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 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Departmental Staff.

Seán Barrett

Question:

12 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Defence the number and percentage of each grade of civil servant within his Department who are work-sharing and e-working respectively; the number and percentage of each grade who have applied to participate in the term time scheme in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20009/08]

The number and percentage of Civil Servants who are worksharing in the Department of Defence are as follows.

Grade

Total Worksharing

% of Grade

%

Principal Officer

3

21

Higher Executive Officer

11

19

Executive Officer

22

25

Staff Officer

10

27

Clerical Officer

40

24

Services Attendant

1

50

The number and percentage of Civil Servants who applied to participate in the term time scheme in 2008 in the Department of Defence are as follows.

Grade

No. of Applications

% of Grade

%

Assistant Principal

1

3

Higher Executive Officer

2

3

Executive Officer

16

18

Staff Officer

4

11

Clerical Officer

20

12

My Department is fully supportive of work-sharing and family-friendly initiatives. Every effort is made to accommodate members of staff who wish to avail of such initiatives subject, of course, to the overriding consideration that the Department must be in a position to carry out its responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner. There are no civil servants in my Department currently availing of e-working.

Question No. 13 answered with Question No. 7.

Defence Forces Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

14 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has plans to increase the strength of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20203/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

230 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has plans to increase the strength of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, having particular regard to overseas commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20539/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 230 together.

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 set out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force as the strength sufficient to meet all foreseeable military requirements for the period comprehended by the White Paper (i.e. up to 2010). This remains the position. It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. This recruitment will continue to maintain the strength at the level set out in the White Paper.

The agreed Programme for Government provides for an additional provision of up to 350 troops to be in training at any given time. However, due primarily to the requirement to prioritise funding for the Chad mission, it has not been possible to provide funding to activate this provision in 2008. This matter will be further considered in the context of the 2009 Estimates. The White Paper on Defence provides for an allocation of up to 850 Permanent Defence Force personnel to be deployed overseas at any one time. While this may be exceeded for short periods, deployments above this level are not sustainable on an ongoing basis within existing resources. Any commitments to EU or UN missions will be met within this context.

Search and Rescue Service.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

15 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to promote greater cooperation and knowledge sharing between the Coast Guard, the Naval Service and the Air Corps. [20178/08]

The White Paper on Defence provides for a role for the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in relation to Search and Rescue. The commitment given in the agreed Programme for Government to promote greater cooperation and knowledge sharing between the Coast Guard, the Navy and Air Corps is to ensure that the waters surrounding this island are safe for seafarers and coastal communities. The Irish Coast Guard, has overall responsibility for the provision of maritime Search and Rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue region, for pollution and salvage response in the marine environment, and for marine safety awareness. The Naval Service and Air Corps provide support to the civil authorities in this regard as the need arises and within their available capability.

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

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

The Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service and the General Officer Commanding the Air Corps are represented on the Marine Emergency Advisory Group which is a high level committee chaired by the Director of the Irish Coast Guard. The role of this group is to assemble as a task force during major emergencies to advise on the appropriate response; to review and amend any plans in existence for dealing with marine emergencies in territorial waters and the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to approve new contingency plans; to consider the implications of any intended changes in equipment, deployment or organisation in any relevant agency in advance of such changes and to respond appropriately; and to exercise the authority to commit the resources of their own agency to the emergency response. The Naval Service and the Irish Coast Guard are represented on the National Maritime Security Committee chaired by Department of Transport which provides another useful forum for the exchange of experience and information between the Defence Forces and the civil authorities.

The Air Corps is represented on the Ireland Search and Rescue Region Aviation Forum, a working group chaired by the Irish Coast Guard which meets twice yearly to review the technical and operational aspects of marine training missions involving helicopter assets, to exchange information on new techniques and equipment, to explore areas of commonality, and to highlight and report on specific joint operational problems to the IMSAR Committee. I have recently approved the nomination of an Air Corps officer to the Irish Coast Guard Future Helicopter Study Group which is being established within the Department of Transport under the chair of the Director of the Coast Guard to define the specifications and contracting process for the future provision of marine emergency helicopter services for the Irish Coast Guard. I am satisfied with the progress that is being made in regard to promoting greater co-operation and knowledge sharing between the Naval Service, Air Corps and the Irish Coast Guard with regard to maritime safety.

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 6.

Departmental Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

17 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Defence the number of civil servants in his Department with a breakdown of their functions and responsibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19427/08]

The total number of Civil Servants in my Department is 385 (whole time equivalents). An outline of the functions and responsibilities of the various branches of the Department is set out as follows.

Minister's Office

The number of civil servants in this Office is 11.8.

The Office of the Minister of State

The number of civil servants in this Office is 2.

The Secretary General & Management Advisory Committee

The number of civil servants is 5.

International Security and Defence Policy Branch

International Security and Defence Policy Branch has 19.4 civil servants and is responsible for policy and administrative functions in relation to formulation and development of defence inputs to International Security and Defence Policy, the service of members of the Permanent Defence Force overseas with UN–led and UN–mandated missions, with the EU, with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to which the permanent Defence Forces contribute. Six staff members are based in Brussels.

Defence Forces Personnel Policy Branch

Defence Forces Personnel Policy Branch has 6.4 civil servants and is responsible for policy analysis and monitoring of human resource policy implementation in the Defence Forces. The Branch also liaises with the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces.

Litigation Branch

Litigation Branch has 14.4 civil servants and has responsibility for policy and management of civil legal claims arising from accidents or injuries to members of the Defence Forces, civilian employees, and civilians injured in road traffic accidents involving military vehicles. The Branch also manages judicial reviews involving the Minister and the Department.

Contracts Branch

Contracts Branch has 6.5 civil servants who provide a procurement function in relation to defensive equipment, building and engineering services and materials and certain Naval Service and Air Corps equipment and maintenance services.

Defence Forces Conciliation and Arbitration Branch

Defence Forces Conciliation and Arbitration Branch has 12 civil servants and is responsible for the administration of a Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) and for the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA).

Legislation Branch

Legislation Branch has 7 civil servants and is responsible for managing the Department's legislative function.

Executive Branch

Executive Branch has 10 civil servants and has policy and administrative functions in relation to many aspects of the roles performed by the Defence Forces, such as Air Corps and Naval Service involvement in air/sea rescue, provision of the Ministerial Air Transport Service, Naval service operations, including its involvement in marine protection and control, the Army Equitation School and domestic security including the provision of aid to the civil power (ATCP) by the Defence Forces.

Finance Branch

Finance Branch and Internal Audit Section has 143 civil servants and provides finance, accounting, payments and payroll services for the Department and Defence Forces. The Branch also administers all military pensions, legislation and schemes.

Internal Audit Section

Internal Audit has 13.5 civil servants and provides internal audit for the Department and the Defence Forces.

Human Resources Branch

Human Resources Branch has 80 civil servants and manages the HR function, Decentralisation, Accommodation, Training & Development for the Department and the Defence Forces' civilian employees. Service Officers, cleaners and other support staff are included in the staff of HR Branch.

Information Systems Branch

Information Systems Branch has 22 civil servants and provides Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services to the Department.

Office of Emergency Planning

The Office of Emergency Planning co-ordinates emergency planning across all Departments and public authorities involved in emergency planning. The Office has a staff of four (4) civil servants and two (2) military officers.

Planning and Organisation Branch

Planning and Organisation Branch has 7 civil servants and its function is to support the ongoing modernisation of the Department and the Defence Forces and to assist senior management and the Branches in implementing the modernisation agenda. It also manages the Department's Press and Information Office.

Property Management Branch

Property Management Branch has 21 civil servants and is responsible for managing the Department's property portfolio.

Defence Forces Promotions.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

18 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to develop the commissioning from the ranks programme. [20173/08]

Significant progress has been made recently in implementing schemes to enable more commissioning from the ranks. The revised cadetship competition is now seen as the primary means of commissioning from the ranks. The cadetship competition has been revised to increase the maximum entry age to 28 and to award bonus marks to candidates with previous experience in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) or Reserve Defence Force (RDF). Results for the 2006 and 2007 cadetship competitions were encouraging with a total of 23 applicants with military service in the Defence Forces being successful in the 2006 cadetship competition and a further 18 applicants with military service being successful in the 2007 cadetship competition.

In addition, in the past two years, 5 members of the Defence Forces were commissioned as officers from Direct Entry Competitions for appointments as Engineer Officers in the Corps of Engineers, Conductors in the Army School of Music and Aeronautical Engineer Officers in the Air Corps. Arrangements are currently being made to commission a further member of the Defence Forces to fill an additional Aeronautical Engineer Officer vacancy in the Air Corps. An internal Commissioning from the Ranks competition was held in June 2007. This competition provided an opportunity for enlisted personnel who have passed the cadet entry age to compete for entry on a potential Officers Course and ultimately, a commission. As a result of the competition a total of 24 applicants (23 males and 1 female) have been selected from the ranks of Junior and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and have been in training in the Cadet School in the Curragh since 30 July 2007. On successfully completing the course these enlisted personnel will be commissioned as officers of the Permanent Defence Force on 10 June 2008.

The Policy on the running of similar future competitions, to provide Non-Commissioned Officers with the opportunity of obtaining commissioned rank is being addressed. This issue is also included in the Defence Forces Modernisation Action Plan agreed under "Towards 2016". I have also asked the Chief of Staff for his views on the prospect of facilitating suitably qualified enlisted personnel to compete internally for technical/professional posts in the officer ranks in the future.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Pat Breen

Question:

19 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Defence when the recommendations of the Reserve Defence Forces review implementation plan in relation to the First Line Reserve will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20010/08]

The Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation plan provides for a phased approach to enhancing the capabilities of the Reserve over the period to the end of 2009. The introduction of new RDF organisational structures, the development of new training syllabi, improved equipment and clothing have successfully been delivered as part of phase 1 of the plan. Phase 2 of the Implementation plan is currently being implemented and a pilot scheme for the integrated Army Reserve is under way. A total of 180 personnel have completed the required training in 2007. In line with the Implementation plan timeframe, recommendations with respect to the First Line Reserve are to be brought forward during phase 2. Development of the First Line Reserve is also included in the Modernisation Agenda agreed with the Defence Forces Representative Associations in the context of Towards 2016 and will be advanced accordingly.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard Allen

Question:

20 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Defence the amount of free telephone call time that will be available to each of the Irish troops in Chad per month in order to enable them to communicate with their families here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20005/08]

I am very conscious of the commitment given by military personnel on overseas duty and the impact it has on their families and loved ones. Regular contact with home helps to sustain the high morale of military personnel serving overseas and facilitating communication with home is seen as a priority. In the normal course of events all personnel serving overseas are entitled to one free five minute phone call per month. Special arrangements are provided in relation to duration of calls for personnel serving on isolated missions or in places where there is no local telecommunications infrastructure. With regard to the mission to Chad 45 minutes free telephone call credit per tour of duty is provided to personnel on a four month or less tour. 90 minutes free telephone call credit per tour of duty is provided to personnel on a six month tour.

Defence Forces Medical Corps.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

21 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to develop the role and contribution of the medical corps and expand its capacity to deliver a range of medical facilities on UN mandated missions. [20172/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

27 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Defence his views on offering a rotation in the Defence Forces as part of the postgraduate medical training scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19426/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

30 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to making the Defence Forces medical corps more attractive to doctors in order that the critical shortage of doctors in the Defence Forces can be dealt with. [20148/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 27 and 30 together.

