordinary people, make the search for peace even more difficult. A recent UN update estimates that approximately 30,000 people have been newly displaced across Darfur since the beginning of 2008. Ongoing conflict, including targeted attacks against aid workers and their assets, continues to constitute a major obstacle to humanitarian operations. In 2007, the EU collectively contributed some €320 million in funding to humanitarian endeavours across Sudan. Since 2006, the Irish Government has committed over €46 million in assistance to the people of Sudan, including Darfur. However, the international community must go beyond alleviating the symptoms of this humanitarian crisis, and the EU and Ireland fully support UN and African Union efforts to bring about a lasting peace.

The peace talks on Darfur which the UN and African Union are mediating represent a vital window of opportunity in this regard, and all of the parties bear a responsibility to use this opportunity to seek to resolve their grievances peacefully. The UN and AU have sent emissaries to speak with the rebels who have been boycotting the talks, and it is hoped that formal talks will restart soon. So far, the process has been disappointingly slow, and a lack of political will is apparent on all sides — for example, the Government of Sudan stepped up military activity in Darfur during February. Despite these discouraging developments, there is no alternative to a political solution. Bilaterally Ireland has contributed €500,000 to the UN Trust Fund in support of the peace talks.

Although peace will not come to Darfur until a political accommodation has been reached, UNAMID, the AU/UN hybrid force, has a role to play in re-establishing a secure environment and creating a breathing-space for the people of Darfur while negotiations continue. However, UNAMID, which took over from the African Union Mission in Sudan on 1 January 2008, is being hampered by the obstructive attitude of the Sudanese authorities to non-African participation, which recently forced one of our EU partners to withdraw an offer to contribute troops. UN Secretary General Ban is working hard on force generation for UNAMID, and I hope that his efforts will soon bear fruit.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council in January was briefed by UN Special Envoy Jan Eliasson on progress. The Council expressed its support for the pursuit and implementation of political solutions in Darfur and between north and south Sudan, while also calling for full co-operation with the International Criminal Court and urging Sudan and Chad to refrain from incursions into each other's territory and support for rebel groups. In this regard, the severe deterioration in Chad-Sudan relations is very disturbing, though I believe that the deployment of the European Union military mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, EUFOR Tchad/RCA, will be a stabilising factor in the region. I welcome the fact that the GAERC has decided to keep the option of further sanctions on the table until the Sudanese Government, as well as other parties, is co-operating fully with the peace process, with UNAMID, and with humanitarian agencies.

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 88.

International Day of Non-Violence.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

92 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on global non-violence day; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9069/08]

In June 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which declared 2 October, the birth date of Mahatma Gandhi, the International Day of Non-Violence. The resolution was tabled by India and Ireland was one of the co-sponsors. The resolution invited Member States to commemorate the International Day in an appropriate manner and to disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness.

Ireland has shown great commitment down through the years to pursuing the agenda of non-violence, at both a domestic and an international level . Ireland's strong support for the promotion and protection of human rights, our long tradition of participating in UN-mandated peace operations, our leading role internationally in disarmament and non-proliferation issues, our work in the area of conflict resolution and the work of Irish Aid on combating gender based violence all reflect this commitment. On the first International Day of Non-Violence, 2 October 2007, Ireland participated in an event organised by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in New York, to mark the occasion. I have instructed my officials to liaise with the Indian Government, as the main sponsor of this event, regarding plans for 2 October 2008.

Overseas Development Aid.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

93 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures in place to ensure that money allocated to overseas aid is not misappropriated through corruption in recipient countries; if he is satisfied that those measures are fully effective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10355/08]

Ireland provides development support to some of the poorest countries in the world, some of which are ranked as having a significant level of corruption. Working in countries with corruption and weak governance generates a risk for donors, including Ireland. Corruption affects the poorest and most marginalised in society. We are committed to addressing it through improving transparency and accountability, supporting public oversight institutions, parliamentary reform, the independent media and building the capacity of civil society to influence and monitor public policy decisions.

For example, in Ethiopia, Ireland supports the strengthening of internal and external audit functions within the Government of Ethiopia. In Uganda, Ireland provides direct support to oversight bodies actively engaged in preventing and addressing corruption, such as the Inspectorate General of Government and the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity. In Zambia, Ireland supports the work of a special Task Force on Corruption. We also provide assistance to the public financial management system, as well as supporting parliamentary oversight of budget implementation and the work of civil society institutions engaged in anti-corruption activities.

In addition, Irish Aid has in place rigorous accounting and audit controls which are essential to ensuring a transparent, effective and high-quality programme. Irish Aid programmes are regularly and intensively audited and evaluated by independent audit firms, by Irish Aid's Evaluation and Audit Unit and by the independent Audit Committee of the Department. Programmes are evaluated to ensure that funds are used for the purposes intended, in particular in respect of outcomes and value for money. While we are working in some of the most difficult operating environments in the world, I am satisfied that the monitoring, evaluation and audit systems which we have in place provide the best protection possible against misuse of Irish taxpayers' funds.

International Women’s Day.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

94 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the fact that 8 March 2008 was International Women’s Day, he will outline efforts being made at an international level in order to ensure true gender equality, in particular in view of the 52nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women which was held in New York and ended recently. [10292/08]

Ireland is committed to the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and is involved in a variety of initiatives at international level to this end. The Irish delegation participated actively at the 52nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which met in New York recently and my colleague, Sean Power, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, with special responsibility for Equality Issues, addressed the high level segment of the Commission on 27 February.

The main focus of this year's session of the Commission was "Financing for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women", in recognition of the need for resources to ensure gender equality. Ireland, along with our EU partners, was actively involved in the negotiation of the conclusions on this topic, which were agreed at the closing session on Friday 7 March. These conclusions recognise that gender equality and the promotion and protection of the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all are essential to advance development, peace and security. In addition to the agreed conclusions, the Commission also adopted a number of resolutions on topics such as the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and the girl child, female genital mutilation and the release of women and children taken hostage in armed conflicts.

Ireland also plays an active role in the negotiation and adoption of resolutions at the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council aimed at promoting the rights of women and girls. As a State Party to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, Ireland is committed to implementing the provisions of the Convention and ensuring the elimination of gender based discrimination. In Europe, the European Union actively fosters gender equality, with a particular focus on growth and employment and social inclusion and makes available European Social Funds to support gender equality initiatives. The EU also focuses on women at all levels of decision making. The Council of Europe also maintains a significant programme of work in relation to women's human rights and other gender equality measures.

International Agreements.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

95 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he plans to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10356/08]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

139 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, further to similar questions in which he stated that Ireland largely fulfils the criminal justice requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the ways in which Ireland does not comply with the convention; and when this convention will be ratified. [10270/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 139 together.

I refer the Deputies to previous replies to similar questions concerning the United Nations Convention against Corruption, most recently on 6th February 2008. The Convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its 58th session in October 2003. It was signed on behalf of Ireland, when it opened for signature in December 2003. The Convention entered into force on 14th December 2005. The Convention is a very broad and comprehensive treaty which seeks to promote integrity, accountability and proper management in public affairs and with regard to public property. It provides for internationally-recognised measures to prevent and combat corruption. It also seeks to support and facilitate international co-operation and technical assistance in the prevention of, and fight against, corruption.

As with all international agreements, before ratification can take place it is necessary to ensure that any domestic legislation and administrative arrangements that are required to give effect to the agreement are in place. In consultation with the Attorney General's Office and other Government Departments, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has examined the Convention and identified what legislation in the criminal law area is required to give effect to its provisions. The Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill, which is due for report stage in this House tomorrow will enact certain necessary measures. The remaining legislative requirements will be dealt with in the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, which is at an advanced stage of preparation. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform hopes to be in a position to publish the Bill shortly.

In addition, some issues relating to conduct and ethics requirements for public and judicial officials, the powers of anti-corruption authorities and asset recovery still require further consideration. While most of these issues are of an administrative nature, they may, in some instances, require legislation. I am informed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform that they intend to commence consultations with the relevant bodies on these matters in order to determine the appropriate steps required in the light of the Convention's provisions.

Diplomatic Relations.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

96 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position pertaining to Kosovo in the first weeks of its having declared independence; the contact made between Pristina and Dublin in those weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10288/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

104 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the correspondence he has had with the Serbian Government since the declaration of independence by Kosovo; if he will make a copy of any correspondence available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10336/08]

James Bannon

Question:

150 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had communication with the administration in Kosovo, since its declaration of independence; if a copy of such correspondence will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10335/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96, 104 and 150 together.

At the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 18 February, EU Foreign Ministers agreed a common response to Kosovo's declaration of independence of the previous day, noting the uniqueness of Kosovo's situation, arising from the conflict of the 1990s and the eight years of UN administration which followed, and reaffirming the EU's willingness to play a leading role in strengthening stability in the region including by means of the planned ESDP rule of law mission. The Council also agreed that Member States will decide, in accordance with national practice and international law, on their relations with Kosovo. Since then, 15 EU Member States, including Ireland, have recognised Kosovo's independence. At least 21 of the 27 EU Member States are expected to recognise Kosovo in the short or medium term.

It is regrettable that lengthy negotiations failed to produce an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. A new UN Security Council resolution clarifying the position would have been greatly preferable to the current situation. But the clear reality is that Serbia effectively lost Kosovo through its own actions in the 1990s. The legacy of the killings of thousands of civilians in Kosovo and the ethnic cleansing of over a million made the restoration of Serbian dominion in Kosovo unthinkable. As the European Council agreed in December, the status quo in Kosovo was inherently unstable. More than 90% of the population wants independence, and this is supported by our major partners in the EU and beyond, many of whom have already recognised Kosovo. Taking all of the circumstances into account, the Government decided on 28 February that Ireland would recognise the Republic of Kosovo.

On the same day, I wrote formally to the President of Kosovo. In my letter, I welcomed the clear commitment of Kosovo to the full implementation of all obligations contained in the Comprehensive Proposal of the UN Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, and informed President Sedjiu of the Government's decision to recognise the independence of the Republic of Kosovo and to establish non-resident diplomatic relations from our Embassy in Hungary. This decision was communicated separately to the authorities in Belgrade through our accredited Embassy in Athens. Through its Embassy in London, the Serbian Government has sent a Note protesting at the recognition of Kosovo and urging that the Government think again. Our Ambassador in London has made our position clear to his Serbian colleague, and a written reply will issue in due course. I will arrange to place in the Dáil library the formal exchange of letters with Kosovo and Serbia on this matter.

I have made it clear that our decision to recognise Kosovo is based on a careful assessment of the political and legal circumstances of this particular case. It is in no way intended as an act of hostility towards Serbia. I know that Kosovo's independence is painful for Serbia and difficult to accept. It is important however that Serbian reaction to this event should confine itself to legitimate, peaceful protest, in line with commitments freely given by the Government in Belgrade. Violent incidents of the sort seen in Belgrade and on the border between Serbia and northern Kosovo are in nobody's interest, and must be clearly condemned. Such violence serves only to evoke the spectre of the long Balkan nightmare of the 1990s.

I believe that the future for Serbia and Kosovo lies with Europe and I urge all sides to refrain from taking any action at this sensitive time which will impede and delay the realisation of this European perspective. It is in everyone's interest that the international civilian and security presences should be allowed to operate unimpeded throughout Kosovo in support of the development of a democratic, secular and multi-ethnic republic, which protects and promotes the rights of all communities. The closest coordination between the EU and the UN in relation to the future international presence is therefore clearly called for.

Human Rights Issues.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

97 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions he had at the United Nations Human Rights Council taking place in March 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10293/08]

The UN Human Rights Council is holding its seventh regular session this month in Geneva. The session, which began on Monday 3 March, will run until 28 March. The seventh session began with a high level segment which included statements by the President of the Council, Doru Costea, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour. The opening statements were followed by statements from over 20 high level representatives from Member States' delegations. Many delegations spoke of their support for the Council and drew attention to the newly established Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which is scheduled to proceed in April. A number of delegations also raised their concern over the human rights situation in certain countries which will come under the focus of the Council during this session, such as, Burma/Myanmar, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

The Council faces a heavy agenda for this session. Discussion began last week on draft resolutions on issues such as; violence against women, torture, sale of children and human rights defenders. On Friday, a resolution on human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks and incursions in Gaza was adopted. This week, the Council will receive reports on country specific situations from the relevant Special Rapporteurs. There will be a review of the mandates of 11 Special Procedures and new mandate holders will be appointed in many cases. Ireland will take particular interest in a number of these, including the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of Human Rights Defenders.

The EU will be presenting initiatives to extend the mandates of the special rapporteurs for Burma/Myanmar and for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and will also work to extend the technical cooperation and assistance mandate for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the mandate for the independent expert for Somalia. Ireland, along with our EU partners, remains deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Sudan. There will be an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Sudan on 12 March, following which the EU will decide on the most appropriate follow up, possibly in the form of a resolution.

This session will also see the election of members to the new Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, which replaces the former Sub-Commission on Human Rights. Ireland will continue to support the work of the Human Rights Council. The Council is a vital body for addressing thematic and urgent country-specific situations promptly and effectively and the success of the current session will be important in proving the credibility of the Council.

Continental Shelf.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

98 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation with respect to discussions on the possible extension of the territory of the Irish sea bed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10340/08]

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal state is entitled to a continental shelf of 200 nautical miles (approx. 370 km) in breadth regardless of whether its continental shelf physically extends that far, subject only to similar rights of its coastal neighbours. It may also claim a broader shelf where it can show that the natural prolongation of its land territory under water actually extends beyond that limit. A claim to extended shelf must be supported by scientific and technical data and be established to the satisfaction of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which was created by the Convention for this purpose. Ireland's shelf naturally extends beyond 200 nautical miles both to the west and the south of the country. For the purposes of our claims we have divided our shelf into three sectors.

The first sector is to the south-west of the country on the edge of an area known as the Porcupine Abyssal Plain. This sector (which is approximately half the size of the State's land territory) is not disputed by any other state and was therefore the subject of Ireland's first submission, made in May 2005. In April 2007 the Commission issued its recommendations concerning the limits of this area. The Government has accepted these recommendations, and work is now in hand to designate in domestic law the additional seabed enclosed by these limits as continental shelf belonging to the State.

The second sector of claimed extended continental shelf is in the Celtic Sea and the Bay of Biscay. This was the subject of a joint submission made together with the UK, France and Spain in May 2006. It covers an area of approximately 80,000 square kilometres, which is slightly larger than the State's land territory. This submission remains under consideration by the sub-commission established to examine the evidence submitted in support of it. The four states met with the subcommission in January of this year, and it was agreed that further discussion will take place when it resumes its work in New York in April. It is hoped that the subcommission will be in a position to formulate its draft recommendations during 2008. These recommendations must in turn be approved by the full Commission. The question of division of this area between the four states concerned will be considered after the sub-commission's recommendations are made.

Ireland also claims continental shelf in the part of the North-East Atlantic Ocean known as the Hatton-Rockall Area, which extends up to 500 nautical miles from the coast. Ireland and the UK agreed a maritime boundary on the continental shelf here in 1988 but this is not accepted by Iceland or Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands), which also make extensive overlapping claims. The four countries have met regularly since 2001 in an effort to resolve the issues arising from overlapping claims, most recently in Dublin on 28 and 29 February. Positive and constructive discussions were held on the question of division of the Area and on the location of its outer limit. It was agreed to continue these talks in Southampton in April.

Overseas Development Aid.

Billy Timmins

Question:

99 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of funding he proposes to give to Zambia in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10326/08]

Ireland has had a development relationship with Zambia since the 1960s and it was designated as a Programme Country in 1980. It is expected that Ireland will provide assistance of approximately €30m to Zambia in 2008. The central goal of the programme is to assist the Government and people of Zambia in reducing chronic poverty and inequality, through support for its national poverty reduction plan. Additional support will be delivered indirectly through NGO partners, missionaries and civil society organisations.

Irish support to Zambia is governed by a Country Strategy Paper which has been drawn up in consultation with the Zambian Government, civil society partners and other donors. The current framework strategy covers the period 2007 to 2010. It focuses principally on the education sector, but also on water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, social protection and on building good governance. The programme has a strong presence in Zambia's Northern Province, the poorest of its geographical regions.

In common with all funds available to Irish Aid, those allocated for the development programme in Zambia are managed in accordance with proper accounting principles and in a manner compliant with Department of Finance Public Financial Procedures. The programme conforms to the standards of best international practice. There are strong, comprehensive monitoring and evaluation processes in place which act as a quality control on the programme and ensure that our assistance makes a real difference to poor people's lives.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

100 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of the most recent cross-Border dialogue between officials from his Department and those representing the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland; and the presence or assistance Ireland proposes with regard to the upcoming investment conference in Northern Ireland to be held in May 2008. [10306/08]

Officials from my Department have regular and ongoing contact at all levels with their counterparts in the Northern Ireland Executive. We have offered the Northern Ireland administration all the support we can, including through our Ambassador to the United States and his colleagues there, to ensure that the US Investment Conference which takes place in Belfast in May is a success. Both the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Brown have confirmed they will participate in the conference.

The Investment Conference was discussed at the recent NSMC Plenary meeting held in Dundalk and I have asked our Ministers travelling to the United States for St. Patrick's Day to make investing in Northern Ireland and our all-island economy a key part of their message to the business community. I recently met with both the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward MP and US Under-Secretary of State and President Bush's Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, Paula Dobriansky, when we underlined our shared commitment to do everything possible to assist the Investment Conference.

Constitutional Amendments.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

101 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the moneys that will be available to the Referendum Commission for the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign; the overall budget for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10309/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

152 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign, the Referendum Commission will be putting forward arguments both for and against the proposed amendment to the Constitution, or if it will only be giving a factual account of the proposed changes without arguments for either side; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10308/08]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

271 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the public consultation and public information that will be provided to the public on the Lisbon Treaty in advance of the referendum. [10026/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101, 152 and 271 together.

Under the Referendum Act 2001, the Referendum Commission is expected to prepare statements containing a general explanation of the subject matter of the referendum and to publish and distribute these statements, including by print and broadcast media. The 2001 Act supersedes the Referendum Act 1998, under which the Commission had the role of setting out the arguments for and against referendum proposals. As a result, the Commission no longer has to carry out this function. The budget provided for the Referendum Commission will be approximately €5 million. This represents an increase of more than 20 per cent over the amount provided to the Commission for its work on the second Nice referendum. I believe it will allow the Referendum Commission to carry out its work properly. A further €0.8million has been allocated from the budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs for expenditure this year in connection with the Reform Treaty.

There is no shortage of information on the Reform Treaty. The Government has been providing information to the public on the Treaty and this effort will be stepped up in the period ahead. An explanatory pamphlet was published in December and last month a 22-page guide to the Treaty was published. These are being widely distributed to the public, including through libraries, citizens' advice centres and Government Departments and, as stated above, the effort to provide explanatory material is being stepped up. A White Paper on the Treaty will be published at the beginning of next month containing a detailed analysis of the Treaty's provisions. A dedicated website, www.reformtreaty.ie has been established which contains comprehensive information about the Treaty.

I would like to make it clear also that, despite claims to the contrary, a consolidated version of the Treaties is available. This is published by the Institute of European Affairs and I have made arrangements to have a copy sent to every Oireachtas member. A copy has also been sent to every public library in the country. The National Forum on Europe is continuing to hold public meetings throughout the country, providing a neutral public space for debate on the Treaty. The Forum has also published a summary guide to the Treaty. The Forum's impressive programme, with two meetings taking place this week, will be maintained in the weeks ahead.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs has also announced a programme of public meetings on the Treaty which will take place in April and May. It has also been holding an extensive series of information meetings with various interest groups. Additionally, the Minister of State for European Affairs and I have briefed the Committee on the Reform Treaty on a number of occasions in recent months.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 88.

State Airports.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

103 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government has sought additional categorical assurances from the United States Government that Irish airports are not being used for extraordinary rendition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9070/08]

The Government is totally opposed to the practice of extraordinary rendition and we have reiterated our position on numerous occasions, both domestically and internationally. The Government has received specific assurances from the US authorities that no prisoners have been transferred through Irish airports, nor would they be, without our permission. The assurances are of a clear and categoric nature, relating to facts and circumstances within the full control of the US Government. They have been confirmed at the highest level, including by President Bush to the Taoiseach and by Secretary of State Rice to myself.

Following the British Foreign Secretary's statement to the House of Commons on 21 February regarding information received by his Government from the US Government concerning the passage of two extraordinary rendition flights through Diego Garcia in 2002, on my instructions the Political Director of my Department contacted the US Embassy and emphasised to the Deputy Chief of Mission the great importance the Government attaches to the reliability of the assurances received from the United States Government on extraordinary rendition. I have since personally written to the Ambassador of the United States, H.E. Thomas C. Foley, to reiterate this point and to emphasise my own strong views on the issue.

Question No. 104 answered with Question No. 96.

Diplomatic Relations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

105 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the diplomatic relations Ireland has with Cuba; the plans he has to strengthen ties with Cuba; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10343/08]

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Cuba in 1999, Ireland has been accredited to Cuba through our Embassy in Mexico City. In 2001, Cuba established a resident Embassy in Dublin, which has been headed by a resident Ambassador since October 2005. Both Embassies are active in promoting links between our two countries. Recent initiatives undertaken by my Department and our Embassy in Mexico City to promote the development of people-to-people contact and cultural activities include the mounting of an exhibition, entitled International Joyce, in 2005 at the National Library in Havana and the donation of Spanish translations of the plays of Samuel Beckett on the same occasion. And, as the Deputy will be aware, many Irish people visit Cuba on vacation. I would certainly wish to see the bilateral relationship between Ireland and Cuba develop further in 2008.

As the Deputy will be aware, the European Union's 1996 Common Position on Cuba remains the basis of both the European Union's and Ireland's approach to relations with that country. The overriding objective of Ireland and our European Union partners in our relations with Cuba is to encourage, but not to enforce by external coercion, a process of transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Common Position was most recently reviewed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 18 June 2007. The Council's Conclusions deplored the fact that the human rights situation in Cuba has not fundamentally changed, and noted that the Cuban Government continues to deny its citizens internationally recognised civil, political and economic rights and freedoms. We also recognised the right of Cuban citizens to decide independently about their future.

While the European Union will continue to pursue its dialogue with Cuba's civil society and to offer to all sectors of society practical support towards peaceful change in Cuba, the Council also emphasised the Union's willingness to resume a comprehensive and open political dialogue with the Cuban authorities on all areas of mutual interest. In order to sound out the potential for such a dialogue, which should take place on a reciprocal and non-discriminatory basis, the Council decided to invite a Cuban delegation to Brussels.

The Council Conclusions represent a balanced approach, which is in accordance with the principles of the Common Position. The decision which we took in Council to invite a Cuban delegation to Brussels would provide an opportunity for establishing an open political dialogue with the Cuban authorities. The Cuban authorities have rejected this invitation. However, we remain hopeful that such a dialogue will be established in the future. In this regard, on foot of a further initiative of the European Union, a Ministerial-level meeting between the European Union Troika and Cuba was held en marge of the 62nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on 24 September 2007.

As the Deputy will be aware, on 18 February, 2008, President Fidel Castro announced his decision not to seek re-election as President of Cuba. At the subsequent National Assembly elections of 24 February, 2008, Raúl Castro was elected as the new President of Cuba. During this period of transition, we will continue to monitor developments closely and support, along with our EU partners, all efforts by the Cuban people to move towards a pluralist democratic society.

Middle East Peace Process.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his colleagues at EU and UN level have engaged in discussions with both groups in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; if specific initiatives are being pursued which might have the effect of addressing the ongoing contentious issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10262/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

127 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will take action in response to the latest Israeli military incursion into Gaza resulting in the deaths of 116 Palestinians including 22 children. [10254/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

129 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will call on all other EU member states to suspend preferential trade with Israel in view of the latest Israeli military incursion into Gaza resulting in the deaths of 116 Palestinians including 22 children. [10255/08]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

130 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of discussions to which he and his officials have been party as part of the international quartet charged with heading the peace talks in Israel and Palestine on foot of the latest atrocities perpetrated in the Gaza area. [10274/08]

Shane McEntee

Question:

141 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the protests he has made to the Palestinian representatives with respect to the recent rocket attacks on Israel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10331/08]

Shane McEntee

Question:

147 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the protests he made to the Israeli Embassy with regard to the recent attacks on Gaza which resulted in many deaths, including children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10330/08]

Finian McGrath

Question:

274 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will take action in relation to the ongoing massacre in the Gaza Strip, Palestine; and if he will raise this matter at UN level. [10077/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

281 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action he has taken, together with his EU colleagues, to address the worsening situation in the Middle East; if he has taken or proposes to take particular initiatives in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10701/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which discussions have taken place at EU level on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the extent to which proposals have emanated therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10709/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106, 127, 129, 130, 141, 147, 274, 281 and 289 together.

I have already outlined the Government's views on the appalling violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories and its implications for the political process in my earlier reply to a Priority Question on the issue. I have spoken clearly in a number of public statements and in the Oireachtas over the past ten days on my concerns about the rise in violence, and especially the horrific toll of civilian casualties, both Israelis and Palestinians. The Government's views have been conveyed directly to the Israeli authorities, to the Palestinian Authority and to other States in the region. I also discussed the situation in detail at the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council which I attended in Brussels yesterday. I expect that the European Council later this week will reaffirm the determination of the European Union to play its role, in cooperation with its international partners, in restoring credibility to the political process. It remains a strategic priority for the Union to contribute to the achievement of a two-State solution. I have argued for some time that the EU can strengthen its efforts in this regard, both directly with the parties in the region and through the international Quartet.

The Government's basic message is that the only way forward for Israelis and Palestinians is to end the violence, including all attacks against Israel and all Israeli military operations in the Occupied Territories, and to work for agreement on final status issues in accordance with the objectives and timetable agreed at Annapolis last November.

There have been calls for suspension or review of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement with Israel in protest at military operations and human rights violations. The Government is opposed to any such move, which would in any case require consensus within the European Union. It would not serve the interests of any of the parties. Meetings of the Association Council with Israel provide the opportunity for the EU to highlight its concerns on the human rights implications of Israel's security policies. Furthermore, any proposal to suspend or review the terms of the agreement would result in a divisive debate which would divert attention from the absolute need to restore momentum to the peace process. It could also result in further difficulties in ensuring the delivery of assistance to the Palestinian people. I should add that the Government is also opposed to any proposals for cultural, academic or other boycotts against Israel.

Energy Resources.

Mary Upton

Question:

107 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent actions of a Russian gas supplier (details supplied), whose chairperson has recently been elected Russian president, in halving gas supplies to Ukraine; his further views on the consequences of same for European energy supplies; the discussions that have emanated at EU level in response to this step; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10283/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

120 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on efforts undertaken by Ireland with regard to stabilising and securing future energy supplies throughout the European Union in response to the ongoing insecurity relating to Russian-Ukrainian energy disputes. [10285/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 120 together.

The latest dispute between Russia and Ukraine must not be allowed to place the EU's long-term energy security at risk. For this reason, we welcome their recent agreement over gas supply contracts and would urge both sides to avoid any further actions which could lead to supply constraints. However, as a high percentage of Ireland's gas supplies are sourced from Britain, and are largely produced from North Sea and Norwegian gas reserves, we are not dependent on Russian gas supplies.

However, this in not the case with the wider EU, whose gas market is vulnerable to energy supply disruptions and, with the long-term decline in EU domestic gas production, whose dependency on external suppliers will become greater. There are a number of measures which would significantly improve Europe's energy security, in particular the physical integration of the internal EU gas market through increased interconnection of gas supplies. Improvements in energy efficiency and renewable energy production will also help to reduce our vulnerability to potential disruptions to external energy supplies.

The Spring European Council, which is meeting this week, is expected to review progress in developing the external dimension of the Energy Policy for Europe. The next EU Strategic Energy Review, due in November 2008, will focus in particular on security of supply and external energy policy. Other important instruments are the extension of the EU's energy policies to other European countries through the Energy Community framework and the deepening of relations with the EU's strategic partners in the energy field.

Official Engagements.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

108 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if it has been considered, in the context of the St. Patrick’s Day 2008 celebrations across the world, that Ministers visit those countries which have seen large numbers of their population emigrate to Ireland, particularly those countries in central and eastern Europe in order to foster stronger links with those countries and to promote Ireland’s cultural relations. [10297/08]

Much careful consideration is given to determining appropriate destinations for Ministerial visits for St. Patrick's Day to ensure that Ireland's economic, trade, social and cultural interests are effectively represented and promoted. This year, an awareness of the fact that many people from the countries of central and eastern Europe have made their home in Ireland, and of the value of strengthening our ties with these countries, has been given close consideration in planning for St. Patrick's Day.

To enhance the already strong links that Ireland shares with the countries of central and eastern Europe, three Government representatives will travel to that geographical region for St. Patrick's Day events. Government Chief Whip Tom Kitt will visit the Czech Republic and attend a series of events in Prague designed to promote Ireland's economic and cultural interests. These will include a business lunch with Enterprise Ireland and an open-air celebration for St. Patrick's Day. Minister of State Sean Haughey will visit Warsaw for a series of cultural events including an Irish-themed festival and will also present shamrock to President Lech Kaczynski in a ceremony at the Presidential Palace. The Attorney General will participate in a number of promotional events in Moscow which include meetings with the Irish community and attendance at the St. Patrick's Day parade.

Human Rights Issues.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

109 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in ensuring a fair election in Zimbabwe at the end of March 2008; the preparations being made at an international and European Union level in this regard; if there will be observers from Ireland sent to monitor the election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10277/08]

Phil Hogan

Question:

122 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the current situation in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10324/08]

Billy Timmins

Question:

273 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the EU will have an election mandate role in the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10527/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109, 122 and 273 together.

I remain deeply concerned about the economic hardships and political repression which are affecting the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. Some now estimate inflation in Zimbabwe at over 100,000%, as a pre-election increase in government spending has produced another major increase in prices. President Mugabe will face two principal challengers in the Presidential election on 29 March — opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and former Zanu-PF Finance Minister Simba Makoni. Ireland and the EU have supported the process of dialogue between the Zimbabwean Government and the opposition, facilitated by South Africa under a mandate from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The talks have not formally concluded but, with the elections drawing nearer, there is no longer enough time to implement any agreement which might be arrived at. In order to ensure that these elections take place in appropriate conditions, such an agreement would have to include tackling repressive security laws, curbs on freedom of assembly, restrictive media laws and state violence.

It is regrettable that no real progress has been achieved in creating a level playing field for the forthcoming elections. The European Union, for its part, will continue to press for free and fair elections right up until 29 March. European Commission representatives in Harare have told the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that the EU could give support to the electoral process if requested to do so, but there has been no response. I discussed the situation in Zimbabwe with my EU colleagues at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 10 March, and we urged the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the upcoming elections meet international norms and standards, including the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the SADC principles and guidelines concerning elections, of which Zimbabwe is a signatory. We also confirmed the EU's willingness to respond to any positive change in Zimbabwe.

An invitation from the host country to monitor elections is not simply a formal requirement; it is also a practical necessity, to ensure that the monitoring team has the necessary access to polling places and counting centres. The Zimbabwean authorities have stated (most recently in a meeting between a Zimbabwean Foreign Ministry official and an Irish Embassy official on 25 February) that neither the EU nor any EU Member States will be invited to observe the elections. The Irish Ambassador accredited to Zimbabwe has visited the country last week, and will again be present on polling day to witness the conduct of the election.

We must continue to work closely with Zimbabwe's neighbours, in particular South Africa, since they are in the best position to influence the situation. SADC has been invited to monitor the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe and, in view of the fact that the EU cannot monitor the elections, Ireland has supported contact with SADC on this. Local EU Presidencies in SADC countries have been asked to underline the need to provide an objective, evidence-based verdict on election preparations and process . I have also asked our Embassy in Lusaka to raise this question directly with the Zambian Government, which is currently Chair of SADC.

Foreign Conflicts.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

110 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding aid to Somalia; if it remains the case that it is felt unsafe for a UN peacekeeping force to be deployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10296/08]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

124 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the response made to recent bombings in Somalia by US forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10298/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 124 together.

I remain very concerned at the situation in Somalia. The country has been without an effective government since 1991, and despite an initial period of stability after Ethiopian troops and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces defeated the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in December 2006, the situation has worsened in recent months. Fighting in Mogadishu since October has prompted hundreds of thousands to flee the capital, adding to the humanitarian crisis. In total, approximately one million people have been displaced since the start of 2007, while up to one and a half million need humanitarian aid.

Re-establishing security and the rule of law remains a major challenge. The first troops from an African Union-mandated peace support force (AMISOM) were deployed to Mogadishu in March 2007 but with less than a quarter of the planned 8,000 troops on the ground, AMISOM has not been able to bring any important measure of stability. AMISOM's current mandate runs until next August and some informal consideration has taken place regarding a UN peace-keeping mission succeeding AMISOM. However, UN Secretary General Ban has made it clear to the Security Council that, due to the prevailing political and security situation, the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to Somalia is not a realistic option for the time being.