Military medical services and facilities exist to maintain the health of the Defence Forces and to support them in operational and overseas activities. The focus of the military medical service is on primary care, occupational medicine, acute trauma management, preventative medical programmes and field medical training. The challenges in the medical arena have been recognised for some time and a review of the provision of medical services, in association with the Representative Associations, is ongoing as part of the Modernisation Agenda for the Defence Forces. The scope of the review includes the level of service to be provided to members of the Defence Forces and the resources required for the delivery of that service.

The review has already produced a Patients Charter. The agreement on the Patients Charter identifies the rights of members of the Defence Forces as patients and their obligations as users of the Defence Forces medical services. It also identifies the obligation on the providers of the services. The implementation of the Patients Charter is under way. However, the full implementation of the Charter is clearly dependant on the resolution of the structural, resource and other challenges facing the Medical Corps. In view of the complexity of the challenge facing the Defence Forces in this area, I decided to engage consultants to make recommendations on the best means of meeting the medical requirements of the Defence Forces. The consultancy will focus on the sustainable provision of the relevant medical expertise and services to the Defence Forces. The Consultancy is expected to deliver the following items:

A review of the medical input required for the DF in the light of the roles and operations of the DF.

An assessment of the current arrangements for the provision of medical services.

A recommendation regarding sustainable future provision of the required medical input.

A work plan, outlining the main projects necessary, with timescales and a costing matrix for the implementation of recommendations.

It is expected a contract will be awarded shortly and I expect the report to be delivered before the end of the year. In relation to offering a rotation in the Defence Forces as part of post-graduate medical training scheme, I am open to any suggestion that will help to provide the medical resources required. I expect that this and other possibilities for dealing with the shortage of medical personnel will be taken into consideration by the consultants. However, I do not want to anticipate the analysis that will be undertaken.

The Consultants will also look at the career prospects being offered to young Doctors, opportunities for career development and membership of specialist registers. They will also examine the range of services required by the Defence Forces at home and overseas and for options on the most appropriate skill set and qualifications for sustainable future provision. I eagerly await receipt of the report and I can assure the House that following consideration of the recommendations I will publish the report and engage with all of the key stakeholders on the way ahead. The development of the Medical Corps forms part of the agreed programme for Government. This includes the expansion of the capacity of the Medical Corps to deliver a range of medical facilities on UN mandated missions. I am committed to providing a sustainable medical service to meet the needs of the Defence Forces both at home and abroad. Notwithstanding the current situation I can assure the House that Defence Forces personnel requiring medical treatment are getting the care they need.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

22 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the number recruited into the Reserve Defence Force since 1 January 2008; the number who have retired in that time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20159/08]

A breakdown of the number recruited into and discharged from the Reserve Defence Force since 1 January 2008 is in the form of a Tabular Statement. The Reserve Defence Force (RDF) comprises the Army Reserve and the Naval Service Reserve. As of 31 March 2008, the number serving in the Army Reserve is 7,948 and in the Naval Service Reserve is 317. The White Paper on Defence outlines the blueprint for the RDF. An Implementation Plan has been developed to realise the White Paper vision and is being rolled out over the period to end 2009. The RDF has already seen significant improvements in terms of organisation, clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. It is now structured along similar lines to the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and the development of the integrated element of the Reserve is in its second year. All of these developments enhance the capabilities of the Reserve as well as improving interoperability with the PDF.

Reserve Defence Force Recruitment and Discharge

1 January 2008-30 April 2008

Enlistments

Discharges

Male

Female

Total

Male

Female

Total

January 2008

58

25

83

96

14

110

February 2008

95

31

126

81

37

118

March 2008

98

19

117

108

49

157

April 2008

114

44

158

64

34

98

Total

365

119

484

349

134

483

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 6.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Willie Penrose

Question:

24 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to continue the ongoing policy of annual recruitment and maintain the present establishment. [20168/08]

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 set out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force as the strength sufficient to meet all foreseeable military requirements for the period comprehended by the White Paper (i.e. up to 2010). This remains the position. It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. This recruitment will continue to maintain the strength at the level set out in the White Paper. To date, in 2008, a total of 168 general service recruits have been enlisted and 1 Doctor has been appointed to the Permanent Defence Force. The agreed Programme for Government provides for an additional provision of up to 350 troops to be in training at any given time. However, due primarily to the requirement to prioritise funding for the Chad mission, it has not been possible to provide funding to activate this provision in 2008. This matter will be further considered in the context of the 2009 Estimates.

Commemorative Events.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

25 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence the centres that applied to his Department to have a Permanent Defence Forces presence at their 2008 St. Patrick’s Day parade; if he will list those that were refused and those agreed; the description of the presence in each of the successful centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20149/08]

The Permanent Defence Forces receive many requests each year to participate in St. Patrick's Day parades throughout the country. Every effort is made to accede to each request as participation in the various parades highlights the community profile of the Permanent Defence Forces. Regrettably, not all requests can be met in full and occasionally some have to be refused due to prior commitments, for operational reasons and scheduling difficulties. The following are the details of Permanent Defence Forces participation in parades on St. Patrick's Day of this year for which prior approval was sought through my Department.

Location

PDF Elements requested/acceded to

Approved/Refused

Longford

Pipers and Vehicles

Approved

Tullow

MOWAG APC requested

Refused

Balbriggan

Air Corps Flyover

Approved

New Ross

Air Corps Flyover

Refused

Slane

Air Corps Flyover

Approved

Mullingar

PDF marching Body and 2 tents

Approved

Newbridge

PDF Marching Body and vehicles

Approved

Monasterevin

PDF vehicles

Approved

Drogheda

Air Corps Flyover

Approved

Killaloe, Co Tipperary

Air Corps Flyover

Approved

Saggart. Co. Dublin

Air Corps Flyover

Approved

Banagher, Co. Offaly

Air Corps Flyover

Approved

Limerick

Air Corps Flyover, vehicles, weapons, Marching Bodies

Approved

Local arrangements are often made for smaller participation by units of the Permanent and Reserve Defence Forces; these have not been included in the above.

Civilianisation of Military Posts.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

26 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to fast track the civilianisation of all outstanding agreed posts. [20169/08]

Civilianisation was addressed in the "Review of Implementation of the White Paper on Defence", published in April 2007. The Review noted some areas where civilianisation of military posts had been successfully implemented in the past and recommended that further work be done in this area. Subsequent to the publication of the Review, civilianisation was incorporated into the "Pay Agreement and Modernisation Agenda" agreed with the Defence Forces Representative Associations in the context of the Towards 2016 Partnership Agreement. The matter is being progressed by the Department and the Military Authorities on the basis of the above developments and of the Programme for Government.

Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 21.
Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 7.

Military Neutrality.

Joe Costello

Question:

29 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence the effect the Lisbon treaty will have on Irish neutrality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20155/08]

The Lisbon Treaty will have no effect on Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality. As I have said on many occasions, Ireland's neutrality is in our hands and that is where it will be staying at all times. The Lisbon Treaty does not change or alter this position. The triple lock, requirement of Government decision, Dáil approval and UN authorisation for any overseas deployment of members of the Defence Forces, is also unaffected by the Lisbon Treaty.

The existing safeguards in the EU Treaties for Ireland's distinctive national approach are retained in the Lisbon Treaty. These include the general requirement for unanimity in relation to decision-making in the Common Foreign and Security Policy area, in particular with regard to the launch of any European Union crisis-management mission. No such mission can go ahead without our express approval. The Treaty of Lisbon states that the Union's policy in this area "shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States". This recognises and protects the position of Ireland.

As the Deputy will be aware, the proposed Constitutional amendment to allow the State ratify the Lisbon Treaty also confirms the prohibition on Ireland entering an EU common defence, unless the people of Ireland were to decide otherwise at some future point. As a result, any proposal relating to Ireland's participation in an EU common defence would require the express approval of the Irish people in a further referendum.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 21.

Interdepartmental Meetings.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

31 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Defence if he had recent discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform regarding the possible use of the Defence Forces under their ATCP commitment in cases of serious public order circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20251/08]

I have not had any discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on this matter.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

32 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure Irish troops have the most modern and effective range of protective equipment, weaponry and training available. [20176/08]

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

From the Army's perspective the major investment has been in the contracts for Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers. In the period from 2001 to 2007 the Defence Forces acquired a total of eighty Mowag APCs at a cost of €120m. The APCs have been used extensively on overseas service. Currently there are twenty-two APCs in Chad and nine in Kosovo. A tender competition has recently been initiated for the acquisition of Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles and tenders are due back in early July 2008. The intention is that the LTAV will complement the Mowag APCs in the conduct of conventional and Peace Support Operations and will fill a gap that exists between soft-skinned vehicles and the Mowags.

The proposal is to acquire an initial twenty-seven vehicles (17 for overseas mission and 10 at home for training). The tender competition will allow for two additional options, for another twenty-seven vehicles. There is a sum of €6m in this years Estimates provision as a down payment on an LTAV contract. In recent years, significant work has been carried out on the acquisition of an Integrated Protection and Load Carrying System for individual soldiers. This system includes Body Armour, Helmets, Back Packs (Rucksacks) and Battle Vests. 8000 units of Body Armour, 12,000 Helmets and 12,000 Rucksacks have been delivered in recent years at a combined total cost of €13.5m.

To complete the modern integrated protection and load carrying system, an order has been placed for the supply of 12,000 Battle Vests at a cost of some €2.2m. The Battle Vests are used for the carriage of essential items such as ammunition, personal radio, water and ancillary equipment. The order will be completed by the second half of 2008. Other equipment acquisitions for the Army in recent times, includes 400 General Purpose Machine guns acquired from FN Herstal in Belgium at a cost of €4.4m. A further 500 GPMGs have been ordered from FN Herstal for delivery late this year at a cost of €5.7m. In addition 1,400 pistols were purchased from Heckler and Koch to replace the FN 9mm Browning Automatic at a cost of €800,000.

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

Commemorative Events.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

33 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the all-party 1916 centenary commemoration committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20156/08]

An All-Party Consultation Group on the commemoration of the 1916 Rising was established in 2006. Following on from the General Election in 2007, the Group had to be re-constituted from the current Oireachtas membership. I wrote to all party leaders on the 17th January 2008, inviting them to nominate a representative to the Group. The nominations have been received and arrangements for the completion of the Consultation Group, including representation of Independent members, will be completed shortly.

Naval Service Vessels.

Joe Costello

Question:

34 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the replacement of three of the older Naval Service vessels between the present date and 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20157/08]

The Naval Service provides the maritime element of the Defence Forces and has a general responsibility to meet contingent and actual maritime defence requirements. In the 2000 White Paper on Defence, the Government decided that the Naval Service would be based on an 8-ship flotilla and committed to a modernisation and replacement strategy to maximise the operational capacity of those 8 vessels consistent with the roles assigned to the Naval Service. The White Paper specifically provides that "New vessels will be brought on stream to replace older ones as these fall due for replacement". Naval Service Vessels are replaced when they have come to the end of their useful life, which is normally around 30 years. Three ships will fall due for replacement over the next 3 to 5 years — LE Emer, commissioned in 1978, LE Aoife, commissioned in 1979 and LE Aisling, commissioned in 1980.

Following a detailed examination of the needs of the Naval Service within my Department a vessel replacement strategy for the Naval Service was put in place to cover the period up to 2012. The strategy combined with a continuous process of refurbishment will ensure that the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained at a very high level.

Following Government approval in July 2007 notice of a tender competition for the purchase of replacement vessels for the Naval Service was sent to the Official Journal of the European Union on 24 August 2007. The competition is for the purchase of two Offshore Patrol Vessels with an option of a third and one Extended Patrol Vessel with an option on a second. The options provide an effective value for money opportunity, at locked in prices, to provide replacements for Naval Service vessels which will reach the end of their service life in the years immediately following the current replacement programme. The competition uses a Restricted Procedure which comprises two stages — The first stage comprises a Request for Proposals and the second stage comprises an Invitation to Tender. The closing date for stage 1 was 26 October 2007. Evaluation of proposals has now been completed. The second stage of the competition for the OPV will proceed as planned in late May/early June with the issue of a detailed specification to those who have qualified. Tender evaluation will take place in July/August and it is intended to award a contract in late 2008.

In relation to the larger EPV, my Department intends to undertake further analysis of the proposals in relation to the EPV project before the second stage is initiated. Once this has been completed, my Department will review the matter with a view to initiating the second stage of the EPV competition, probably later in the Autumn. The vessels will, subject to Government approval on funding, be delivered on a phased basis between 2010 and 2012. The Government is committed to continuous investment in the equipment needs of the Naval Service to enable it to carry out the roles assigned to it.

White Paper on Defence.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

35 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to prepare a second White Paper on defence for the period 2011 to 2020. [20165/08]

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

A detailed review of White Paper implementation has been conducted and a report was published in April 2007 outlining the findings. The report found that substantial progress has been made. The many detailed recommendations for change that were laid out in the White Paper have been implemented or are being implemented according to agreed timetables. The report also concludes that all the detailed targets should be met within the time-frame of the White Paper i.e up to 2010. The Department of Defence and Defence Forces Strategy Statement 2008 — 2010 includes the commitment to prepare a new White Paper on Defence, in line with the Agreed Programme for Government. Work on this important project will be progressed over this period.

Departmental Programmes.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

36 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence if he will confirm that in view of the success of the USAC scheme, the scheme will continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18882/08]

All Army Officers, on commissioning after completion of Cadet Training, who meet the academic entry requirements for third level education, and who do not already hold a Level 7 Qualification, are eligible to participate in the USAC Scheme. The USAC Scheme permits such newly commissioned Officers to attend university on a full time basis as undergraduates for 3-4 years and to complete a primary (Bachelor's) degree. There are no plans to change this Scheme at present.

Defence Forces Strength.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

37 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Defence the number of females who are serving with the Defence Forces at present at various levels; the number that were recruited each year since 2005; the projected number for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20221/08]

Seven (7) females have been enlisted into the Permanent Defence Force to-date during 2008 out of a total intake of 169. It is not possible to project the number of females who might apply to enter the Defence Forces and who might succeed in that application. However, based on previous years, this figure might be expected to rise to fifty-five (55) by year end. A detailed breakdown of the number of females in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps by rank and the number of females that were recruited each year since 2005 are in the Tabular Statements.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. Female strength in the Permanent Defence Force has increased from 468 at the end of 2001 to 560 as at 19 May 2008. Unlike many other national armed forces, the Defence Forces have no restrictions as regards the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties. All promotions and career courses are open to both genders on merit.

Table 1: Female PDF Strength as at 19 May 2008

Service

Lt. Col.

Comdt.

Capt.

Lt.

Total Officers

CS

CQMS

Sgt.

Cpl.

Total NCOs

Pte.

Cadet

Total

Army

1

20

42

46

109

3

1

26

107

137

205

8

459

Air Corps

Nil

Nil

3

2

5

1

Nil

2

9

12

15

1

33

Naval Service

Nil

Nil

10

8

18

Nil

Nil

Nil

6

6

38

6

68

Total

1

20

55

56

132

4

1

28

122

155

258

15

560

Table 2: Female Enlistments 2005-2008

2005

Service

Cadet

Private

Officer

Total

Army

6

38

Nil

44

Air Corps

Nil

1

Nil

1

Naval Service

1

Nil

Nil

1

Total

7

39

Nil

46

2006

Services

Cadet

Private

Officer

Total

Army

7

36

1*

44

Air Corps

1

5

Nil

6

Naval Service

5

14

Nil

19

Total

13

55

1*

69

*Direct Entry.

2007

Service

Cadet

Private

Officer

Total

Army

8

24

2*

34

Air Corps

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Naval Serivce

1

8

Nil

9

Total

9

32

2*

43

*Direct Entry.

2008 to date

Service

Cadet

Private

Officer

Total

Army

Nil

6

Nil

6

Air Corps

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Naval Service

Nil

1

Nil

1

Total

Nil

7

Nil

7

Defence Forces Reserve.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

38 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to fully execute the Reserve Defence Forces implementation plan by the 2009 target. [20170/08]

The White Paper on Defence 2000 outlines the blueprint for the Reserve Defence Force (RDF). The Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan provides for the phased enhancement of Reserve capabilities over the period to the end of 2009. Revised organisation structures came into effect in October 2005. The Reserve has been re-organised along similar lines to the PDF with three brigades, a Reserve Defence Force Training Authority and a dedicated Naval Service Reserve. Improvements in clothing, equipment and training have been delivered. These factors were identified as being important issues for members of the Reserve, as well as being necessary to improve the overall capability of the Reserve.

In addition, the Plan provides for the development of an Integrated Army Reserve. A pilot scheme for the Integrated Reserve was run in 2007 and while numbers participating were small (180 completed training), very valuable lessons were learned. The Integrated Reserve will continue to be developed in 2008 in the light of experience gained in 2007. In line with the Implementation plan timeframe, recommendations with respect to the First Line Reserve are to be brought forward during phase 2. Development of the First Line Reserve is also included in the Modernisation Agenda agreed with the Defence Forces Representative Associations in the context of Towards 2016 and will be advanced accordingly.

While there are no plans for participation by members of the Reserve in overseas missions in the current year, it is hoped that a small number of Reservists may be available to serve overseas by the end of next year (2009). This is likely to be in specialised areas such as medical, transport, engineering and communications and information services. This will also be subject to personnel having suitable qualifications, their personal availability and appropriate training. In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, a publicity and awareness campaign to promote recruitment to the RDF is being prepared and will be carried out later in the year.

Overseas Missions.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

39 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on his talks with the Austrian Defence Minister, Mr. Norbert Darabos, regarding the involvement of both Ireland and Austria as neutral countries in the UN mission to Chad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20154/08]

On 24 April 2008, I met with Mr. Norbert Darabos, the Austrian Minister of Defence in Vienna. I was accompanied in the talks by the Secretary General of the Department of Defence, Michael Howard; the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lt Gen Dermot Earley; Assistant Secretary General, Ciaran Murphy; and Mr Frank Cogan, Irish Ambassador to Vienna.

A number of issues were discussed at our meeting including the situation in Kosovo and Chad, where both countries are involved in peacekeeping operations, as well as ESDP, Battlegroups and the Lisbon Treaty. Minister Darabos informed me that he had visited Chad two weeks before our meeting. Minister Darabos was accompanied on his visit by representatives from the Austrian Media. He stated that all concerned were reassured by what they saw of the Force on the ground despite the difficult operating environment. He welcomed the fact that the EUFOR Operation Commander (General Pat Nash) was from a fellow neutral country, Ireland, and that there was participation also by Sweden and Finland. The independence and multinational nature of the mission along with its humanitarian objectives were important issues for Austria. In addition, Minister Darabos was very impressed by what Gen Nash had achieved as Operation Commander.

I advised him that our preparations for the Defence Forces deployment in Chad were going well and that all 400 Irish troops would be in place by end-May. I also informed him that public opinion, in Ireland, was supportive of the mission, particularly in view of its humanitarian objectives, to support those fleeing from the conflict in Darfur and also the Internally Displaced Persons in Chad. We both agreed on the need to ensure that the UN would step in to provide the necessary continuity for EUFOR, which was essentially a bridging operation and also on the need to avoid "mission creep" both in terms of tasks and duration.

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 6.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

41 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on his briefing by the military in Kosovo regarding the situation on the ground since Kosovo became independent in February 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20153/08]

During my visit to Kosovo on 23rd April 2008, I visited the Irish Troops based there. I was given a comprehensive briefing by Brigadier General Gerry Hegarty, Commander Multinational Task Force (Centre). I also had meetings with:

Mr. Colm Ó Conaill, Political Adviser;

Mr. Joachim Rücker, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General (UNSRSG), and Head of the UN mission in Kosovo;

Deputy Prime Minister Kuci, and;

Major General Steltz, Deputy Commander, the International Security Force in Kosovo (KFOR) also briefed me on recent incidences in Kosovo.

General Steltz was highly complimentary of the quality of the Irish Contingent and of its contribution to the discharge of the KFOR mission. I was informed that following the declaration of independence by the Kosovo Government on 17 February 2008, the overall security situation continued to remain relatively calm in south Kosovo but still tense in the north. However, the situation is being monitored continuously. The Kosovo-Albanian's celebrations were peaceful and well managed. However, demonstrations continued in North Mitrovica, peaking on 17 March 2008 when UNMIK Police supported by KFOR intervened in order to remove and arrest the occupants of the courthouse in Mitrovica. In the clashes that followed, a number of UNMIK and KFOR personnel were injured and one (1) Ukrainian member of UNMIK died as a result of injuries sustained in an explosion. There has been no further violence in Mitrovica since 17 March 2008 and UNMIK Police has resumed normal duties in Mitrovica.

The situation in the Irish Area of Responsibility was described as calm and stable, though unpredictable. The threat of attacks on KFOR personnel was assessed as low. The Irish Defence Forces Personnel are equipped with the most modern and effective equipment. This equipment enables troops to carry out the mission assigned, as well as providing the required protection specific to the mission. I would like to assure the House that ongoing threat assessments are carried out in mission areas and we continually review both personal equipment and force assets, to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately equipped to fulfil their roles. No mission is without danger, but I am satisfied that all appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all Defence Forces personnel serving in KFOR.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

42 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to continue the ongoing policy of recruitment to the Reserve Defence Forces through regular and targeted recruitment campaigns. [20171/08]

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, a publicity and awareness campaign to promote recruitment to the Reserve Defence Forces is being prepared and will be carried out later in the year. The campaign is likely to include advertising in print, broadcast media and via the Internet. A Request for Tender issued in March 2008 and seven tenders have been received. The tenders are currently being evaluated and it is expected that the contract will be awarded shortly.

Air Corps Equipment.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

43 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the additions to the Air Corps fleet scheduled for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20158/08]

As Minister for Defence I am delighted with the level of investment in new equipment for the Air Corps in recent years.

The comprehensive investment programme included:

The delivery of eight Pilatus training aircraft at a total cost of €60m, inclusive of VAT.

Two light utility EC 135 helicopters acquired from Eurocopter S.A.S. at a cost of €12.8m, inclusive of VAT.

Six utility AW 139 helicopters acquired from the AgustaWestland at a cost of €75m inclusive of VAT, the final two of which are scheduled for delivery in 2008.