The United States carried out a missile attack on the town of Dhoble in the south of the country on 3 March 2008, targeting a suspected Al Qaeda member who the US allege may have been responsible for bombings of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in 2002. Reports suggest that at least four civilians were killed in the air strikes, and obviously any such loss of life is greatly to be regretted. Supporting a swift return to peace, stability and the rule of law in Somalia is the best way to prevent the country from becoming further destabilised and a haven for terrorists. My EU colleagues and I discussed the situation in Somalia at the General Affairs and External Affairs Council in December 2007. We agreed that a political solution will be the key to ending the suffering of the Somali people. The newly appointed Prime Minister in the TFG, Nur Hassan Hussein, has stated his willingness to engage in discussion with the Islamic opposition and contacts have already been initiated with members of the opposition based in Asmara. The EU will continue to extend whatever assistance it can to support the promotion of internal dialogue and national reconciliation within Somalia.

Ireland has regularly highlighted the priority which must be given to ensuring unobstructed humanitarian access in Somalia and has urged that the EU use its influence in this regard. In early November 2007, a member of the recently established Rapid Response Corps was deployed as a Logistics Officer to UNHCR's Somalia Office, based in Nairobi, Kenya. At the end of his three month deployment, a second member of the Corps, also a logistician, was deployed to replace him. Since 2006, Irish Aid has provided over €15 million in humanitarian assistance to the Somali people, and Ireland stands ready to provide further assistance as required.

Overseas Development Aid.

John Deasy

Question:

111 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the planned expenditure on overseas aid in each of the years 2008 to 2012; the estimated proportion of GNP and GDP this expenditure represents in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10353/08]

The Government is committed to expanding Ireland's Overseas Aid programme. We have set a target of spending 0.7% of GNP on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) by 2012 and we are well on track to meeting this UN target. For 2008, the Government has allocated €914 million to ODA. The majority of this funding — €814 million — comes under Vote 29, International Cooperation, which is managed by my Department. A further estimated €100 million will be spent by other Government Departments and through Ireland's contribution to the EU Development Cooperation Budget.

Expenditure on ODA in 2008 will be the highest in the history of the programme and will represent 0.54 % of GNP. This level of spending will ensure that Ireland remains one of the most generous donors in the world on a per capita basis. As with all exchequer funding, the ODA allocation for future years will be decided through the Estimates process. Figures for expenditure on ODA in the period 2009 to 2012 cannot be stated at this point as they are normally linked to estimated GNP growth at the time of the Estimates process. However, I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to meeting the target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012 in a planned and phased manner and that Ireland's ODA allocation will grow strongly year on year as we move towards that target.

EU Treaties.

Damien English

Question:

112 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the implications of the solidarity clause in the Lisbon Treaty for this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10333/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

136 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the effect the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty will have on Irish neutrality; if after ratification Ireland could be forced into a common defence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10347/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 136 together.

The Reform Treaty will have no effect on Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality. The Bill for the referendum on the Reform Treaty retains the Constitutional prohibition on participation in an EU common defence, should one ever be proposed. In addition, the Treaty retains the provision that the Union's security and defence policy "shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States", a formulation originally proposed by Ireland to protect our particular position. Unanimity also remains the rule for decision-making on security and defence issues within the Union, including in respect of the launch of any crisis management mission.

As regards the Solidarity Clause, this relates to circumstances where an EU Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster. In responding to a request from a Member State which was the victim of such a terrorist attack or of a natural or man-made disaster, it would be for this country to determine the nature of the response we might make, in accordance with our Constitutional and legal framework.

Question No. 113 answered with Question No. 88.

Diplomatic Relations.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

114 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the diplomatic ties Ireland has with Chad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10344/08]

Ireland established diplomatic relations with Chad in 2000 through our respective missions to the UN in New York. The Government decided in December 2007 to request the Government of Chad to accept the accreditation of a non-resident Ambassador, based in Abuja, to facilitate communications and foster relations between Ireland and Chad, in the context of Ireland's lead role and participation in the UN-mandated EUFOR mission currently under deployment in eastern Chad and north-eastern Central African Republic. I would also recall that I visited Chad last November, when I met with key Government and opposition figures. I also had the opportunity to visit the refugee camps in Eastern Chad where EUFOR will facilitate the provision of humanitarian relief.

Passport Applications.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

115 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will establish a passport office in Galway city to cater for residents in the greater city area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10322/08]

The Passport Office provides a comprehensive range of options for citizens to apply for passports. Applications may be made by express post through some 1,000 post offices across the country and some 70 passport offices in Northern Ireland. A guaranteed 10 working day service is available for such applications which are complete and in order. Less urgent applications can also be made by ordinary post.

Applicants can also apply in person at the public offices in Dublin and Cork. Very positive comments are frequently made about the quality of service available at the public offices and I know also that the availability of a local office in Cork (which deals with applications across Munster) is greatly appreciated. Against the above background, the issue of opening additional offices in other locations, including in Galway, will be kept under ongoing review.

UN Resolutions.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

116 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the position in Iran in view of the UN Security Council’s imposition of a third round of sanctions in view of ongoing nuclear activities and ongoing concerns regarding human rights in Iran. [10301/08]

The Government strongly shares the widespread international concern about the nature of Iran's nuclear programme. We fully support the continuing efforts of the EU and its international partners to achieve a diplomatic solution. On 22 February the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on the results of a six month work programme with Iran to resolve outstanding questions about its nuclear programme. The Agency reported that Iran had provided plausible explanations for a number of points of concern, but that others remain unresolved. In particular, Iran had refused to address evidence of weaponisation work and research. Most importantly, the Agency underlined that Iran continued to ignore the clear demand of the UN Security Council, expressed in three Resolutions, that it suspend its uranium enrichment activities and engage in serious negotiations about the concerns relating to its nuclear programme.

In the light of these developments, the Security Council on 3 March adopted Resolution 1803, which strengthens the measures already in place under the UN framework, targeted principally at individuals and bodies engaged in the areas of nuclear and missile research and development. I believe it is important that Iran take serious note of the virtually unanimous support of the wide range of countries on the Security Council for this and previous Resolutions.

At the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council which I attended in Brussels yesterday, we had an initial discussion on the implications of the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1803, and how best we should proceed to achieve our goal of a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. The initial response to the Resolution from Iran has been very negative. The EU will need to consider if further measures will be required in support of the UN framework and of the international consensus, and in order to convince Iran to change course. It is worth restating that the important comprehensive offer conveyed to Iran by the EU in 2006 included incentives for wide-ranging engagement between Iran and the broad international community in the event of agreement to address our concerns about the nuclear issue. This diplomatic offer remains on the table and I reiterate my appeal to Iran to engage with it constructively.

It is important, I believe, that the focus on the nuclear issue should not distract attention from the growing concerns about the human rights situation in Iran. We are deeply concerned at a series of negative developments, including the rise in the number of executions, executions of minors, erosion of the rights of women and of trade unionists, treatment of minorities, and freedom of speech. It is also a cause for serious concern that reformist opinion in Iran is once again being prevented to a great extent from contesting the Parliamentary elections to be held on 14 March. The EU regularly raises its concerns on the human rights situation with the Iranian Government, both in general terms and in relation to specific cases. I conveyed the Government's concerns directly to Foreign Minister Mottaki when we met last October in New York and my officials have also raised them with the Iranian Embassy. I regret that the Iranian authorities appear to be increasingly intolerant at home and indifferent to opinion abroad, and are becoming more reluctant than ever to address these vital issues constructively.

EU Treaties.

James Bannon

Question:

117 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of areas that were previously subject to unanimity that will move to qualified majority voting in the Lisbon Treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10334/08]

Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) has long been an important feature of decision making within the Union. Many of the EU's achievements, such as the creation of the Single Market, would not have been possible without use of QMV. Under the Reform Treaty, QMV becomes the standard rule for adoption of legislation, known as "the Ordinary Legislative Procedure", although sensitive areas such as defence and taxation will continue to require a unanimous decision in Council.

Under the Reform Treaty, 22 areas from the existing Treaties will move from unanimity to qualified majority voting (QMV). In many cases, the extensions to QMV are limited in scope, involving only aspects of a Treaty Article, or the further use of QMV in an Article already chiefly subject to it. Areas moving from unanimity to QMV include incentive measures in the cultural field and aspects of the Statute of the European Court of Justice. Other examples are in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice where Ireland has a special arrangement which enables us to participate in measures on a case-by-case basis.

Under the Reform Treaty, there are also a number of new areas not previously covered in the existing Treaties which will be subject to QMV. The areas from the existing Treaties which will move from unanimity to qualified majority voting (QMV) are as follows:

Art 2.36 Diplomatic and Consular protection measures

Art 2.51 Social security for migrant workers (with an "emergency brake" whereby if a proposal is particularly sensitive it can be referred to the European Council for a decision by consensus)

Art 2.54 Provisions for self-employed persons

Art 2.70 Establishment of rules concerning transport

Art 2.90 Certain measures relating to the Broad Economic Guidelines and excessive deficit procedure

Art 2.93 Amendment of some articles of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks

Art 2.126 Incentive measures in the cultural field

Art 2.158 Aspects of the common commercial policy

Art 2.211 Establishment of specialised courts

Art 2.226 Amendment of aspects of the ECJ Statute

Art 2.228 Appointment of the president, vice-president and members of the ECB Governing Council by the European Council

Art 2.236 Rules and general principles concerning mechanisms for control by Member States of the Commission's exercise of implementing powers (Comitology)

Art 2.273 Internal Financial Regulations

The following areas are moving to qualified majority voting but Ireland is not obliged to participate and may opt-in on a case-by-case basis:

Art 2.65 Measures concerning border checks

Art 2.65 Measures concerning a common European asylum system

Art 2.65 Aspects of Immigration Policy

Art 2.67 Judicial co-operation in criminal procedural matters

Art 2.67 Minimum rules for criminal offences and sanctions

Art 2.67 Crime prevention

Art 2.67 Regulations concerning aspects of Eurojust's structure, operation, field of action and tasks

Art 2.68 Police co-operation (aspects)

Art 2.68 Europol

Human Rights Issues.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

118 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the declaration of a state of emergency in Armenia, in view of expressions of concern at the position as pertains there by the Council of Europe; the action that will be taken by Ireland as a member of the EU and the international community to offer aid and assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10294/08]

Following the 19 February Presidential elections in Armenia, won by the government candidate Serzh Sarkisyan, the International Election Observation Mission noted that the vote was conducted mostly in line with OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards but that further improvements were necessary to address remaining challenges. The EU statement of 25 February congratulated the Armenian people on the conduct of the election but called attention to the problems highlighted by the observers.

Supporters of the main opposition candidate, Levon Ter-Petrossian, held a series of peaceful demonstrations in Yerevan to dispute the result and call for new elections. However, on 1 March there were clashes with security forces which left at least eight people dead and many injured. A 20-day state of emergency was declared. In the immediate aftermath of the violence, both the Council of Europe and the OSCE expressed concern about the possibly excessive use of force and called for calm. They also expressed the hope that the state of emergency would be lifted quickly and that dialogue would begin between the two sides.

On 4 March the EU issued a statement expressing its concern about the situation, condemning the violence, and calling on the Armenian authorities to release those arrested. The EU also called for the lifting of the state of emergency and recommended an independent investigation of the events of 1 March. It urged all sides to engage in dialogue for the consolidation of peace and stability in the country. In an effort to ensure the situation does not escalate, the EU is keeping in close touch with all sides, in particular through its Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby.

I condemn the violence of 1 March, which resulted in loss of life and numerous injuries. I fully support the efforts of the EU, and of the OSCE and Council of Europe, to calm the situation in the country. The state of emergency should be lifted as soon as possible. The rule of law and a free media are essential elements in any democracy and these must be restored fully if Armenia is to deal with what has happened. It is important that an independent enquiry take place into the events of 1 March. Ireland, through the EU, will provide what assistance it can to support a process of dialogue between the government and opposition. The EU will also continue its support for the reform process in the country through the EU-Armenia ENP Action Plan.

International Agreements.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

119 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress that has been made on the possibility of Ireland signing up to the Antarctic Treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10341/08]

The Antarctic Treaty opened for signature on 1 December, 1959 in Washington DC and came into force in 1961. The stated aim of the Treaty is to ensure "in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord." While the Treaty has been in operation since 1961, only 46 or fewer than one quarter of UN Member States, are States Parties. Many of those who have chosen not to accede have argued that the Antarctic should be declared part of the common heritage of mankind and thus be treated in a manner analogous to Outer Space or the International Sea Bed Area and therefore beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Some have called for a UN agreement to which all Member States would subscribe as the best means to ensure full accountability for actions undertaken in, affecting and concerning Antarctica.

While Ireland has traditionally been sympathetic to this view, we are aware of the immense difficulties which would arise in seeking to negotiate a new Treaty. We have also valued the success of the Antarctic Treaty in prohibiting the spread of nuclear testing to the Antarctic, and in maintaining the Antarctic as an area for peaceful purposes. We have carefully noted the UN General Assembly Resolutions of 2002 and 2005 which affirmed that the management and use of the Antarctica should be conducted in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation for the benefit of mankind as a whole. The Resolutions also welcomed the practice whereby the Antarctic Treaty consultative parties regularly provide the UN Secretary General with information on their consultative meetings and their activities in Antarctica.

As I indicated in my reply to PQ No. 136 of 6 February 2008, the issue is currently being re-examined. Officials in my Department are undertaking a study of the detailed issues involved in accession and have made preliminary contacts with relevant Departments with a view to initiating broader interdepartmental consultations in the near future.

Question No. 120 answered with Question No. 107.

Irish Communities Abroad.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

121 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has plans to establish links with the Irish community in Argentina; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10342/08]

Maintaining and strengthening links with Irish communities abroad is a key priority of my Department. Our Embassies and Consular Offices work dedicatedly to promote all Irish interests. A central part of this is attending to the concerns and interests of our communities overseas. In their representational and promotional outreach, our Missions work directly with Irish communities across a wide range of issues, including cultural, heritage, educational, commercial and consular. The Irish-Argentine community, estimated to number in the region of half a million people, is the largest community of Irish descent outside of the English-speaking world. Its members have maintained a strong pride in their Irish identity, a great interest in Ireland, and strong support for Irish-Argentine community networks.

Longstanding close bilateral ties have characterised relations between Ireland and Argentina since reciprocal resident embassies were opened in Dublin and Buenos Aires in 1948. In recent years, thanks to the considerable increase in funding made available to the Irish Abroad Unit in my Department, the Government has been able to offer financial support to Irish-Argentine associations. The number of high level visits from Ireland to Argentina has also risen significantly in recent years. In 2004, the President paid a State visit to Argentina, as did her predecessor in 1995. In 2001, the Taoiseach paid an official visit to Argentina. Cabinet-level visits for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day with our community there have been made in each of the past three years.

Over the St. Patrick's Day period this year, I will be visiting Argentina myself, where I will attend a wide-ranging programme of events organised by the Irish-Argentine community. I will also have official discussions with my Argentine counterpart. Through the Embassy and the Irish Abroad Unit, the Government is strongly committed to maintaining and developing the well established relations between Ireland and our community in Argentina.

Question No. 122 answered with Question No. 109.

Overseas Development Aid.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

123 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the arrangements made to audit official aid expenditure and in particular to ensure that it is not misappropriated in recipient countries. [10219/08]

Irish Aid has in place rigorous accounting and audit controls. Audits of the Irish Aid programme are undertaken on the basis of a three-year rolling work plan, with clear priority being given to the audit of expenditure in programme countries. The strategy embraces four separate though very complementary approaches:

(a) Work carried out directly by Irish Aid's Evaluation and Audit Unit, and by our internal auditors based at Missions in programme countries;

(b) Work carried out by internationally-reputable audit firms commissioned by Irish Aid;

(c) Joint donor-funded audits of specific programmes (e.g. of the health sector in Mozambique, where Ireland jointly funds an audit with Canada, Denmark and Switzerland), and

(d) Audit reports obtained from partner organisations (e.g. those carried out by National Audit Offices and by Non-governmental Organisations). Our own internal auditors, based in our Missions in the programme countries, implement an audit programme of inspections of partner organisations in receipt of Irish Aid funding. Where any issues of concern arise, Senior Management is alerted. Management in turn has the responsibility of providing responses to such audit queries, and to follow-up on the implementation of the recommendations made.

In addition to the above, the internal auditors actively review the controls in place at our Missions. The Missions, moreover, are audited annually by internationally-reputable audit firms. As systems of control in developing countries are often weak, and to mitigate the risk of misappropriation of aid, Irish Aid works closely with partner governments and other organisations to improve their financial and accounting systems. This work includes strengthening audit institutions and standards in line with international best practice, with capacity building where appropriate.

With regard to NGO partners, which Irish Aid funds via two main schemes (the Multi- Annual Programme Scheme for the large five Irish NGOs and the Civil Society Fund for other organisations), these organisations are subject to external/statutory audits, and are required to submit their annual audited financial statements to Irish Aid. The Evaluation and Audit Unit also conducts its own internal audit/review work of NGO partners, as part of its evaluation and audit work programme, which will be further developed in the period ahead.

In addition to these robust internal systems, the Department's Audit Committee provides an independent appraisal of our audit and evaluation arrangements through regular interaction with the Evaluation and Audit Unit and with Senior Management. The Committee meets regularly with the Secretary General and, annually, with the Comptroller and Auditor General. It also publishes an annual report on its work. Its 2006 report is available at www.dfa.ie. The Audit Committee, which is extremely active, helps ensure that the Evaluation and Audit Unit meets its Mission Statement on the audit of the aid programme. In pursuit of this, the Committee regularly reviews the policy, procedures and work plans of the Unit to ensure it is operating to the highest standards.

Question No. 124 answered with Question No. 110.

Human Rights Issues.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

125 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent elections in the Russian Federation, including views expressed by Council of Europe representatives who have been quoted as saying that the elections were neither free nor fair; if he has received details of the way in which these elections were held; if his Department has made contact with incoming President Medvedev; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10279/08]

The conclusion of the 22-member observer delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that the result of the Presidential elections of 2 March in the Russian Federation reflects the will of an electorate whose democratic potential was not tapped is persuasive. Even though first- hand information on the conduct of the election around the country is lacking, I accept and agree with the PACE conclusion.

In the absence of the customary and much larger election observation mission from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which would have included Irish observers, an opportunity to monitor the whole election process as well as election day itself was missing. The circumstances which, twice in 3 months, led ODIHR to conclude that it could not usefully observe elections in the Russian Federation reflect the narrowing of the democratic space in Russia under President Putin. That is why the EU statement of 4 March on the Presidential elections regretted that the electoral process did not allow for truly competitive elections and singled out the lack of equal media access for the opposition candidates as a particular concern. In public and in private, including since the election, Ireland has made clear to the Russian Federation that, for us, these are disturbing developments that cannot be overlooked.

Dimitry Anatolyevich Medvedev will be inaugurated as President of the Russian Federation on 7 May. President McAleese has sent a message of congratulations and good wishes to Mr. Medvedev. On behalf of the European Union, the Presidency has expressed the hope that partnership with Russia will be further strengthened and developed constructively during his tenure as President. Ireland and the EU as a whole look to the newly elected President to implement political and social reforms, strengthen the rule of law and individual freedoms and modernise the Russian economy in line with undertakings given during his election campaign.

Foreign Conflicts.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

126 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on reports of tension and instability in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the recent declaration of independence by Kosovo; the detail of the proposed stabilisation and association agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU which has been spoken of; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10287/08]

In response to Kosovo's declaration of independence on 17 February, a series of demonstrations took place across the territory of Republika Srpska, the ethnic Serb entity within Bosnia Herzegovina. One demonstration in the town of Banja Luka resulted in violence, leading to injuries and damage to property, including diplomatic missions. On 21 February, the Republika Srpska National Assembly adopted a resolution rejecting Kosovo's independence and asserting Republika Srpska's right to decide to secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina if Kosovo receives broad international recognition. On 22 February, the international community's High Representative, and EU Special Representative, Miroslav Lajcak, issued a statement expressing concern over the resolution and recalling that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina is guaranteed by the Dayton Peace Agreement.

The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council, which monitors the implementation of the Dayton Agreement, and includes the states most directly concerned, including Russia, met on 26/27 February. In expressing its concern about these developments, the Steering Board strongly emphasised that no entity had a right of secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina under the Dayton Agreement, and warned that it would not permit any attempts to undermine Dayton. I welcome and fully support the clear and united response of the international community to these developments, as reflected in the Steering Board statement. The Steering Board also agreed that the Office of the High Representative should continue in place until a series of objectives specified in its workplan are met, and until such time as Bosnia and Herzegovina has satisfied the conditions which would allow it to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union.

The aim of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina is to bring the country closer to EU standards and principles. Its provisions focus mainly on trade liberalisation in goods and other trade-related issues, political dialogue, legal approximation, and cooperation in sectors such as industry, environment and energy. Signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement will mark a key stage in the progress towards the fulfilment of Bosnia and Herzegovina's European perspective. I would therefore encourage all of the political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to redouble their efforts to find compromise solutions to the outstanding issues, in particular the key issue of police reform. This reform is required not only for completion of the Stabilisation and Association process but as a fundamental building block of the state itself.

Further constitutional reforms will also be needed to ensure a functioning and sustainable state in Bosnia and Herzegovina and we hope that the political parties will be prepared to work with the High Representative to address these issues once the question of police reform has been settled. Ireland remains committed to a European perspective for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we will continue to support its economic and political development, including through our participation in the EU Police and Military missions.

Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 106.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

128 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the plight of people fleeing Burma; the initiative towards aiding and assisting these people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10302/08]

I am deeply concerned by the situation in Burma, which has forced thousands of people to seek refuge in Thailand and other neighbouring countries. Many of these have faced serious human rights violations by the Burmese military in operations in ethnic minority regions, as well as a deepening humanitarian crisis, with much of the rural population reduced to abject and desperate poverty by official mismanagement and corruption.

Non-governmental Organisations have played an important role in meeting the humanitarian relief needs of refugees. Trócaire, which was allocated funding of €650,000 in 2007 for its work in Burma from Irish Aid, supports the work of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, in providing essential services for Burmese refugees on the Thai-Burma border. Irish Aid has also provided over €290,000 to the Voluntary Service Overseas organisation for a three year programme promoting democratisation, human rights and reconciliation among five ethnic groups on the Thai-Burma border. Equally, as part of the Government's refugee resettlement and integration programme, in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and managed by the State's Reception and Integration Agency, Ireland last year took a group of 97 refugees from the Burma-Thailand border. They have since been settled in Castlebar.

Overall, however, I believe that the best and most sustainable approach to the refugee issue is the creation of a safe, secure and sustainable environment in their own country. There are a number of clear immediate steps which the government of Burma could take to address the serious social, economic and human rights issues that have forced so many of its people to seek safety elsewhere. These would include:

the establishment of a poverty alleviation commission, or similar body, to address the country's major socio-economic needs, following the recommendation of the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy, Dr Ibrahim Gambari;

and active cooperation with, and access for, international humanitarian organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Ultimately, the most sustainable solution, I believe, is serious engagement with representatives of ethnic minorities and the opposition on political reform, which would be an important guarantee of stability and security for Burma, and the region, in the long term.

Questions Nos. 129 and 130 answered with Question No. 106.

Passport Applications.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

131 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on extending the opening hours of the Passport Office to include some evenings and Saturdays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10323/08]

The Passport Office provides a comprehensive range of options for citizens to apply for passports. Applications may be made by express post through some 1,000 post offices across the State and a further 70 in the North. A guaranteed 10 working day service is available for such applications which are complete and in order. Less urgent applications can also be made by ordinary post. Applicants can also apply in person at the public offices in Molesworth Street, Dublin and at South Mall in Cork between 9.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday. When proof of travel is provided, applications can be processed within ten working days. In urgent cases and on payment of an additional fee, an applicant can acquire a passport on the day of application or the following day.

A facility is also available outside of normal working hours, for persons who have mislaid their passports, whose passports have been lost or stolen or who find at the last minute that they are out of date. A Passport Duty Officer Service is provided on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays year round (except on Christmas Day and New Years Day). It operates from 9am to 6pm on Saturdays and from 9am to 2pm on Sundays and public holidays. During the peak travel season, April to August inclusive, the service is extended and operates from 6pm to 10pm on Fridays, 9am to 5pm on Saturdays and from 9am to 2pm on Sundays and public holidays. Outside of these hours, a Diplomatic Duty Officer is available to deal with the most urgent cases and genuine emergencies such as the death or funeral of a relative or a relative dying abroad.

I believe that the arrangements as described above constitute a comprehensive and flexible service designed to meet the needs of citizens. Accordingly, while the opening hours of the Passport Offices will be kept under review, I do not consider that it is necessary at present to extend these to include evenings and Saturdays.

Proposed Legislation.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

132 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans he has to introduce legislation to deal with the issue of banning the use of, production and storage of cluster munitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10338/08]

My long-held abhorrence of cluster munitions was strengthened by what I saw and heard when I visited Lebanon last year. My personal engagement on this issue led to a commitment in my party's election manifesto, echoed in the Programme for Government, to campaign for a complete ban on the use of cluster munitions. As a major element in its campaign to prohibit cluster munitions, the Government will be hosting a Diplomatic Conference in Dublin this May, as what is intended to be the final stage in the so-called Oslo Process, which began last year. The aim is to conclude a legally binding Convention that will prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. There will also be measures to deal with the care and rehabilitation of survivors, clearance of contaminated areas, risk education and destruction of stockpiles.

The Convention will require legislation for its ratification and implementation, and it is appropriate that we should wait to see what precisely is required before proceeding to enact a national ban. In order to ensure that this legislation is of the highest possible quality, the Government is establishing a National Committee on Humanitarian Law, whose first task will be to consider the measures necessary to give effect to the future Convention. This work will begin even before the Dublin Diplomatic Conference in May, so that we are ready to proceed once the terms of the new Convention are clear. I am pleased to acknowledge that revulsion at the use of cluster munitions is shared on all sides of the Oireachtas, as evidenced by the unanimous adoption by the Seanad on 6 March last of an all-party Motion welcoming the role being played by the Government in international efforts to secure a total prohibition as well as comprehensive measures for victim assistance and clearance of affected areas.

The Motion also urged that no public funds be invested in any company involved in or associated with the production of cluster munitions. With this in mind, my Department has been examining best practice on ethical investment by the investment funds of like-minded countries. I have also initiated contacts with my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance. While not seeking to interfere with the statutory independence of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, my objective was to try and ensure that no public funds are invested in any company involved in or associated with the production of cluster munitions. While there are a number of legal and practical issues still to be teased out, I can say that the reaction has been very positive and supportive. Ireland was one of the first countries to ratify the Ottawa Convention prohibiting anti-personnel mines and it would be an honour and in line with Government policy for Ireland to be among the first to ratify the Cluster Munitions Convention.

Overseas Development Aid.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

133 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Nepal; if he has concerns about recent reports of food and energy shortages; the action he can take regarding the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10328/08]

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 50% of the population living on less that US$1 a day and one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates. Nepal is also prone to disasters, which are likely to become more frequent in the future due to climate change. Last year, floods and landslides affected over 60% of the country and displaced more than 70,000 people. Ireland responded rapidly and effectively. Funding of approximately €137,000 was provided to Plan Ireland to address the urgent needs of families affected by the flooding. Activities included the provision of food supplies, medicine, shelter and education materials. Additionally, the UN also provided an immediate response to the flood crisis with a grant of US$1 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Ireland, which contributed €20 million to the CERF in 2007, is the 6th largest contributor to that Fund.

Since 1992, Nepal has been host to refugees from Bhutan. The World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing basic food rations to these refugees who are housed in seven camps in Nepal and who are completely dependent on humanitarian aid for their basic needs. Last year, as well as our general support to the WFP of €10.5 million, provided by way of the vote of the Department of Agriculture, Irish Aid provided an additional €250,000 in specific support for the WFP's programme in Nepal. Ireland has also responded to the humanitarian situation in Nepal by way of the recently- established Rapid Response Corps. In January of this year, a member of the Rapid Response Corps was deployed to Nepal where she is currently working with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as a Humanitarian Affairs Officer, dealing specifically with the humanitarian issues facing Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nepal.

EU Treaties.

Damien English

Question:

134 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the implications the Lisbon Treaty has for Irish policy with respect to foreign direct investment; if Ireland will be able to set its own policy in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10332/08]

The Reform Treaty provides for a more effective European Union across a range of areas. The Treaty will allow the Union to continue to develop positively, as it has throughout our thirty-five year membership. A more effective Union will continue to make Ireland an attractive place for foreign direct investment. All Member States remain free to determine their own policies in these areas subject to state aid, competition rules and other areas of EU competence. The Reform Treaty does not change this position. Indeed, Article 2.157 of the Treaty makes clear the Union's commitment to the progressive abolition of restrictions on trade and foreign direct investment. Accordingly, nothing in the Reform Treaty poses a threat either to Ireland's foreign direct investment policy or to broader national enterprise policy.

The Common Commercial Policy — the Union's international trade policy — is one of five areas of exclusive Union competence. In trade negotiations, the Commission negotiates on behalf of the Union, subject to a mandate given it by the Member States. In the Reform Treaty, the Common Commercial Policy includes a reference to foreign direct investment. This reflects the growing importance of outward investment from Europe in a globalised world. For example, existing Free Trade Agreements contain provisions about what rules will apply to investment by EU companies in other countries and vice versa. Foreign direct investment is therefore already an aspect of the EU's Common Commercial Policy. Mentioning foreign direct investment in the Reform Treaty merely adds clarification, recognising the EU's existing involvement in the area.

In the Reform Treaty, Qualified Majority Voting is the standard decision making mechanism in the Common Commercial Policy. However, there are some important qualifications. The Council is to act unanimously in the areas of trade in services, intellectual property and foreign direct investment where the negotiations cover issues for which unanimity is required internally. An important example of this would be the area of taxation. Under the Reform Treaty, Ireland continues to have the right to determine how our fiscal policy is developed and applied. For us, this is a key aspect of enterprise policy for both indigenous and foreign direct investment sectors.

European Council Meetings.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his colleagues at EU level have discussed the Balkans issue with particular reference to the need to ensure stability and investment in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10263/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts being made at EU level to stabilise and improve the situation in the western Balkans with particular reference to the need to encourage investment and reinstatement of infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10707/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 287 together.

The countries of the Western Balkans region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) continue to feature prominently on the agenda of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. On 18 February last, EU Foreign Ministers recalled the Union's long-standing commitment to strengthening stability in the region. Foreign Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to support fully the European perspective for the Western Balkans and asked the Commission to use Community instruments to promote economic and political developments in the region.

The Stabilisation and Association Process for South-East Europe, which involves the negotiation of Stabilisation and Association Agreements, aims to bring the countries of the region closer to EU standards and principles. These Agreements focus mainly on trade-related issues, political dialogue, legal approximation, and cooperation in sectors such as industry, environment and energy. Agreements have been signed with Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro. Also, negotiations on Agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia were finalised late last year, and can be signed as soon as each of these countries meets the necessary conditions. In addition to these Agreements, the European Union opened negotiations on accession with Croatia in 2005. Also, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has obtained candidate status, although its negotiations on accession have not yet commenced.

Since 2007, the EU provides financial support to the Western Balkans through the new Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). The Western Balkans will receive some €4 billion under IPA for the period 2007-2011. Particular emphasis will be given to state-building, rule of law, administrative, judicial and economic reforms. The EU is also committed to closer coordination with international financial institutions to support modernisation and development in the Western Balkans, including in areas such as small and medium sized enterprises and infrastructure projects. The European Union has encouraged the development and growth of CEFTA (Central European Free Trade Agreement). The enlarged CEFTA entered into force in November 2007, and will contribute to attracting foreign direct investment, fostering intra-regional trade and integrating the Western Balkans region into the global environment.

The European Union is also a strong supporter of the newly established Regional Cooperation Council, which is a regionally-owned replacement for the Brussels-based Stability Pact for South East Europe (which had provided a vehicle for the development of a wide range of sectoral regional initiatives since 1999). Ireland is a donor and board member of this new Regional Cooperation Council. Finally, since 2006, Ireland has provided approximately €2.2 million for projects and programmes which promote stability, regional integration and investment in the region.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 112.

Rapid Response Corps.

Joe Carey

Question:

137 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of people assigned to the Rapid Response Corps; the funding allocated to the Rapid Response Corps in each of the years 2008 to 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10357/08]

Sixty-four volunteers were invited to become members of the Rapid Response Corps in 2007 following a rigorous selection and interview process. Fifty-two of this group completed their pre-departure training and checks last year, and are ready to deploy when requested. Since November 2007, eight Corps members have been deployed in Sri Lanka, Kenya, Somalia, Nepal, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In each of these countries, they are making a valuable contribution to saving lives and rebuilding livelihoods.

A new campaign to recruit further members was launched in the national media on 14 February. This campaign is seeking to recruit volunteers with the logistics, engineering and humanitarian skills most requested, together with new skills profiles identified to us by our partner agencies. The response to the campaign has been very positive again this year, both in terms of the number of applicants and their calibre. A further period of selection and interviews will commence shortly. The next pre-departure training course will be held in early May, at which we would expect to deliver induction training to about 25 Corps members. A further training course will be scheduled for September, at which it is anticipated that a further 25 Corps members will participate.

The level of funding assigned to the Rapid Response Corps will be dependent on the number of deployments of the Corps and the requested needs in the field. In 2008, it is estimated that the Corps will absorb approximately €1 million and the Deputy can be assured that the necessary funding will be made available to fund the Rapid Response Corps in the period to 2012.