A major mid life upgrade on the two Casa maritime patrol aircraft, at a cost of €16.5m, is under way — work on the first aircraft was completed in 2007, work on the second aircraft will be completed in 2008.

The question of replacement of the Air Corps Cessna Fleet is under active consideration at present. The question of funding the replacement programme has to be considered in tandem with the overall equipment requirements of the Defence Forces generally and the funding available for same.

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 6.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

45 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if the Army Equitation School recruited the required number of grooms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20160/08]

The position is that the day to day administration of recruitment in the Defence Forces is the responsibility of the Chief of Staff. I am informed by the military authorities that the Army Equitation School has an establishment of thirty-four (34) other ranks and vacancies presently exist for two (2) Non-Commissioned Officers and ten (10) Privates (Grooms). The 2008 recruitment process is ongoing at this time. To date a total of 19 persons have been identified as suitable for the position of Private (Groom). Prior to enlistment all such persons undergo normal intake procedures i.e. medical screening, physical training test and Garda Síochána Security Clearance. On successful completion of the above procedures candidates are placed on a panel for enlistment in the Defence Forces as an Army Equitation School Private (Groom).

Defence Forces Property.

Willie Penrose

Question:

46 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure that investment in the Defence Forces continues to grow with the full commercial value of all defence property disposals to be received by his Department for investment in capital projects and new equipment. [20167/08]

The ongoing investment in modern equipment and facilities for the Defence Forces will continue in 2008, as will the major programme to provide modern accommodation for the Defence Forces, which has been ongoing over recent years. From the Army's perspective the major investment has been in the contracts for Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers. In the period from 2001 to 2007 the Defence Forces acquired a total of eighty Mowag APCs at a cost of €120m. The APCs have been used extensively on overseas service. Currently there are twenty-two APCs in Chad and nine in Kosovo. A tender competition has now been initiated for the acquisition of Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles, with tenders due back in early July 2008. There is a sum of €6m in this years Estimates provision as a down payment on an LTAV contract. There has also been a very comprehensive investment programme in new equipment for the Air Corps and a tender competition for a ships replacement programme for the Naval Service is well under way.

The Department's property portfolio is kept under on-going review. Properties deemed surplus to requirements are disposed of and the funds invested to meet the equipment and infrastructure needs of the Defence Forces. The total amount accrued from Department of Defence properties disposed of in 2007 was €1.6 million. However, proceeds from property sales in any particular year are not linked to any specific project.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

47 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to conduct regular reviews of the operation of the equality and anti-bullying measures in the military. [20177/08]

In accordance with the recommendations of the Independent Monitoring Group's report, "Response to the Challenge of a Workplace", a review group was established in February this year to review progress within the Defence Forces on the implementation of the recommendations of the original Doyle Report. The group is working under the chairmanship of Dr. Doyle and includes representatives of military management, PDFORRA, RACO and my Department. Three group meetings have been held to date along with a number of fact finding visits to military installations. It is expected that the report of the group will be completed before the end of the year.

Overseas Missions.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

48 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence the discussions he has had with the Department of Education and Science with a view to having Defence Forces personnel visiting schools to outline the peacekeeping role of the Defence Forces throughout the world; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20164/08]

I have had no specific discussions with the Department of Education and Science regarding the Defence Forces visiting schools. Defence Forces recruitment teams, on occasion, visit schools and third level institutions to provide briefings. These briefings include an explanation of the peacekeeping role of the Defence Forces throughout the world. The briefings also outline the Defence Forces involvement in previous UN missions as well as its participation in current missions.

Departmental Funding.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

49 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to provide annual subventions to support and encourage the work of the officially recognised veterans groups ONET and IUNVA. [20174/08]

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

The Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) was formed in 1990. Membership is available to those, both serving and retired, who have successfully completed a tour of duty with a UN Force or Organisation. Both associations are financed primarily through membership fees, voluntary contributions and fundraising. The Agreed Programme for Government of June 2007 commits to the provision of annual subventions to support ONET and IUNVA in their valuable work. I have decided that this can best be achieved through the payment of an annual grant-in-aid to both of these voluntary organisations. I recently announced that arrangements have now been put in place for ONET and IUNVA to receive an annual grant-in-aid from my Department. This year, ONET and IUNVA will receive €40,000 and €10,000 respectively. It is planned to increase these amounts in subsequent years in line with changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 6.

Commemorative Events.

Mary Upton

Question:

51 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to establish the General Post Office as a museum of celebration of Irish progress and achievement across a broad spectrum as a landmark 1916 centenary project. [20387/08]

The Office of Public Works is heading a project group, which is currently developing proposals for the refurbishment of the GPO. It is expected that the OPW will soon bring a project plan outlining the scope, plan and timetable to the Project Steering Group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach.

Mary Upton

Question:

52 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to advance the redevelopment of Glasnevin Cemetery as part of the preparations for the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [20390/08]

The refurbishment of Glasnevin Cemetery began last year and is being carried out by the Dublin Cemeteries Committee with the assistance of the Office of Public Works. The work is progressing well and extensive refurbishment of graves, monument and pathways has already taken place. As part of the work, construction of a new front entrance/visitor building will commence this year.

Mary Upton

Question:

53 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to restore 16 Moore Street and establish therein an interpretative centre, linked to the refurbished General Post Office to honour those who fought in the 1916 Rising. [20391/08]

It is understood that 16 Moore Street is owned by a development company (Chartered Land) and is included as part of a recent planning application which is currently being considered by Dublin City Council.

Architectural Heritage.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

54 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if there has been progress in relation to the reopening of negotiations for the purchase of a site from a college (details supplied) in County Kildare by the Office of Public Works to provide further facilities at Maynooth Castle, Maynooth, County Kildare. [20415/08]

The Office of Public Works has no plans at present to purchase additional lands adjoining Maynooth Castle.

EU Directives.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

55 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance the status of the EU payments services directive; if it will enable him to outlaw card payment surcharges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20512/08]

The Payment Services Directive (PSD) provides the necessary legal framework to support the development of the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA), a major payments industry initiative aimed at eliminating any remaining difference between domestic and cross-border payments within the eurozone. This Directive comes into effect on 1 November 2009. My Department is currently preparing legislation to apply the provisions of the PSD into Irish law. Stakeholders were invited to respond to a public consultation, which closed on the 16th May. Responses to that consultation are currently being studied in my Department.

Article 52(3) of the Directive prohibits payment service providers from preventing merchants applying a surcharge or offering a reduction for the use of a given payment instrument. This is to ensure that the costs of efficient and inefficient payment instruments are transparent. Otherwise, all consumers would bear the costs of inefficient payment instruments as merchants would pass on charges in the form of a generally higher price level. This Article does allow Member States to forbid or limit the right to request charges. However, this can only be done if two conditions are satisfied, namely, that such a measure is consistent with the need to encourage competition and promote use of efficient payment instruments.

In the context of its ongoing work on the transposition of the Directive my Department will be assessing the implications of Article 52 (3). It would, however, be a priority to ensure that the use of efficient payment instruments is not disadvantaged. As the Deputy will be aware, the greater use of more efficient electronic payments could yield significant competitive benefits to the Irish economy.

Tax Yield.

Michael Ring

Question:

56 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will quantify the total amount of tax forfeited by Revenue by virtue of the tax exemption on stud fees since this scheme was first introduced. [19592/08]

Section 35 of the Finance Act 2003 provided that details of exempt income from a number of sources, including from stallion and greyhound stud fees, would be returned to the Revenue Commissioners. This information was first included in personal income tax returns for the tax year 2004 filed in October and November 2005 and, in the case of companies, in corporation tax returns filed up to the end of 2005. The relevant information available is based on tax returns by individuals and companies of tax exempt profits, including distributions out of exempt income, from greyhound and stallion stud fees for the tax years 2004, 2005 and 2006. Before that taxpayers were not required to include such income in their tax returns and the information sought by the Deputy is therefore not available for Exchequer costs incurred prior to 2004.

Data for the tax year 2007 is not yet available as the income tax returns for that year are not due for filing until October 2008 (by 17th November 2008 in the case of returns filed via ROS) and the bulk of corresponding corporation tax returns are not due for filing until September 2008. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that based on the information that has been received and collated to date, a total of €29 million was included in the relevant returns for 2004 as profits or gains exempt under section 231 of the Taxes Consolidation Act in relation to stud fees. This figure would correspond to a maximum Exchequer cost of the order of €11 million in 2004, in terms of income tax and corporation tax forgone; however, the actual Exchequer cost in relation to the income declared to date could be lower, to the extent that the exempt income would be subject to deductions for allowable expenses and other costs, thereby reducing the level of income that is actually subject to tax.

Corresponding data available for the tax years 2005 and 2006 indicate that some €52 million and almost €91 million respectively was included in the relevant returns for those years as tax exempt profits or gains corresponding to maximum Exchequer costs of the order of €13 million for 2005 and €22.5 million for 2006. Such income will now be subject to tax from 31 July 2008. It should be noted that Revenue were concerned at preliminary indications that in some instances the new, separately categorised data on exempt income and property incentives may not have been correctly entered on the 2004 Income Tax returns. Revenue engaged with the tax practitioner bodies to draw attention to these deficiencies and to rectify them. Revenue also increased awareness among its own staff involved in processing tax returns of the need to ensure, through closer examination of the returns, that they were correctly completed.

Departmental Bodies.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

57 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if a review of the effectiveness of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority’s consumer protection role has been carried out; the findings of the review; the action he will take pursuant to the review; if not, if he plans to undertake such a review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20257/08]

I assume that the Deputy's question refers to the recommendation contained in the February 2006 report of the High Level Interdepartmental Committee established to examine the implementation of the Consumer Strategy Group (CSG) report. The Committee concluded that a review of the consumer protection role of the Financial Regulator should be commenced in three years time, as recommended by the CSG, (a period which corresponds to the first five years of its operation) and that all relevant stakeholders should be consulted as part of that review. My Department is currently finalising arrangements to commence the review this year in line with the timeframe identified in the Committee's report.

The Deputy may wish to note that some recent authoritative reviews have commented favourably on the consumer protection role of the Financial Regulator. For example the Comptroller and Auditor General's Value for Money report on the Financial Regulator published in July 2007 stated that since the establishment of the Financial Regulator in 2003, the Financial Regulator had made significant progress in developing a programme of actions aimed at achieving greater protection for consumers of financial services. The OECD Economic Survey of Ireland, published in April 2008, highlighted the introduction of the Financial Regulator's Consumer Protection Code (CPC), the Financial Regulator's Minimum Competency Requirements for persons who provide advice on or sell retail financial products, and the recent extension of the CPC to sub-prime lenders.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

58 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the statutory basis for the Rent 1 — claim for rent relief for private rented accommodation scheme application form; the statutory basis for requesting in this application form the landlord’s PPS number; if rent relief is refused where the landlord’s PPS number is not provided and cannot be traced by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20259/08]

Section 473(6)(a)(i) Taxes Consolidation Act (TCA) 1997 requires that a claim for rent relief is to be made in a form prescribed by the Revenue Commissioners. The prescribed form is the Form Rent 1. Section 473(6)(a)(i)(II) TCA 1997 states that the prescribed form signed by the claimant should contain the name, address and the tax reference number of the person entitled to the rent. Section 473(6)(b) provides that failure of the claimant (i.e. the tenant) to supply certain information, including the landlord's tax reference number, shall be grounds for refusal of the rent relief.

However, Section 473(6)(b)(i) TCA 1997 provides that the Revenue Commissioners may waive the requirement for a tenant to provide his or her landlord's tax reference number on receipt of satisfactory proof that the tenant's inability to provide such information is bona fide. On receipt of such satisfactory proof, the Revenue Commissioners will allow the rent relief. If the Deputy has a particular case in mind, my officials can pass on relevant details to the Revenue Commissioners for examination or further examination, as the case may be.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

59 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance his views on the introduction of a savings incentive scheme aimed at welfare dependant and low income families and based on their welfare payment to encourage saving and to reduce reliance on money lenders. [18623/08]

I assume the Deputy is suggesting the development of a savings scheme for low-income households similar to the SSIA scheme which has now concluded. As the Deputy knows, the SSIA was successful as a once-off initiative which helped to foster the savings habit across a wide range of social groups. I have no plans to re-introduce it at present.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

60 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Finance if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the tax payer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20274/08]

As a Minister I am provided with a Ministerial car. Ministerial cars are driven by members of the Garda Síochána. Under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993 such vehicles are exempt from tolls. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

61 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a P21 statement for 2007 will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20520/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a letter has issued to the taxpayer requesting the necessary information to enable them issue a form P21 balancing statement for 2007.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

62 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if a refund of tax on foot of rental accommodation is due in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20521/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of having received a claim for rent relief from the taxpayer in question. Form Rent 1 has now been sent to the taxpayer and, following receipt of the completed form, the claim will be processed and any refund of tax due will be made.

Public Play Facilities.

Mary Upton

Question:

63 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase the development of public play and recreation areas for children. [20400/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

77 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to invest in playgrounds here under the national play policy in order that every child in every community has a reasonable access to at least one modern playground. [20367/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 77 together.

Ready, Steady Play: A National Play Policy, which was published in 2004, provides a framework for the development of public play facilities in Ireland with the overall aim of ensuring that children have access to a range of quality play opportunities to enrich their childhood. While the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has an overall role in supporting implementation of the Play Policy, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the HSE retain responsibility for implementation of actions falling within their remit. Since the publication of the Play Policy, over €28m has been allocated to the provision of play facilities which has resulted in the development of an additional 300 play facilities throughout the country.

In addition to the development of these play facilities, up to €1 million has been allocated, via dormant accounts funding, for a Playbus Scheme. This measure is intended to provide interventions that support the family unit, by providing play development and parenting development outreach services to children and their parents, experiencing social exclusion in disadvantaged and isolated areas.

In addition to the Play Policy, Teenspace National Recreation Policy for Young People was launched in September 2007. The policy provides a strategic framework for the promotion of positive recreational opportunities aimed principally at young people aged 12 to 18. The policy adopts an evidence-based approach and makes proposals to address issues which emerged from a public consultation process which was undertaken by my Office and was also informed through the findings of independent research commissioned by my Office. In particular, this included places for young people to hang out with their friends, such as youth cafés. As the Deputy will be aware there are already a number of youth cafés in operation around the country. Funding for these existing initiatives is provided through a number of bodies including local City/County Council and Health Service Executive. The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs also operate a number of relevant funding programmes aimed at supporting community development, locally based community and voluntary groups as well as programmes aimed specifically at supporting projects for disadvantaged youth.

At this stage, my focus is to bring better coherence to the approach taken to date, retaining the strong inter-agency element and identifying an appropriate model(s) for youth cafés for future developments. Since September my office has undertaken a small survey of some of the existing cafés looking at mission/objectives, management and organisation, service levels and the role of young people. It also requested the National Children's Advisory Council's advice on the development of a youth café model and research work has been commissioned by the Council in this regard. I am anticipating the Council will be in a position to report to me shortly. This work will guide government in ensuring that funding is targeted and co-ordinated most effectively on a model or models of youth cafés which meet the needs identified by young people themselves. Discussions are also under way with my Cabinet colleagues regarding a youth café programme and appropriate funding mechanisms. I am considering which agency could best lead on the programme and how to ensure any funding which might be made available augments, without displacing, the existing inter-agency resources.

Sponsorship of Sporting Events.

Mary Upton

Question:

64 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to discuss the question of the sponsorship of sporting events by the alcohol industry with the aim of phasing it out. [20404/08]

In April of this year the Government decided to establish a Working Group to consider how the commitment in the Programme for Government is to be delivered. This Working Group will be established by my Department following consultation with other relevant Government Departments. On the basis of existing voluntary codes of practice, the Irish alcohol industry may not sponsor any sporting competitions, leagues, events or competitors where such events are designated specifically for participants under 18 years of age. I expect to launch Revised Voluntary Codes on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship shortly.

Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

65 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if the medical records of a person (details supplied) in County Cork were found amongst those recently uncovered in a landfill site at Glounthaune, County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20265/08]

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

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

66 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if she personally pays the toll charges incurred on her travels; if not, the cost to the tax payer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20276/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of an Garda Síochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under Section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

67 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11. [20281/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

68 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a service (details supplied) as a priority. [20282/08]

Finian McGrath

Question:

98 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a project (details supplied) in Dublin 22. [20516/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 98 together.

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 specific questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. 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.

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Question:

69 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [20289/08]

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

In general, eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The main exception is persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card. The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold. Under the assessment guidelines, persons whose weekly incomes are derived solely from Department of Social and Family Affairs payments and Health Service Executive (HSE) payments, even if these exceed the stated threshold, qualify for a medical card.

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

Hospital Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

70 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be called for a knee replacement to Cork University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20351/08]

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

Child Care Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

71 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made with the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure that every child has access to a pre-school place by 2012. [20357/08]

As the Deputy will be aware I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) which is the successor programme to the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) which concluded at the end of 2007. The NCIP has been allocated €575 million over 5 years, and is designed to deliver 50,000 additional child care places 10,000 of which will be for the 3 to 4 year old age group and 5,000 for school age children. The Programme which is Exchequer funded aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care supports and services which are grounded in an understanding of local needs.

Preliminary figures collated by Pobal indicate that, at the end of April this year, approximately 5,300 new pre-school places will be created under the NCIP capital funding committed to date. This figure represents 53.2% of the overall target figure for the programme and based on the amount of capital grant aid approved to date is a clear indication that the programme is on course to achieve its target of 10,000 new places. These places are in addition to almost 40,000 new child care places, of which a large number would be in the pre-school age cohort, that were delivered under the EOCP.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

72 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made with the commitment given in the programme for Government to create an extra 50,000 new child care places by 2010 through the investment of €1.3 billion provided for in the national development plan. [20358/08]

The commitment to create 50,000 new child care places by 2010 is being delivered under the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP), announced in Budget 2006. This is a successor programme to the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) and is designed to build on the achievements of the EOCP and provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care supports and services, grounded in identified local needs. Targets for the NCIP include the creation of an additional 10,000 new child care places for the 3 to 4 years age-group with an early childhood care and education focus and 5,000 places for children of school-age.

The total allocation to the Programme is €575m over five years, of which €358m is in respect of capital expenditure and €217m is in respect of current expenditure. Up to the end of April 2008, capital grants totalling almost €180m have been approved to child care providers under the NCIP. These approvals are expected to lead to the creation of almost 24,000 new child care places. These new places are in addition to the nearly 40,000 new child care places which were delivered under the EOCP.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

73 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made with the commitment given in the programme for Government to prioritise expansion of pre-school facilities for children with intellectual disabilities. [20360/08]

The commitment in the Programme for Government to which the Deputy refers is primarily a matter for the Department of Education and Science. That Department provides some pre-school provision for children with special educational needs through the visiting teacher service and, more recently, through the expansion of the home tuition scheme to provide funding for home programmes for pre-school children on the autistic spectrum. In addition, the Department of Education and Science funds 24 early intervention classes for children with autism — these classes are attached to mainstream schools. I understand that, under the Programme for Government, it is not envisaged that a formal network of pre-schools for children with disabilities will be established. Rather support will be provided, as necessary, to the parents and child with special educational needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

74 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made with the commitment given in the programme for Government to further invest in and support the roll-out of affordable school age child care. [20364/08]

As the Deputy will be aware I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP). The NCIP is the successor programme to the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) which concluded at the end of 2007. The NCIP has been allocated €575 million over 5 years, and is designed to deliver 50,000 additional child care places with approximately 5,000 for school age child care. The Programme which is Exchequer funded aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care supports and services which are grounded in an understanding of local needs.

The NCIP focuses in particular on the provision of capital grant funding for community based and private child care providers. At the end of April, €180 million in capital funding has been approved under the programme and it is expected that approximately 24,000 new child care places, of which more than 3,000 will be school age child care places, will be created as a result of this investment. Under the NCIP a new Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS), to support community not-for-profit child care services with a focus on disadvantage, was introduced this year. The CCSS has been allocated €154.2 million over the period up to the end of 2010 representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme. Under this scheme, services will be grant aided according to the service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from the service. In turn, the subvention received by the service will be reflected in the reduced fees for parents qualifying under the scheme.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community child care services generally. Services supported under the scheme will include those for school going children, including breakfast and homework clubs which are important elements in the development of high quality school age child care.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

75 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made with the commitment given in the programme for Government to provide services in schools or in other suitable premises, that will operate until 6 p.m. and on a full-time day basis during school holidays. [20365/08]

The commitment to which the Deputy refers, concerning the provision of such services in schools, is a matter for the Department of Education and Science. However, under the National Childcare Investment Programme, for which I have responsibility, capital grant funding is provided to develop child care services including services which cater for school age children, that is services which care for children out of school hours. This would normally consist of breakfast clubs, after school provision and child care during school holidays. Community-based school aged child care facilities with a focus on disadvantage may also apply for support funding under the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme which enables their services to provide reduced fees to qualifying parents.

Under the Education system, the large majority of schools are run by independent Boards of Management, and it is a matter for them whether they decide to provide such a service. A number have applied for funding under the Programmes operated by my Office, and have received grant aid for such services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

76 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made with the commitment given in the programme for Government to accelerate the establishment of a children services committee in each county. [20366/08]

The National Economic Social Council, in its report, the ‘Developmental Welfare State', introduced the lifecycle approach to social policy discourse in Ireland. This is a holistic approach that places the individual at the centre of policy development and service delivery, and which was adopted in the national partnership agreement Towards 2016.

This new approach was adopted in the context of a growing body of international research which emphasises the importance of early interventions in securing better longer term outcomes for children. For children disadvantaged by background or family circumstance especially, positive supports provided in the very first years positively impact life chances by promoting child emotional and physical development. Prevention and early intervention with children is likely to be most successful when nested within integrated supports for families — to provide parents experiencing difficulties with the personal resources and skills they need, and to foster positive family environments in which children can develop and achieve.

The Government is committed to improving the lives of our children, and to that end, a practical application of the lifecycle approach can be seen in the establishment of the Children's Services Committees (CSCs). These committees are focused on using a streamlined, crosscutting approach to the design and delivery of services for children and their families across sectorial and agency boundaries.