Foreign Conflicts.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

138 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on ongoing discord in Sri Lanka; the assistance the European Union has offered with regard to assisting in the ongoing conflict; if Ireland in particular will offer a useful service to the region in view of the experience of the Northern Ireland peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10299/08]

I remain deeply concerned about the developing situation in Sri Lanka. I very much regret that the ceasefire agreement concluded between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in February 2002 has been terminated. Both the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka must recognise that a sustainable solution to the problems Sri Lanka faces cannot be achieved by military means and that they need immediately to resume meaningful negotiations for a peaceful future for the people of Sri Lanka.

Having chosen to end the ceasefire agreement, the Government of Sri Lanka has a clear responsibility to live up to its commitments to address the grievances of the Tamil people. I believe that the interim proposals by the All-Party Representatives Committee (APRC) on the devolution of power to the provinces, submitted to President Rajapakse on 23 January, may be interesting in the short term. However, a sustainable and lasting solution would need to be more far-reaching than the APRC proposals. It can only be achieved through inclusive dialogue, with the involvement of parties to the conflict, including the LTTE, so that it can address the grievances of all ethnic groups in the country. Any solution would also need to respect the unity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. At the same time, the LTTE must clearly end its senseless and provocative terrorist attacks, improve its human rights record, abide by democratic principles and engage meaningfully in the political process towards a settlement of the conflict.

The EU, and Ireland nationally, remain ready to support a meaningful peace process in Sri Lanka, and to provide assistance in any manner acceptable to both sides of the conflict, and in support of the Norwegian facilitator. Regarding the issue of Irish engagement, in view of our experience in regard to Northern Ireland, I would refer the deputy to the answer given to PQ No. 121 on 27th November 2007, in which I outlined my views on the potential for in conflict resolution activities in Sri Lanka. The Government remains willing to offer advice if sought by relevant parties, but there would appear to be little scope to do so in the current circumstances.

Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 95.

Diplomatic Relations.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

140 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the diplomatic ties Ireland has with Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador; if many Irish citizens reside in these countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10337/08]

Ireland is accredited to Venezuela and Colombia through our Ambassador to Mexico on a non-residential basis. Our Ambassador presented his credentials to the Colombian President, Mr. Álvaro Uribe, in Bogotá in February 2006 and to the then Venezuelan Vice President, Mr José Vicente Rangel, in Caracas in May 2006. The Ambassadors of Venezuela and Colombia in London are also accredited to Ireland on a non-residential basis. Diplomatic relations, without an exchange of Ambassadors, were established with Ecuador in 1999 by means of an exchange of notes at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Government has appointed an Honorary Consul, Ms. Dominique Kennedy, in Quito.

Ireland's relations with Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador are conducted primarily in the multilateral context, in particular through the framework of the EU-Latin America and Caribbean (EU-LAC), as well as the EU-Rio Group, strategic dialogues. The most recent Government-level contact in the multilateral context took place at the Fourth EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit in Vienna on 12th May 2006, at which sixty EU and Latin American and Caribbean Heads of State or Government were present. The Taoiseach and then Minister of State Noel Treacy represented Ireland at the Summit. The Fifth EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit will take place in Lima on 16 May 2008. Regular meetings at senior official level are held between representatives of all EU and Latin American and Caribbean States, most recently in Brussels on 7-8 February, 2008.

In relation to the number of Irish citizens resident in the countries under reference, 34 Irish citizens resident in Colombia and 60 resident in Venezuela have registered with our Embassy in Mexico City, which, as indicated above, is accredited to both the aforementioned countries. In relation to Ecuador, a total of 46 citizens have registered with our Honorary Consul. However, as the Deputy may be aware, registration with our Missions abroad is entirely voluntary, so the true number of Irish citizens in each country may well be larger.

Ireland, along with our EU partners, is concerned about the recent tension between Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. This tension has arisen following the killing of members of the left-wing guerrilla group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) including senior FARC commander Raul Reyes, by the Colombian military in Ecuadorian territory. The EU Presidency, on behalf of Member States, issued a declaration on 5 March urging all parties involved to show restraint and to avoid any further escalation of the current situation. The Presidency encouraged all countries involved to seek, through dialogue, a political solution. Following an emergency meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) on 5 March, a mandate was given for a delegation, headed by the OAS Secretary General, to travel to the border region of Ecuador and Colombia in order to prepare a report which will be considered by a meeting of OAS Foreign Ministers in Washington on 17 March.

Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 106.

Energy Resources.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

142 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of energy saving measures which have been introduced and implemented in his Department and departmental offices since he took office. [10295/08]

My Department promotes energy saving measures on an ongoing basis. It is participating in the recently launched Optimising Power @ Work, Staff Energy Awareness Campaign being led by the Office of Public Works. This campaign, which will begin in the Department this month, aims to achieve a minimum of 15% reduction in total annual carbon dioxide emissions through an intensive staff energy awareness initiative promoting efficiency in respect of all energy consuming processes. In addition, the Department already uses a number of energy saving devices such as energy efficient lights, power save function on electrical office equipment and photocopiers with duplex (double-sided copying) facilities.

Since the beginning of 2006, carbon emissions have been taken into account in vehicle purchases made by the Department. In order to take account of the wider availability of new technologies, the Department, at my request, is currently preparing a policy on the purchase of official vehicles, to ensure that environmental considerations are taken fully into account as official vehicles are replaced, which is normally done at four year intervals.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

143 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the transitional period about to be undergone in Northern Ireland with the resignation of the First Minister; his further views on a succession in this position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10307/08]

The announcement by Dr Ian Paisley that he will step down as First Minister and DUP Party Leader after the International Investment Conference in May marks, as the Taoiseach has said, a watershed in Irish history. Dr Paisley's contribution as First Minister over the last nine months has been significant and positive. I am certain that he will continue to play an active role as First Minister in the period leading up to and during the Investment Conference. There will, of course, be a period of adjustment while the new leader of the DUP is selected and takes up the role of First Minister, but I would not expect this to delay progress on the many important issues before the Executive and the Assembly.

Since the restoration of the Institutions last May, the relationship between the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive has been working very well. We have recently had very productive plenary meetings of the North South Ministerial Council and the British Irish Council. There is also very encouraging forward momentum on North/South cooperation across a range of areas. We wish to continue moving forward in this positive spirit. We are confident that all parties within the Northern Ireland Executive will continue to work constructively with us, in meaningful and practical ways, for the mutual benefit of Ireland, North & South.

Overseas Development Aid.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

144 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the agencies, groups or individuals that he has granted funding to for assistance work carried out in Nepal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10329/08]

The Department of Foreign Affairs has provided funding for organisations operating in Nepal under a number of different schemes, which are summarised below:

Department of Foreign Affairs — Irish Aid

Grant aid to organisations operating in Nepal

2005

2006

2007

NGO co-financing — block grant scheme / Civil Society Fund (2006 onwards)

Action Aid

200,000

229,401

360,588

Personnel Co-financing Scheme / Civil Society Fund (2006 onwards)

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)

3,536

23,483

Church Mission Society Ireland (CMSI)

22,584

14,686

14,686

Interserve Ireland

94,500

108,000

172,000

John Grooms

12,500

Leprosy Mission Ireland

46,000

165,617

102,544

Nepal Leprosy Trust

30,000

118,253

The Social & Health Education Project

103,868

Missionary Development Project Fund/IMRS

Jesuit Mission, Basic Education Project

69,020

In Country Micro Project Scheme

Chhaya Chhetra Community Development Centre (CCDC),integrated education project

4,974

Emergency and Recovery

Plan Ireland — flood disaster emergency assistance

136,878

World Food Programme — CAP Appeal

250,000

UN Multilateral

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, contribution to establishment of field office

200,000

Total

596,620

671,940

1,214,558

Human Rights Issues.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

145 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on human rights abuses in China and in countries where China has an influence, such as Sudan, in view of the summer 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10218/08]

The Government continues to take concerns about human rights in China very seriously. Our concerns are raised on a regular basis in bilateral contacts with the Government of China. Discussions in this regard take place at official level in Dublin and in Beijing. We continue to stress the importance that Ireland attaches to human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We have made clear our hope that every effort possible will be made to facilitate freedom of movement and expression, including the right to peaceful protest, in the run-up to — and during — the Olympic Games in Beijing later this year. In this regard, I remain concerned by reports that the Chinese authorities have introduced restrictions on certain groups in China for the games. While security issues are of course a key concern for the organisers, it is not clear that these would justify such measures.

The role of China in regard to international issues such as Burma and Darfur is also regularly raised in our bilateral contacts with China. In this regard, I recognise and welcome the efforts that China has made to encourage greater cooperation from the governments of Sudan and Burma with the international community in seeking to resolve the awful human rights and humanitarian situations in both countries. We continue strongly to urge ongoing and, in particular, intensified engagement by China on these issues.

Finally, I would note that human rights issues continue to be a constant and important point of dialogue with the Chinese authorities for the European Union, through the framework of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, to which we also contribute. The next edition of the dialogue will be held in Ljubljana on 15 May.

EU Treaties.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

146 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proposals for a common consolidated tax base being proposed by the European Commission; the position of the Irish Government; and if any proposal could be approved by the European Council, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. [10346/08]

The European Commission has not brought forward any draft legislative proposals in respect of a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB). Ireland's position on any initiative in this area is very well-known. We do not see how it would advance European competitiveness or, indeed, how it would assist the general development of European economies. Any move in this direction would be divisive among Member States and could make the EU as a whole less attractive as a location for foreign direct investment.

Under the current EU Treaties, taxation is a matter for unanimous decision in the Council of Ministers. The Reform Treaty does not alter this situation. Ireland, and indeed any other Member State, will continue to be able to block any move to establish an EU-wide Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base. From discussions with EU Partners, we are aware that our opposition to tax harmonisation is shared by a significant number of other Member States.

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 106.

Overseas Development Aid.

Phil Hogan

Question:

148 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the most recent audit carried out on one of the programme countries; the findings of this audit; the person who carried out this audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10325/08]

Irish Aid has in place rigorous accounting and audit controls. Audits of the Irish Aid programme are undertaken on the basis of a three-year rolling work plan, managed by the Evaluation and Audit Unit, with clear priority being given to the audit of expenditure in programme countries. The strategy embraces four separate, though very complementary, approaches:

(a) Work carried out directly by Irish Aid's Evaluation and Audit Unit, and by our internal auditors based at Missions in programme countries;

(b) Work carried out by internationally-reputable audit firms commissioned by Irish Aid;

(c) Joint donor-funded audits of specific programmes (e.g. of the health sector in Mozambique, where Ireland jointly funds an audit with Canada, Denmark and Switzerland), and

(d) Audit reports obtained from partner organisations (e.g. those carried out by National Audit Offices and by Non-governmental Organisations).

The Missions in programme countries oversee the disbursement of significant sums of money under Ireland's Aid Programme. Audits of the programmes in each country are commissioned annually. The audit report on the Zambia Programme was completed recently by an internationally-recognised firm, Moores Rowland. In line with standard working practices, Management has provided written responses to the findings and recommendations in this report and will follow-up on the implementation of the recommendations made.

The Department also has an Audit Committee, which provides an independent appraisal of our audit and evaluation arrangements through regular interaction with the Evaluation and Audit Unit and with Senior Management. The Committee meets regularly with the Secretary General and, annually, with the Comptroller and Auditor General. It also publishes an annual report on its work. Its 2006 report is available at www.dfa.ie. The Audit Committee, which is extremely active, helps ensure that the Evaluation and Audit Unit meets its Mission Statement on the audit of the Aid Programme. In pursuit of this, the Committee regularly reviews the policy, procedures and work plans of the Unit to ensure it is operating to the highest standards.

European Council Meetings.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

149 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the agenda for discussion at the most recent General Affairs and External Relations Council of the European Union; the discussions he and his officials held and contributed to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10289/08]

I attended the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels on 10 March. Minister of State John McGuinness also attended. The Council discussed the agenda and draft conclusions for the Spring European Council which will take place on 13-14 March. Among the main issues for discussion at the European Council will be the Lisbon Strategy; Climate change and Energy; and the Stability of the Financial Markets. Almost all Member States contributed to this discussion. Ireland is broadly happy with the conclusions as they stand and further work as required will be done over the next two days in advance of Thursday's European Council.

The GAERC external affairs agenda saw a discussion among Ministers on the very grave situation in the Middle East and efforts to revive the peace process and achievement of a negotiated two-State solution. The Council was briefed by Javier Solana on his discussions in recent days with Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese political leaders. Commissioner Peter Mandelson gave the Council an update on the latest state of play in the WTO negotiations. Minister of State McGuinness intervened to stress that, while Ireland has always wanted to see a successful outcome to the current round of negotiations, it must be both a fair and a balanced result and should take account of the needs of the developing countries.

The Council had a brief discussion on Iran, noting the adoption by the UN Security Council of Resolution 1803, further strengthening the sanctions on Iran due to its refusal to abide by earlier Security Council demands for an end to enrichment. There was also a discussion on the EU's relations with Georgia, EU assistance for the upcoming Georgian parliamentary elections, the start of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement as well as visa facilitation and readmission agreements, and the stepping up of the EU's involvement in the conflict resolution processes in the country.

Ministers exchanged views on the critical situation in Zimbabwe in advance of the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 29 March. I intervened to express Ireland's deep concern over the current humanitarian situation, to urge that every effort be made with Zimbabwe's neighbours to push for free and fair elections, and to call for a further discussion at the April GAERC to review the post-election situation. Over lunch, we had the opportunity for a full discussion of the situation in the Western Balkans, including a stocktake on developments in Kosovo following the declaration of independence. Finally, Ministers adopted conclusions on Pakistan and Afghanistan. The EU's policy on Pakistan will be reviewed at the April GAERC, while Foreign Ministers will discuss the situation in Afghanistan en marge of the European Council later this week.

Question No. 150 answered with Question No. 96.

Overseas Development Aid.

Tom Hayes

Question:

151 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the criteria used by his Department to identify countries to receive Irish Government overseas aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10349/08]

The White Paper on Irish Aid sets out the principles and policies underlying the aid programme. It outlines the vision for the future and a number of key initiatives. It also identifies considerations which guide the selection of long term development partners. These include factors such as the level of poverty and the scope for Ireland to make a positive impact. It also includes standards of governance, stability and the potential of the partner government to take ownership of the country's development process. Countries receiving emergency humanitarian assistance are assisted based on immediate needs only.

The White Paper on Irish Aid was the subject of extensive consultation with the Irish public, with aid agencies and other stakeholders including UN agencies and Ireland's partners in the developing world. Irish Aid delivers assistance to over 90 countries, but has designated nine countries as Programme Countries, where there is a commitment to long term strategic assistance. These are, in Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Uganda, Ethiopia and Malawi. In Asia, Vietnam and East Timor are designated as Programme Countries.

The first three countries listed were selected as Programme Countries over 25 years ago, based on their poverty, their links with Ireland and with Irish missionaries and on the comparative advantage which Ireland had in relation to their needs. In Lesotho, the fact that the country was completely surrounded by then apartheid South Africa was also a significant factor. The latter three were chosen in the mid 1990s based on visits by appraisal teams which looked at the respective poverty indices and on the emergence of these countries from years of conflict. Malawi has now become the 7th Programme Country in Africa on the basis of poverty indices, susceptibility to food insecurity and prior humanitarian operations and experience by Irish Aid there. An Embassy has now been opened in Malawi and work is in hand on setting up a comprehensive bilateral assistance programme.

Vietnam and East Timor were designated as Programme Countries on the basis of poverty levels, but also with a view to transferring the lessons from the development experience in Asia, where appropriate, to Africa. In the case of East Timor, Ireland's solidarity in support of the country's efforts to achieve independence was also an important factor. Support to Programme Countries is framed around a country strategy through which we address fundamental human needs such as food security, basic education, primary health care and safe water supplies.

We also place a particular emphasis on building good governance. This includes assistance for enhancing parliamentary oversight, building democratic systems of government that are underpinned by free and fair elections, strengthening the rule of law, enhancing respect for human rights, improving transparency and accountability through initiatives to enhance public financial management and building civil society. A guiding principle of Irish Aid's policy is that Ireland's relationship with the developing world is based on a spirit of partnership and equality. The governments and peoples of our partner countries are primarily responsible for their own development and will lead the development process. Ireland will offer advice, expertise and assistance but decisions on development planning must, to the greatest extent possible, be locally owned and led.

The Irish Aid programme is growing rapidly. The commitment of the Government to reach the UN target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012 presents an important opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of millions of poor people in Africa and beyond.

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 101.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

153 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his Department’s millennium development goal strategy plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10339/08]

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are at the heart of Ireland's development cooperation programme as set out in the 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid. They inform both our programme of development cooperation and our support for and dialogue with multilateral development bodies. Irish Aid's focus on reducing poverty and supporting the provision of basic services to the poorest people is wholly consistent with the attainment of the MDGs. By delivering on the commitment to reach the 0.7% UN target for development funding by 2012, Ireland is also perceived as being at the forefront of international efforts to reach the Goals.

We continue to focus over 80% of our bilateral country assistance on sub-Saharan Africa where needs are greatest. The overarching objectives of the aid programme are poverty reduction and sustainable development. We address fundamental human needs such as food security, basic education, primary health care and safe water supplies, areas which are essential to achieving the MDGs. Irish Aid works closely with partner Governments and civil society in our Programme Countries to monitor progress in relation to the MDGs.

In addition to an overall target for poverty reduction, we work with other donors and partner Governments in sectors such as health and education to identify clear targets to be achieved. These targets, for instance, include the number of schools built, the number of girls in education and so forth. In such cases, a joint review is held annually and, where problems are identified, measures to address these are included in the following year's annual planning process. We also work closely with NGOs, local community groups and missionaries in their work of delivering effective assistance on the ground. The UN's latest MDG progress report, issued in July 2007, gave us a snapshot of the global progress achieved as we head towards the 2015 MDG target date, broken down by Goal and by region. If current trends continue, we are on target to reach the MDG on poverty reduction for the world as a whole, while progress has also been made globally in relation to reducing child mortality and increasing school enrolment rates.

However sub-Saharan Africa unfortunately continues to lag behind other parts of the world. We are therefore very supportive of efforts to strengthen Africa's efforts to meet the Goals such as the MDG Africa Steering Group convened by the UN Secretary General last September. The Taoiseach has also indicated his support for a meeting at Heads of Government level in September 2008, with the aim of intensifying MDG efforts in the period leading up to 2015.

Billy Timmins

Question:

154 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of funding he proposes to give to Tanzania in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10327/08]

Irish Aid has been providing development assistance to Tanzania since 1975 and it was designated as a Programme Country in 1979. It is expected that Ireland will provide assistance of approximately €40 million to Tanzania in 2008. The central goal of the programme is to assist the Government and people of Tanzania in reducing poverty, through supporting the implementation of its national poverty reduction plan. Additional support will be delivered indirectly through NGO partners, missionaries, and civil society organisations. Tanzania, through diligent and effective public financial management, a focus on poverty and a coordinated donor response, has combined economic growth with poverty reduction. Tanzania has actually achieved the targets set under the MDGs on universal primary education, on gender equality in primary schools, on urban access to safe water and basic sanitation, 7 years ahead of schedule.

Irish support to Tanzania is governed by a Country Strategy Paper which is drawn up in consultation with the Tanzanian Government, civil society partners and other donors. The current framework strategy covers the period 2007 to 2010. It focuses on rural livelihoods where assistance is provided for people working in agriculture and for pastoralist groups; on governance and accountability where support is provided to civil society organisations, to media and state watchdog bodies; on health and HIV/AIDS where assistance is provided for poor, vulnerable and marginalised communities.

In common with all funds available to Irish Aid, those allocated for the development programme in Tanzania are managed in accordance with proper accounting principles and in a manner compliant with Department of Finance Public Financial Procedures. The programme conforms to the standards of best international practice. There are strong, comprehensive monitoring and evaluation processes in place which act as a quality control on the programme and ensure that our assistance makes a real difference to poor people's lives.

Official Engagements.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

155 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the subjects he will raise with the US President during his visit to the United States over the St. Patrick’s Day 2008 period; if one of these subjects will be the issue of the undocumented Irish; the recent communications his Department and officials have had from their counterparts in Washington DC on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10290/08]

During my forthcoming annual visit to the United States for St. Patrick's Day, I will have a bilateral meeting with President George Bush. During the course of the meeting, I expect to have discussions covering Northern Ireland, Immigration, International Relations and Economic Issues. As I reported to the Dáil when answering questions on 6 February last, I spoke with Senator Kennedy on 7 December when we discussed the issue of immigration in the United States and the undocumented Irish in particular. I emphasised to the Senator that the resolution of this issue has been, and will continue to be, a priority for the Government and I referred to the strong all-party support in this House on the issue.

I understand that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has also discussed this matter with the US Ambassador and reiterated the Government's strong support for a bilateral solution for our undocumented. In addition, our Ambassador and his Embassy colleagues in Washington are in ongoing discussions with Congressional, Administration and Irish community figures towards achieving a satisfactory resolution to this important issue.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

156 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants in his Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10605/08]

During the period 2005 to 2007, the Department of the Taoiseach organised three Stress Management information sessions. These sessions were made available to all staff members and twenty nine people attended. Assistance in dealing with stress related issues is usually provided at a Divisional level. Should further formal intervention be required, this can be done in conjunction with Personnel Division in line with approved policies and procedures. New and existing staff members are made aware of the supports and facilities on offer to them namely:

Employee Assistance Officer; and

The Chief Medical Officer.

Employee well-being is taken into account when planning training initiatives within the Department of the Taoiseach. Each year, the Department organises awareness sessions for staff that cover mental and physical well-being as well as formal training programmes that meet our business needs. A series of Positive Working Environment training/awareness workshops were held during 2006 and 2007. These sessions were attended by the vast majority of jobholders and managers. The workshops familiarised staff with the Civil Service Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Bullying in the workplace.

The Department provides timely and relevant training to comply with its corporate legal responsibilities, to ensure that it meets its business objectives and to support the career/personal development of staff.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Ring

Question:

157 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if it is proposed to rectify the situation whereby public servants who have full qualifying pensionable service continue to contribute to the superannuation fund at the full rate with no consequent ensuing benefit and are also required to contribute to the widows and orphans pensions scheme by way of lump sum payment deducted from the retirement gratuity payable under the Superannuation Acts. [10317/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

158 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if an anomaly (details supplied) will be corrected in the Green Paper which is under discussion at present; and if he will ensure that this matter will be included in any White Paper produced following such discussions. [10358/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 158 together.

The Government published its Green Paper on pensions in October last year. It sets out the background to the demographic and sustainability challenges facing pensions in Ireland; the wide and complex range of issues involved; and the options that we might consider for future pensions development. The Green Paper consultation process currently underway provides an opportunity to consider the wide span of the issues involved in detail and aspects relating to public service pensions will be considered in that context. The Government will respond to the consultation process, which concludes at the end of May this year, by developing a framework for longer term pensions policy.

Disabled Drivers.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

159 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will review the regulations governing the primary medical certificate issued by the Health Service Executive to allow persons who are not wholly disabled obtain tax relief towards the purchase of a car on a percentage scale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10483/08]

Bobby Aylward

Question:

178 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will review the tax relief scheme administered to assist disabled persons in purchasing a car to include persons who are not wholly disabled so they can obtain tax relief on a percentage scale depending on the level of their disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10482/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 178 together.

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit), and exemption from motor tax, on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations.

There was an inderpartmental review of the Scheme. The Deputy might wish to be aware that some 12,500 people benefited under the scheme in 2007 at an overall estimated cost of €74 million. Any changes would have to be considered in the context of the annual Budget.

Garda Stations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

160 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if there has been progress with plans for the redevelopment of Tallaght Garda station; his views in regard to the clear need in that regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10505/08]

Following discussions between the Office of Public Works and South Dublin Co. Council in regard to the re-development of Tallaght Garda Station, it is expected that a sketch scheme to accommodate an enlarged Garda Station, new Courthouse and other facilities will be completed in May 2008.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

161 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when, in view of the news that the Government plans to amend legislation governing the operation of the National Pensions Reserve Fund to allow for ethical considerations to be taken into account, and as a consequence end Irish investment in cluster munitions, this new amended legislation will be published; and if he will ensure, as has been called for by an organisation (details supplied), that the Government works with human rights and development organisations in order to ensure that a robust set of ethical guidelines is used in the legislation. [10303/08]

It is Government policy to campaign for a complete ban on the use of cluster munitions and my colleague, Mr Dermot Ahern, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs, is working to bring to completion negotiations on the first-ever instrument of international humanitarian law specifically directed against cluster munitions. I understand that there are still significant differences to be resolved in relation to the proposed Convention, including key issues such as definitions. When the precise shape of the Convention is clear, the Government will reflect further on any statutory requirements.

In relation to the National Pensions Reserve Fund, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission joined a group of the world's largest institutional investment funds in signing the UN-sponsored Principles for Responsible Investment when they were launched in April 2006. The aim of the Principles is to integrate consideration of environmental, social and governance issues into investment decision-making and ownership practices and, thereby, to improve long-term returns.

As set out in its Annual Report 2006, the Commission's initial focus in its implementation of the Principles is on the development and implementation of a comprehensive proxy voting policy and development of the capacity to engage with the companies in which Fund moneys are invested on environmental, social and governance issues. As implementing a comprehensive voting and engagement policy has considerable resource implications, the Commission decided to contract a third-party service provider to deliver these services. The service was put in place in July 2007 when the Commission announced the appointment of Hermes Equity Ownership Services to execute proxy votes on the Fund's behalf and to engage with companies on environmental, social and governance issues across its worldwide equity portfolio. I have made the Government's position on investments in this area clear to the Pensions Commission.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

162 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of civil servants in his Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10033/08]

A two-day Stress Awareness/Management training Programme is offered to all staff in the Department of Finance. The purpose of the programme is to inform individuals about how to recognise and understand the various factors which cause stress and measures to manage it. In the period 2005-2007, 82 members of staff availed of this training programme, and a further 34 attended a one-day follow-up refresher course. The Stress Awareness/Management training Programme complements other initiatives under my Department's staff Health and Well-being Awareness Programme including general guidelines for staff on stress management. An Employee Assistance Service is also in place in my Department to support staff with regard to personal or work related issue.

Data Protection.

Simon Coveney

Question:

163 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the report of the review of systems and procedures operated by Departments and agencies to protect the confidentiality of personal data will be presented to Government; and when it will be made public. [10072/08]

My Department has examined and collated the responses received with regard to our request to Departments and agencies for details of the systems in place to protect the confidentiality of personal data. A report on the findings of this exercise has been completed and has been circulated to relevant stakeholders for comment and observations. When all comments and observations have been received, the report will be presented to Government for consideration.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

164 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of property acquisition and the cost involved for the decentralisation of the Land Registry to County Roscommon; if the Office of Public Works has completed its examination of tenders for the construction of a new building; when the property will be ready for occupation; the numbers it will cater for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10075/08]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has acquired a 4.1 acre site at Golf Links Road, Roscommon, for the sum of €3 million. The OPW has now completed an evaluation of tenders received for construction of new offices for 230 staff of the Property Registration Authority (formerly known as the Land Registry). Subject to receipt of the necessary sanction from the Department of Finance to proceed with the project, the Preferred Tenderer will be required to apply immediately for planning permission. On satisfactory completion of the planning process, the OPW will instruct the Preferred Tenderer to finalise working drawings, specifications and a Bill of Quantities with a view to a contract being placed and construction work commencing on site.

Archaeological Sites.

Michael Ring

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent on a sector (details supplied), giving details of expenditure in this sector by his Department in 2007 and to date in 2008 on a county basis. [10086/08]

The attached tables show direct expenditure to archaeological firms in the periods requested by the Office of Public Works. The table does not include those cases where archaeological investigations were undertaken directly under the terms of some construction contracts. It is not possible to research this data in the time available. The Department of Finance did not incur expenditure for any archaeological works/surveys from its vote in the period in question.

Archaeological Survey/Works for 2007

County

Expenditure by OPW

Dublin

165,403.25

Kerry

37,861.66

Kildare

5,042.08

Kilkenny

33,807.72

Meath

16,944.58

Offaly

55,819.10

Roscommon

10,215.00

Tipperary

50,912.94

Waterford

1,155.55

Westmeath

2,238.50

Wexford

3,872.00

Wicklow

8,288.50

Archaeological Survey/Works for 2008 to 5th March, 2008

County

Expenditure by OPW

Cork

4,596.03

Dublin

20,003.60

Kilkenny

6,322.25

Offaly

4,114.00

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

166 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 64 of 27 February 2008, a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is in receipt of all their entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10107/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer is under 65 years of age and, therefore, DIRT is payable on his investment income. A repayment of DIRT paid by an individual who is under 65 years of age will only arise where:

a. He is permanently incapacitated by physical or mental infirmity, and

b. The total tax payable on his income (including income subject to DIRT) is less than the DIRT paid.

There is nothing to indicate that the taxpayer satisfies these conditions. He has been granted all tax credits to which he has claimed entitlement.

As the taxpayer will be 65 years of age in 2009, he may apply directly to his Financial Institution to have interest arising on his investment account in 2009 payable without deduction of DIRT, provided his total income in that year does not exceed the relevant threshold. The threshold for 2008 is €20,000. The application is made by completion of Form DE1, available from all Financial Institutions, from some Citizen's Information Centres, from any Revenue Office or by phoning LoCall 1890 306 706.

Flood Relief.

Pat Breen

Question:

167 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 100 of 6 November 2007 (details supplied), if a feasibility study has been undertaken by the engineering staff of the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10113/08]

The survey component of the feasibility study has been completed and an assessment of the costs and benefits that would be involved in upgrading the embankments is currently being prepared. It is expected that the study will be completed within the next six weeks.

Tax Code.

James Bannon

Question:

168 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will introduce a 0% VAT rate on the purchase of defibrillators as the current rate is a tax on local community voluntary lifesaving efforts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10123/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

171 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the reduction of VAT on defibrillators from 21% to 13.5 %; if his Department will consider same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10211/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 171 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 case, 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. 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%.

James Bannon

Question:

169 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will abolish VAT on all amenities being provided by local authorities, for example, swimming pools and all other leisure facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10124/08]

The position is that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In relation to the issue of applying an exemption of reducing VAT rates for a certain category of consumer, in this case local authorities, the position is that the rate of VAT which applies to a particular good or service is determined by the nature of the good or service, and not by the status of the consumer. It would not be possible to reduce or remove VAT on goods purchased by local authorities. In relation to introducing a VAT refund the position is that local authorities engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt from VAT under the EU VAT Directive. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. Essentially, only VAT registered businesses eligible to charge VAT on the goods and services they provide can recover VAT on the goods and services they purchase.

Richard Bruton

Question:

170 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 73 of 28 February 2008, the number of annual passes and the number of monthly passes which make up the total number quoted for tax relief on season tickets. [10194/08]

The numbers of Travel Passes, as quoted in Parliamentary Question No 73 of 28 February 2008, broken down into annual and monthly passes are as follows:

Monthly Ticket

Annual Ticket

Total number of Tickets

1999

779

115

894

2007

16,447

24,941

41,388

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 168

Disabled Drivers.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

172 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a decision will be made on an appeal under the disabled drivers and passengers tax concession scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10222/08]

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.

Departmental Staff.

Joe McHugh

Question:

173 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the review of the integration agreement which was agreed between the Revenue Commissioners and IMPACT tax officials branch will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10238/08]

I am advised by Revenue that they expect to implement the "Review Agreement 2007" which was agreed between the Revenue Commissioners and the IMPACT Tax Officials Branch by the end of the second quarter of 2008.

Tax Code.

Phil Hogan

Question:

174 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the name and address of all properties that availed of the capital acquisition tax exemption under section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for each year from 1993 to 1997 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10244/08]

There are two tax provisions of relevance in this area, namely, section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 and section 77 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act, 2003. Section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provides relief for expenditure incurred on the repair, maintenance and restoration of a building or garden which is determined by the Minster for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to be intrinsically of significant scientific, historical, architectural or aesthetic interest and in respect of which the Revenue Commissioners have given a determination that reasonable access is afforded to the public or that the building is a guest house approved by Fáilte Ireland and open for at least six months in any calendar year.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information they hold in relation to section 482 relates to determinations made in respect of properties for the years in question. As there could be a difference in timing in some cases between receipt of a determination for a property and the claiming of relief in respect of that property, the information available may not equate exactly with that for years in which relief was claimed. In the years 1993 to 1997, 40 properties were granted a determination under section 482. A list of those properties is provided at Appendix 1 below.

Section 77 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act, 2003 provides that a gift or inheritance of a heritage house or garden that is situated in the State and is not held for the purpose of trading will be exempt from either gift or inheritance tax provided certain conditions are met. These conditions are that:

it is accepted by the Revenue Commissioners that the house or garden is of national, scientific, historic or artistic interest;

reasonable facilities for viewing were allowed to members of the public during the three years immediately preceding the gift or inheritance; and

reasonable facilities for viewing are allowed to members of the public on an ongoing basis.