A National Children's Strategy Implementation Group (NCSIG), was established at the end of 2006 under Towards 2016 to support these developments. The NCSIG approved the establishment of four initial multi-agency Children's Services Committees (CSCs) in the following areas: Donegal County Council, South Dublin County Council, Dublin City Council and Limerick City Council. These CSCs are charged with progressing the implementation of strategic plans and policy documents already devised in relation to children's services in their respective areas. The aim is to test models of best practice which promote integrated, locally led, strategic planning for children's services across agencies. Each area is working towards the identification of shared priorities and, in time, an implementation plan for children's services in the area. The view of the NCSIG is that the development of CSCs should be locally determined and led within a flexible framework devised and agreed at national level.

A broad framework for the development of a work programme for the CSCs in the start-up stage has been agreed and is being implemented. Technical assistance to support the change management process in delivering on this framework was commissioned and is currently being provided to the four sites based on their specific needs. Collaborative working, across all four CSCs, to assess progress, compare and assess practices will commence in mid 2008 as part of the change management process. The timing of the establishment of further committees will be guided by the developments in these pioneer sites although the necessary development work to support "readiness" for the establishment of further committees in other areas is ongoing in the interim. In this regard the OMC is working with agencies at national level through the NCSIG and promising local initiatives to foster interagency relationship building and collaborative working.

Question No. 77 answered with Question No. 63.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

78 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to the response received from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 155 of 28 November 2007, the reason it is taking six months to review service provision arrangements to reduce child optical waiting lists and the current waiting times for children for eye tests in Maynooth and Naas health centres. [20414/08]

Child optical services are provided by the Health Service Executive under Sections 66 and 67 of the Health Act, 1970. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

79 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people in receipt of home care packages in County Kildare; and the number who have applied and are not yet in receipt of the home care package. [20419/08]

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 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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

80 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of 3 April 2008, the reason five months have passed and a further basic grade speech and language therapist post has not been filled in Kildare-west Wicklow and one senior replacement post remains vacant. [20424/08]

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

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

Emmet Stagg

Question:

81 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 490 of 30 January 2008, the reason a review of the delivery of the audiology service has resulted in the decision not to appoint a replacement audiologist as the position remaining vacant is not going to help the waiting list for hearing tests for children in County Kildare. [20425/08]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

82 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting times for children for assessment for intellectual disability and physical and sensory disability in each Health Service Executive region broken down between intellectual disability services, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy. [20426/08]

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 specific 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 Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

83 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the waiting list for orthodontic treatment for children in Kildare has increased from 171 children in June 2006 to 331 children in April 2008; and the action she will take to reduce these waiting times. [20427/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the provision of orthodontic treatment for children. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the question raised by the Deputy. 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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

84 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that phase 3C of Naas General Hospital, Naas, County Kildare is included in the final Health Service Executive capital plan for 2008. [20433/08]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in health care has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, overall capital funding of approximately €594m has been provided to the Health Service Executive.

In drawing up its Capital Plan the Health Service Executive is required to prioritise the capital infrastructure projects to be progressed within its overall capital funding allocation under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, taking account of the NDP targets for division of capital investment between the Acute and Primary, Community & Continuing Care pillars. The HSE has submitted a draft Capital Plan covering the period 2008 — 2013 to my Department for consideration and approval in the normal way. This draft plan sets out the HSE's proposed short and longer term capital investment priorities and commitments. Consultation on this draft Capital Plan is ongoing between the HSE, the Department of Finance and my Department. The HSE has undertaken to provide additional clarification on its proposed capital developments and is currently engaged in this process. Details on individual projects will not be known until such time as the capital plan is approved.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

85 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that 445 people are awaiting assessment for occupational therapy in County Kildare and that seven and a half posts remain vacant in the service; the reason these posts have not been filled; and the action she will take to reduce the waiting list for occupational therapy. [20436/08]

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.

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

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

86 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children when the 2008 development funding for the intellectual disability sector will be allocated to the various voluntary agencies nationwide; if the amount available for 2008 is less than the amount available in 2007 and by how much; and the reason for the delay in the current allocations. [20442/08]

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 specific 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.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

87 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of disability guidance officers that were in place in the Health Service Executive south in 2007. [20443/08]

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

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

Medicinal Products.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

88 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to ban the use of herbal E’s (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20444/08]

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and regulations made thereunder regulate and control the import, export, production, supply and possession of a range of named narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances listed in the Schedules to the Act. Substances are scheduled under the Act in accordance with Ireland's obligations under international conventions and/or where there is evidence that the substances are causing significant harm to public health in Ireland.

Herbal E's is a colloquial term used to describe a range of different substances which may or may not be scheduled substances under Misuse of Drugs legislation. However, such substances cannot be added to the relevant Schedule as a category; this must be done on a case by case basis. The list of scheduled substances is kept under review on an ongoing basis. In particular, my Department reviews any evidence that substances are being abused and are causing significant harm to public health.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

89 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the way she will resource the transfer of services from the 20 hospitals providing cancer service to the eight centres of excellence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20445/08]

An additional €35m has been allocated this year for cancer control, including €10m to support the Programme. Prof. Keane and the HSE have emphasised that it is as much a matter of mobilising existing resources and redirecting them to achieve the National Cancer Control Programme objectives as providing extra resources. Prof. Keane is currently engaging in discussions with the HSE in terms of taking control of all new cancer developments and progressively all existing cancer services and related funding and staffing.

Mental Health Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

90 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the types of support, subsistence and travel payments made to persons attending a facility (details supplied) in County Mayo; the criteria that are applied in order to grant them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20454/08]

Enda Kenny

Question:

91 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding paid to a person (details supplied) attending a facility in County Mayo under the remit of Mayo mental health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20455/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 91 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 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

92 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be provided with a facility for home-use to meet their needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20457/08]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

93 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20461/08]

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Michael Creed

Question:

94 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive has recently awarded a contract for medical examination of cervical smears to an American company notwithstanding the fact that the HSE recently upskilled its medical laboratory staff with a view to carrying out these examinations by HSE staff and that this training involved study and examination in the UK; her views on whether this decision is medically in the best interests of patients and financially prudent for the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20469/08]

The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) have announced a preferred bidder for the provision of laboratory testing services for the National Cervical Screening Programme. This is an important milestone which will enable the NCSS to launch the first quality assured, population based National Cervical Screening Programme for women in Ireland aged 25-60 years.

The NCSS is a statutory agency and is entirely separate from the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE had no involvement in the process to select a preferred bidder to provide laboratory services for the National Cervical Screening Programme. In keeping with EU procurement legislation, the procurement process is being conducted in an open and competitive manner. Submissions were invited from local and international laboratories during the process.  The NCSS has concluded that the preferred bidder can deliver a service that meets all of the required quality criteria. The Deputy will appreciate that quality is a critical requirement of the new programme in the context of patients' best interests. As the procurement process has not yet concluded, there are no details available on the cost of the service.

The National Hospitals Office (NHO) of the HSE has a commitment to staff currently employed in cytology services, and has met with their representative. Any decisions regarding reassignment of employees will be addressed after the National Cancer Screening Service has completed the procurement process for cytology services.

Child Care Services.

Michael Creed

Question:

95 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children her views, in view of the ongoing difficulties for many not-for-profit community child care facilities, many of which are faced with job losses, financial difficulty and closure, on amending the newly implemented funding arrangements. [20494/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006 — 2010 (NCIP) under which the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being implemented.

The main supports the Government makes available to parents to assist them with their child care costs are Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my Office, and it alone is expected to amount to expenditure of over €500m in 2008. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of child care they choose. In addition to these universal supports, Government child care policy has also recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families.

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme was introduced on 1st January 2008 with an allocation of €154.2 million over 3 years. The Scheme will continue to support community-based child care services to provide reduced child care fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents. Community child care services will qualify for grant aid on the basis of the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. The parent profile of each service, and the amount of subvention it will receive, are determined on the basis of completed parent declaration forms which they return as part of the application process. The subvention received by services is, in turn, reflected in reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

The new scheme provides an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community child care services generally. The subvention to services is responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage and the ceiling for funding which existed under the previous scheme has been removed. Account is also being taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones which, in some cases, were previously inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

In addition, transitional arrangements have been put in place to facilitate community services which were funded under the previous scheme to adjust to the new arrangements, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. This will mean that community services which were funded under the previous scheme and which continue to operate, are guaranteed at least 95% of their 2007 grant aid in 2008.

When the framework for the new scheme was announced in July of last year, my predecessor, Mr Brendan Smith T.D. signalled his intention to undertake a review of the Scheme on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which was to be forwarded to the Office of the Minister for Children in late 2007 as part of the application process of the new scheme. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the review was completed and the following adjustments were made to the scheme in December:

the child care subvention rates, which form the basis for assessing the level of grant funding payable to community child care services, have been increased from €80 to €100 per week in the case of Band A parents and from €30 to €70 per week in the case of Band B parents;

services will also be grant aided to enable them to provide reduced child care fees for parents in Band C who are marginally above the Family Income Supplement (FIS) threshold and low income parents who qualify under this measure will benefit by €45 per week per full-time place;

where a parent moves to a lower Band (e.g. from social welfare into employment), the subvention paid in respect of them will be withdrawn on a tapered basis with the effect that where a parent would no longer qualify for a Band A payment, he or she will be treated as a Band B parent in the following year;

special provisions will be provided for in the case of child care services where, for valid reasons, it is not possible to assess grant funding on the basis of annual parental declarations alone (e.g. women's refuges, special services for children of drug misusers) and, in exceptional cases, where special levels of funding provision may be required;

in recognition of the on-going input of the community and voluntary sector, and to provide stability for services which would otherwise receive very low levels of grant subvention (e.g. small rural services) a minimum grant level of €20,000 per annum has been introduced, provided services meet the conditions of the scheme in full.

As a transitional measure during 2008-2010, services which could otherwise face a significant decrease in their existing level of grant support from July 2008, will continue to receive grant aid equal to not less than 90% of their previous grant level during July-December 2008, equal to not less than 85% of that amount in 2009, and equal to not less than 75% of that amount in 2010. The transitional grant funding is conditional on all requirements of the Scheme being complied with, including the return of annual applications together with completed parent declaration forms and the implementation of tiered fees based on the subvention levels for Band A, B and C parents.

The changes which have been introduced will ensure that the most affordable child care is available to families according to their means. Put simply, the tiered fee structure is the most effective way of ensuring that the considerable and ongoing Government support for the community child care sector, will be targeted at those who need it most. I am sure that the Deputy will agree that, with an allocation of €154.2 million over a 3 year period for the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme, the Government is continuing to offer very generous support to this important sector of Ireland's child care infrastructure. Given the cost of the previous staffing Scheme was €37 million in 2007, this represents a very significant increase in resources to support the Community Childcare sector.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

96 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied)) in Dublin 3. [20495/08]

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

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Question:

97 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a change (details supplied). [20497/08]

The Health Service Executive has detailed operational guidelines in place for the assessment of medical card applications. The purpose of these is to ensure that every person entitled to a medical card or GP visit card is given the opportunity to avail of their entitlement and that there is a consistency of approach to means-testing nationally. I am informed that the guidelines include provisions dealing with medical card review dates. The guiding principle is to set a date in each case at which an income/dependency change or other change could reasonably be expected to occur which would affect eligibility.

The HSE has also indicated that such reviews are conducted in a manner that takes due account of the personal circumstances of the card holder and that arrangements are in place to limit the need for frequent reviews where a review would normally result in the renewal of the medical card.

Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 68.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

99 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the severe shortage of public health nurses in the Celbridge area resulting in neglect of routine health checks for children; if she will address this issue as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20518/08]

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.

Rail Network.

Pat Breen

Question:

100 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport if his Department will support a halt stop on the Ennis-Galway railway line at Crusheen, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20459/08]

The location of stations on the rail network is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

101 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20279/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of an Garda Síochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993.

Railway Stations.

James Bannon

Question:

102 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the re-opening of Killucan railway station which is urgently needed due to the increase in population in Killucan-Kinnegad with the 2006 census showing a quadrupling of the population in the area which more than meets the criteria for re-opening; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20344/08]

The location of stations on the rail network is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann.

Rail Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

103 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if agreement has been reached on the closure of level crossings on the Maynooth suburban line between Iarnród Éireann and local authorities as referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 90 of 3 April 2008. [20418/08]

The position remains as I set out in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 90 of 3 April 2008.

State Airports.

Pat Breen

Question:

104 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 103 of 15 May 2008, if he will request the Dublin Airport Authority to immediately commence construction work on the CBP facility at Shannon in order that it is ready for operations in December 2008 when the CBP agreement and legislation are finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20462/08]

As stated in the previous Parliamentary Question referred to by the Deputy, the CBP project is ready to commence at short notice. Accordingly, my Department will keep in touch with the DAA, as appropriate, on the progress of negotiations with the EU on pre-clearance. I am currently targeting the end of year for the agreement and legislation to be in place. It is my hope that the timing of construction of the new CPD facility can be aligned with this target, to the extent that it is practical and feasible to do so.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

105 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20275/08]

The official car assigned for my use is driven by members of an Garda Síochána. I have been advised that such vehicles are exempt from tolls under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, there is no cost to the Exchequer.

Rapid Response Initiative.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

106 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made with the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase the size and capacity of the rapid response corps, the civilian corps of volunteers trained and equipped by the Government to be on the ground in an area of humanitarian crisis in a short period. [20298/08]

Following the launch of the campaign to recruit a Rapid Response Corps in February, 2007, 52 volunteers were recruited, and completed their pre-deployment training and preparations during 2007. A second campaign to recruit members to the Rapid Response Corps began on 14 February, 2008. This campaign focused mainly on the logistics, engineering and humanitarian skills most in demand by our stand-by partners. However, new public health, protection and education profiles were added at the request of those partners.

From this campaign a further 36 volunteers were invited to join the Corps. A group of 24 completed the compulsory pre-departure training course from 7-14 May and have begun the necessary medical preparations. This will bring the number of Corps members ready to deploy if requested to 76. A further pre-departure training course is scheduled for early October, 2008. In building the capacity of the Corps, Irish Aid has facilitated the attendance by 24 members of the Corps on training courses designed and delivered by our humanitarian partners. This is a policy which will be actively pursued in the future. In addition, Irish Aid arranges separate workshops for Rapid Response Corps members on topics of relevance for humanitarian response. To date, there have been 12 deployments of the Corps, the most recent in early May to Darfur, Sudan. Other Corps members have been deployed to Sri Lanka, Somalia, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nepal and Ethiopia.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

107 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made with the commitment given in the programme for Government to double the amount of emergency relief supplies held in, and distributed from, Ireland’s new pre-positioned humanitarian relief centres at the Curragh, Kildare and Brindisi, Italy. [20299/08]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

108 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made with the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase funding to the regional supply depot for Africa, based in Accra, Ghana. [20300/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 108 together.

Irish Aid entered into a Letter of Agreement with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in October, 2006. Under this agreement, the WFP was tasked with the set up, procurement, management and transportation to the field of Ireland's stocks of essential humanitarian supplies. By mid 2007, essential non-food supplies — blankets, tents, jerry cans, water tanks, kitchen sets, etc — were pre-positioned at the central UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi, Italy and at a smaller facility provided by the Defence Forces at the Curragh Camp.

In 2007, disbursals involving Irish supplies were made to emergencies in Sudan, Peru, Pakistan, Mali, Uganda and Burkina Faso. Already in 2008, there has been a significant increase in the rate of uptake of our stocks, with emergency shipments to Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and, most recently, Burma/Myanmar. An airlift to China will take place within the next few days and a large shipment to Iraq is at the planning stage. All these stocks will be replenished. Further increases in the level of humanitarian supplies will be made possible when the new central UNHRD in Dubai becomes fully operational. We plan in due course to move our supplies to the new Depot. This will enable more rapid and effective disbursal of stocks, particularly to emergencies in South East Asia, the Middle East, and North and East Africa.

Under the terms of the 2006 Letter of Agreement with the WFP, Irish Aid makes an annual contribution of €400,000 towards the annual operating costs of the UNHRD hub for Africa based in Accra. Up to now, this hub has been housed in temporary premises. In 2008, Irish Aid made an additional contribution to the WFP of €600,000 towards the construction of a new facility which is now expected to be completed by the end of 2008. When completed, we will pre-position additional supplies at this Depot, enabling faster delivery of supplies within Africa.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

109 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase funding by at least €40 million to the Irish Government emergency response fund and increase funding to the UN central emergency response fund. [20301/08]

The programme for Government envisages an increase in funding for Ireland's response to humanitarian emergencies in the amount €40 million during the lifetime of the Government. Funding for humanitarian emergencies arises from a number of budgetary headings in Irish Aid, though the Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Fund (EHAF) is Irish Aid's primary source of such funding. In 2007, in response to the increasing number and severity of humanitarian emergencies, the allocation was increased by 50% from €60 million to €90 million. This substantial increase approved in 2007 clearly signals the Government's commitment towards increasing Ireland's response to humanitarian emergencies and is fully in line with the undertakings contained in the programme for Government.

Ireland was one of the driving forces behind the introduction of the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and remains one of its strongest supporters. The CERF enables the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) to respond immediately to any sudden on-set emergency. In 2007 we doubled our contribution to the CERF from €10 million to €20 million making Ireland the sixth largest donor to the CERF. In 2008, we further increased our contribution by a further 13% to €22.6 million. This brings Ireland's total contribution to the CERF since its inception to €52.6 million. This is fully in line with the undertakings contained in the programme for Government.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

110 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to work to strengthen the capacity of Irish and international non-governmental organisations to respond more quickly to international emergencies. [20302/08]

An important element of the Government's Rapid Response Initiative is a commitment to provide funding to our Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), Red Cross and UN partners to assist them in enhancing their capacity to respond to international emergencies. To that end, over €4.75 million has been provided since 2007 to our main international and national partners to help them build their organisational capacity to respond to and prepare for humanitarian emergencies. Of that amount, almost €1.1 million has been provided to Irish NGOs primarily for humanitarian staff development and training purposes.

An initiative was also implemented in 2007 on a two year pilot basis to assist our main NGO partners respond more rapidly to international emergencies. The initiative provides each of our three main NGO partners — Concern, Trócaire and Goal — with their own rapid response fund which they can immediately access following an emergency. This major rapid response initiative will be evaluated in 2009.

Overseas Development Aid.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

111 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase the number of programme countries to a minimum of ten by 2012. [20303/08]

In 2007 Malawi became Irish Aid's ninth Programme Country. An Irish Embassy has been established in Lilongwe. In 2008 it is expected that Ireland will provide approximately €10 million for Malawi, targeted in particular at helping vulnerable communities in the areas of food security, livelihoods and protection against the effects of natural disasters. In parallel, a longer term bilateral development cooperation programme is currently being prepared. This will involve the commitment of significant levels of funding in support of efforts by the Government and people of Malawi to advance their national development.

Preliminary work has also been carried out on identifying a tenth Programme Country with a view to meeting the commitment in the Programme for Government. In line with the White Paper on Irish Aid, Africa will remain the primary geographic focus for Ireland's development programme. Selecting additional countries as long-term partners provides an important platform to translate Ireland's increased expenditure in this area into efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

112 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to spend at least €100 million per annum combating HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases in the developing world. [20304/08]

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 as clearly stated in the Programme for Government. The former Taoiseach's commitment to spend €100 million per year on addressing HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases has been reached and expenditure is now in excess of €100 million. 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 and 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. 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, in many ways, leading by example.

Ireland is, for instance, the first country to sign a three year agreement with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Signed in April, this agreement will see Ireland's contribution to the Fund reaching €90 million over the next three years. Almost 60% of Global Fund resources are allocated to sub-Saharan Africa and to date it is estimated that the Fund has saved over 1.8 million lives. In partnership with the Clinton Foundation Ireland has increased its funding to the Governments of Mozambique and Lesotho to improve the accessibility of HIV treatment in rural areas and in particular to women and children. In Mozambique, over 78,000 people are now on HIV treatment, up from less than 2,000 people at the end of 2002. In Lesotho, following one year of operation, 4 health facilities have been refurbished and over 2,500 people are accessing HIV treatment including 100 children. 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 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 cooperation 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. The Government is committed to continuing its work to address HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases and to ensuring that men, women and children get access to quality health and HIV services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

113 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to develop programmes to assist both individuals and institutions to participate in the aid programme. [20305/08]

Irish Aid provides support, through the Civil Society Fund and Micro Projects Scheme, to over 160 organisations, including academic institutions, community groups and volunteer based organisations as well as professionally staffed non-governmental organisations. The Civil Society Fund has co-funded development interventions from many sectors of Irish society including applications from the legal, medical, construction and information technology areas. In addition the Micro-Projects Scheme, established in 2006, supports the development activities of smaller Irish organisations. This scheme was established in recognition of the great interest that exists amongst individuals, organisations and communities in Ireland who want to make their own contribution to development.

The Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre which was opened by the former Taoiseach in January provides information and guidance on all aspects of the Irish Aid programme. In particular, it works to raise awareness of how individuals and organisations can volunteer and get involved in development work. To date, the Centre has facilitated over seventy five meetings and events on development related issues, held seven temporary exhibitions and hosted over sixty five schools groups involving 1,200 pupils. About 700 visitors use the Centre each week.

A programme of Strategic Cooperation between Irish Aid and Higher Education Research Institutions was launched in 2006. The overall aim is to support Irish Aid's policy objectives in reducing poverty through collaborative research and academic exchange programmes initiated by Irish third level institutions. The Programme ultimately aims to promote capacity building in higher education and research institutions in developing countries. The thematic areas that activities focus on include health, HIV and AIDS, infectious diseases, education, food and livelihood security, pro-poor economic growth, governance and gender equality. The programme is managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on behalf of Irish Aid.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

114 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to develop regional aid programmes in southern and western Africa to address transnational threats such as disease and food insecurity. [20306/08]

The Government's White Paper on Irish Aid strongly affirms that Africa will remain the principal focus of Ireland's official aid programme in the years ahead. It is in Africa that progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is slowest. The majority of the 50 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are located in Africa. Approximately 80% of Ireland's Overseas Development Assistance goes to Africa. It is by continuing to focus on that continent that Ireland's development assistance can best respond to the needs of the world's poorest people and make a real difference in their lives.