An exemption granted from Capital Acquisitions Tax would only be lost if reasonable viewing facilities to the public were withdrawn by the beneficiary of the gift or inheritance or if the house or garden was sold by the beneficiary within 6 years of the date of the gift or inheritance. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the only records they hold in respect of properties that availed of the Capital Acquisitions Tax exemption relate to the years 1994 to 1997 and are as follows:

Property

Owner

County

Cratloe Woods

E. O’Brien

Co. Clare

Clonalis House

Gertrude Nash

Co. Roscommon

Creagh House

Peter H. Barry

Co. Cork

Appendix 1: Section 482 Determinations granted in the years 1993 to 1997

Property

Owner

Address

The Bridge Mills

Frank Henegan

O’Brien’s Bridge, Galway

Carrigglas Manor

Jeffrey George Lefroy

Longford, Co. Longford

Castle Ellen House

Mícheal P Kéaney

Athenry, Co. Galway

Davenport Hotel (front Façade of Merrion Hall)

Noel O’Callaghan

Persian Properties, Dublin

Durrow Abbey

Shiela & Patrick O’Brien

Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Frybrook House

Desmond McLoughlin

Boyle, Co. Roscommon

Lismacue House

Katherine P Nicholson

Bansha, Co. Tipperary

Mountainstown House

John D. G. Pollock

Castleown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath.

Ramsfort & Gardens

Basil Phelan

Gorey, Co. Wexford

St Mary’s Abbey(Talbot House)

Peter Higgins

High Street, Trim, Co. Meath

Tulira Castle

J Darian

Ardrahan, Co. Galway

Ballaghmore Castle

Grace Pym

Borris-in-Ossory, Co. Laois

Creagh Gardens

Peter Harold- Barry

Skibbereen, Co. Cork

Grenane House

Phillipa Manseragh-Wallace

Tipperary, Co. Tipperary

Humewood Castle

Fifes of Wiltshire Ltd

Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow

Longueville House

Michael O’Callaghan

Mallow, Co. Cork

Colganstown House

Howard Savage Jones

Newcastle, Co. Dublin

Croom Mills James (The Granary Store)

Plunkett Hayes

Croom, Co. Limerick

Geragh (The Scott House)

Michael G Casey

Sandycove, Co. Dublin

Gigginstown House

Michael O’Leary

Mullingar, Westmeath

Heather Island House

Guy St John Williams

Tullylake, Renvale, Connemara, Co. Galway

Johnstown House Hotel

John Connolly

Johnstown Rd, Enfield, Co. Meath

King Harmon House

Neil Armstrong

Boyle, Co. Roscommon

Knappogue House

Knappogue Corporation

Quin, Co. Clare

Knocknagin House

Richard F. Berney

Delvin Bridge, Balbriggin, Co. Dublin

Lyrath House

Pascal M. Phelan

Lyrath Demesne, Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny

Oranmore Castle

Alec & Leonie Finn

Oranmore, Co. Galway

Burton Park

Rosemary Ryan-Purcell

Churchtown, Mallow, Co. Cork

Bushy Park

Audrey E. Bisgood

Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

Cloghan Castle

Grantly Company Ltd

Banagher, Co. Offaly

Lyons Estate

Declan Ryan

Celbridge, Co. Kildare

Old Coastguard Station

James Cahill

Rosmoney, Westport, Co. Mayo

Balldaheen Gardens

David Desmond Hurley

Portsalon, Co. Donegal

Kevinsfort House

John Condon

Kevinfort, Strandhill Road, Sligo

Manorhamilton Castle

Anthony & Maura Daly

Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim

Markree CastleHome Farm

M. Quigley & M. Mullaney

Collooney, Co. Sligo

Rockfield House Centre

Imelda Daly

Mullingar, Co. Westmeath

Woodford Bourne Warehouse

Edward Nicholson

Sheares St, Cork

Rathcarrick House

Gerald Healy

Rathcarrick House, Co. Sligo

Somerville House

Joseph & Jennie Garth

Navan , Co. Meath

Billy Timmins

Question:

175 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position in relation to reducing a VAT rate (details supplied) in view to the fact that it is unfair that 21% of funds raised by voluntary groups goes by way of VAT to the Exchequer; if this will be included in the Finance Bill 2008; if while consideration is being given to this scheme, as an interim measure, VAT on these items might be reduced to 13.5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10386/08]

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 case, 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. 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%.

Flood Relief.

John O'Mahony

Question:

176 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when work by the Office of Public Works will be carried out in Crossmolina, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10449/08]

John O'Mahony

Question:

177 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the funding the Office of Public Works put in place as a result of the flooding in Crossmolina in December 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10450/08]

I propose to takes Questions Nos. 176 and 177 together.

In order to identify means of reducing the flood risk at Crossmolina it is necessary to carry out a detailed survey of the channel involved. The survey will be carried out by the Office of Public Works as soon as water levels permit, which is expected to be in late Spring. If a scheme that is socially, economically and environmentally acceptable is identified funding will be put in place, subject to other demands on available resources.

Question No. 178 answered with Question No. 159

Commemorative Events.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

179 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has commissioned a book commemorating the Irish who died fighting for Irish freedom during the Tan and Civil Wars showing their resting places in the same vein as a book (details supplied). [10493/08]

The book referred to is a publication by the Office of Public Works detailing the Commissioners' role in the commemoration of both Commonwealth and International war dead of both World Wars who are buried in the Republic of Ireland. I understand the OPW have no plans for any further publications in this regard.

Tax Code.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

180 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax incentives in place to encourage the use of energy efficient or energy saving and monitoring equipment at both a private domestic household level and industrial or commercial level; if he will introduce or create additional tax incentives in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10546/08]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

181 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax incentives in place to encourage the use of energy efficient or energy saving equipment at both a private domestic household level and industrial or commercial level; if he will introduce or create additional tax incentives in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10547/08]

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

In Finance Bill 2008, I introduced a new tax initiative to encourage the use of energy efficient equipment by companies. This accelerated capital allowance incentive will allow companies to claim the full cost of specified energy efficient equipment against their taxable income in the year of purchase. Expenditure must be above a certain minimum amount for each class of technology covered by the scheme. A list of approved products covering 3 classes of technology namely, motors and drives, lighting and building energy management systems will be established, and may be amended, by order of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) will be responsible for maintaining the list. The purpose of this incentive is to reduce overall energy demand, reduce carbon emissions while helping to assist in improving companies' cost competitiveness.

The scheme will be confined to new energy efficient equipment purchased by companies and it will not apply to equipment that is leased, let or hired. The scheme is in the nature of a "pump-priming" exercise, is limited to a period of three years and will come into effect by order when EU State-aid approval is obtained. There will also be benefits and savings to investing companies as well as the economy and the environment generally, from the increased use of energy-efficient equipment. It is hoped that over time companies and business will see the ongoing value of investing in energy-efficient equipment in terms of the improved economic returns to themselves as well as the environmental benefits to society, generally. I have no plans at this time to introduce or create additional tax incentives in this area.

Tax Yield.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

182 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amount of excise duty and VAT which has been received on home heating oil for the past three years in which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10548/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information available for home heating oil refers to the consumption of Kerosene and Marked Gas Oil. As Marked Gas Oil is also used for Industrial and Commercial Heating, agricultural use and transport, it is not possible to accurately state what portion of the total usage of Marked Gas Oil is used solely for home heating purposes. The tax revenue collected from Mineral Oil Tax and VAT on marked gas oil and kerosene for the years 2005 to 2007 is as follows.

Yield from Mineral Oil Tax (Excise)

2005

2006

2007 (provisional)

€m

€m

€m

Marked Gas Oil(a)

72.9

68.8

68.4

Kerosene(b)

33.7

18.0

0.0

VAT estimated yield from marked gas oil and kerosene

2005

2006

2007 (provisional)

€m

€m

€m

Marked Gas Oil(a)

65.09

72.62

70.00

Kerosene

68.94

78.57

77.13

The VAT yield is estimated, as the information to be furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from particular sectors of trade to be identified. The VAT content of Marked Gas Oil purchases is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system.

(a) Yield shown is in respect of all Marked Gas Oil and not just that used for home heating.

(b) The Mineral Oil Tax on kerosene was reduced by 50% in 2006 and reduced to zero in 2007.

Motor Fuels.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

183 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the reduction in the price of a barrel of oil due to the appreciation of the euro against the dollar; when and if this trend can be expected to be passed on to customers at the petrol pumps and in the price of home heating oil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10549/08]

The price of oil in Ireland is affected by movements in the euro-dollar exchange rate and by changes in the dollar price. In recent days, the wholesale price of oil in dollar terms has reached record levels. Therefore, an appreciation of the euro-dollar exchange rate does not necessarily mean that the price of oil, and hence the price of various refined products sold to the public, will decline here in the immediate future.

Health Service Allowances.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

184 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an application for domiciliary care allowance by a person (details supplied) in County Cork in respect of their son. [10152/08]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

185 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the implications of the Health Service Executive recruitment freeze for the implementation of the national drugs strategy; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the HSE recruitment freeze is preventing the HSE in Limerick from progressing the introduction of an under 18 multi-disciplinary team, which was approved under the 2007 HSE corporate plan, to provide child-centred, comprehensive treatment to young people presenting with serious drug problems; her views on whether the delay and failure to recruit staff for this essential service is unacceptable in view of the gravity of the drugs crisis. [10215/08]

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.

Voluntary Sector Funding.

Michael McGrath

Question:

186 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of funding for an organisation (details supplied) in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11031/08]

Michael McGrath

Question:

198 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to funding for a group (details supplied) in 2008. [10081/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 198 together.

Under the Health Act 2004, responsibility for the funding of voluntary organisations who are involved in the provision of health and personal social services rests with the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the specific matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Properties.

Joe Costello

Question:

187 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the procedures and conditions under which the Health Service Executive lands at Grangegorman will be vested in the Grangegorman Development Agency; the timescale for finalising the vesting of the lands, in view of the fact that the master planners have been appointed and commenced work; and the reason an area (details supplied) is not included in the lands to be vested. [10014/08]

Under Section 13 of the Grangegorman Development Act, the vesting of lands at Grangegorman in the Grangegorman Development Agency is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Education and Science. I understand that this process has commenced.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

188 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist the priority case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [10018/08]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

189 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a seating assessment will be carried out by occupational therapy services for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [10022/08]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Question:

190 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for surgery at Tallaght Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10027/08]

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.

Medical Cards.

Mary Upton

Question:

191 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the limits applied for eligibility for the medical card and the general practitioner visit card are realistic in view of the spiralling cost of living at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10040/08]

Joe Costello

Question:

214 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children when the means threshold for the medical card was last increased; when it is proposed to increase the means threshold again; the number of medical card holders who have lost the medical card as a result of the failure to increase; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10210/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191 and 214 together.

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

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% (7.5% and 20% in January and October 2005 respectively). 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, childcare 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, persons 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 reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible. As part of this exercise, a review of the eligibility criteria for medical cards in the context of financial, medical and social need is being undertaken and is expected to be completed by autumn 2008. When that review is completed, it is my intention to consider how best to progress the commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to medical card eligibility.

Details of the numbers of medical card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive. The figures are provided on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. These figures show that 1,280,510 persons held a medical card in February, 2008, compared to a figure of 1,145,083 card holders in January, 2005. This represents a net increase of 135,427 medical card holders.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

192 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the works that were carried out in 2007 and that are being carried out to date in 2008 for the provision of additional hospital beds; the number of beds that have been provided up to March 2008; if they are staffed and operational; if the parties who were contracted to carry out the works were given any additional economic incentive, over and above the original tender contract, in order to meet a certain completion date; if so, the details of these; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10041/08]

Billy Timmins

Question:

193 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the name of the companies who completed contract accommodation works for the provision of additional hospital beds between 1 January 2007 and 1 March 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10042/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 193 together.

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

194 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to a query (details supplied). [10064/08]

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.

Vaccination Programme.

Simon Coveney

Question:

195 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Health and Children if she plans to ensure that a BCG vaccine is made available to all children in the Cork area without further delay; and if she will ensure that all waiting list issues are addressed in order that babies in Cork can receive a similar service to the rest of the country. [10065/08]

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 Service Staff.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

196 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that due to Health Service Executive cutbacks, a pool care assistant will not be available in the afternoons in Cork University Hospital with the result that 30 patients will be denied hydrotherapy each week thus endangering their recovery; if she will confirm that the amount of money required to provide a pool care assistant in the afternoons is €150; the action she proposes to rectify the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10068/08]

Over 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 number 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.

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 the 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 to the Deputy.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

197 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when a full-time a phototherapy nurse will be provided in the dermatology unit at University Hospital Galway in view of the fact that the position is currently filled on a part-time basis but this service requires the assistance of a full-time nurse to cater for the growing waiting list of patients awaiting this important treatment. [10071/08]

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. 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.

Question No. 198 answered with Question No. 186

Hospitals Building Programme.

James Reilly

Question:

199 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the proposed extension to Naas General Hospital; if she will confirm a date when the extension will commence; the target date for the extension to be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10109/08]

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

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

200 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of psychiatric patients the Health Service Executive has sent to uncredited facilities; the location of these facilities; the amount of money spent on their care in these facilities; her views on whether it is acceptable to send patients to facilities that are not accredited and are not inspected by the Mental Health Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10111/08]

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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

James Bannon

Question:

201 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a child (details supplied) in County Westmeath and other children should be exposed to an altercation between a drug user, hospital security and the gardaí at a hospital instead of being brought to a safe and secure environment within the accident and emergency department and facilities being provided for them and their parents while awaiting treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10129/08]

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 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.

Hospital Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

202 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm receipt of information from a Deputy (details supplied) on 17 December 2007, that she received a reminder regarding the matter on 11 January 2008 and a further reminder on 28 January 2008; if she will further confirm that an official in her office spoke to the Deputy concerned on 28 January 2008; if she received a further reminder regarding the matter on 13 February 2008 and a further reminder on 26 February 2008 without confirmation of the validity or otherwise of the article concerned; the position regarding this matter and in particular the reason it has not been possible to respond to queries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10130/08]

I confirm receipt of information from Deputy Kenny, and can confirm that an acknowledgement issued from my Private Office on the 11 January 2008, and that further correspondence also issued to the Deputy on 28 January 2008. It is my practice where possible and practicable to facilitate meetings when requested to do so. I would be happy to facilitate a meeting between Deputy Kenny and/or his party's health spokesperson and Professor Keane should he so wish.

The decisions in relation to four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres are currently being implemented on a managed and phased basis. The HSE plans to achieve 50% transfer of services to the centres by the end of this year and 90% by the end of 2009. The designation of cancer centres aims to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care while at the same time allowing local access to services, where appropriate. Where diagnosis and treatment planning is directed and managed by multi-disciplinary teams based at the cancer centres, then much of the treatment, other than surgery, can be delivered in local hospitals, such as Mayo General Hospital. Professor Keane has advised me that meetings and discussions are underway with the eight designated centres and with the non-designated hospitals currently providing cancer services, in order to manage the transition.

I note in a statement today from the management of Mayo General Hospital that "the overriding concern of both management and clinicians at Mayo General Hospital has always been to ensure that the women of Mayo receive the best possible care". Management states that the hospital will engage with the National Hospitals Office and the National Cancer Control Programme to actively plan towards the managed transfer of the breast cancer service to the designated Cancer Centre at University Hospital Galway.

Mental Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

203 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will build the long promised and now cancelled acute psychiatric unit at Beaumont Hospital; the location of the new site on the hospital campus for the unit; if planning permission has being submitted; the costs incurred to date on the aborted project for the original psychiatric unit at Beaumont Hospital for which planning permission was obtained and for which tenders were issued in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10132/08]

The development of an acute psychiatric unit at Beaumont Hospital, to replace the facility at St Ita's, Portrane, is included in the HSE National Capital Plan 2006-2010. A project team has agreed the staffing and operational aspects of the unit. During 2007, with a view to optimising the location of the range of capital projects planned for the Beaumont campus, a Development Control Plan process was initiated. The Draft Development Control Plan has now identified an alternative site for the development of the acute psychiatric unit. It will be necessary for the project team to revisit the design and layout of the unit in the context of the new site. However, this will also afford the opportunity to the project team to review the design in the light of the recommendations in a Vision for Change — the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy.

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. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matters 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.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

204 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to make a regulation to ensure that persons over 70 years of age with a medical card are not charged by general practitioners for a medical certificate which is necessary for the renewal of their driving licence, an issue where the general practitioners are charging as much as €50 for this certificate; if she will make a regulation to ensure that this charge will be covered by the medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10133/08]

The law provides that persons aged 70 years or more are required to undergo a medical review for driving licence renewal purposes. This requirement is one which is determined by the Minister for Transport and is therefore outside my remit. In making arrangements for the provision of publicly funded GP services under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, an agreement was negotiated between the Department of Health and Children and the GP representative body, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO). The provisions of this agreement took the form of the current GMS GP Capitation Contract. This contract is a treatment-based contract and gives effect to the statutory requirement to provide GP medical and surgical services without charge to eligible persons; this includes persons aged 70 and over, who are automatically entitled to a medical card.

The contract stipulates that the fees paid to GMS GPs are not made in respect of certain certificates which may be required, for example, "under the Social Welfare Acts or for the purposes of insurance or assurance policies or for the issue of driving licences". As these non-treatment type services are outside the scope of the GMS GP contract, it is a matter between the GP and the person seeking the particular service to agree a fee. While certificates for various applications are provided by medical practitioners, they are not a medical treatment service and are not considered a core aspect of public health service provision.

Tobacco-Related Diseases.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

205 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on research which shows that passive smoke is particularly harmful to children and further evidence which shows that passive smoke can reach a high level in motor cars; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10136/08]

The harmful effects of exposure to cigarette smoke are well known as is the fact that such exposure is particularly dangerous in enclosed spaces (including motor cars). Parents and others with responsibility for the welfare of children have a particular responsibility to ensure that such exposure does not take place.

Infectious Diseases.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

206 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the regulations in place for the monitoring and auditing of the occurrence of meticillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, in private hospitals; if it is intended to make adjustments in these regulations; the requirements placed on private hospitals to publish the results of the monitoring and auditing of MRSA; if she will legislate to make public the reports of the monitoring and auditing of MRSA cases in private hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10154/08]

Under the Infection Diseases (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 707 of 2003), Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia is listed as a notifiable infectious disease. Diagnostic laboratories are required to report notifiable diseases to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. The data relates to the first isolate per patient per quarter and the information includes whether the isolates are meticillin resistant (Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus — MRSA). This data is recorded in the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS) and is published quarterly on the Health Protection Surveillance Centre website. All 44 microbiology laboratories in Irish hospitals are reporting this data into the system. This includes 8 laboratories based in private hospitals, and a number of public laboratories serving other private hospitals. Thus all acute hospitals, both public and private, participate in EARSS.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Dan Neville

Question:

207 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide the necessary funding to staff a residential bungalow (details supplied) in County Cork. [10168/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

208 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that patients in County Donegal are forced to travel to Omagh to receive dialysis as Letterkenny General Hospital is not able to cope with the demand for this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10175/08]

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

209 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if the dialysis service for Donegal patients in the new purpose-built dialysis unit in Derrybeg, County Donegal, will be provided by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10176/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

210 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it is necessary for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo to have to undergo a six week adaptation and assessment period before being registered here. [10177/08]

An Bord Altranais has statutory responsibility for the registration of nurses under the Nurses Act, 1985 and the necessity for an individual to undergo a period of adaptation and assessment is solely a matter for An Bord. I am sure that the Deputy will appreciate that An Bord must process each application thoroughly to ensure that all those entered on the Register of Nurses are deemed professionally qualified and competent for such registration. The protection of the public underpins this process.

Given the statutory functions of An Bord Altranais and its independence in this regard, it would not be appropriate for me as Minister to comment on the reason behind the specific requirements set by it. I am satisfied that the Board discharges its functions in a professional manner.

Richard Bruton

Question:

211 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the work to date on identifying reform in the area of nursing and areas of potential for new responsibility to be taken; if she expects it will be possible to develop an agreed set of proposals that could be submitted to the benchmarking body which indicated in its recent report that it would be premature to make an award to nurses until solid workable proposals had been put in place; if she is confident that sufficient progress is being made to avoid the re-emergence of industrial action that could damage the health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10182/08]

Expanding the role of nurses and midwives is an ongoing process as the professions develop to meet the needs of the population. An Bord Altranais's Scope of Practice for Nursing and Midwifery provides a framework to enable role expansion. Developments in recent years have included moving from a 3 year diploma to a 4 year honours degree programme to educate new nurses, the creation of Clinical Nurse Specialist and Advanced Nurse Practitioner posts, the introduction of nurse prescribing and expansion of nursing and midwifery led services.

During the recent Benchmarking process the unions set out details of an expansion of the role and referred to an increase in activity and complexity in the work of nurses. The Benchmarking Body noted in its report that such developments are part of the general evolution of the role of nurses and, in common with other groups, had been taken into account in the job evaluation exercise conducted by the Body which assesses the current roles and job sizes of grades and thus reflects changes which have taken place since the first Benchmarking exercise. The Body noted that the desirability of further expanding the role of nurses was referred to in an aspirational manner only. The Body stated that as a general principle its recommendations "must be based on the job of public service grades as they now exist and it would not be possible to recommend increases on the basis of possible future changes". The Body went on to say that developments could impact on the role and job size of nurses which would be reflected in a future evaluation of their jobs.

The Benchmarking Body has completed its work in accordance with its terms of reference and issued its report. Accordingly, the suggestion that agreed proposals on further role expansion would be submitted to the Body does not arise. It should be noted the Benchmarking Body recommended increases of between 6.8% and 10% for approximately 1,800 of the more senior nurses. I understand that two nursing unions who are dissatisfied with the Benchmarking report have requested the Labour Court to re-examine certain pay claims.

In relation to the maintenance of industrial peace there are ongoing contacts between officials and the nursing unions. In recent months local discussions have been underway across all health agencies on arrangements for the introduction of 37.5 hour week for nurses and midwives on a cost neutral and non-diminution of service basis. The Commission to examine how a 35 hour week for nurses and midwives can be introduced will commence its work later this month under the chairmanship of Professor Tom Collins. Nursing unions are represented on the Commission which is due to report before the end of this year.

The nursing unions have recently been consulted on the proposals contained within the proposed new Nurses and Midwives Bill. Health service employers remain available to discuss any proposals for further role expansion from the nursing unions which are in line with the modernisation programmes under national agreements and the HSE's Transformation Programme. Given a willingness on all sides to deal with issues in a constructive manner, I do not foresee the re-emergence of industrial action by nursing unions in 2008.

Legislative Programme.

Michael Creed

Question:

212 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children when the new nursing home subvention scheme, the fair deal scheme, will be introduced. [10205/08]

The Bill providing for the Fair Deal Scheme is being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. It is intended to publish the Bill as soon as possible following Government approval.

Medical Cards.

Joe Costello

Question:

213 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason homeless people are denied the medical card; the number of homeless applicants who have been refused the medical card in each of the past five years because they have no fixed abode; if she will put in place a mechanism to enable homeless people to avail of their entitlement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10209/08]

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

In assessing eligibility, the HSE uses guidelines based on people's means, which includes their income, relevant outgoings and the effect of factors such as medical or social need. Under the assessment guidelines, persons 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.

Medical cards are available to homeless persons on the same basis as to any other member of society. Nonetheless, I am aware of the particular issues which can make it more difficult for homeless persons to interact with the HSE in relation to their eligibility for a medical card. In this regard, I have been informed by the HSE that, although cognisant of the need to maintain an accurate GMS database, it recognises the need to have appropriate processes in place to address particular issues which arise in relation to medical cards for homeless persons. The Executive has indicated that it is working to improve the operation of the medical card application and review processes insofar as these relate to homeless persons, with specific arrangements in relation both to new applicants and the renewal of existing cards.

Details of the number of medical card holders are provided to my Department each month by the HSE. The figure is provided on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. Accordingly, details on the number of medical card applications from homeless persons are not routinely provided to my Department.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the issue raised by the Deputy in relation to medical card applications from homeless persons. 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.

Question No. 214 answered with Question No. 191.

Health Service Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

215 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive recruitment freeze is preventing the HSE in Limerick from progressing the introduction of an under 18 multi-disciplinary team, which was approved under the 2007 HSE corporate plan, to provide child-centred, comprehensive treatment to young people presenting with serious drug problems; her views on whether the delay and failure to recruit staff for this essential service is unacceptable; and if she will take steps to rectify the situation and to ensure the development of the service without further delay. [10214/08]

The recruitment pause put in place in September 2007 was initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan to facilitate the delivery of services on budget in accordance with the provisions of the 2007 National Service Plan. This temporary pause in recruitment ended on 31st December 2007 and any posts falling vacant from 1st January 2008 can be filled subject to the provisions of a detailed employment control circular issued by the HSE on January 8th.

During this recruitment pause, the HSE put in place a derogation process to deal with the filling of essential posts to protect front-line services and close to 900 posts were approved under this process. It is very important that measures are in place in 2008 to avoid a repetition of the problems encountered in 2007. In my letter to the Chairman of the HSE approving the 2008 National Service Plan, I have emphasised that the evident links between the Voted allocation, approved employment levels and service activity — within the HSE itself and in HSE funded agencies such as the major voluntary hospitals — need to be planned and actively managed from the very start of the year with appropriate action being taken in the event of any divergence from profile. It is only through this integrated and managed approach that the HSE will be able to ensure that resources for services (including staffing) are directed as intended by Government. The Government has made it clear that public health and social services must be managed within the funds provided by the Oireachtas and achieve at a minimum the service activity specified in the HSE's annual National Service Plan.

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

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

216 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the incidence of lymphoedema here; the treatment for same; if she is satisfied that sufficient resources are in place to support and to treat sufferers of lymphoedema; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10236/08]

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.

James Reilly

Question:

217 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of budgetary constraints, she will review the waste of scarce resources involved in calling back patients for unnecessary medical review in certain cases and amend the list for such reviews; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10237/08]

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 these cases investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

218 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of community welfare officers, CWOs, and superintendent CWOs that have applied to the national transfer unit for a transfer; the number of applications finalised; if applicants have been advised of their place on a panel; and if applicants will be offered positions as they arise. [10246/08]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

220 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive’s national transfer policy for management and administrative staff continues to apply to community welfare officers and superintendent community welfare officers, CWOs; and if not, the reason these staff members have been excluded. [10264/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 220 together.

Over 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 number 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.

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 the 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 to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

219 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will approve funding to mainstream a vital child care project (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10261/08]

I understand that Roscommon County Childcare Committee received funding from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform under the Enhancing Disabilities Services (EDS), to undertake the Páistí le Chéile project. With regard to my own Office, funding is provided on an annual basis to support the activities set out in the Action Plans of the 33 City and County Childcare Committees. In 2008, funding amounting to €295,360 has been approved for Roscommon County Childcare Committee and it is open to them to progress the Páistí le Chéile project within the context of their overall priorities and available resources.

Question No. 220 answered with Question No. 218

Health Service Procurement Procedures.

Mary White

Question:

221 Deputy Mary Alexandra White asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to improve procedures for the procurement of information technology systems in the health service in order that one supplier is not exclusively given capital projects, thus threatening the withdrawal of other medical suppliers from Ireland. [10313/08]

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 matter 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.

Mary White

Question:

222 Deputy Mary Alexandra White asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to improve procedures for the procurement of maintenance projects for current information technology systems in acute hospitals in order that projects are given quicker approval and not subject to budgetary pressures in such hospitals. [10314/08]

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 matter 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.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

223 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be assessed for the motorised transport grant. [10320/08]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

James Reilly

Question:

224 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the roll out of BreastCheck, particularly in the west of Ireland and consider extending the age for the test beyond age 64 to facilitate the testing of women who have missed the opportunity for the test due to the inordinate delay in rolling out the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10321/08]

BreastCheck commenced roll-out in the Western Region last May and in the Southern region last October. I officially opened the BreastCheck clinical static units in Galway and Cork last December. The expert advice from BreastCheck and from the National Cancer Forum, as contained in the National Strategy for Cancer Control, is that following the national extension of the programme, the upper age limit should be extended to women aged 69 years. The priority of BreastCheck is to screen women who have not yet been screened and accordingly it is fully focussed at present on the completion of the first round of screening in the West and South. I will consider extending the age limit as recommended when the national roll-out of the programme is sufficiently developed and it is assured that a quality service is being delivered. Any woman irrespective of her age who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Health Services.

Niall Collins

Question:

225 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of a proposed primary health care centre at a location (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10361/08]

Niall Collins

Question:

226 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will establish a primary health care centre at a location (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10362/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 226 together.

The Primary Care Strategy aims to increase health service capacity through the development of services in the community to give people direct access to integrated multi-disciplinary teams of general practitioners, nurses, home helps, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and others. It has been estimated that up to 95% of people's health and social services needs can be properly met within a primary care setting and the establishment of new Primary Care Teams can contribute greatly to enhancing community based health services.

The provision of the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of primary care services is being considered by the HSE, having regard to a number of factors. These include the type and configuration of the services involved, the mixed public/private nature of our health system, the suitability of existing infrastructure and the capital requirements of the health services generally over the coming years. I understand that in December 2007 the HSE sought expressions of interest from the private sector for the provision of the Primary Care Team infrastructure, with the HSE proposing to enter into fixed term leases with such providers.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for Primary Care services, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular matters raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have replies issued directly to the Deputy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

227 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children when a centre for homeless people in a location (details supplied) will open in full; the reasons for the delay in its opening; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10377/08]

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.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

228 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding that will be allocated to the Homeless Agency in 2008; if the allocation will include development funding for the agency; the reasons for the delay in the allocation of funding to the agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10378/08]

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. As the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government also provides funding to the Homeless Agency, the Deputy may wish to approach that Department for additional information.

Hospital Services.

Damien English

Question:

229 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Meath will be given a date for an operation at the Mater Hospital; if this person is entitled to be treated under the National Treatment Purchase Fund if the bed is not available in a reasonable time frame at the Mater Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10379/08]

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.

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.

Health Services.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

230 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the long waiting list for speech and language assessment in north Clondalkin and the fact that it is not possible to assign a speech and language therapist to a centre (details supplied); the steps she will take to end the embargo on staff recruitment due to a Government decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10380/08]

The recruitment pause put in place in September 2007 was initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan to facilitate the delivery of services on budget in accordance with the provisions of the 2007 National Service Plan. This temporary pause in recruitment ended on 31st December 2007 and any posts falling vacant from 1st January 2008 can be filled subject to the provisions of a detailed employment control circular issued by the HSE on January 8th. During this recruitment pause, the HSE put in place a derogation process to deal with the filling of essential posts to protect front-line services and close to 900 posts were approved under this process.

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 the 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 to the Deputy. With regard to the Deputy's previous Parliamentary Question on this matter, I understand that the HSE has issued a reply to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

231 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a payment under the health payment scheme will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10382/08]

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.

Organ Donation.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

232 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to introduce a mandatory organ donation policy with a voluntary opt-out option; the number of patients currently on waiting lists for heart and lung transplants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10392/08]

Two systems that can be used to ascertain an individual's wishes on organ donation are the opt-in system and the opt-out system. The former system (which operates in this country) requires the specific consent of the donor or, where he or she is deceased, their relatives, before organs or tissues are removed. The opt-out system presumes that all deceased persons consent to donation unless they have specifically expressed a wish to the contrary. My Department is advised that even where opt-out/presumed consent systems are in operation the relatives of the deceased may be approached as part of the donor screening process to seek a medical history of any high-risk behaviour. In these circumstances the relatives can register an objection to the donation.

The practice in this country is that, even when a deceased person had indicated his or her willingness to donate organs, the consent of the next-of-kin is always sought. There are differing views as to the appropriateness and effectiveness of a change to the existing arrangements covering the question of consent. My Department is formulating proposals on human tissue legislation to meet the key recommendation of the Madden Report on Post Mortem Practice and Procedures. The scope of the Bill will cover the removal, retention, storage, use and disposal of human tissue from deceased persons, and related matters.

A Consultative Forum on the development of the legislative proposals was held in June 2007 followed by a public invitation for written submissions. One of the matters that has been raised in this context is the issue of consent for the donation of tissue and organs for transplantation. Discussions are ongoing with the major stakeholders on issues identified from the submissions. It is expected that proposals will be submitted to Government this Spring seeking approval to draft Heads of a Bill. In relation to the specific question regarding the number of patients waiting for heart and lung transplants, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

233 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the support service available to people who are suffering with acquired brain injuries; her plans to improve these services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10394/08]

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.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

234 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to build a rehabilitation centre outside of the Dublin area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10395/08]

Plans have been prepared in some areas for regional rehabilitation facilities. My Department and the Health Service Executive are aware of the need to review the potential benefits of a regional network of rehabilitation facilities and services. The development of such a network should be considered in the context of a national strategy for rehabilitation services and my Department is currently considering this issue.

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

235 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of home helps that are in full-time pensionable employment and on temporary contracts who are employed in the Kildare-west Wicklow area of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10398/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

237 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the rates of pay per hour applicable to home helps when they work weekends or bank holidays in the Kildare-west Wicklow area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10400/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

238 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of travel for all staff employed within the Health Service Executive in the Kildare-west Wicklow area for each of the past five years; if this cost is at the Civil Service rate; the areas of the HSE service that are involved or create such costs; if there are arrears due to any staff other than home helps within the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10401/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

239 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if the high level report agreed between the Health Service Executive, SIPTU and IMPACT included reference to travel expenses for home helps in general and specifically in the Kildare-west Wicklow area; if such expenses are payable at Civil Service rates; if the same rates are applicable in all health board areas; if all health board areas except the Kildare-west Wicklow area use the PPARS computer system for calculating such rates of payment; if there are other areas apart from the Kildare-west Wicklow area in which home helps are awaiting payment of travel or arrears in respect of travel expenses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10418/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

240 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of home care attendants that are employed within the Kildare-west Wicklow area of the Health Service Executive; the number in full-time employment; the number that are in temporary employment; the rates of pay of such employees if different from the home helps employed in the same area; the rates of travel expenses paid to home care attendants; if such rates are paid at the Civil Service rate; if the home care attendants are paid by the HSE through the PPARS computer system of the HSE or by its community works section; if the home care attendants travel expenses are paid through the PPARS computer system of the HSE or through its eastern works section; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10421/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 and 237 to 240, inclusive, together.

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 the Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. Also, funding for all health services, including the payment of premiums to eligible personnel, has been provided as part of the Executive's overall vote. In that regard, 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 arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

General Practitioner Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

236 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a maximum payment for a visit to a general practitioner or if it is that the GP can charge for a consultation and a further charge for a prescription in the same consultative visit; if a GP is entitled to charge a fee to a person seeking a medical certificate for a person’s work commitments, if the person has been charged above the stated rate if such exists, or if they are charged in respect of the medical certificate; the appeal mechanism available to the person; the mechanism available to such a person to obtain a GP service if his or her GP adopts any or all of these discretions; if no mechanisms are available to appeal exists, her plans to implement limits or protection of patients in the context of overcharging or incorrectly charging with regard to medical certificates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10399/08]

Consultation fees charged to private patients by general practitioners are a matter of private contract between the two parties, the doctor as the service provider and the patient as the user. I have no role in relation to such fees. General Practitioners who hold General Medical Services (GMS) contracts with the Health Service Executive (HSE) must not seek or accept money from medical card or GP visit card holders in respect of routine treatment.

Questions Nos. 237 to 240, inclusive, answered with Question No. 235.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Neville

Question:

241 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a special fund in her Department entitled the innovation fund; and if so, the size and purpose of that fund. [10426/08]

As part of the Budget 2008 measures, the provision of €12 million in 2008 ( €30 million in a full year) was secured for use by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in its Vote 40, for the encouragement and support of individuals and agencies to foster innovative projects to meet particular problems or bottlenecks in the system. The assessment system would be weighted in favour of integrated projects (community and hospital) seeking partial rather than full funding ( i.e. which involve some reallocation of core budget funding), projects which involve innovative ways of working (e.g. greater role for nurse led delivery or other skill mix) and those which have a focus on prevention/early intervention (i.e. to shift towards the important rather than the immediate). The projects should be capable of delivering tangible improvements for patients.

Departmental Correspondence.

Dan Neville

Question:

242 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to parliamentary Question No. 251 of 12 February 2008, if she has received a report in respect of the death by suicide of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she forwarded a copy to the spouse of the deceased. [10427/08]

A report was received from the Health Service Executive in January 2008. A letter to the spouse of the deceased issued on 3rd March.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

243 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will publish the nursing home support Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10488/08]

The Bill providing for the Fair Deal Scheme is being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. It is intended to publish the Bill as soon as possible following Government approval.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Michael Lowry

Question:

244 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has plans to fund the provision of digital hearing aids to medical card holders as they represent a superior improvement on existing analogue technology with a relatively small cost difference; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10500/08]

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 Service Staff.

Michael Lowry

Question:

245 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Health and Children when her Department will allocate staff to a facility (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10501/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

246 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children if all theatres are operational in Sligo and Letterkenny hospitals; if not, the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10508/08]

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 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.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

247 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting times in Sligo and Letterkenny general hospitals for hip replacements, mammograms, knee replacements, tonsils and other general surgical procedures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10509/08]

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

The management of waiting lists for non-surgical procedures is an operational matter for the Health Service Executive and the hospitals involved. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to issue a reply directly to the Deputy in relation to waiting times for mammograms in Sligo General and Letterkenny General hospitals.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

248 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the effect on the GMS scheme and medical card holders if pharmacists decide not to participate in the scheme any longer due to the ongoing dispute regarding new contracts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10551/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

249 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will enter into negotiations which give pharmacists the right to negotiate in respect of the issues that are ongoing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10552/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

250 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the contingency plans in place now that the pharmacists are not taking up the contract with the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10553/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 248 to 250, inclusive, together.

I would like to reiterate that there are no changes planned to the operation of the GMS and community drugs schemes. The HSE has put a comprehensive contingency plan in place at local level in the event of the withdrawal of service by community pharmacists, including information notices in newspapers and an information helpline, open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday. The HSE has informed my Department that no community pharmacist has withdrawn service under the GMS and community drugs schemes and all patients continue to receive their entitlements in the usual way. I welcome this decision by community pharmacists to continue to provide service.

The Government is firm in its view that the wholesale mark-up paid on the price of drugs should be reduced to a level that is fair to both taxpayers and wholesalers. The existing mark-up in the range of 15% to 17.6% is neither reasonable nor sustainable. The Government also supports the HSE's decision to pay an 8% mark-up from 1 March, and 7% from 1 January 2009. I met with the Irish Pharmaceutical Union recently and heard their point that there should be an independent assessment of the fees offered. I have now established an Independent Body to begin work immediately to assess an interim, fair community pharmacy dispensing fee of at least €5 to be paid for the medical card scheme, the DPS and other community drug schemes.

This Body is being chaired by Seán Dorgan, former Head of IDA Ireland. It has been asked to make its recommendations by the end of May 2008. Its recommended fee level, subject to Government approval, will be backdated to 1 March 2008. The Independent Body held its first meeting on 25th February 2008 and has invited submissions. Both the HSE as the contracting body and the IPU as the representative organisation for community pharmacists, along with other stakeholders, will be entitled to make submissions to the Independent Body, on issues of concern to them. The Independent Body will also be entitled to engage whatever outside expertise it requires to assist it with its task.

Based on its consideration of submissions received and its own independent evaluation, the Body will recommend an appropriate dispensing fee that would, in its view, represent a fair and reasonable price to be paid for the pharmaceutical service currently being provided by community pharmacists to the HSE under the GMS and community drug schemes. If approved by Government, it will be backdated to the date from which any individual community pharmacist may choose to avail of the HSE's offer. Accordingly, each community pharmacist will have three options: to avail of the interim contract as recently offered by the HSE; to accept the interim contract upon the report of the Independent Body; or to stay with the existing retail fee structure until the agreement of a substantive new contract.

The development of the substantive new contract will also get underway as soon as possible. This will be done under the auspices of an agreed facilitator and it too will be priced by the Independent Body. I believe this provides all concerned with a reasonable way to make the transition to a fair and transparent method of payment for present services and, I hope, greatly developed pharmacy services in the near future.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

251 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of civil servants in her Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10602/08]

Between 2005 and 2007 the Department of Health and Children held two training courses on stress management. A total of 13 officers attended these sessions. The Department has a number of strategies in place that assists and supports staff in managing and reducing stress. Such strategies include: effective personal and management development; skills training (including the provision of training in Mental Health issues in 2008); effective mobility policy supporting work life balance (the Department of Health and Children operates a range of work sharing patterns for our staff); the employee assistance programme to support staff under stress.

Departmental Reports.

Pat Breen

Question:

252 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 465 of 31 January 2008, when the acute hospital allocation and utilisation of funds report for the mid-west region will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10607/08]

The HSE has been conducting a review of the Mid West Hospital Group in order to ascertain the optimum configuration of acute hospital services for the Mid West and to bring forward recommendations on strategies to secure a sustainable configuration of services in the Mid West in the long term. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy on the specific matter raised.

Hospital Accommodation.

Pat Breen

Question:

253 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 464 of 31 January 2008, if she will confirm when work will commence on the €39 million redevelopment of Ennis General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10610/08]

My Department has been informed by the Health Service Executive that a reply dated 31 January 2008 issued to the Deputy in response to PQ 464 of 31 January 2008. As 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 a further reply issued directly to the Deputy when the information requested is available.

Health Service Allowances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if dietary allowance will be awarded to a person (detail supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10720/08]

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.

Hospice Care.

John Cregan

Question:

255 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the hospice facility for Newcastle West, County Limerick will be opening; if this facility will be privately run or run by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10727/08]

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.

Road Network.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

256 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the changing nature of the population in rural Ireland and the decline in farming among small holders, he will review the outdated conditions for eligibility for grants for rural accommodation roads which are dependent on a minimum number of turbary holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10516/08]

Section 81 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides the statutory basis for the Local Improvements Scheme (LIS) and the Local Improvements Scheme Memorandum, which issued in February 2002, sets out the terms and conditions for the payment of LIS grants. Under the Scheme, grants are provided to county councils for the construction and improvement of non-public roads which provide access to parcels of land of which at least two are owned or occupied by different persons engaged in separate agricultural activities, or provide access for harvesting purposes for two or more persons, or which will in the opinion of the county council be used by the public. There are no proposals at present to amend the legislation or the terms and conditions governing the scheme.

Rail Services.

Seán Barrett

Question:

257 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Transport if he will replace the Transport 21 metro proposals with the original Dublin Transportation Office proposal to link Luas and metro lines to ensure a viable and fast through-city centre rail connection, and avoid unnecessary duplication of light rail lines through the city, that is, street light rail and metro tunnel between St. Stephen’s Green and O’Connell Street; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10028/08]

I am committed to the delivery of Transport 21, which provides for Metro North running from Swords to St. Stephen's Green and for a new Luas line running from St. Stephen's Green to Cabra. Both of these projects are part of a longer term strategy, broadly consistent with DTO's A Platform for Change, which will see the Luas line south of St. Stephen's Green upgraded to Metro and the Luas line extended to Finglas and to interchange with Metro West. The two Transport 21 projects meet separate and distinct transport objectives and are required to support the continued social and economic development of the Dublin region. The analysis to date suggests that the two projects serve different markets and do not abstract significant traffic from each other.

Road Network.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

258 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport if funding has been provided for improvement works on Carrickfinn Bridge, County Donegal; the extent of the works to be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10037/08]

The provision and improvement of regional and local roads, including bridges, in its area is a matter for Donegal County Council to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State grants. In August 2007, my Department invited applications from local authorities for consideration for funding in 2008 under the regional and local roads specific improvements grants scheme. The initial selection of projects to be submitted for consideration for funding under this scheme is solely a matter for local authorities. The proposals submitted by Donegal County Council did not include an application for grant aid for Carrickfinn Bridge.

All road grants for regional and local roads in 2008 have now been fully allocated to local authorities. It will be open to the Council to submit an application for eligible works for Carrickfinn Bridge for consideration for funding under the scheme in 2009 when applications are invited later in the year.

Vehicle Testing.

John Deasy

Question:

259 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport if the final report of the commercial vehicle testing review takes into consideration oil spillages from all vehicles, including trailers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10044/08]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No 477 of 2006) matters relating to vehicle testing are the responsibility of the Road Safety Authority (RSA). In that regard, the report on the review of the roadworthiness testing arrangements for commercial vehicles was published by the RSA on 8 February 2008 and is available from that authority.

Road Traffic Offences.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

260 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the number of penalty points that could not be applied in 2006 and 2007 due to a local authority not having a statutory by-law in place. [10047/08]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No 477 of 2006) responsibility for ensuring that penalty points are endorsed on driver licence records is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Light Rail Project.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

261 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the report from the Railway Procurement Agency on the feasibility study for the Rathfarnham Luas; if he will report on that recommendation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10056/08]

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) has made significant progress in examining the feasibility of a Luas Line serving Rathfarnham. It is examining the feasibility of a line in the corridor from Dundrum to the city centre via Harold's Cross, Rathfarnham and Terenure. I understand that the RPA is currently reviewing its preliminary conclusions and that it will publish the feasibility study in April. The RPA will then invite the views of interested parties, including residents, before reaching final conclusions on the feasibility of a Luas line to Rathfarnham.

Search and Rescue Service.

Joe McHugh

Question:

262 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the number of marine rescues on Lough Foyle in the past 20 years indicating dates and times of rescues; if he will provide a general indication of marine rescue missions in the years preceding 1987 on Lough Foyle dating back to the foundation of Malin Marine Rescue Centre in the early 1900s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10101/08]

Prior to 2001 Malin Head (and Valentia) Stations were commercial coast radio stations whose principal responsibility was to carry out ship-to-shore links to shipping, issue weather forecasts and navigational warnings and log fishing reports. The Coordination of search and rescue for the north and northwest coast was delegated to Malin Head and Valentia from MRCC Dublin in 2001. Emergencies occurring in the Region were co-ordinated from the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Dublin since the early 1990's and before that from MRCC Shannon. Lough Foyle divides the search and rescue regions of the Irish Coast Guard of the Department of Transport and the United Kingdom Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA). Half of the Lough lies in the Irish search and rescue region and half in the UK region.

Detailed records have been compiled for all marine incidents following the setting up of the Irish Marine Emergency Service in 1991. Some records from earlier years are in long-term storage. Records available show a detailed breakdown of incidents by type across the three Co-ordination centres at Malin Head, Valentia and Dublin. They do not provide a breakdown by specific location, however.

Malin Head records of recent years have been examined to extract incidents in Lough Foyle. Several of these involved joint operations with Belfast Coastguard. The latter have advised the Irish Coast Guard that they had eight incidents in Lough Foyle in 2007.

Year

No of incidents in Lough Foyle

2001

10

2002

13

2003

23

2004

15

2005

4

2006

9

2007

8

Details of the above incidents in Lough Foyle which were dealt with by MRSC Malin Head follow and the general trend could be taken to reflect previous years.

On 1/01/2001, a sighting of an Upturned Hull off Moville Light was reported

On 10/02/2001 a flare was reported in Lough Foyle

07/04/2001 three flares were reported off Greencastle

24/05/2001 a Speed Boat was reported adrift off Greencastle with four people on board

On 07/07/2001 the Fishing Vessel Day Dream was reported drifting without power at Redcastle

On 15/08/2001 a sick crewman taken ashore from the Fishing Vessel Castle Queen

17/08/2001 report of a Log at mouth of Lough with possible danger to navigation for small boats.

On 07/09/2001 the Éireann Sea was reported aground on sandbank off Redcastle

On 25/09/2001, a small boat was reported dragging anchor off Greencastle

09/12/2001, Assistance to Gardaí in search of a missing person in Moville Bay

26/01/2002 a report of a Dredger causing danger to Fishing Vessel Girl Nicola

28/01/2002 report of an Old Fishing Vessel Sans Peur which broke moorings and was drifting

03/02/2002 request for assistance to Police in N. I. with search of missing person at the mouth of the River Foyle

14/05/2002 report of a Yacht Morning Glory going aground south of Moville

09/06/2002 report of Yacht Jade broken from moorings and drifting

13/06/2002 report of an Oil slick off Carrickarory pier

23/06/2002 report of Fishing Vessel Randon Harvest — water in engine room at Greencastle

08/07/2002 Nets in propeller of Fishing Vessel Bangor Crest, towed to Greencastle

15/08/2002 report received of Ferry Greencastle/ Magilligan with a lost forward ramp with danger of taking water

13/09/2002 fibreglass boat was reported adrift off Greencastle

14/09/2002 a broken down speedboat was reported requiring a tow

30/09/2002 a 24ft fishing vessel with a rope around propeller required tow

31/12/2002 assistance requested for UK Coastguard with search of Donegal shoreline for missing Anglers

22/02/2003 car reported stuck on beach

13/04/2003 Jet ski adrift and towed ashore

19/04/2003 an overturned yacht in water was reported and two persons were recovered.

22/04/2003 2 large floating objects required towing ashore

07/05/2003 Yacht Firecracker was reported broken free, towed to Greencastle

11/05/2003 four barrels floating reported as a danger to small craft were taken ashore, off Warren point

11/06/2003 a mussel dredger sank off Ture Light

15/06/2003 the Yacht Ryvoran reported aground near Tuns Buoy

16/06/2003 a small Inflatable reported adrift off Greencastle

18/06/2003 Fishing Vessel Seacraft reported Broken down off Warren Point Light

18/06/2003 the Cruiser Fairmaid broke moorings and reported drifting off Moville

19/06/2003 Fishing Vessel Helen Mary reported broken down and drifting off Benowen Strand

06/07/2003 a small fishing vessel reported adrift off Moville

06/07/2003 the Yacht Niamh reported aground off Redcastle

10/07/2003 Dinghy reported capsized off Moville

11/07/2003 the Yacht Streaker reported adrift off Greencastle

26/07/2003 a speedboat reported broken down and drifting

27/07/2003 the Swiller Warrior was reported taking water off Moville

25/08/2003 request to assist Gardaí in shoreline search for missing persons

31/08/2003 the Foyle Venture reported aground at Magilligan

26/10/2003 Report of a glider down near Greencastle

01/11/2003 Red flare Report in Greencastle area

09/11/2003 fishing vessel Spiritual Vessel reported going on rocks near Moville

18/01/2004 three persons in difficulty in a rowing boat at Lisahally

10/02/2004 report of red flares

28/03/2004 report of a dive boat broken down require tow

04/05/2004 persons reported in the water off Culmore Point

16/05/2004 report of the Yacht Saratoga aground on Sandbank

28/05/2004 report of the Yacht Mucmara aground off Moville

28/05/2004 Foyle Venture Ferry reported loss of engine power

14/06/2004 Motor Vessel Topgallant reported an injured crewman

10/07/2004 the Yacht Cruisen reported aground at McKinneys Light

26/08/2004 the Yacht Astral reported aground at Saltpans

26/08/2004 the Yacht Iolar na Mara reported adrift off Moville

26/08/2004 the Fishing Vessel Celtic Dawn reported taking water alongside Moville pier

13/09/2004 a 20ft yacht reported aground Moville

30/09/2004 request to assist Ambulance control with missing person outside Greencastle

18/10/2004 Report of warhead on Redcastle beach

02/05/2005 a Windsurfer reported in difficulty off Magilligan

10/07/2005 report of boat aground off Redcastle

21/07/2005 report of Bayliner Vessel aground Lough Foyle

21/07/2005 the Cruiser Uptowngirl reported aground in Lough Foyle

16/07/2006 Yacht Nokomis reported aground near Greencastle harbour

23/07/2006 Person in water in River Foyle near Craigavon bridge. UK Coastguard requested assistance

20/10/2006 Report of a red flare off Greencastle

10/08/2006 report of canoe capsized, three persons in water near Greencastle

16/08/2006 Fishing Vessel Eliz Christine reported engine failure requiring tow off Moville

22/08/2006 report of a red flare off Magilligan point

08/09/2006 the Fishing Vessel Eliz Christine, requiring a tow

05/10/2006 an overturned canoe reported floating off shore

20/10/2006 report of a red flare off pier Greencastle

18/01/2007 the Fishing Vessel Giolla Na Mara Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) was detected

18/05/2007 the Yacht Aquilla reported aground off Moville

26/05/2007 Bay Cruiser reported broken down off Magilligan point requiring a tow

01/08/2007 a report of a boat (details unknown) broken down at mouth of Lough Foyle requiring a tow

25/07/2007 the Dinghy Laura reported semi submerged off Whitecastle

02/08/2007 report of three flares in Lough Foyle

24/08/2007 report of a small punt in the approaches to Lough Foyle

26/09/2007 report of a sick person on boat in Lough Foyle.

Road Signage.

James Bannon

Question:

263 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide adequate signage on the new motorway, indicating Rochfortbridge and Milltownpass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10125/08]

The provision of directional road signs on any road and determination of which locations and destinations are indicated on the signage scheme are matters for the road authority and, in the case of national roads and motorways, the National Roads Authority. I have no role in the matter.

Shipping Operations.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

264 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that only about one quarter of the world’s fleet of 85,000 commercial ships have registration and flagging arrangements that are inconsistent with article 91 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, yet a disproportionate one half of all ships trading into Irish sea ports and almost all lo-lo container vessels, operate outside the UNCLOS requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10371/08]

The registration and flagging arrangements for ships is determined by the internal legal systems of each Member State of the United Nations. UNCLOS Article 91 sets out the requirements for the Nationality of Ships as follows:

Every Member State shall fix the conditions for the grant of its nationality to ships, for the registration of ships in its territory, and for the right to fly its flag. Ships have the nationality of the State whose flag they are entitled to fly. There must exist a genuine link between the State and the ship. Every State shall issue to ships to which it has granted the right to fly its flag documents to that effect.

As can be seen from the above the obligation is on the State in which the ship is registered to comply with this Article and the Convention does not provide for port state intervention in relation to this matter. Therefore, it is not possible to confirm the figures quoted by the Deputy. However, all ships trading into Irish ports are subject to port state control and they must comply with the international conventions in relation to safety, security, pollution prevention and living and working conditions.

Road Traffic Offences.

John O'Mahony

Question:

265 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport the number of penalty points which have been issued in County Mayo since the introduction of same; the breakdown of each category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10423/08]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No 477 of 2006) this is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Rail Network.

Michael Lowry

Question:

266 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Transport his plans to improve and upgrade the track and timetable on the Limerick/Ballybrophy line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10502/08]

I understand from Iarnród Éireann that the company is currently engaged in a programme of track work to reduce the number of severely speed restricted sections of track along the line and that they intend to increase services on this line in September 2008 by introducing a morning and evening commuter service from Nenagh to Limerick City.

Vehicle Testing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

267 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport if he has been in receipt of a report from the Road Safety Authority in relation to small public service vehicles, in particular to limousines, and the NCT’s inability to weigh or test vehicles over a certain weight, and the fact that many SPSVs have been licensed, despite being over the allowed weight limit; when he will publish the report or act according to its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10519/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

268 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport the reason it has taken over a year to sort out an anomaly in the taxi regulations which is being applied to discriminate against persons (details supplied) in Dublin 10 who have been refused a limousine licence for their small public service vehicle on the grounds that it is too heavy, yet many other vehicles of a similar weight and being over the statutory 3.5 tonne limit have been licensed in the meantime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10520/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

269 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport when his Department was first made aware of the details of the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 10 who have been refused a limousine licence for their small public service vehicle on the grounds that it is too heavy; and the action that has been taken to deal with their claim for a licence for their vehicle. [10521/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 267 to 269, inclusive, together.

My Department is currently examining the issue raised by the Deputy, in consultation with the Road Safety Authority and the Taxi Regulator, and will seek to resolve the matter in the near future.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

270 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Transport the number of civil servants in his Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10606/08]

Some 18 civil servants from my Department have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007. The Civil Service Employee Assistance Service (CSEAS) provides an internal Employee Assistance Programme to serving and retired Civil Servants. The service is designed to assist employees with work-related and personal difficulties, including stress, which may, if left unattended adversely affect attendance, work performance and quality of life. A document entitled Working on Stress has been published by the service which offers advice on dealing with stress.

Question No. 271 answered with Question No. 101.

Human Rights Issues.

Denis Naughten

Question:

272 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received the report of the EU Commissioner for Human Rights monitoring mission to Ireland in November 2007; the issues highlighted in the report; when a response will be furnished to the commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10074/08]

My Department has recently received a confidential draft of the report of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg, on his visit here last November. I anticipate that the final report and the response of the Irish Government will be made public by the Commissioner next month.

Question No. 273 answered with Question No. 109.
Question No. 274 answered with Question No. 106.

Foreign Conflicts.

Tony Gregory

Question:

275 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will bring correspondence from a person (details supplied) to the attention of the Israeli authorities; his views on the experience outlined by the person during a visit to the West Bank; the action he will take on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10161/08]

I am very concerned about the reported circumstances of this incident. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv last week raised the matter with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and asked that they investigate the circumstances.

This incident occurred during a recent visit to the West Bank by a group of Irish people who wished to observe the situation on the ground. There have been a number of such visits over the past year. My officials have drawn the attention of these groups to the Department's advice against travel to the Occupied Territories, on security grounds. The travel advice is set out in detail on the Department's website, www.dfa.ie. Our Representative Office in Ramallah has also met with the visiting groups in order to brief them on the political and security situation. In view of the increasingly tense and dangerous situation in the Occupied Territories, I would again strongly advise against any Irish citizens visiting the area.

Overseas Development Aid.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

276 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the new development and initiatives planned for Uganda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10542/08]

It is expected that Ireland will provide assistance of approximately €44 million to Uganda through its programme of bilateral assistance in 2008. In addition to funds provided directly through the programme, support is channelled indirectly through NGO partners, missionaries, UN agencies and civil society organisations. The overarching objective of the programme is the reduction of poverty. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) provide the framework around which donors, including Ireland, deliver assistance. The MDGs are a set of benchmarks agreed by the international community to measure development progress by 2015. The MDGs are reflected locally through the Government of Uganda's Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) with which Ireland's programme of development assistance is aligned.

Ireland's support to Uganda is governed by a Country Strategy Paper which is drawn up in consultation with Government, civil society partners and other donors. The current strategy covers the period 2007 to 2009. Support is provided for education, HIV/AIDS, and governance; as well as through a Poverty Action Fund (PAF) which channels funds to support key sectors such as water, sanitation and agriculture.

Ireland has contributed to the significant progress which Uganda has made in key development indicators in recent years. For instance, in education, the net enrolment rate at primary level has now reached approximately 92%, an increase from around 85% in 2002. In the area of HIV/AIDS, the prevalence rate has now stabilised at around 6.4%, down from approximately 15% in the early 1990s. In addition, by the end of 2007 over 106,000 people were accessing anti-retroviral treatment (ART), an increase of over 30% on the previous year. Ireland, in conjunction with other donors and with the people of Uganda, will continue to help build on the progress which has been achieved to date and which is making a sustainable impact on the lives of poor and marginalised communities.

Question No. 277 answered with Question No. 87.

Foreign Conflicts.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

278 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has made contact with the new President of Cyprus; if he has plans to take new initiatives in respect of the continued division of the island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10544/08]

The new Cypriot President, Demetris Christofias, was elected on 25 February 2008, succeeding President Tassos Papadopoulos. Shortly after his victory, the new President indicated that he had contacted the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Cyprus, Mr Michael Møller, to seek an exploratory meeting with Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat, representing the Turkish Cypriot community, with a view to renewing talks on the Cyprus issue. Mr. Møller congratulated President Christofias on his election and welcomed his intention to move quickly to start talks with Mr. Talat with a view to reaching a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem. Following a meeting with President Christofias on 3 March, Mr. Møller said preparatory arrangements were being made to facilitate a meeting between the two men later this month.

The Taoiseach wrote to President Christofias congratulating him on his victory and saying that Ireland looks forward to continued close co-operation with the Government of Cyprus within the European Union in meeting the many challenges and opportunities that we face together. The Taoiseach also underlined that Ireland takes an active interest in the successful resolution of the Cyprus problem. He noted that we will continue to encourage progress in the negotiating process and the early achievement of the objective of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal State through an honourable, balanced and durable settlement protecting and guaranteeing the basic rights and aspirations of all Cypriots.

I welcome the encouraging statements made by President Christofias regarding the resumption of talks on this issue and hope that these political developments will lend a new impetus to the search for an enduring solution to the Cyprus problem.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

279 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of civil servants in his Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10601/08]

In the period 2005 to 2007 a total of 50 officers from my Department attended three lunchtime talks/courses on Stress Awareness/Managing Pressure at Work. Further such talks are planned for 2008. The purpose of the talks/courses is to raise awareness among employees of the effects of work place stress and to highlight ways of avoiding and managing it.

All members of staff at my Department are encouraged to achieve an appropriate and sustainable balance between their careers and life outside of the work environment. Work Life Balance Day, celebrated this year on Friday 29 February, provided a useful opportunity to remind employees of the many family friendly work life balance policies which are in operation across the Department. These include work-sharing, flexitime, term time, e-working and special leave for domestic circumstances.

My Department employs a full-time Employee Assistance Officer who is available to provide assistance and advice to all staff who are experiencing difficulty, either in work or in their personal lives. Staff are reminded on a regular basis of the existence of this service. In addition, a system is in place whereby the Employee Assistance Officer is alerted in cases where it has come to the attention of Human Resources Section that a staff member has been medically certified as suffering from stress, in particular work related stress.

Constitutional Amendments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

280 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the date of the proposed referendum on the Lisbon reform treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10700/08]

The Government has not yet decided on the precise date for the referendum. That said, I confidently expect that the referendum will take place in late May or early June. The Referendum Bill was initiated last Thursday, 6 March, and the Referendum Commission was established on the same day. The Houses of the Oireachtas will discuss the Bill after the Easter recess, and the Government looks forward to this detailed debate in the Dáil and the Seanad, as well, of course, as the ongoing debates in various fora, such as the Forum on Europe.

Question No. 281 answered with Question No. 106.

Emigrant Support Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

282 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he has had recent discussions with the US authorities with a view to regularisation of the undocumented Irish in the US; when he expects further progress in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10702/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

283 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the numbers of undocumented Irish in the US; the discussions he has had with the US authorities with a view to regularisation over a specific period of time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10703/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 282 and 283 together.

The overall number of undocumented in the United States is estimated at some 12 million and, while it is impossible to be precise on the numbers of undocumented Irish, a figure of around 20,000 to 25,000 probably reflects a reasonable estimate. Official US Government figures estimate the number of undocumented Irish at only 3,000. The Government attaches the highest importance to resolving the plight of our citizens caught in this very difficult situation. I welcome the strong support across all party lines for our efforts. In this regard, the passage of the agreed Motion by the Dáil on 7 November sent an important and timely message of solidarity from all sides of the House to our undocumented community.

Following the failure of the US Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation last June, despite the strong endorsement and encouragement of President Bush, the Government immediately set about exploring with key US Administration and Congressional contacts possible alternative bilateral options. I emphasised our interest in, and support for, a bilateral solution for our undocumented citizens in a series of meetings with key US Administration and Congressional figures during a visit to Washington last October. Since the all-party Motion was passed, the Taoiseach had a detailed telephone call with Senator Edward Kennedy, in which he again reiterated the Government's strong support for a bilateral solution.

At a meeting with the US Ambassador in December, I forcefully made the same point. Most recently, I raised this issue with Ms Paula Dobriansky, US Under Secretary of State, at our meeting in Belfast on 27 February. Likewise, our Ambassador and his Embassy colleagues in Washington are in ongoing discussions with Congressional, Administration and Irish community figures, including Senators Kennedy and Schumer, on possible ways forward. The support and solidarity of Deputies, including in their contacts with US colleagues, is also extremely helpful. Achieving progress on immigration at this time, in the middle of a Presidential campaign, is exceptionally difficult. Our many friends in Congress have emphasised this, including the difficulty of passing legislation specifically for our citizens separate from the other 12 million undocumented.

Despite these considerable political difficulties, the Government is determined to make every effort to succeed. The Taoiseach will again be pursuing our case very actively at the highest level on his visit to the U.S. over the St. Patrick's Day period, and there will be a further important opportunity to do so during the Taoiseach's visit to Washington in April to address the joint Houses of Congress. I will continue to work towards achieving a satisfactory resolution to this important issue in my own contacts with US politicians and representatives of the Irish community, as will the Ambassador and his colleagues on an ongoing basis on the ground in Washington.

Diplomatic Relations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he or his EU colleagues have had discussions or otherwise engaged with the new Russian President with particular reference to the need to promote and sponsor good relations and trade between Ireland within the EU and Russia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10704/08]

The EU has not yet had the opportunity to engage with Mr Medvedev, who will be inaugurated as President of the Russian Federation on 7 May. President McAleese has sent a message of congratulations and good wishes to him on his election. On behalf of the European Union, the Presidency has expressed the hope that partnership with Russia will be further strengthened and developed constructively during his tenure as President. The next EU-Russia Summit in Siberia at the end of June will mark the start of the relationship between the EU and President Medvedev.

Ireland and the EU remain committed to building stronger relations with Russia. Russia is the EU's third largest trade partner, after the US and China, and its largest energy supplier. The EU is Russia's largest energy market. As a long-standing supporter of Russian membership of the WTO, the EU would like to see Russia accede at an early date. This would serve as an international framework of common rules and standards within which trade and wider economic relations between countries could flourish. I also hope that negotiations for a comprehensive new agreement between the EU and Russia, which have been blocked for over a year, can be opened soon. Russia is also a major, if challenging, partner of the EU in regard to issues of regional and international peace and security. At the same time, there are issues of serious concern to be addressed in regard to Russia's adherence to human rights and democratic standards.

Questions Nos. 285 and 286 answered with Question No. 90.
Question No. 287 answered with Question No. 135.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have discussed the situation in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10708/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

291 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of discussions that have taken place at EU level with a view to discouraging the drug trade in Afghanistan and surrounding countries; the extent to which incentives have been offered in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10711/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 288 and 291 together.

On Monday the General Affairs and External Relations Council adopted Conclusions reaffirming the EU's commitment to long-term support for Afghanistan. These make clear our core principles of promoting Afghan leadership, good governance, responsibility and ownership, and fostering the development of a democratic, secure and sustainable Afghan State with respect for human rights and the rule of law. The issue will also be on the agenda of the European Council on 14 March.

Serious challenges remain in Afghanistan, both for the Afghan government and the international community. It is vitally important that we ensure the maximum cohesion and coordination of our efforts, particularly with the Afghan government, to address issues of concern such as drug production, tackling corruption, institutional reforms and the weakness of the rule of law. In this context I very much welcome the appointment of the widely respected Norwegian diplomat, Mr Kai Eide, as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan. The UN continues to play the lead coordinating role in Afghanistan and, I believe that Mr Eide will manage this effectively.

The drug trade from Afghanistan is a particular cause for concern for Ireland and EU partners, and is an important area for the EU's assistance to Afghanistan, including from member states. This is a challenge not only for Afghanistan, but for its neighbours and the wider international community. Afghanistan is the top producer of illicit drugs in the world, accounting for 93 percent of the global illicit market for opiates. Drug money fuels organised crime and corruption in Afghanistan, and helps finance the insurgency. Moreover, drug abuse is a growing problem in Afghanistan, as is the spread of HIV/AIDS through intravenous drug abuse.

I understand that the Afghan government will launch a new national comprehensive counter narcotics strategy in the coming months. Its existing National Drug Control Strategy has as its priorities the following: targeting the trafficker, diversifying rural livelihoods by providing alternatives to poppy cultivation, reducing demand for drugs and developing state institutions. However, combating the opium economy will also require further focus on security and promoting good governance. The EU Police Mission in Afghanistan should have a valuable role to play in assisting the development of Afghan police capacity in this area.

Question No. 289 answered with Question No. 106.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

290 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the worst locations of war and strife, starvation, ethnic cleansing, corruption, genocide and general human rights abuses on the continent of Africa; the action taken at EU or UN level to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10710/08]

The reduction of poverty, hunger and conflict in Africa is one of the most important tasks of the international community in the 21st century. Conflict has many causes and many manifestations, but poverty, inequality and exclusion have proved to be the most fertile breeding grounds for violence and ethnic hatred. Most wars occur in poor countries, and the causes and effect of conflict are exacerbated by poverty and corruption.

African leadership and responsibility are crucial, and the African Union represents an important strategic partner for the European Union and the international community generally. Since 2004, the EU has supported the development of African-led peacekeeping in Darfur and elsewhere through its African Peace Facility. Peace and security, good governance and development were among the themes which European leaders discussed with their African counterparts at the EU-Africa Summit in December 2007 which agreed a comprehensive EU-Africa Strategy to address these and other common challenges.

Africa is at the heart of Ireland's programme of official development assistance. Irish Aid provides emergency humanitarian aid, funding for recovery, and long-term development assistance to many African countries either directly, or through our partnerships with the United Nations, the Red Cross family and Non-governmental Organisations. In the context of an increasing aid budget as we approach the UN target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012, these interventions are being further strengthened through enhanced support at the global and country levels. The launch of the Hunger Task Force and the establishment of a Conflict Resolution Unit in my Department are clear and practical manifestations of our resolve to do more in these areas which directly affect the lives of millions throughout the developing world.

Addressing Africa's needs, especially the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable, necessitates a comprehensive and coordinated series of actions by the international community and African Governments. In order to measure development progress and to set benchmarks, the United Nations developed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were endorsed by world leaders in 2000. While the MDGs are undoubtedly ambitious, they can be reached if all stakeholders, the affected countries themselves, the donor community, the UN and EU work together to ensure that poverty reduction, good governance and sustainable development are the cornerstones of all our efforts in Africa.

Ireland closely monitors developments in the human rights situation throughout the world and where the situation warrants, we make known our concerns to the governments in question, either bilaterally, through the EU, or through action at the UN General Assembly or the UN Human Rights Council.

The challenges facing Africa are enormous. But there is some encouraging news. Many African economies are growing. The work of the International Criminal Court marks a real effort to end impunity for war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, though full cooperation with the ICC remains essential on the part of all who have signed the Rome Statute. While there are exceptions such as Somalia, Zimbabwe, Darfur and others, many African countries now have less violence and civil strife than for many years. There is relative peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, and southern Sudan. Developments so far this year in DRC and northern Uganda have been very encouraging, although international engagement will be needed for some time. Through our growing aid programme, we will continue to address needs and build on progress to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of the poorest in Africa.

Question No. 291 answered with Question No. 288.

Drugs Trade.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

292 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of discussions that have taken place at EU level with a view to discouraging the drug trade in Latin America; the extent to which incentives have been offered in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10712/08]

Co-operation between the European Union and Latin America in combating the trade in illicit drugs takes place within a well-defined framework, both in terms of policy and institutional mechanisms. EU policy toward illicit drugs is founded on the basic principles adopted under the 1998 Political Declaration of the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS), the current EU Drugs Strategy for 2005-2012, and the EU Action Plan for 2005-2008. The comprehensive approach adopted by the EU focuses on all aspects of combating trade in illicit drugs, including through demand reduction, supply reduction, counter-trafficking and alternative development.

At the 1996 EU-Rio Group Ministerial Meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, both sides confirmed their intentions to seek a balanced and integrated approach to the problem of illicit drugs, based on the principle of shared responsibility. In 1998, the EU-Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Co-ordination and Co-operation Mechanism on Drugs was established, providing a formal framework for increased contact and dialogue between the regions. The Mechanism on Drugs meets annually, with regular inter-sessional technical meetings.

In 1999, the EU-LAC Co-ordination and Co-operation Mechanism on Drugs adopted the Panama Action Plan, which provides for joint action on demand reduction, alternative development, money laundering and maritime cooperation. Subsequent High Level Meetings of the Mechanism on Drugs have reaffirmed the commitment to the Panama Action Plan in joint declarations emanating from successive annual meetings in Lisbon, Cochabamba (Bolivia), Madrid, Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), Dublin, Lima , Vienna, Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) and, most recently, in Vienna in March 2008. In addition to this Mechanism, the EU-Andean Community (CAN) High Level Specialised Dialogue on Drugs was established in 1995. This Specialised Dialogue on Drugs, which meets annually, provides a unique forum for co-operation and dialogue.

Combating the drugs trade is a major focus in the European Commission's regional programming for Latin America for 2007-2013, as well as in the regional plan for the Andean region and in specific country strategy papers. The total financial assistance provided by the Commission and Member States to Latin America in this area exceeds €230 million and is second only to the amount provided to Afghanistan to support its counter-narcotic efforts.

Overseas Development Aid.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

293 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in regard to the fight against AIDS in Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10713/08]

Recent data released by the United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) show that the global HIV prevalence — the number of people living with HIV — has levelled off and that the number of new infections has fallen. This is primarily due to much improved surveillance methodologies along with some positive impacts of HIV programmes. However, in 2007 over 33 million people were living with HIV, 2.5 million became newly infected and over 2 million people died of AIDS related illnesses. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the most severely affected region in the world and is home to over 22 million people living with HIV or 68% of the global total. AIDS remains the primary cause of death in Africa.

Responding to the global problem of HIV and AIDS is a key priority for the Government. The Taoiseach's commitment to deliver €100 million per year for HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases is now being reached. This is an enormous achievement. Ireland now leads the way within the European Union in terms of the proportion of its overseas development assistance allocated to HIV and other diseases of poverty. This funding is saving lives through advocacy, education, treatment and assisting those living with HIV/AIDS. Ireland's assistance is directed at programmes at country, regional and international levels and is ensuring that increasing numbers of people are accessing quality HIV and AIDS and other health services. Most of Ireland's assistance is targeted at those countries most affected by the pandemic including Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zambia and Malawi. This approach is proving effective.

Ireland continues to promote the need for leadership and engagement at the highest political level internationally, in order to reverse the trend of this pandemic. Ireland is leading by example. Ireland's support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) is one such example, with contributions over the period 2002-2007 amounting to €80 million. Almost 60% of Global Fund resources are allocated to sub-Saharan Africa and to date over 1.4 million men, women and children are accessing HIV treatment and many more are accessing essential HIV prevention and care services.

Ireland has prioritised the needs of children in its work on HIV and AIDS. It is the only country to target 20% of its increased funding to interventions that will benefit children. In some of the worst affected countries, AIDS is the biggest cause of death among those under 5 and it is estimated that 15 million children under 18 years have lost one or both parents to AIDS, with the vast majority, 12 million, resident in sub-Saharan Africa. In recognition of Ireland's leadership in this area, we have been requested to host the fourth Global Partners Forum on Children affected by HIV and AIDS. Working in co-operation with UNICEF and scheduled for October, this forum will bring together high level decision makers from both developed and developing countries to debate the best approaches to ensuring the protection of children living in a world with HIV and AIDS.

We will continue to work with the international community and our Programme Countries in sub-Saharan Africa in advocating for a sustained and resourced global response to HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases, strengthened leadership at all levels, and improved coordination of resources for effective disease prevention and control.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

294 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the EU, UN and WHO are addressing health issues in Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10714/08]

Africa and sub-Saharan Africa in particular, bears a disproportionate burden of the world's death and disease. Much of this is related to HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases and also to conditions of persistent poverty. Whilst there has been encouraging progress in many countries in the treatment of HIV and control of TB and malaria with resultant reduction of death rates, especially in under five-year old children, maternal mortality rates have not made similar progress.

The European Union has prioritised Africa in its health programming, emphasising systems development and priority diseases. The EU plans to spend approximately €23 billion between now and 2013 on development in Africa and 20% is due to be targeted at health and education. This will make a real and tangible difference to health outcomes in Africa. The World Health Organisation (WHO), whilst having a global mandate, gives special attention to African health development. The current Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, has from the outset of her tenure underlined the need to intensify efforts in Africa and to boost resources available for health in Africa. Evidence of WHO's commitment to African health development can be seen in the role it plays in ensuring access to HIV treatment through the "Universal Access" campaign.

WHO's role in tropical diseases research, in malaria and tuberculosis, in child survival and safe motherhood and in the work underway to strengthen country level impact are practical examples that demonstrate WHO's commitment to health progress in Africa. WHO also plays a key role in international partnerships including the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) and Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) developing new drugs and diagnostics for diseases that are especially burdensome for Africa.

The UN makes an impressive contribution to improved health outcomes with particular benefit to Africa, through a number of its agencies and funds. UNICEF addresses child health including immunisation, nutrition, water and sanitation. UNAIDS coordinates efforts to overcome HIV across the UN family and provides leadership in the field at global and country levels. UNHCR addresses the health needs of millions of displaced people and UNOCHA coordinates emergency humanitarian operations. The World Food Programme meets the nutritional requirements of many millions of Africans on a daily basis. These agencies are key partners for Irish Aid.

Ireland works closely with the European Union, World Health Organisation and other United Nations bodies to address important health problems in Africa. Irish Aid is an active participant in the European Commission's Health Experts group and contributes to various documents, policies and plans that deal with health in Africa. The health problems facing Africa are enormous and the underlying causes go beyond the health sector. Substantially improving health outcomes in Africa will require a comprehensive effort to reduce poverty in Africa. This effort is underway by donors, partner governments and international organisations. Ireland will continue to prioritise health and focus our development efforts on Africa.

Work Permits.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

295 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of an appeal against a decision not to grant a green card to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10059/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that an application was received in the section on behalf of the above. This application was refused on the grounds that the proposed employee's permission to remain in the State had expired. This application was refused and the decision was upheld on appeal.

Jack Wall

Question:

296 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Parliamentary Question No. 189 of 21 February 2008, his views on correspondence from the person (details supplied) explaining their problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10404/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that work permit holders are advised that they should submit applications for renewal at least 12 weeks prior to the expiry of an existing permit. In this case, application for renewal was made only ten days prior to the expiry of the previous work permit and as a consequence, the new permit issued some time after the previous permit had expired. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has responsibility for the issue of Immigration stamps.

Employment Rights.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

297 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on new efforts Ireland will make within a global alliance to help ensure international supply chains are managed in such a way as not to allow forced labour and all forms of exploitation in the context of the International Labour Organisation’s recent international forum against forced labour. [10305/08]

I assume that the Deputy may be referring to the outcome of a recent international forum against human trafficking, which was organised by UN.GIFT — a coalition of six intergovernmental agencies. The forum was convened under the title, Vienna Forum against Human Trafficking, in which the ILO convened dedicated sessions on supply chain management, the demand for forced labour and sexual exploitation, together with the roles of employers' organisations, business and trade unions in combating trafficking, where participants discussed measures to prevent human trafficking in particular. According to the ILO this has generated a new momentum for a global alliance aimed at abolishing forced labour in the next decade with strong support from employer and labour representatives.

Ireland fully supports the International Labour Organisation in their on-going efforts in the fight against forced labour. The ILO has a very important role in this regard through the many instruments developed under its aegis, including relevant Conventions and Recommendations and follow-up action programmes aimed at combating forced labour, including the ILO's Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour. Much is being achieved through such ILO programmes which make a real impact on people's lives.

Ireland is currently part of a global alliance in the fight against forced labour as evidenced by our participation in and contribution to core policies pursued by the European Union which strongly supports the efforts of the ILO in pursuit of, for example, its Decent Work Agenda. Here, the ILO promotes domestic policies and international co-operation as priority objectives to be pursued, aimed at full and productive employment and decent work as key elements of sustainable development.

In addition, Member States of the European Union continue to conduct internal and external policies, particularly those focussed on international trade, in a consistent manner thus contributing to maximising the benefits and minimising the costs of globalisation for all groups and countries both inside and outside of the EU. Consistent pursuit of the policy approaches above are conducive to the emergence and development of an effective global alliance aimed at combating all forms of forced labour and associated exploitation.

Retail Sector.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

298 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to recent complaints that supermarkets are abusing their position in their dealings with suppliers; if he has had correspondence to this effect; his views on whether the Competition Authority should investigate whether supermarkets are acting against the public interest in their dealings with suppliers; his further views on whether a code of practice for supermarkets dealing with suppliers should be instigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10134/08]

I am not aware of any specific complaints against supermarkets abusing their position in their dealings with suppliers. All complaints of anti-competitive practices should be referred to the Competition Authority as the independent statutory agency responsible for the enforcement of competition law in the State and I urge any supplier who considers that he or she is being treated in an anti-competitive manner to bring his or her complaint to the attention of the Authority.

The Irish retail grocery sector is regulated by the Competition Act, 2002 as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act 2006. The 2002 Act generally prohibits agreements which prevent, restrict or distort competition. The Competition (Amendment) Act 2006 was introduced to repeal the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order, 1987 which prohibited practices such as selling below net invoice price and "hello" money. The removal of that Order sought to introduce greater competition into the grocery trade by allowing retailers freedom to determine the process by which they charge their customers.

The 2006 Act also strengthens the existing provisions of the 2002 Act by prohibiting

the imposition of resale price maintenance in regard to the supply of grocery goods (resale price maintenance is the practice whereby manufacturers or suppliers specify the minimum prices at which their goods may be resold);

unfair discrimination in regard to the supply of grocery goods. This is a reference to a supplier offering preferential terms to one buyer over another even though the transactions involved are equivalent in nature;

retailers or wholesalers of grocery goods from compelling or coercing suppliers into payment of advertising allowances (e.g. where a retailer seeks payment from a supplier in order to advertise the supplier's goods as a means of attracting customers to the retailer's premises);

retailers from compelling or coercing suppliers into payment of ‘hello' money (i.e. where a retailer demands a payment from a supplier before agreeing to stock that supplier's products). The circumstances in which the practice will be prohibited include on the opening of a new store, an extension to an existing store or a change of ownership of a store. While I support codes of practice, I believe that these statutory protections, with penalty provisions, set out in competition legislation are sufficient to protect suppliers.

Job Creation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

299 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created in Counties Laois, Offaly and Westmeath in the enterprise sector during the years 2003 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10166/08]

The attached tabular statements set out the number of full time job gains in enterprise agency and County Enterprise Board assisted firms in Counties Laois, Offaly and Westmeath for each of the years between 2003 and 2007 (Agency data is collected on an annual basis; and therefore no data is available for 2008). In total throughout these counties, the enterprise agencies created 4,844 new full-time jobs over the period in question while the County Enterprise Boards assisted in the creation of 800 net new jobs in the same period.

At present in the counties of Laois, Offaly and Westmeath there are a total of thirty one IDA Ireland supported companies. The agency is committed to the development of Laois, Offaly and Westmeath and is working continuously with the existing client base to deepen the global strategic importance of the Irish operations within their parent corporations. The three counties are actively marketed by the IDA through its network of overseas offices to prospective new investors. In line with the National Spatial Strategy, the IDA concentrates its efforts on the Gateway Towns of Athlone, Mullingar and Tullamore.

IDA Ireland also works closely with education institutions in the Region, in developing the skills necessary to attract high value added employment to the county. IDA is also working with FÁS to provide guidance in developing skill sets needed by those already in the workforce who are interested in upskilling. Enterprise Ireland activity is primarily focussed on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs in manufacturing and internationally traded services companies, who are either setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies or growing existing companies. Since 2005 EI have approved over €8m in support for companies in Offaly, over €5m for those in Westmeath and some €3m for Co. Laois firms. The aim of the financial support is to help firms grow their sales and exports and improve innovation and new product development in order that they can compete on world markets.

In 2007 a programme called the Midlands and West Enterprise Programme was launched to support high growth entrepreneurs incubate their business ideas. The programme is run jointly with Athlone Institute of Technology and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in partnership with EI. IT Carlow have a similar programme. Both programmes provide participants with the business skills, networks facilities and supports necessary to navigate the business start-up process.

Shannon Development has a broad economic development remit for the mid-west region including South-West Offaly. Its activities complement those of the national agencies IDA Ireland and EI, particularly through the provision of tailored property solutions for both FDI and indigenous industry. The role of the Laois, Offaly and Westmeath County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) is to provide a source of support for micro-enterprise in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship in the midlands region. Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support, such as advice, mentoring and training programmes, to individuals, firms and community groups, the County Enterprise Boards remain central in assisting many micro-enterprises in developing their growth potential.

Table 1: Full-time Jobs Created in Enterprise Agency assisted firms 2003-2007

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

Laois

70

62

132

207

103

574

Offaly

230

355

261

440

444

1,730

Westmeath

366

515

574

475

610

2,540

Totals

666

932

967

1,122

1,157

4,844

Table 2: Number of full-time equivalent jobs created in CEB assisted companies)

County Enterprise Board

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

Laois

34

56

69

66

3.0

228.0

Offaly

86

86

50

-34

97.5

285.5

Westmeath

-61

163

100

4

81.0

287.0

Total

59

305

219

36

181.5

800.5

Industrial Development.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

300 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of site visits by the Industrial Development Authority to Counties Laois, Offaly and Westmeath over the past five years; the towns visited in the same counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10167/08]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency. While I may give general policy directives to the Agency, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others. The arrangement of visits by potential investors to various locations through out the country is an operational matter for the Agency and not one in which I have a function. Accordingly, I have forwarded your query to the Secretary of IDA Ireland for his attention.

Community Employment Schemes.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

301 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions he has had with FÁS regarding the need to remove the cap of six years on participants over 55 years of age in community employment schemes to allow them to remain on the schemes to full retirement age in order to continue their invaluable work in their local community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10250/08]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the open labour market by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills. To cater for older workers in particular, in November 2004 I revised the 3 year CE capping to allow those of 55 years of age and over to avail of a 6-year period on CE (based on participation since 3rd April 2000). Subsequently, the participation limit for persons eligible for CE, based on a Social Welfare disability-linked payment, was increased by 1 year. These measures were introduced in recognition of the fact that older participants and participants with a disability may find it more difficult to progress into the open labour market.

The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community. However, it should be remembered that, in so far as participants remain on CE, they are precluding someone else from benefiting from the programme. FÁS makes every effort to ensure that differing levels of demand between neighbouring schemes are equalised. FÁS also operates the programme flexibly as far as possible to ensure the continuation of community projects. I would like to highlight that FÁS and Local Employment Service Offices are available to provide information on other employment and training opportunities which may be available to those exiting CE. In conclusion then, I would say that this Government will continue to support the positive role of CE in meeting the needs of long-term unemployed persons while at the same time providing essential services to communities. In this regard, we are keeping the operation of the Scheme under constant review.

Employment Rights.

Dr Martin Mansergh

Question:

302 Deputy Martin Mansergh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the implications for Ireland of the outcome of the Laval case in the European Court of Justice and of the Viking line case now settled; and if Ireland intervened in either case, both of which raised issues of labour and employer rights. [10252/08]

Both the Laval and Viking cases referred to by the Deputy were the subject of European Court of Justice judgements that issued in December 2007. In its judgements, the European Court of Justice found that the right to take collective action and to strike is a fundamental right that forms an integral part of the general principles of Community law. The right can be invoked even where another fundamental right such as freedom of establishment is involved.

The right to take collective action, however, is subject to certain restrictions. The judgment found that, where the exercise of this right restricts another fundamental right, the collective action can only be justified if it pursues a legitimate aim justified by an overriding reason in the public interest and must not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the legitimate interest. According to the ECJ, what is a legitimate objective and whether the means used are proportionate must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Court's findings appear to accord with the position that prevails under the Irish Constitution.

Given the importance of the issues that arose, Ireland made written and oral submissions in both cases. Ireland emphasised the need for an appropriate balance between the freedoms provided for in Community law on the one hand, and the right to take collective action to protect employment standards on the other, which right should not be undermined by an overly broad and formalistic application of Community law. Having considered the judgments, and how they relate to the specific circumstances of the cases, I am satisfied that it is unlikely that they will have any detrimental impact on Irish workers or our Industrial Relations legislation and practices.

Industrial Development.

Niall Collins

Question:

303 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to a situation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10364/08]

Progress in relation to Shannon Development's E-Towns project is a day-to-day operational matter for the Company and is not a matter in which I have a direct role. I understand from Shannon Development that when the E-Towns concept was originally launched by them, five towns in the Shannon Region were identified as potential pilot locations for the project. Cappamore, Co. Limerick was selected in consultation with Limerick County Council, as the Co. Limerick pilot location.

At the core of the E-Towns concept is the development of a physical "Courtyard", a small-integrated complex of office and residential accommodation of up to15,000 sq.ft, targeted at established micro businesses in the traded services sector which may be interested in relocating from larger national and international urban centres. Shannon Development established a partnership process with the Cappamore Development Association and Limerick County Council and this process has delivered a range of Knowledge Supports associated with the E-Towns project in the town, including a new Town Plan and web based training for members of the community identified by the Development Association. In addition Shannon Development has worked with the Cappamore Community Development Association to deliver scalable broadband under the Group Broadband Scheme. Shannon Development in conjunction with the Cappamore Development Association and Limerick County Council has sought to identify a suitable site within the curtilage of the town. This search has been unsuccessful.

Work Permits.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

304 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position with regard to an application for a work permit by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10484/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that they have not received any valid application for the above. All applications, when received, are treated on a case by case basis and subject to the employer/employee meeting all the requirements for an employment permit. Further information is available on my website at www.entemp.ie.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

305 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures in place in his Department to monitor the amount of inward migration to Ireland; and the way Ireland monitors the sectors in the economy that require additional workers. [10489/08]

My Department draws on population and migration data produced by the Central Statistics Office in monitoring the amount of inward migration to Ireland. In addition, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) contributes to my Department's monitoring of sectors in the economy that require additional workers through the National Skills Bulletin, which is published annually. The 2007 National Skills Bulletin is the third annual report published by the EGFSN on skills and occupational trends in Ireland.

The Bulletin outlines key labour market statistics in order to assist policy formulation in the areas of employment, education and training, and immigration. The main focus of the Bulletin is the analysis of employment at occupational level for the period 2001-2006. Each occupation is examined in terms of its employment profile (based on data from the Quarterly National Household Survey), recent employment trends and other available indicators on the demand and supply of skills. These include the number of employment permits issued to non-EU nationals by my Department; an indication of difficulty in filling positions from the monthly FÁS/ESRI Vacancy Survey; movements in the number of vacancies advertised through FÁS, the Irish Times and IrishJobs.ie; an estimation of the supply emerging from the Irish education and training system as provided by the Higher Education Authority, Higher Education and Training Awarding Council (HETAC), Further Education and Training Awarding Council (FETAC), Department of Education and Science, State Examinations Commission and various private providers; and any other relevant findings from the EGFSN's sectoral studies.

By drawing on these sources of information, the EGFSN can comment on the balance between the demand and supply for each occupation. Identified shortages are defined in terms of their characteristics, i.e. skill shortage or labour shortage, expected duration and significance. The report highlights recent and current shortages and can assist my Department in determining those occupations that should be deemed eligible to receive Green Cards and/or Work Permits.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

306 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the numbers of inward migration to Ireland in the years 2005, 2006 and 2007. [10490/08]

Details of the numbers of immigrants in Ireland during the years 2005-2007, as reported by the Central Statistics, are as follows: 2005 — 84,600; 2006 — 107,800; and 2007 –109,500 (preliminary).

Job Creation.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

307 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created in 2005, 2006 and 2007. [10491/08]

The Enterprise Development Agencies under the aegis of my Department, Enterprise Ireland, the County Enterprise Boards, and IDA Ireland are responsible for growing indigenous enterprises and attracting and growing foreign direct investment. The table attached sets out the number of full time jobs created in Enterprise Agency assisted firms (Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland & Shannon Development) in the period 2005-2007 which shows that a total of 78,719 new jobs were created in the period. In addition the 35 County and City Enterprise Boards assisted in the creation of 6,250 net full-time jobs in the same period broken down as follows: 1,938 in 2005, 2,047 in 2006 and 2,265 in 2007.

Full-time Jobs Created in Enterprise Agency Assisted Firms 2005-2007

2005

2006

2007

Total

Full Time Jobs Created

26,526

28,008

24,185

78,719

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

308 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of civil servants in his Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10599/08]

Since 2005 thirty nine officers from my Department have attended courses in stress management, which were funded from the Department's training budget. The overall objective of the courses selected is to eliminate stress from all aspects of the participants' life by applying simple and practical techniques. My Department is vigilant and reacts proactively in situations where there is any indication of stress, and appropriate support is offered through stress management programmes and ongoing confidential support through our employee assistance service. Also, on an annual basis, the Health & Safety Unit in my Department organises a two- week event for staff with information sessions and health checks focussing on all elements of Health and Safety, including protecting mental health, and stress management.

Employment Rights.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

309 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the procedure to be followed by redundant employees in the case where business premises close but reopen with some new management members but with no redundancy provisions on the grounds of all new management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10719/08]

The provisions regarding statutory redundancy payments in circumstances arising from a change in the ownership of a business are as follows: Where there is a change in the ownership but the employee continues to work for the new owner with no break in employment, the employee is not entitled to redundancy payment at the time of the change of ownership but his continuity of employment is preserved for the purpose of redundancy payments in the event of his dismissal on redundancy by the new employer at any future date. However, where no transfer of undertaking exists the employees are entitled to statutory redundancy from their existing employer. Disputes in relation to these matters may be referred to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Michael McGrath

Question:

310 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he will re-open the local authority swimming pool programme. [10083/08]

My Department has completed a Value for Money and Policy Review Report of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme. The Report examined, among other things, how the Programme has worked to date and what changes, if any, are required to ensure its effective and efficient delivery. Following consideration of the recommendations in the Report, it is my intention to launch a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme.

Sports Capital Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

311 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of funding received in Mayo under the sports capital programme for each of the years 2003 to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10440/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The information sought by the Deputy in relation to sports capital allocations made to Mayo in the selected years is outlined below:

2003 — €1,558,600

2004 — €1,594,000

2005 — €1,422,000

2006 — €2,390,000

2007 — €2,125,500

John O'Mahony

Question:

312 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of funding received in Kerry under the sports capital programme for each of the years 2003 to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10441/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The information sought by the Deputy in relation to sports capital allocations made to Kerry in the selected years is outlined below:

2003 — €3,748,000

2004 — €4,476,000

2005 — €3,603,000

2006 — €4,087,500

2007 — €3,541,400

John O'Mahony

Question:

313 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of funding received in Galway under the sports capital programme for each of the years 2003 to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10442/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The information sought by the Deputy in relation to sports capital allocations made to Galway in the selected years is outlined below:

2003 — €2,558,000

2004 — €3,435,014

2005 — €6,260,000

2006 — €4,108,500

2007 — €4,470,000

John O'Mahony

Question:

314 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of funding received in Sligo under the sports capital programme for each of the years 2003 to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10443/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The information sought by the Deputy in relation to sports capital allocations made to Sligo in the selected years is outlined below:

2003 — €963,000

2004 — €1,453,000

2005 — €2,020,000

2006 — €1,306,000

2007 — €1,479,000

John O'Mahony

Question:

315 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of funding received in Roscommon under the sports capital programme for each of the years 2003 to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10444/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The information sought by the Deputy in relation to sports capital allocations made to Roscommon in the selected years is outlined below:

2003 — €777,600

2004 — €1,027,000

2005 — €880,000

2006 — €1,148,000

2007 — €1,395,000

John O'Mahony

Question:

316 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of funding received in Leitrim under the sports capital programme for each of the years 2003 to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10445/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The information sought by the Deputy in relation to sports capital allocations made to Leitrim in the selected years is outlined below:

2003 — €454,800

2004 — €479,000

2005 — €660,000

2006 — €983,000

2007 — €691,000

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

317 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent on a sector (details supplied), giving details of expenditure in this sector by his Department in 2007 and to date in 2008 on a county basis. [10458/08]

The only potential area of possible involvement by my Department in this matter relates to the capital funding provided directly to organisations under the Sports Capital Programme, Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Scheme (ACCESS) and the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme. Guidelines and criteria for the programmes take cognisance of relevant Government policies and requirements. It is a matter for the organisations funded and the relevant authorities involved to ensure adherence to any legislative requirements including the provisions of the National Monuments Acts.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

318 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of civil servants in his Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10594/08]

No Civil Servants in my Department have attended specific stress management courses during the period 2005 to 2007. A major training programme for all staff in my Department, which concluded in early 2005, covered stress management in a changing environment with particular reference to decentralisation. While no stress reduction procedures were put in place in my Department arising from such training the course was useful in raising awareness of stress and in assisting management to deal sensitively with the extensive turnover of staff necessary to effect the decentralisation of my Department to Killarney.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

319 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in awarding child benefit to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [10061/08]

A child benefit claim was received from the person concerned in October 2006. Following correspondence with the person concerned, it has now been confirmed that the child is residing in Ireland on a permanent basis since September 2007. Child Benefit has been awarded from 1 October 2007 and payment will be lodged to the person's nominated bank account on 1 April 2008. Further correspondence has issued to the person concerned, asking her to confirm where the child was resident between October 2006 and September 2007. It is necessary to establish where the child resided between these dates to determine any entitlement to Child Benefit for this period. When a reply is received, the claim for that period will be processed and the person concerned will be advised accordingly.

Enda Kenny

Question:

320 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Dublin has been refused supplementary welfare allowance; if he will re-examine the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10067/08]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes mortgage interest supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive. A mortgage interest supplement provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The Health Service Executive has advised that it sought documentation in relation to a mortgage from the person concerned. A decision will be made on her application for mortgage interest supplement as soon as the person concerned contacts the community welfare officer and provides the relevant documentation.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

321 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person in receipt of carer’s allowance is automatically covered for credits towards their old age contributory pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10156/08]

Credited contributions, or ‘credits' as they are termed, are intended to protect the entitlements, particularly the pension rights, of employees and other persons participating in the social insurance system when they are ill or unemployed. A person who is providing full time care and attention as a carer is awarded credits on the same basis as if they were out of the workforce due to illness or unemployment. Under the current statutory provisions governing the award of credited contributions, recipients of the carer's allowance may be awarded credits if they switched to that payment from another credit-bearing payment such as jobseeker's allowance. From April 1999, formal provision was made for the award of credits to claimants of carer's allowance who have left insurable employment to engage in caring duties. People in receipt of carer's benefit or on care's leave are awarded credits at the same rate as their last paid contribution.

Recipients of carer's allowance, who are not entitled to credits, may be eligible for home-maker's disregards which preserve the carer's entitlement for contributory pension purposes. The home-maker scheme provides that years spent working in the home while caring on a full-time basis for a child up to 12 years of age or an incapacitated person will be disregarded in calculating a person's yearly average number of contributions for State Pension (contributory) purposes. The provisions apply from the contribution year commencing on 6 April 1994 and up to 20 contribution years may be disregarded.

The award of credits is subject to certain conditions. For example, when a person has no paid or credited contributions for a period of two years, they cannot be awarded further credits until a further 26 contributions are paid. In recognition of their caring role, this rule is waived where claimants of carer's allowance were eligible for home-makers disregards immediately prior to claiming carer's allowance. This, in effect, means that credits will be awarded where a person who has a gap of two years in their paid or credited contributions was eligible for home-makers disregards before claiming carer's allowance. This will protect the position of people who did not give up work to become carers but may have qualified for home-makers disregards due to child-minding duties and who subsequently became carers after a two year period had expired.

From June 2006 the number of hours a person can engage in employment, self employment, education or training outside the home and still be eligible for carer's allowance, carer's benefit and the respite care grant was increased from 10 to 15 hours per week. Where a carer remains in employment he or she will continue to pay the appropriate social insurance contribution. All aspects of the carer's allowance scheme and supports for carers are kept under review and ways of increasing and expanding services for carers will continue to be examined.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

322 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a copy of details of the programme of fraud and error survey on child benefit, undertaken in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10195/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

323 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a copy of details of the programme of fraud and error surveys on family income supplement undertaken in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10196/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

324 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a copy of details of the programme of fraud and error surveys on the disability allowance scheme undertaken in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10197/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

325 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a copy of details of the programme of fraud and errors survey on the public personal service number allocation process undertaken in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10198/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

326 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a copy of details of the programme of fraud and errors survey on illness benefit undertaken in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10199/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

327 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a copy of details of the programme of fraud and errors on non-contributory State pension undertaken in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10200/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

328 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will provide a copy of details of the programme of fraud and errors on one parent family cases that are administered through the local offices undertaken in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10201/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 322 to 328, inclusive, together.

The prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day-to-day work of my Department. A key objective of my Department's control strategy is to ensure that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time. My Department undertakes surveys of the levels of fraud and error as part of its control strategy to identify the types of claims which should be prioritised for review purposes. The Department is committed to undertaking at least two such surveys annually and these are done in accordance with the specific criteria, laid down by the C&AG, in a value for money report completed in 2003.

The criteria involved are as follows:

all cases for inclusion in the survey must be selected randomly from the population of cases in payment at a specific time

the sample size must be sufficiently large to yield reasonably reliable estimates

the reviews should be carried out quickly

the results of the survey should be capable of being audited

cases should be tested fully for all possible breaches of regulations

the monetary values of any changes as a result of the review together with the monetary value of the sample should be captured so that the results can be extrapolated to draw conclusions about the estimated value of the loss.

When a survey is completed the results are extrapolated and are used to provide the overall fraud and error rate in terms of the percentage of cases affected and the percentage of annual expenditure in the scheme attributed to fraud and error. The process involves Social Welfare Inspectors reviewing a random sample of cases, generally in the region of 1,000, to assess the underlying levels of fraud and error with action being taken by scheme managers to address the risks identified.

The results of surveys undertaken on Disability Allowance (DA); Family Income Supplement (FIS); Child Benefit (CB); Illness Benefit (IB); State Pension Non-Contributory (SPNC) are as set out in the following table:

Fraud

Error

Scheme

F&E as a % of annual expenditure

change in rate cases as a % of cases surveyed

% of Exp.

% cases

% of Exp.

% cases

DA

7

12.1

2.3

2.3

4.7

9.8

FIS

3.5

2.8

0.8

0.9

2.7

1.9

CB

1.66

2.3

1.66

2.3

Nil

Nil

IB

0.4

4.3

0.1

0.8

0.3

3.5

SPNC

1.9

17.2

Nil

Nil

1.9

17.2

In the case of child benefit the survey was undertaken in such a way as to identify the levels of fraud and error for Irish Nationals and non-Irish Nationals separately. In the case of 500 Irish Nationals surveyed, the extent of fraud that arose is 1.7% as compared to 13.9% in the case of 500 non-Irish Nationals surveyed, giving an overall level of fraud of 2.3% when weighted against the scheme client base.

The survey on OPF has not yet been completed. A survey was undertaken on the PPSN allocation process in 2006. The survey findings were based on four categories.

1. Pre-allocation fraud where the PPSN is improperly obtained using fraudulent documentation.

2. Post allocation fraud where the PPSN is used by someone other than the original applicant.

3. Data quality error which includes errors such as an incorrect date of birth, a misspelt name, nationality recorded incorrectly or incorrect gender.

4. Administrative errors which are errors in administration procedures such as failure to properly follow best practice such as witness signature not present, application date not recorded or first name insufficiently recorded.

An overall fraud rate of 1% was identified (pre-allocation fraud 0.5%, post allocation fraud 0.5%). This figure would indicate that fraud detection methods are effective. The survey identified a number of administrative issues that required attention. The Department has introduced a number of initiatives to address the data quality and the administrative errors highlighted from the survey. It should be noted that the administrative errors do not adversely affect either the efficacy of the application process or the resultant data held on the Department's records as the errors are classed as minor.

I am committed to ensuring that social welfare payments are available to those who are entitled to them. I am also determined to ensure that abuse of the system is prevented and is dealt with effectively when detected. In this regard the control programme of my Department is carefully monitored and the various measures are continuously refined to ensure that they remain effective.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joe McHugh

Question:

329 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there are plans to increase the cap of 15 hours for carers working with the elderly and people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10241/08]

Supporting and recognising carers in our society is, and has been, a priority of the Government since 1997. Over that period, weekly payment rates to carers have been greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have been significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit and the respite care grant have been introduced and extended.

One of the fundamental qualifying conditions for carer's allowance, carer's benefit and the respite care grant is that the person be providing full-time care and attention to a person who needs such care. The number of hours a person may engage in employment, self employment, training or education outside the home and still be considered to be providing full-time care and attention for the purposes of the schemes was increased from 10 to 15 hours per week in June 2006.

In 2005 the carer's allowance scheme was extended to accommodate care-sharing situations. Under these arrangements it is possible for week-on week-off care sharing arrangements to be facilitated. This means that where two carers are providing care to the same person on alternate weeks the carer's allowance and the annual respite care grant can be split between them.

I will keep the supports for carers available from my Department under review in order to continue to improve the schemes and ensure that commitments in relation to income support are delivered.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

330 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent on a sector (details supplied), giving details of expenditure in this sector by his Department in 2007 and to date in 2008 on a county basis. [10464/08]

My Department did not incur any expenditure due to archaeological works/survey in 2007 and to date in 2008.

Social Welfare Code.

Denis Naughten

Question:

331 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if under the social welfare rules the deceased person’s social welfare payment is payable for six weeks after death, if the next of kin is in receipt of the carer’s benefit; the specific definition in the regulations defining a carer; the plans he has to review this definition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10532/08]

Under the social welfare rules where a person in receipt of a payment dies, the payment may continue to the spouse or partner for a period of six weeks after death. The same applies where a person for whom an increase in payment is being made dies, for example, a spouse/partner or child. In these circumstances, that increase in payment continues to be paid to the main claimant for six weeks.

For persons in receipt of carer's allowance or carer's benefit, payment of the carer's allowance or carer's benefit continues to be made for a period of 6 weeks after the date of death of the care recipient. A bereavement grant may also be payable. However, where the carer is not the spouse or partner of the person who dies, they will receive only their carer's allowance or carer's benefit and not the deceased person's payment.

The definition of carer for the purposes of carer's allowance is set out in section 179 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. For the purposes of the scheme a carer is defined as:

(a) a person who resides with and provides full-time care and attention to a relevant person, or

(b) a person who, subject to the conditions and in the circumstances that may be prescribed, does not reside with but who provides full-time care and attention to a relevant person.

A "relevant person" means a person (other than a person in receipt of an increase of disablement pension under section 78 of 2005 Consolidation Act in respect of constant attendance) who has such a disability that he or she requires full-time care and attention, and who—

(a) has attained the age of 16 years, or

(b) is under the age of 16 years and is a person in respect of whom an allowance is paid for domiciliary care of children under section 61 of the Health Act 1970.

I have no plans to review this definition at present. However, I will keep the supports for carers from my Department under review in order to continue to improve the schemes and ensure commitments on income support are delivered.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

332 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of civil servants in his Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10604/08]

The number of civil servants in my Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007 was 1054, broken down as follows:

2005:164

2006: 640

2007: 250

Employee welfare is a high priority for my Department and stress management courses and talks, provided by the Department's Staff Development Unit and its Employee Assistance Service, form part of a range of activities undertaken by my Department under its programme of Health Promotion initiatives.

The Employee Assistance Service provides comprehensive information, advice, support and a referral service for a wide range of personal and work related problems. Other health promotion initiatives, including stress management and reduction, undertaken by the Department include: making available to all employees a subsidised comprehensive Health Screening programme in 2005; promotion of physical and mental health awareness through support for fund-raising events organised by organisations such as AWARE and the Irish Cancer Society; the circulation of information on the Nutrition and Health Foundation's Workplace Wellbeing Campaign and the provision of information leaflets on a range of health issues such as heart, blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition, my Department's HR intranet site provides access for all employees to a wide range of health and welfare information in electronic format.

Company Closures.

John O'Mahony

Question:

333 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans in co-operation with the Industrial Development Authority and Údarás Na Gaeltachta to find replacement jobs in County Mayo (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10203/08]

Statutory responsibility for the development of the economy of the Gaeltacht by promoting productive schemes of employment rests with Údarás na Gaeltachta. An tÚdarás has assured me that it is making every effort to find replacement jobs for the region in question, with the co-operation of the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland, as appropriate.

Community Development.

James Bannon

Question:

334 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the volume of paperwork demanded by Pobal as a requirement of maintaining the community services programme could be reduced, as not-for-profit tourist attractions (details supplied) in County Westmeath are being swamped by the amount of regulation and administration involved in running the organisation, at a time when the Government is expounding the benefits of volunteerism and community projects on the one hand, but compromising their endeavours on the other by excess red tape; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10128/08]

Pobal administers the Community Services Programme (CSP) on behalf of my Department. They assess all applications for funding and review the projects that receive grants. The assessment and review process carried out by Pobal ensures that reporting on the projects funded complies with the accountability requirements for public funds and has a genuine positive impact on the communities involved. As part of its role, Pobal also hosts information seminars and provides ongoing advice to groups applying to and involved in the CSP.

I have been concerned, however, to ensure that the Programme is administered in as simple and accessible a way as possible, while maintaining good practices. In this regard, I met with executives of Pobal recently and I asked them to review and, if necessary, amend procedures to minimise the administrative burden on community groups while maintaining accountability requirements. My Department will keep progress in relation to this matter under review on an ongoing basis.

Phil Hogan

Question:

335 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the rationale for withdrawing funding for the Framework Support Agency from 31 May 2008; the form of support that will be in place from 1 June 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10155/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to question number 433 on 19 February 2008.

Departmental Programmes.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

336 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is considering removing Leader funding from gateway towns; if he has examined the impact of such a move; the action he will take to ensure that those groups which benefited from Leader funding are able to obtain funding from alternative sources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10184/08]

The new Rural Development Programme for Ireland for the 2007 –13 round of structural funding was adopted at a meeting in Brussels on July 24 last. The new Programme will see an almost three-fold increase in funding available for LEADER-type activity in Ireland to €425.4m. Priority areas for development will be the small food producer sector, the ongoing development of the rural/agri-tourism sector and the implementation of the Countryside Recreation Strategy.

The urban areas defined as gateways and hubs, in the National Spatial Strategy, are not covered by the Rural Development Programme 2007–13. However, this approach was adopted following detailed negotiations with the European Commission and in my opinion is the best outcome we could have secured relating to coverage. It has had the effect of continuing the coverage of significant areas which otherwise would not receive funding if the initial Commission approach were adopted. In overall terms the level of investment resulting from the new Rural Development Programme will be a significant boost to the country as a whole.

Úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

337 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta ar chas an fochoiste aireachta le chéile a bunaíodh le moltaí an ‘Staidéar Teangeolaíochta ar Úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht’ a phlé, agus murar chas, cén uair a bheidh an chéad chruinniú ar siúl. [10253/08]

Tá an chéad chruinniú den choiste atá luaite ag an Teachta socraithe do 10 Aibreán 2008.

Departmental Programmes.

Niall Collins

Question:

338 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the remit of agencies (details supplied) will be extended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10363/08]

In relation to East Limerick, on the basis of proposals from the two companies referred to by the Deputy, Government agreed to extend the coverage areas of Ballyhoura Limited to include those areas previously serviced by Tipperary LEADER in Limerick.

Community Development.

Jack Wall

Question:

339 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason funding has been removed from Framework, the support agency for the various community development projects here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10365/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

340 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on a submission from a local development group (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10372/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 339 and 340 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to question number 433 on 19 February 2008.

National Drugs Strategy.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

341 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way local community groups can draw down funding from the additional €4 million for facilities for young people, which he announced on 3 March 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10410/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF), has until recently, focused on the 14 Local Drugs Task Force areas (12 in Dublin, Bray and Cork), as well as Limerick, Waterford, Carlow and Galway. Recently, I announced that I was expanding the Fund to four additional towns — Athlone, Dundalk, Wexford and Arklow — and arrangements to give effect to this expansion will be rolled out over the coming months.

The additional €4m funding I announced in early March relates to the original YPFSF areas. Applications for funding are made through the Development Group in the areas concerned who determines the suitability of proposals against priorities identified. Generally, the Development Group comprises representatives from the Drugs Task Force, the Local Authority and the VEC. The Development Groups have been invited to submit proposals for funding by 18 April next. The types of projects that may be funded include the building, upgrading, fit-out and refurbishment of youth and community facilities. The applications will be assessed by the Fund's National Assessment Committee against set criteria and I expect to be in a position to approve the projects recommended to me shortly thereafter.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

342 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of civil servants in his Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10596/08]

My Department's records indicate that 10 staff members received stress management training during the period in question. Each attended one-day training courses, which addressed, in a practical and participative manner, a variety of relevant issues. These included understanding the nature of stress, its causes, its impact, the triggers of stress in individuals and its positive and negative effects.

My Department has seen a positive impact from attendance at these courses. The individual staff members have benefited, in particular, from the stress management and elimination techniques learned. Furthermore, the courses covered a number of practical exercises for managing and eliminating stress. I understand that these exercises have been applied at work and have proved successful.

Fishing Industry Development.

John O'Mahony

Question:

343 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she has plans to introduce a scheme whereby her Department would buy out the tonnage owned by small fishermen and compensate them for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10172/08]

The Strategic plan for the Seafood Sector — Steering a New Course Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Irish Seafood Industry (the Cawley Report) — recognised the need for a targeted decommissioning scheme for vessels less than 18 metres in length. The report recommended that it would first be necessary for a comprehensive analysis of these vessels to be conducted to determine the eligibility, urgency, scope and cost of such a scheme. As this has been identified and recommended by the Cawley report such an analysis will be carried out in due course. The need for decommissioning of vessels greater then 18 metres in the whitefish fleet has been prioritised in the Cawley report and I have recently launched the new scheme. Closing date for applications for the decommissioning scheme is the 30 April 2008.

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

344 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a decision will be made on the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for the farm improvement scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10030/08]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Applications under this Scheme are being processed by my Department up to the level of funding provided for the Scheme in the 2006 partnership agreement, Towards 2016. The application concerned is, therefore, eligible for consideration and will be processed subject to funding still being available at that time.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Michael Creed

Question:

345 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the gross amount of CO2 equivalent absorbed or exchanged by agriculture under land use, land use change and forestry in 2006. [10095/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

346 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount of emissions associated with nitrogen loss through leaching and nitrogen loss through ammonia volatilisation in the national inventory system. [10096/08]

Michael Creed

Question:

347 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will publish a detailed breakdown of the amount of CO2 equivalent produced in 2006 by each sector of agriculture as defined in the national inventory that is fuel combustion, manure management, agricultural soils and so on; and the way these figures are computed. [10097/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 345 to 347, inclusive, together.

The compilation and publication of the annual inventories of greenhouse gas emissions is a matter in the first instance for the Environmental Protection Agency which performs the role of inventory agency in Ireland. The inventories are calculated in accordance with the Revised 1996 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Guidelines. The Agency submits annual reports outlining the emissions results from the inventory process to the EU and to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in accordance with reporting requirements. The 2008 National Inventory Report, outlining the emissions for 2006, will be submitted to the Commission shortly and will be published by the EPA after it is submitted to the UNFCCC on 15 April. The National Inventory Report gives a description of the input data, methodologies, emission factors, quality assurance and quality control procedures and other information underlying the inventory compilation for greenhouse gases and gives details of any recalculations of inventories previously submitted.

The following are the EPA's official figures in relation to the amount of CO2 equivalent produced and absorbed by agriculture in 2006:

Agriculture Sector kilotonnes CO2 equiv

2006

Fuel Combustion

861.5536

Enteric Fermentation

9,151.1644

Manure Management

2,632.6383

Agricultural Soils*

6,663.7145

Total

19,309.0708

Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry kilotonnes CO2 equiv

2006

Forest Land

-939.8736

Cropland

87.2649

Grassland

303.7649

Total

-548.8438

*Emissions from Nitrogen lost through leaching and ammonia volatilisation is included in Agricultural Soils category:

Emissions from N lost through leaching: 859.2 kt

Emissions from N lost through Ammonia volatilisation: 430.2 kt

Suckler Herd Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

348 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position in relation to the suckler herd scheme (detail supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10112/08]

The National Certificate in Agriculture is equivalent to the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) level 5. It is one level below the NFQ level 6 Agricultural qualification required to get an exemption from the Training measure under the Suckler Welfare Scheme.

It is important to bear in mind that the training required for the Suckler Welfare Scheme consists of no more than attending a single three-hour session. The farmer has two years to complete this training (before the end of 2009). The training session will be organised around a mart, a farm walk or other suitable venue that can cater for an exhibition of live animals. The venues will be spread throughout the entire country to cater for all those who have applied to join the scheme. It is expected that most of those farmers who qualify for the training exemption will opt to attend anyway because the training session will have all the latest information on breed improvement programmes as well as dealing with animal health and welfare issues for suckler farming. Veterinary and cattle breeding experts will be there on the day to discuss these issues with the farmers.

The use of the 35 years as the cut-off point is not regarded as a breach of the Equal Status Act. In any scheme where there is a concession given to young trained farmers, there has to be a cut-off age beyond which the exemption does not apply. In the case of the Suckler Welfare Scheme, the Department uses 35 years as the cut-off. This is in common with the age limit for a number of other schemes that have operated for many years e.g. the Installation Aid Scheme, the top-up for young trained farmers under the On–Farm Investment Schemes or the Stamp-duty relief for young trained farmers.

Farm Waste Management.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

349 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for the delay in payment of a farm waste management grant to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will confirm that payment will issue. [10158/08]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. Payment will be made by my Department to the person concerned shortly.

Afforestation Programme.

Ulick Burke

Question:

350 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has permission to fell trees. [10185/08]

There is no legal constraint on the felling of the trees in question.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Ulick Burke

Question:

351 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason the regional inspector confirmed a proposed 50% penalty in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Galway, when administrative procedure in the case has been in order. [10186/08]

The imposition of a 50% penalty for exceeding phosphorus limits was applied by the local inspector and confirmed by the regional inspector because the applicant had not notified my Department within 6 weeks, as required, of any necessary changes to his REPS plan based on the results of a soil analysis report.

Ulick Burke

Question:

352 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, further to her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 410 of 12 February 2008, which indicated a very high rate of appeals against AES inspectorate decisions in the REP scheme in the west region, she will investigate the matter; if she will provide details of this investigation to the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10187/08]

The AES west region has the highest number REPS participants in the country — 22.4% on average in 2006 and 2007. The number of REPS appeals received by the Agriculture Appeals Office for the region in 2006 and 2007 was 26.5%, on average, of the national total. The percentage of appeals fully allowed from this region, at 9%, was broadly similar for other regions. The percentage of participants to whom penalties were applied in the west region, at 3%, was in fact slightly below the national average. The application of sanctions under REPS in the west region is consistent with the standard applied in other regions.

Farm Improvement Scheme.

Michael Creed

Question:

353 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a decision will be made on an application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork under the farm improvement scheme. [10206/08]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Applications under this Scheme are being processed by my Department up to the level of funding provided for the Scheme in the 2006 partnership agreement, Towards 2016. The application concerned is, therefore, eligible for consideration and will be processed subject to funding still being available at that time.

Disposal of Animals.

Michael Ring

Question:

354 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was paid so little on the seizure of their stock, in view of the amount of stock removed from their farm. [10243/08]

The person named had 8 cattle and 34 sheep seized under Court Order. Of these, one of the cattle and 27 sheep were unidentified which rendered them unfit for slaughter for human consumption. Another of the cattle was also deemed unfit for slaughter for human consumption due to immaturity. All of these 29 animals were disposed of as unfit for human consumption and consequently, they did not have any value.

The remaining 6 cattle and 7 sheep were slaughtered for human consumption and realized a total gross value of €3,610.96. A number of haulier trips were necessary in the disposal of the animals incurring total expenses of €1,833.85. As stated in my reply of 19th February last on this matter, three cheques with a total value of €1,777.11 issued to the person named on 23rd January 2008 together with a statement detailing the gross amount, deductions and net amount.

Direct Payment Schemes.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

355 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will initiate a direct payment of €10 per ewe to sheep farmers here who are leaving the industry on a daily basis, whereby this payment would stop the exodus from the sheep industry and help to develop same into the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10247/08]

The possible re-introduction of the ewe premium is one of several recommendations made in a report by Liam Aylward, MEP, to the European Parliament on 25th February 2008, addressing issues in the sheep sector. The EU Council of Ministers will, at my request, discuss the development of the sheep sector at its next meeting on 17th March.

I am mindful of the challenges facing the sheep sector. The sheep sector is an important part of the overall agri-food sector and its future depends on its ability to meet the needs of the market. The Sheep Industry Strategy Development Group and the subsequent Implementation Group set the blueprint for the sector's future development. Most of the recommendations fall to be implemented by the industry itself but my Department and the state agencies under my aegis are also playing an active role. Under REPS 4, a new mixed grazing measure specially targeted at sheep farmers has been introduced and I am keeping developments in this measure under review.

The plans for the upgrading of a Sheep Genetic Improvement Programme have been advanced. The next stage of the process is to agree an interim structure and framework for a new breed improvement programme and extensive consultation with all stakeholders is planned in forthcoming months. My Department is taking the lead in arranging these consultations with the involvement of the farm bodies, pedigree breeders, Teagasc and ICBF. It is hoped that agreement can be reached and a new programme put in place for the 2008/2009 sheep breeding year.

Transparency on pricing is a prerequisite for efforts to improve quality and respond to the needs of the market. Farmer confidence in the pricing system operated by plants will be improved if mechanical grading can be introduced. My Department is facilitating trials on this that are set to begin later this month. Teagasc are making a very positive contribution as well and have developed a comprehensive plan to restructure their sheep support services, including a programme for Technology Evaluation and Transfer farms, which includes hill and lowland areas. This approach will provide an opportunity for developing a dialogue with sheep farmers about the application of the latest management practices to their enterprises and identify research and development needs.

The Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme was established in 2007. Bord Bia is also playing a prominent part. A total of 4,683 farms have been registered to date and 2,501 farm audits have been carried out. In 2007 the Department made available €0.4m to support inspections under the scheme and this funding will be repeated again in 2008 and 2009.

In addition to the measures being taken at producer and processor level, promotional efforts are very necessary. Bord Bia will continue to organise strategic marketing campaigns marketing in selected European markets. The downward trend in lamb consumption in certain markets presents a real challenge. To address this, Bord Bia is collaborating with its French and British counterparts on a 3 year generic lamb promotion on the very important French market to promote lamb to younger consumers.

Animal Diseases.

Mary White

Question:

356 Deputy Mary Alexandra White asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount her Department has spent annually in recent years on research and development of a vaccine against tuberculosis for badgers. [10310/08]

Mary White

Question:

357 Deputy Mary Alexandra White asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress that has been made on developing a vaccine against tuberculosis for badgers. [10311/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 356 and 357 together.

My Department is committed to a research programme aimed at the development of a vaccine for use in badgers since the mid 1990's. The programme involves collaboration with various bodies and in particular with the badger vaccine group based in UCD and we have committed significant resources to both staff and funding in this regard. From 2001 to date the average annual expenditure on the vaccine research has been in the region of €500,000.

The development and implementation of a vaccine strategy for use in badgers in Ireland is a key component of the strategy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis. The expectation is that, if badger vaccination is successful in preventing disease transmission between badgers and subsequently between badgers and cattle, the existing comprehensive control and surveillance programme for cattle will then be capable of dealing more effectively with the disease.

Work on the vaccine project to date has shown promising results. A suitable candidate vaccine has been identified and efficacy following oral delivery has been demonstrated in a laboratory environment. It is planned, in the next stage of the process, to commence a three to four year field trial on this orally delivered vaccine. The objective of the field trial is to provide information as to the efficacy of the vaccine in reducing the level of TB infection in the badger population under study. However, it will be some time before the benefits of the vaccine will become evident and the current badger removal policy is unlikely to be changed in the medium term.

Mary White

Question:

358 Deputy Mary Alexandra White asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in regard to the east Offaly badger research project 1988 to 1995, she will provide the number of badgers culled, the number of tuberculosis infected badgers culled, the herd numbers involved, the number of reactor cattle involved and the special veterinary measures, such as restrictions on cattle movements, taken during the project. [10312/08]

The East Offaly project, undertaken between 1989 and 1994 by my Department, was the first of a number of formal studies which demonstrated that a marked reduction in the levels of tuberculosis and a significant reduction in the risk of a herd experiencing a TB breakdown was observed when the local badger population was maintained at a low level. The total number of badgers culled under the project was 1,797. Of this number, 195 badgers were found to be tuberculosis infected on gross post-mortem examination. However, if current, more sensitive laboratory techniques were available at the time of the study it is estimated that the confirmation rate would increase by a multiple of between 2 and 3. The total number of herds involved in the project and control areas averaged 3,558 in each year of the study and the number of reactor cattle killed under the programme, averaged 893 per annum or almost 5,500 cattle over the six years. Reactor numbers (cattle) in the removal area fell progressively from a high of 362 in 1989 to just 30 in 1995.

There were no special veterinary measures taken in relation to the herds in the project area. Every herd in which TB was disclosed was restricted as required under the TB Eradication Programme and was subjected to the standard programme of testing before becoming eligible for de-restriction. The standard requirements of the TB Eradication Programme have continued to operate in the Project area as they have throughout the country.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

359 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when she communicated the change of payment timetable for REP schemes to the relevant farming organisations. [10414/08]

The farming organisations were made aware in December 2007 of the fact that the EU Regulations governing REPS 4 were likely to require a departure from the existing practice of paying REPS participants in full at the beginning of each contract year. My officials informed them that they were making every effort to persuade the Commission that the existing practice should continue for REPS 4. High-level contacts are ongoing with the Commission and I expect the matter to be clarified shortly.

In the course of discussions on the payment arrangements for REPS 4, the European Commission raised questions early in January 2008 about the established practice of paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers at the beginning of each contract year. I was informed of this and my officials and I immediately raised the matter with Commissioner Fischer Boel while my officials began to engage with their counterparts in the Commission services seeking to resolve the problem. These discussions brought confirmation from the Commission that the existing practice could continue and I very much appreciate the assistance of Commissioner Fischer Boel in ensuring this important outcome.

Tom Hayes

Question:

360 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when her attention was first drawn to the change of payment timetable for REP schemes. [10415/08]

The farming organisations were made aware in December 2007 of the fact that the EU Regulations governing REPS 4 were likely to require a departure from the existing practice of paying REPS participants in full at the beginning of each contract year. My officials informed them that they were making every effort to persuade the Commission that the existing practice should continue for REPS 4. High-level contacts are ongoing with the Commission and I expect the matter to be clarified shortly.

In the course of discussions on the payment arrangements for REPS 4, the European Commission raised questions early in January 2008 about the established practice of paying REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers at the beginning of each contract year. I was informed of this and my officials and I immediately raised the matter with Commissioner Fischer Boel while my officials began to engage with their counterparts in the Commission services seeking to resolve the problem. These discussions brought confirmation from the Commission that the existing practice could continue and I very much appreciate the assistance of Commissioner Fischer Boel in ensuring this important outcome.

Grant Payments.

John O'Mahony

Question:

361 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if all payments under REP schemes one, two and three due to farmers in County Mayo are paid to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10446/08]

There are no active contracts remaining in REPS 1. Valid payment applications in REPS 2 and REPS 3 approved up to 3 March have been scheduled for payment. The failure to supply training certificates or soil samples and the need to clarify apparent discrepancies in area are the main reasons why payment applications cannot be processed.

Michael Lowry

Question:

362 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a delayed extensification grant from 2003 will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10497/08]

Under the 2002 Extensification Premium Scheme, applicants qualified for the higher rate of premium where the stocking density of their holding was found to be less than 1.4 livestock units per hectare; where the stocking density was found to be 1.4 livestock units per hectare or higher, but less than 1.8 livestock units per hectare, the applicant qualified for the lower rate of Extensification Premium. An application under the 2002 Area Aid Scheme was received from the person named on 9 May 2002. This application listed a new land parcel, with a gross area of 17.40 hectare and a net area, declared by the person named, of 16.50 hectares. Following initial processing of this application, an issue arose in relation to a dual claim in respect of a portion of this parcel; however, this matter was subsequently resolved.

The Extensification Premium calculation, based on the five Census dates during 2002 and a net area of 153.24 hectares, qualified the person named for the lower rate of Extensification Premium, with a stocking density of 1.58 livestock units per hectare. Payment of this Premium issued to the person named on 26 June 2003. The payable order in question was cashed on 8 July 2003. A re-calculation of the stocking density for 2002, allowing the full benefit of the net area declared by the person named for the parcel in question of 16.50 hectares, based on the five 2002 Census dates, shows a stocking density of 1.56 livestock units per hectare i.e. qualifying for the lower rate of Extensification Premium. Therefore it can be seen that the applicant was paid the maximum amount allowable under the scheme.

The person named made a successful application under the Force Majeure/exceptional circumstances provisions of the Single Payment Scheme, seeking to have 2002 excluded for the calculations of his entitlements; his Single Payment Scheme entitlements were, therefore, calculated only on the years 2000 and 2001.

Farm Waste Management.

Ulick Burke

Question:

363 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on allowing applicants under the farm waste scheme, who have made applications within the proper time limits but did not have planning permission within the appropriate time scale, to be accepted into the scheme as they have invested substantial capital in preparing the application; and if she will allow these applicants to participate in the scheme. [10541/08]

The revised Farm Waste Management Scheme introduced in March 2006 in order to assist farmers meet the additional requirements of the Nitrates Directive closed for new applications at end-December 2006. Farmers who had not submitted a complete application by that date had until 29 June 2007 to submit all required drawings, etc., including confirmation that planning permission had been applied for where such was required. I have no plans to amend these deadlines.

Departmental Staff.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

364 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of civil servants in her Department who have attended courses on stress management in the workplace between 2005 and 2007; if stress reduction procedures have been put in place arising from attendance at such courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10593/08]

In the interest of staff safety and welfare, my Department offers Stress Management training for all staff wishing to avail of it. In 2005 one hundred and nine staff attended a stress management course. In 2006 twenty-eight staff attended a stress management course. In 2007 seventy-three staff attended a stress management course. The Department has three trained Employee Assistance Officers available to staff to discuss and advise on a range of welfare issue, including stress.

School Funding.

Willie Penrose

Question:

365 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by the primary management bodies in relation to the funding of primary schools; if, in this context she will consider their submission made by letter dated 29 February 2008 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10249/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

391 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science her views in relation to submissions (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10202/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

406 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10402/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

440 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received correspondence from an organisation (details supplied) in Dublin 12; her plans to address this issue in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10717/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 365, 391, 406 and 440 together.

I can confirm that I have recently received correspondence from An Taoiseach on behalf of the Primary Management Bodies in relation to primary school funding. It is a key priority for the Government to improve funding for the day-to-day running costs of schools. For that reason specific commitments in relation to improving school funding form a central part of the education provisions in the Programme for Government. These commitments are a direct follow on from the clear thrust of Government policy over recent years to improve the position of primary schools in particular. In 2008 alone my Department will be paying around €167m to primary schools to meet their day to day running costs. The improvements announced in the last budget mean that the combined day-to-day funding for primary schools will increase by €21 to €330 per pupil. As a result, a primary school with 300 pupils will receive almost €100,000 to meet their running costs.

The primary school capitation grant has been increased substantially in recent years. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from €57.14 per pupil to €178.58 from 1st January, 2008. This represents an increase of 212% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997. Furthermore enhanced rates of capitation funding are paid in respect of children with special educational needs who attend special schools or special classes attached to mainstream schools. The current rates range from €457.00 to €880 per pupil — an increase of 42% from the rate in 2006.

I agree that increases in primary capitation must be a priority and that is why we are committed to doubling it by 2012. This year, despite the overall difficult economic environment I delivered an increase of €15 per pupil on capitation levels in 2008. I want to assure the Deputy that this Government has a track record of significantly increasing funding for schools and we will continue to build on this and deliver on our Programme for Government commitment.

Property Transfers.

Joe Costello

Question:

366 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science the procedures and conditions under which the Dublin Institute of Technology lands will be vested in the Grangegorman Development Agency; and the timescale for finalising the vesting of the lands, in view of the fact that the master planners have been appointed and commenced work. [10015/08]

The Grangegorman Development Agency was established in May 2006. The remit of the Agency is to oversee the development of the lands at Grangegorman on behalf of the Departments of Education and Science, Health and Children, Dublin Institute of Technology and the Health Service Executive. Section 13 of the Grangegorman Development Agency Act 2005 provides for the transfer of ownership of lands and for the payment of considerations in relation to any lands transferring, subject to the consent of the relevant Ministers and approval of the Minister for Finance. Section 13 also provides that I must consult with the relevant statutory bodies and I have commenced this process in relation to both DIT and HSE lands.

Section 9(h) of the Act allows the Agency to commence an examination of titles to the relevant properties in preparation for vesting and the Agency has commenced this examination. As part of the Master Planning process the Agency will explore the optimum means and timing of disposing of the properties listed in Schedule 3 of the Act in order to ensure that maximum benefit will be accrued for the development of the Grangegorman site. The process of vesting of the properties will continue while the Strategic plan and budget is being prepared for submission.

School Accommodation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

367 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an issue in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [10017/08]

As part of the expansion of the Permanent Accommodation Scheme, a grant was approved for the school in question to provide 3 permanent classrooms. The Scheme allows Boards of Management to address their accommodation and building priorities with a guaranteed amount of funding and gives Boards control of their building project. The intention of the scheme is to provide funding to schools to enable them to undertake wanted building projects. The scheme is not intended to leave schools with significant fund-raising needs but for the school to tailor the scope of capital works commissioned to the available funding. A central tenet of the scheme is that the schools, granted discretion and funding, must equally accept responsibility for prioritisation, adherence to statutory regulations, control of costs and ensuring value for money. The decision on whether to continue participating in the scheme or to drop out, if the scope of build is more than the funding envelope permits, is a matter for each school authority.

In the event of unexpected additional costs arising such as difficult site works, planning permission conditions etc., a school may apply to my Department for additional funding.

Michael McGrath

Question:

368 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the appointment of a design team for a school extension (details supplied) in County Cork. [10020/08]

The progression of all large-scale building projects into architectural planning, including that referred to by the Deputy, is considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

369 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will respond to an urgent query from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10032/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special needs. SNAs are sanctioned specifically to assist in the care of pupils and students with disabilities in an educational context. The SENOs operate within the policy outlined in my Department's circular for allocating such support.

My officials have been in contact with the NCSE regarding the reference to special needs assistant support for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. The NCSE has confirmed that the SENO has not received a request for such support from the school. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

School Transport.

John McGuinness

Question:

370 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 502 of 27 June 2006, if school transport will be provided for this child in view of the special circumstances of the case. [10043/08]

The parents/guardians of the pupil referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied should liaise, in the first instance, with the local Special Education Needs Organiser (S.E.N.O.). The provision of school transport will be considered by my Department upon receipt of an application via the S.E.N.O.

Disadvantaged Status.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

371 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Laois can make an application for a review under the delivering equality of opportunity in schools having not been previously identified for inclusion in the programme; the way it can undertake the same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10045/08]

DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the new action plan for educational inclusion provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated School Support Programme (SSP). The DEIS plan states that as well as provision being made for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage, financial support will also continue to be provided for other primary schools where the level of disadvantage is more dispersed.

The process of identifying schools for participation in DEIS was managed by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) on behalf of my Department and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through the Department's regional offices and the inspectorate. As a result of the identification and review process, 873 schools have been included in the SSP under the DEIS initiative. These comprised 670 primary schools (338 urban schools and 332 rural schools) and 203 second-level schools. The next identification process is scheduled to be held in 2009/2010.

In the interim, the Department has put in place separate arrangements for new schools (including those created through amalgamation), which opened in 2005/2006 or thereafter up to the time of the next identification process in 2009/2010. The Department will also consider, during the course of the current year, the situation of schools located in certain communities that have experienced significant socioeconomic decline since the commencement of DEIS.

Schools Building Projects.

Billy Timmins

Question:

372 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow which has applied for large scale capital funding; if this will be sanctioned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10048/08]

All applications for large scale capital funding, including the application in question, are assessed against published prioritisation criteria and assigned a band rating. The progression of this project as with all large scale building projects, from initial design stage through to construction phase, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

373 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application from a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow which has applied for large scale capital funding; if same will be sanctioned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10051/08]

I assume the Deputy is referring to Scoil Mhuire. The development of a building project for the school in question from initial design stage through to construction phase, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Staffing.

Liz McManus

Question:

374 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow will be able to retain its teacher in September 2008 in view of the school enrolment numbers. [10052/08]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year. Data submitted to my Department by the Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy, indicates that the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2006 was 116 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0020/2007), which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2007/08 school year is a Principal and 4 mainstream class teachers.

According to data submitted to my Department by the Board of Management of the school, the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2007 was 100 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0010/2008), which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie and a hard copy of which is in the process of issue to all primary schools, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2008/09 school year will be a Principal and 3 mainstream class teachers.

Within the terms of the staffing arrangements for primary schools there is provision for additional posts, referred to as developing school posts, to be assigned to schools on the basis of projected enrolments for the next school year. Under these arrangements, a developing school post may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30th September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30th September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

An independent appeal board is now in place to decide on any appeals on mainstream staffing in primary schools. Details of the appeal procedure are outlined in the staffing schedule and also in Circular 0024/2007 (Appeal Board for Mainstream Staffing in Primary Schools) which is available on my Department's website. It is proposed that the first meeting of the Appeal Board will be held in May, 2008. Further meetings will be held in June and October, 2008. The closing dates for receipt of appeals are 9 May, 20 June and 10 October, 2008 respectively. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Schools Building Projects.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

375 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the grant application for a school (detail supplied) in Dublin 16 which was considered under the multi annual school building modernisation programme; the expected time scale to construction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10055/08]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application to my Department last October for additional classrooms/resource rooms and refurbishment of the existing school building. The progression of this project as with all large scale building projects, from initial design stage through to construction phase, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

376 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has granted permission to boards of management to seek an admittance fee from the parents of children seeking to register their children for the first time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10063/08]

It is a fundamental principle of the Free Post-Primary Education Scheme that schools participating in the scheme do not charge parents in respect of:

instruction in any subject of my Department's programme for Secondary Schools;

recreation or study facilities where all the pupils are expected to avail themselves of these as part of the school programme;

any other activities in which all pupils are required to take part.

Voluntary contributions by parents or charges for optional extras over and above what is provided for in the general school programme are permissible under the scheme, provided it is made absolutely clear to parents that there is no question of compulsion to pay, and, that in making a contribution, they are doing so of their own volition. Schools are allowed to charge a booking fee when considering applicants for enrolment, provided this is refundable following a decision on enrolment. Booking fees are sometimes required by schools in order to avoid "double booking" of pupils in schools that could result in the loss of teachers.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

377 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an application by a primary school (details supplied) in County Offaly for an extension; if the school will be included in the next programme of funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10104/08]

The proposed project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage. The further progression of the project will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Niall Collins

Question:

378 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason an application for funding from the dormant accounts fund for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal was refused. [10138/08]

Among the priority funding measures approved for support in 2006/2007 under the Educational Disadvantage category of the Dormant Account Fund and the RAPID Leverage Fund, was a scheme addressing educational infrastructure in disadvantaged schools. Eligibility for the scheme was restricted to primary and post primary schools participating in my Department's DEIS programme; schools in, or serving, RAPID areas; and special schools. The scheme consists of four measures and a number of sub-measures. The four measures are: (1) Outdoor Play Facilities; (2) Libraries; (3) Parent Rooms; and (4) Dining Areas. Eligible schools were allowed to submit prioritised proposals under each of the measures. Proposals were sought in respect of improvements to existing facilities (‘enhancements' or ‘non new-builds') and the development of new facilities (‘new-builds').

A total of €20.5m, (€14.5m from the Dormant Accounts and €6m from the RAPID Leverage Fund, which is administered by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs), has been made available to fund the scheme. The scheme was launched on 16th January 2007, with a closing date for applications of 1st March 2007. The scheme was very heavily over-subscribed with 2,271 individual project proposals submitted for funding. The total amount of grant aid sought greatly exceeded the funding available under the scheme.

In light of the very large number of project proposals received and the level of oversubscription the Dormant Accounts Fund Inter-departmental Committee Educational Disadvantage recommended that arrangements should be made to transfer some 300 new-build proposals, including the one referred to by the Deputy, to the Department's Planning and Building Unit for consideration for funding in the context of the Department's overall Schools Building and Modernisation Programme and available resources. Accordingly, these new build proposals have been transferred to the Planning and Building Unit. However, given the number of proposals and the scale of the Modernisation Programme assessing these applications will take some considerable time.

Schools Building Projects.

Niall Collins

Question:

379 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the tendering process with regard to a school (details supplied) in County Donegal. [10139/08]

A tender report for the project referred to by the Deputy is currently under examination by my Department. The contract for the project has not yet been awarded. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Schools Refurbishment.

Niall Collins

Question:

380 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Science if consideration will be given to an application by a school (details supplied) in County Donegal under the building programme for improvement works; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10140/08]

The school in question submitted an application under the Small Schools Scheme 2007 for additional accommodation/refurbishment. Due to the volume of applications received in my Department at the time it was not possible to allocate funding to all proposed projects and the application from this school was not successful.

Site Acquisitions.

Niall Collins

Question:

381 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of an application for a new school project at a school (details supplied) in County Donegal. [10141/08]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) who acts on behalf of my Department generally in the acquisition of sites for schools has been asked to source a suitable site for the school in question. A suitable site has been identified and the acquisition of same is at an advanced stage. The purchase of the site will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

382 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science the alternatives available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has been discouraged from taking a place in their local secondary school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10143/08]

My Department through the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) provides resources to schools to support students with special educational needs (SEN). It is open to schools, including the school in question, to submit an application to the local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) for such support where the school's existing resources cannot meet the needs of students with SEN. The school can then use its professional judgement to decide how this support is used to ensure that the student's needs are met. In some instances, schools may need to consider adapting the curriculum to facilitate a student's access. The school in question has the support of a psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and it is open to the school to seek advice from this service in the context of how it can facilitate the enrolment of students with SEN should it consider it needs such advice.

The parent may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's SEN, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie or by telephoning the NCSE at 046 9486400. I wish to advise the Deputy that the matter of the enrolment of a pupil in a school is a matter for the Board of Management of the school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment by schools. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld, the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil.

Brian Hayes

Question:

383 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will confirm that children with Downs syndrome are required by her Department to have professional assessments undertaken prior to entering mainstream primary education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10144/08]

Brian Hayes

Question:

384 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will confirm that where a recommendation has been made by clinical psychologists for specific resource teaching for children with Downs syndrome, her Department automatically responds to this recommendation; if her attention has been drawn to the cases within her Department where such recommendations have not been implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10145/08]

Brian Hayes

Question:

385 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will confirm that every child with Downs syndrome within mainstream primary school schooling has specific resource teaching hours; the number of children with Downs syndrome who are currently in a mainstream school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10146/08]

Billy Timmins

Question:

407 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the learning support and resource teacher allocation for Downs syndrome children in mainstream schools (details supplied); if she will review the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10405/08]

Brian Hayes

Question:

414 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children with Down’s syndrome who are currently in a mainstream classroom setting; her views on whether the general allocation model does not properly provide for specific help and resources to such children and that all children with Down’s syndrome require one to one education for a minimum of three hours per week, as a means of helping those children with their specific learning difficulties; and her position in relation to this matter. [10474/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 383 to 385, inclusive, 407 and 414 together.

As the Deputies are aware, my Department has put in place a range of teaching and care supports for children with special educational needs, including those with Down syndrome. The professionally-assessed needs of the individual child determine the appropriate model of response in each case. Children with Down syndrome are entitled to additional provision in school, either under the terms of the general allocation system for children with high incidence special needs or through an allocation of additional resources if the child is assessed as being within the low incidence category of special need. In circumstances where a Downs syndrome child has other associated needs and would fall into the low incidence disability categories, this may automatically attract an individual resource teaching allocation.

The number of additional teaching hours allocated would range from three to five hours per week depending on the pupil's special educational needs including the level of general learning disability. Applications for such support are made through the local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) by the school. The NCSE operates within the policy parameters outlined in my Department's circulars in allocating these supports.

The general allocation system for primary schools was put in place in September 2005, so that children with high incidence special needs such as mild general learning disability could get resource teaching support at school without the need for an individual assessment in each case. All schools have been allocated resource teaching hours, depending on their enrolment levels. It is a matter for each school to determine the pupils with high incidence special education and learning support needs that will receive this support. The school can then use its professional judgement to decide how these hours are divided among the pupils in the school, to ensure that all their needs are met. Research shows that some pupils with special needs will respond better with one-to-one tuition. Others, however, do better when taught in small groups.

When the general allocation model commenced, a commitment was made to review the model after three years of operation. This review will commence shortly. Information in relation to Down syndrome pupils in receipt of high incidence support is held locally by the individual schools and therefore details on the number of Down syndrome children in mainstream classroom settings is not available in my Department. I am satisfied that the mechanisms are in place to provide appropriate resources for children with special needs in our schools, including those with Downs syndrome.

Brian Hayes

Question:

386 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason her Department only provides a summer education programme, normally in July, to children with autism, but excludes other children with special needs, specifically those with Downs syndrome, ADHD or dyspraxia; if she will confirm that all special schools here have taken up the summer programme in recent years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10147/08]

My Department's support package for the July Education Programme is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism who choose to extend their education services through the month of July. The Department also provides for a July Programme for pupils with a severe/profound general learning disability. The package includes special nationally agreed rates of remuneration for teachers and special needs assistants involved in the July Programme. Participating schools also receive a special rate of capitation funding in respect of pupils participating in the programme. Funding is also available to facilitate the provision of school transport and escort services for the children.

All relevant schools are encouraged to participate in this initiative in the interest of the children in question. In the region of 80 schools participated in this scheme in 2007. If schools are not participating in the July Education Programme, home tuition may be offered as an alternative for the pupils who would normally attend such schools.

Brian Hayes

Question:

387 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the training special needs assistants have in respect of the provision of ABA within the new special classes that she is establishing here; if it is specifically referred to in their contract of employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10148/08]

The Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education have been working very hard to ensure that all autistic children have access to an education that is appropriate to their own individual needs. Whereas a few years ago, most parents of children with autism had no choice but to send them to a special school, now they have three distinct choices available to them. Their child can either attend a mainstream class in their local school with additional supports as required, they can attend a special class in a mainstream school or they can attend a special school. While some children with autism can thrive in a mainstream class, special classes have been specifically designed to meet the needs of those who require more intensive support.

Children in these classes benefit from having fully-qualified teachers who have access to training in a range of autism-specific interventions, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Teachers who are familiar with different methods, can tailor these to the needs of the individual child, rather than being limited by one approach. Children in mainstream schools also have the option where appropriate of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

SNA's attached to special classes for autism may access training through the Special Education Support Service (SESS). As part of the overall training plan, approaches for children with ASD, including the Applied Behaviour Analysis approach is included. All schools recognised by my Department are expected to enter into a contract of employment with SNAs recruited in their school. The contract of employment is a matter between the individual Board of Management and SNA. It is expected that the training needs of existing or newly recruited SNAs identified by a school for these classes can be addressed through the SESS.

Brian Hayes

Question:

388 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of parents her Department recently corresponded with in respect of a proposal from her Department to remove the home tuition grant while offering those parents a place for their child in the new special classes for children with autism that are being established or have been established; the number of the parents in question who have informed her that they are prepared to move their child to such classes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10149/08]

The Home tuition scheme provides funding to parents to provide education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting a suitable educational placement.

Home tuition funding cannot be provided indefinitely in respect of children who have school placements available to them. My Department has corresponded with 13 families for which a suitable place is available. The Department offered the home tuition grant at a reduced rate in order to facilitate the transitioning of the pupils concerned into mainstream and autism classes. To date, my Department has received confirmation that 5 families will accept this provision. The proposed transition arrangements are due to commence after the Easter Holidays.

Brian Hayes

Question:

389 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of the 270 special classes for children with autism which have been sanctioned by her Department currently open; when she expects the remaining number of classes to be open; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10150/08]

The Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education have been working very hard to ensure that all autistic children have access to an education that is appropriate to their own individual needs. Whereas a few years ago, most parents of children with autism had no choice but to send them to a special school, now they have three distinct choices available to them. Their child can either attend a mainstream class in their local school with additional supports as required, they can attend a special class in a mainstream school or they can attend a special school. While some children with autism can thrive in a mainstream class, special classes have been specifically designed to meet the needs of those who require more intensive support.

Children in these classes benefit from having fully-qualified teachers who have access to training in a range of autism-specific interventions, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Teachers who are familiar with different methods, can tailor these to the needs of the individual child, rather than being limited by one approach. Children in mainstream schools also have the option where appropriate of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

In excess of 275 autism-specific classes have now been approved around the country, at primary and post primary level by my Department in conjunction with the National Council Special Education (NCSE), while more are being set up as required. At primary level, there are a maximum of six children in each special class with a teacher and at least two special needs assistants. Extra assistants are provided where the children need them on a case by case basis. In addition, there are in the region of 2,100 children with autism who are receiving additional teaching and/or special needs assistant support in mainstream schools.

The National Council for Special Council will continue to establish additional autism classes where the need arises in both mainstream primary and post-primary schools. I understand that 5 of the classes sanctioned have yet to open and that the preparatory work is in progress to facilitate their opening.

School Curriculum.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

390 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science the time-scale for the implementation of the curricular change to meet skills needs and ensuring a broader range of educational opportunities for the increased numbers of students attending agricultural colleges as agreed in the programme for Government 2007 with the Agricultural Science Teachers Association; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10157/08]

The Programme for Government detailed the introduction of a new syllabus for Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science. Work on the revised syllabus for Agricultural Science has largely been completed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). However, the assessment arrangements for the revised syllabus have not yet been finalised as they will have to be considered in the context of the assessment of other senior cycle science subjects, including the introduction of a second assessment component.

Question No. 391 answered with Question No. 365.

State Examinations.

Richard Bruton

Question:

392 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is possible to submit a late entry for a repeat leaving certificate where the reason for not applying sooner was due to a genuine misunderstanding. [10217/08]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, including organising the holding of examinations and determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted. In view of this, I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Schools Building Projects.

Jack Wall

Question:

393 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the patron involved in an application by her to Athy Town Council to erect an eight classroom primary school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10220/08]

The process of securing a Patron for the new school referred to by the Deputy is ongoing within my Department. When the matter has been concluded, I will make an announcement at that time.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

394 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the application for an extension at a school (details supplied) in County Meath; and if the educational provision for students in the area will be assessed. [10226/08]

The development of a building project for the school referred to by the Deputy from initial design stage through to construction phase, as with all large scale building projects, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Accommodation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

395 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will sanction a new portacabin consisting of a classroom and new resource room for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry. [10227/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has recently approved grant-aid for the provision of temporary accommodation at the school in question. The school has been informed of the decision.

Early Childhood Education.

Brian Hayes

Question:

396 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are plans to recognise the pre-school education sector as part of the wider education system which comes under the remit of her Department, in order that pre-school teachers would be paid by the Government under fair salary scales representing their qualifications and experience; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10229/08]

As the Deputy may be aware, the vast majority of support for child-care, including pre-school education, is not provided by my Department, but is now provided by the Office of the Minister for Children under the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 which is the successor programme to the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme. There are no plans for the pre-school sector to come within the remit of my Department.

School Accommodation.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

397 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects her Department to reach a decision on the application by a school (details supplied); if the request will be treated with urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10367/08]

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

405 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 151 of 27 February 2008, the status of an application made in 2008 by a national school (details supplied) in County Cork for the provision of an additional temporary classroom to include bathroom facilities for the school year 2008/09; when she expects the application process to be completed; if she will confirm that this application will be approved in the very near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10397/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 397 and 405 together.

I am pleased to inform the Deputies that my Department has written recently to the school in question approving grant-aid for the provision of temporary accommodation to meet its needs.

School Services Staff.

Finian McGrath

Question:

398 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the issues raised in a query (details supplied). [10370/08]

My Department provides funding towards the cost of secretarial services in primary and secondary schools under two separate schemes. One is the 1978 scheme for the employment of school secretaries in primary and secondary schools under which my Department meets the full cost of salary. The 1978 scheme is being phased out as posts become vacant and no new posts are being created.

The 1978 scheme has been superseded by a more extensive school support grant scheme towards the funding of ancillary services in schools including secretarial services. The scheme is flexible in nature giving Boards of Management and schools discretion as to the manner in which these services are provided. The terms and conditions of employment are matters for agreement between the employee and the authorities of each school. The Department does not stipulate any rules concerning how the secretarial services are to be obtained by schools. Accordingly the arrangements are suited to local needs and are not standard across the sector.

There have been significant improvements in recent years in the level of funding for primary and voluntary secondary schools. With effect from January 2008, the standard per capita grant for voluntary secondary schools was increased by €15 per pupil and now amounts to €331 per pupil. In addition, these schools have benefited by the increase of €15 per pupil in 2008 in the support services grant bringing that grant to €204 per pupil. The cumulative increase of €30 per pupil in a voluntary secondary school brings the aggregate grant to €535 per pupil. These grants are in addition to the per capita funding of up to €40,000 per school that is also provided by my Department to secondary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services. For example in the case of a secondary school with 500 pupils, this brings annual grants towards general expenses and support service to over €300,000.

Budget allocations for schools in the Community and Comprehensive school sector and the VEC sector are increased on a pro rata basis with increases in the per capita grant. All schools are eligible for recurrent per capita grants towards special classes and curricular support grants. The Deputy should also note that the primary school capitation grant has been increased substantially in recent years. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from €57.14 per pupil to €178.58 with effect from 1st January, 2008. This represents an increase of 212% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 1997. Enhanced rates of capitation funding are paid in respect of children with special educational needs who attend special schools or special classes attached to mainstream schools. The current rates range from €457 to €880 per pupil.

The capitation grant is in addition to the Ancillary Services Grant which provides additional funding for primary schools towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services. The standard rate of grant per pupil under the scheme was increased from €102 per pupil in 2002 to the current rate of €151.50 per pupil. The provision that I have made for these significant increases in the funding of primary and post primary schools is a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Breen

Question:

399 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans regarding the future of applied behavioural analysis schools; if recognition for further ABA schools will be permitted; the criteria that will apply; if funding will be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10374/08]

Pat Breen

Question:

400 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will support the development of a new ABA school in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10381/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 399 and 400 together.

The Department of Education and the National Council for Special Education have been working very hard to ensure that all autistic children have access to an education that is appropriate to their own individual needs. Whereas a few years ago, most parents of children with autism had no choice but to send them to a special school, now they have three distinct choices available to them. Their child can either attend a mainstream class in their local school with additional supports as required, they can attend a special class in a mainstream school or they can attend a special school. While some children with autism can thrive in a mainstream class, special classes have been specifically designed to meet the needs of those who require more intensive support.

Children in these classes benefit from having fully-qualified teachers who have access to training in a range of autism-specific interventions, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Teachers who are familiar with different methods, can tailor these to the needs of the individual child, rather than being limited by one approach. Children in mainstream schools also have the option where appropriate of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

In excess of 275 autism-specific classes have now been approved around the country, 9 of which are in Clare, at primary and post primary level by my Department in conjunction with National Council Special Education (NCSE), while more are being set up as required. At primary level there are a maximum of six children in each special class with a teacher and at least two special needs assistants. Extra assistants are provided where the children need them on a case by case basis. In addition, there are in the region of 2,100 children with autism who are receiving additional teaching and/or special needs assistant support in mainstream schools.

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government commits to the long-term funding for the centres that are currently in the ABA pilot programme, subject to agreement with my Department on standards, including qualifications, that will enable them to be supported as primary schools for children with autism. I am pleased to advise that the issue is being actively progressed and officials from my Department have met with the Irish Autism Action group on several occasions to advance the matter. My Department received an application from a group in Co. Clare to participate in this pilot programme which was established in the absence of a network of special classes that now exist in our schools. Given that this network of special classes is now in place, there is now adequate provision for County Clare. We are determined instead to ensure that each child has access to the autism-specific education that is now being made available in schools throughout the country.

Schools Building Projects.

Timmy Dooley

Question:

401 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of a school (details supplied) in County Clare on the building programme. [10383/08]

The appointment of a Design Team for the project referred to by the deputy has not yet been completed. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme

Finian McGrath

Question:

402 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will support a project (details supplied) in County Mayo. [10384/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The progression of all large scale building projects, including the this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael Kennedy

Question:

403 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on setting up research groups or task forces to carry out research on best practice and the latest developments in the teaching of autistic children in Europe and the USA; if she will invite representation onto these research groups from ABA groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10390/08]

My Department's policy on educating children with autism is an inclusive policy of all autism specific interventions including TEACCH, PECs and Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) to ensure that each child can draw down from a number of different approaches to ensure the optimum individualised educational programme for him/her. It draws on the strengths of teachers who are trained in educating and developing children generally and who are given additional training in autism-specific approaches. It ensures that children with autism have the best opportunity to be either partially or fully integrated into mainstream settings and be educated in the community along with their siblings, while at the same time offering autism-specific individual programmes and supports for each child. Educational intervention for children with ASD needs to be child-centred and individual — tailored to meet the needs of each child — rather than matching the needs of a child to one particular version of one intervention.

The Department's approach and policy is based on advice received from international experts on autism; NEPS; the Inspectorate; an analysis of research including that supplied by the IAA; and the report of the Irish Task Force on Autism. Advice was sought from international experts on research provided by the Irish Autism Action group and other research on educational interventions for children with autistic spectrum disorders and it is clear that this research does not support the exclusive usage of ABA or indeed the exclusive use of any other approach, as a basis for national educational provision for ASD children. It is for this reason that the Department's preferred policy is for a child centred approach where the approach to be taken is based on the individual child's needs. It is also important to bear in mind that school-based provision is being put in place throughout the country that will be in a position to provide for future cohorts of children and respond to their individual needs.

My Department remains willing to review and consider any further research as and when it becomes available. I have no immediate plans to set up research groups or task forces to carry out research as described by the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects.

Finian McGrath

Question:

404 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will support a project (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [10396/08]

The architectural planning of the building project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage. The progression of all major projects to tender and construction, including this project, will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Departments Multi Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Question No. 405 answered with Question No. 397.
Question No. 406 answered with Question No. 365.
Question No. 407 answered with Question No. 383.

School Accommodation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

408 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will respond to a query in relation to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [10416/08]

The school to which the Deputy refers opened in temporary accommodation last September pending the refurbishment of accommodation which will act as a permanent home for the school. Costings have been submitted for the refurbishment works in question. Contact will be made with the school authority via the V.E.C., which is the client for the project, as soon as a decision has been taken on the costings.

Psychological Service.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

409 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the number of posts currently vacant or not filled by psychologists on the National Educational Psychological Service panel to undertake psychological assessments of students; the fee or payment arrangements that have been set in place by her Department for the delivery of this service; the mechanism or procedure through which her Department decided upon this sum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10428/08]

As the Deputy will be aware all primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. Under the scheme schools are allowed annual access to the scheme at a level commensurate with 2% of school enrolment. The SCPA was established in 2001 and the panel set up which currently has 141 psychologists listed. I assume that this is the panel to which the Deputy refers in his question.

The panel is maintained by NEPS on the basis of applications submitted by any psychologist in private practice who wishes to participate in the scheme who (1) is a members of their professional association and (2) has relevant experience in the individual assessment of children. Panellists also undergo normal vetting procedures by An Garda Síochána. There is no specific quota of participants for the panel and therefore there are no vacancies thereon. The fee payable in respect of assessments undertaken in this regard is €330 and was set at this level to reflect an emolument which would be sufficient to the needs of the scheme.

I can inform the Deputy for his information that during the 2006/07 academic year some 4,426 assessments, a 10% increase on the previous year, were carried out under the scheme and paid for by my Department at a cost of approximately €1.46m. In 2007/08 to the end of January claims for some 1,935 assessments have been processed under the scheme, this figure is well in line with the number processed in this period of the preceding year. The matter of the level of the fee per assessment is being kept under on-going review to ensure that it remains sufficient to service the needs of schools.

Schools Building Projects.

John O'Mahony

Question:

410 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which the placing of a school on the schools building programme is determined; the procedures followed in this regard; the personnel involved in these decisions; her role and that of Members of Dáil Éireann; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10448/08]

The priority rating of each individual building project is established in accordance with the Criteria for Prioritising Large Scale Projects (Primary and Post-primary) which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie. In accordance with the criteria set down, each project is allocated to an appropriate priority band rating on the basis of objective criteria. A review of the criteria for prioritising large-scale projects was undertaken in consultation with the Education Partners in early 2004 to ensure that the criteria have the optimum precision and are fully tuned to meeting the priority accommodation needs of primary and post-primary schools. In general the feedback from the Education Partners to the review has been positive. The revised criteria have been seen as bringing greater clarity and focus to the system. The amended criteria are applied to all projects that proceed to tender and construction.

The number of building projects under consideration can change on a day to day basis as new applications are received and existing applications are progressed in my Department. The Deputy will appreciate that this investment must continue to be targeted using the published prioritisation criteria. Details of projects to move forward under the programme will be published as and when they are ready to be advanced in the context of capital expenditure requirements.

Higher Education Grants.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

411 Deputy Beverley Flynn asked the Minister for Education and Science if a student (details supplied) in County Mayo who qualified for a third level grant for their fourth and final year in third level is entitled to apply retrospectively for the three years previous that they attended college. [10457/08]

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant assessing authority — i.e. the local authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is required. The closing date for receipt of grant applications in each academic year is the end of August, for the 2007/08 academic year the closing date was the 31st August The awarding bodies, at their own discretion, may accept applications after this date and treat such applications as if they were received on time.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

412 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent on a sector (details supplied), giving details of expenditure in this sector by her Departments in 2007 and to date in 2008 on a county basis. [10460/08]

Costs of archaeological surveys/works may arise in the case of specific building projects being progressed under my Department's School Building and Modernisation Programme. The costs involved are not recorded in my Department on a global basis; however, if the Deputy has a specific case in mind I will arrange to have the details forwarded to him.

Home Tuition.

Brian Hayes

Question:

413 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason, in view of the issue of her Department underpaying the home tuition grant to parents of children taught by qualified teachers at the ELI schools in Dublin, Wicklow and Galway for a number of years and further to her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 508 of 27 November 2007, her Department will not go through its records and issue payments to parents as all of the relevant documentation is within her Department instead of the option of getting parents to make claims where in many cases they are unable to find the teacher in question; and if she will resolve this matter. [10473/08]

The rates of pay applicable to home tuition tutors are based on the qualifications of the tutor. Therefore tutors fall into 2 categories for payment purposes i.e. primary and secondary in accordance with the appropriate part time rates of payment. A subdivision within the categories reflects whether the tutor is qualified or unqualified. Early intervention tutors are primary teachers and therefore paid at primary part time payment rates. My Department will consider any applications submitted by parents where they consider that an underpayment has occurred in the payment of the home tuition grant.

Question No. 414 answered with Question No. 383.

School Staffing.

Brian Hayes

Question:

415 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the names of primary schools in each county that will lose a teacher due to her Department’s failure to honour a commitment in the programme for Government to reduce the staffing schedule for 2008 and 2009 from 27 to 26 pupils. [10475/08]

Brian Hayes

Question:

416 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the names of primary schools in each county that will not be permitted to appoint a teacher that would otherwise have been entitled to do so had her Department honoured the commitment in the programme for Government to reduce the staffing schedule for 2008 and 2009 from 27 to 26 pupils. [10476/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 415 and 416 together.

The Department has published the staffing schedule for the 2008/2009 school year. Given the increased enrolments in primary schools generally, the application of the schedule is likely to result in an increase of over 600 mainstream teaching posts for primary schools in the next school year. Approximately 120 posts will be lost in schools that had less pupils enrolled on 30 September 2007 than on 30 September 2006. It should be noted that only 50 of these posts would have been retained by the schools concerned if the schedule had been reduced from a general rule of one classroom teacher for every 27 children to one for 26.

While the IT system used to determine the staffing entitlement of each school can identify the 120 posts referred to above, and can determine that only about 50 would have been retained if the schedule was adjusted, it cannot generate a specific list of the location of these 50 posts. Compiling this list would require an examination of each of the 120 posts, which would take an inordinate amount of administrative time. I would like to point out that the Government has made provision for approximately 1,200 extra primary and post-primary teachers to be appointed in the next school year. These include the net increase of circa 500 teachers referred to above and others who will be employed in special education and language support posts.

The Deputy will be aware that Budget 2008 provided €4.6 billion or €380 million extra for teacher pay and pensions. This is a very substantial level of additional investment in the current economic environment and reflects the huge improvements that have been made in school staffing in recent years. There are now 6,000 more primary school teachers than there were in 2002. With the extra teachers put in the current school year and those planned for 2008/09, we are ahead of target in relation to the Programme for Government commitment to hire 4,000 extra primary teachers between 2007 and 2012. Indeed, 2,000 of these will be in place by next Spring.

Over the lifetime of the Government, we are committed to providing more primary school teachers specifically to reduce class sizes. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children. An independent staffing appeals process is available to Boards of Management of individual schools. They can submit an appeal under certain criteria to an Appeal Board which was established to adjudicate on appeals on mainstream staffing allocations in primary schools. Details of the criteria and application dates for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Brian Hayes

Question:

417 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will commence section 30 of the Teaching Council Act 2001; and the arrangements she will put in place to ensure that schools have access to trained substitute teachers. [10477/08]

My Department is working closely with the Teaching Council to ensure that the Council is in a position to fully discharge the relevant functions of the Teaching Council Act in advance of the commencement of the corresponding sections of the Act. The remaining sections, including Section 30, will be commenced when it is feasible to do so. My Department continually monitors the situation in relation to retirements, demographics and the many other factors affecting supply and demand of teachers, in the light of system needs and available resources.

I am satisfied that my Department will take the necessary steps to enable the future demand and need for teachers to be met. The Deputy might be interested to note that, in this context, my Department approved an additional 210 places for the current intake to the Post graduate Diploma in Education (Primary), commencing February 2008.

Special Educational Needs.

Brian Hayes

Question:

418 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if a review of the general allocation model for special education posts in primary schools has commenced; and if so, when she expects such a review to be complete. [10478/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the general allocation model was introduced in primary schools in September 2005 to ensure that each school has learning support/resource teaching support available to meet the needs of children with high incidence special educational needs. When the model commenced, a commitment was given to carry out a review after three years of operation. It is intended that this review will commence at the end of this three year period.

School Staffing.

Brian Hayes

Question:

419 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has plans to change her Department’s instructions that principals should not be assigned to special education posts. [10479/08]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department's Circular 07/03, Appointments to Posts of Responsibility, outlines that due to the pivotal role of a Principal teacher in the overall management of a school, a Principal shall not undertake the duties of any type of a special education post. I have no plans to review this arrangement.

Schools Refurbishment.

Brian Hayes

Question:

420 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that have applied to her Department for emergency funding to date in 2008 to carry out urgent repairs and renovations on school buildings. [10480/08]