The White Paper on Irish Aid and the Programme for Government include a commitment to support regional development programmes to address issues which do not respect national borders. A number of programmes are now funded which have a regional focus, particularly in the humanitarian area, including food security and HIV/AIDS. It is intended that an enhanced regional programme will be developed in the next 2 years and a small task team has been established to progress this objective, including the placement of a senior official in Africa to drive this forward.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

115 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure funding mechanisms for non-governmental organisations are accessible and simplified. [20307/08]

Irish Aid is committed to supporting civil society organisations as partners in the attainment of the Millennium Declaration and associated goals to reduce global poverty. Irish Aid currently provides development funding to NGOs through a number of schemes in support of their work in developing countries. The Multi-annual Programmes Scheme (MAPS) and Civil Society Fund (CSF) are the main conduits for Irish civil society organisations to access Irish Aid funding for overseas development work. Irish Aid also supports the work of missionaries through the Irish Missionary Resource Service (IMRS).

In 2008 €139 million will be disbursed by Civil Society Section to NGOs and missionary organisations in support of their work in developing countries, compared to €121 million in 2007. Additional funding is being delivered through other mechanisms. MAPS is an innovative multi-annual programme scheme introduced in 2003 which aims to provide predictable long term funding for five key NGO partners. To be eligible for MAPS, some of the key criteria are previous significant experience and relationship with Irish Aid over a 5 year time frame; the capacity to raise up to 30% of total income from voluntary funds raised in Ireland; the capacity and scale to work programmatically and coherence with MAPS objectives.

Five year multi-annual agreements to provide predictable budgetary support have been agreed with Christian Aid, Concern, GOAL and Trócaire for the period 2007-2011. Discussions on the completion of a multi-annual agreement with Self Help Development International (SHDI) are ongoing. In line with the commitment under the Programme for Government, Irish Aid has commenced the process of assessing three potential new NGO partners for inclusion in the MAPS scheme. As recently as 2006, the new Civil Society Fund was introduced which significantly rationalised the previous range of funding schemes. The Civil Society Fund, which features a streamlined application and appraisal process, is designed to provide resources more effectively and efficiently for the development activities of civil society organisations. Since its establishment, over €100 million has been allocated under the CSF to fund development interventions by NGOs.

In addition, the CSF also provides that on the basis of a successful track record of previous implementation, successful organisations may be invited by Irish Aid to apply for a multi-annual block grant. This allows for a more programmatic approach by the organisation with administrative gains, security of funding for the period and increased autonomy. Irish Aid also established, in 2006, the Micro-Projects Scheme to support the development activities of smaller Irish organisations. This scheme was established in recognition of the great interest that exists among organisations and communities in Ireland which want to make their own contribution to development. The maximum grant is €20,000.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

116 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to act on the findings of the hunger task force. [20308/08]

The establishment of a Hunger Task Force was one of the recommendations of the White Paper on Irish Aid published in September 2006 and was one of the priorities included in the current Programme for Government. The aim of the Hunger Task Force is to identify the additional, appropriate and effective contributions that Ireland can make to international efforts to reduce hunger. The Hunger Task Force members include a number of renowned national and international experts in the field of food security and development. Since its inception the Hunger Task Force has held a number of meetings in both Dublin and Cork, and made a special field study trip to Malawi in February of this year.

The Hunger Task Force is expected to issue its report around the middle of 2008. The report will outline a number of key actions which Ireland can take to accelerate the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of those who suffer from hunger by 2015. Once this report is issued, the Government will examine the recommendations and will determine how best to act upon them.

Departmental Procurement Policies.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

117 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure that the sourcing of fair trade goods where possible is part of all Government Departments purchasing policy. [20309/08]

The commitment in the Programme for Government 2007-2012 to which the Deputy refers has been brought to the attention of purchasers in all Government Departments and public bodies via the e-procurement network maintained by the Department of Finance, and information on the initiative is available on the Government's procurement portal website at www.etenders.gov.ie. The response to this and other initiatives to promote the purchase of Fair Trade products has been encouraging, and I understand that sales in Ireland continue to grow. The Deputy will be pleased to note that my own Department provides, where practicable, Fair Trade products to service meetings and receptions in Iveagh House. Specific guidance on sourcing of Fair Trade products has been issued to the Department's Business Units at headquarters and to Missions abroad.

I should mention also that the Government's programme of assistance to developing countries, Irish Aid, continues to support the Fair Trade movement internationally and in Ireland. This support includes funding from the Development Education Funding Scheme which goes to increase public awareness through educational materials and events including Fairtrade Fortnight and Fairtrade Towns. Several local authorities and public bodies have participated in these initiatives, including Dublin City Council which received the award of "Fairtrade Capital City" status from Fairtrade Ireland in February of this year. My Department will continue its efforts to encourage Government Departments and public sector bodies generally to source fair trade products where it is practicable to do so and where it is consistent with their obligations under EU and national public procurement rules.

Overseas Development Aid.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

118 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to adopt an integrated approach to development across all Government Departments. [20310/08]

A commitment was made in the Programme for Government to ‘Adopt an integrated approach to development across all Departments'. The 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid included a further commitment to establish a new Inter-Departmental Committee on Development to strengthen coherence in the Government's approach to development and to make best use of the expertise and skills available across the public service. I am pleased to say that, in line with these commitments, an Inter-Departmental Committee on Development, chaired by the Minister for Overseas Development, was established. The Committee aims to strengthen coherence in development policy across Government Departments. Development cooperation does not take place in isolation from other Government policies and the need for greater coherence in policies across sectors that affect developing countries is fully recognised.

Positive progress has been made. Two sub groups of the Committee have been established, one to look at developing a more coherent policy in our relationships with multilateral organisations and the second focusing on making best use of the expertise and skills available across the public service in our development aid programme. The Committee will report annually to the Minister for Foreign Affairs outlining its activities and making recommendations as appropriate.

Foreign Conflicts.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

119 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to establish an academic centre for conflict resolution. [20311/08]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

120 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to establish an annual €25 million stability fund, overseen by the conflict resolution unit. [20312/08]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

121 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to establish a system of roving ambassadors to crisis regions. [20313/08]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

122 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to fund a number of fourth level scholarships in the conflict resolution area. [20314/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 to 122, inclusive, together.

The Programme for Government proposed the development of an Irish Academic Centre for Conflict Resolution to provide academic and analytical expertise in this area, and to act as a resource for my Department's Conflict Resolution Unit. The development of the Centre will help to deliver on the Conflict Resolution Unit's mandate to work with academic institutions, civil society organisations and other partners. The Unit has engaged in a detailed study of comparable academic centres abroad, in order to identify best practice in this area and design a model for the centre that is well suited to Ireland's needs and resources. My predecessor, Minister Dermot Ahern TD, wrote to Irish academic institutions on 31 March advising them of the intended establishment of the Centre and inviting them to nominate representatives to participate in a consultative process leading to the establishment of the Centre. These consultations will take account of ongoing work in the conflict resolution area and, in particular, of the Government's objectives.

As regards the Stability Fund, the amount available has been increased this year from €4.5 million to €10 million, with €5.5 million of this dedicated to support specific initiatives related to the work of the Conflict Resolution Unit. As the work of the Unit develops opportunities to support effective conflict resolution activities will increase. Regarding the establishment of a system of Roving Ambassadors, Minister Ahern announced during his address to the National Parliament of Timor-Leste in Dili in late February that he had appointed Nuala O'Loan to be the first such Roving Ambassador, with the role of Special Envoy for Conflict Resolution in Timor-Leste. Ms O'Loan has recently returned from a visit to Timor-Leste, where she met President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, as well as other representatives of government, the United Nations, bilateral donors and political and civil society organisations. Mrs O'Loan will in due course report back to me and advise on specific initiatives which can be taken to assist in conflict resolution and peacebuilding activities there.

On the fourth-level scholarships, a scheme of doctoral scholarships in conflict resolution was established by my Department earlier this year in partnership with the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Applications for scholarships under the scheme were assessed by an international panel of academics, assembled by the Research Council, and led by an expert in the area of conflict resolution. Three scholarships, supporting research towards Ph.D. degrees focusing on themes relevant to the work of the Conflict Resolution Unit, are to be offered in this inaugural year of the scheme, and the successful candidates will be notified shortly.

Emigrant Support Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

123 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase funding for emigrant welfare to €34 million per annum. [20316/08]

Reaching out to and strengthening links with the Irish community in Britain and with those of Irish ancestry has been, and continues to be, a cornerstone of Government policy. This commitment is reflected in the unprecedented level of funding secured for emigrant services in recent years. Since the establishment of the Irish Abroad Unit in 2004, the range and extent of the Emigrant Support Programme has been considerably expanded. This year the Government has made €15.183 million available for emigrant services. This figure is three times greater than the 2004 allocation, and is a clear reflection of our firm and ongoing commitment to the welfare of Irish people abroad.

The capacity of the Irish Abroad Unit and that of our network of Missions which support and coordinate the Programme has also increased. This ensures that these additional resources continue to be allocated and monitored efficiently. This was confirmed by a Value for Money and Policy Review of the Support for Emigrants Subhead which was completed in July 2007 by Goodbody Economic Consultants — copies of the Review were lodged in the Houses of the Oireachtas Library and are also on the Departmental website (www.dfa.ie ). The Government is committed to incrementally increasing funding levels to groups working with our emigrant communities, subject to overall budgetary considerations.

Broadcasting Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

124 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to complete the process whereby RTÉ can be broadcast into the UK. [20317/08]

The extension of RTÉ and TG4 television programming to the Irish community in Britain has been a long-standing and key objective of the Government. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that, following a series of meetings between the Irish Abroad Unit, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and RTÉ, my colleague Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, announced in March that RTÉ's international service is scheduled to be on air in Britain by March 2009. Advances in satellite technology have facilitated the achievement of this goal. This new service will be provided through a digital satellite TV service called Freesat. Freesat was launched by the BBC and ITV earlier this month and is available without subscription to almost every household across Britain and Northern Ireland. The Freesat package offers a range of services not available on other systems, including High Digital programming, and access to more than 180 TV channels.

The only cost in accessing Freesat is a once-off payment of approximately €200 for a digital box and satellite dish. The service is totally free thereafter. I would intend, through the Irish Abroad Unit, to assist those less well-off and vulnerable Irish emigrants who may have difficulty in meeting the initial cost of the satellite dish and decoder required to access Freesat. The precise content to be broadcast on this new international service is currently being considered by RTÉ. We know, however, the service will provide some of the programmes most sought by the Irish in Britain, including news and current affairs, and most of RTÉ's indigenously produced programming. Current contractual arrangements in most cases, however, will preclude the transmission of sports events and acquired programming.

This new international service will provide the Irish abroad with a valuable link to home. I believe it will be particularly welcomed by the more elderly and isolated members of our community in Britain, a group whose welfare has always been central to the Emigrant Support Programme.

Emigrant Support Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

125 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to work to deliver free public transport for emigrant pensioners when they visit Ireland. [20318/08]

The Government continues to be fully committed to extending the free public transport scheme to Irish emigrants of pensionable age when visiting Ireland. The most recent development in this regard is that the Department's Irish Abroad Unit, working closely with our network of Missions in EU Capitals, has researched the type of provisions made in other EU countries to subsidise pensioners' travel, and the extent to which any such subsidies extend to all or some EU nationals.

The Unit has been able to confirm that certain, albeit limited, precedent exists for the provision of domestic free or subsidised travel schemes to all EU nationals of pensionable age in several EU Countries. Exceptionally, Hungary is alone amongst EU States in providing unrestricted free travel to all nationals of pensionable age, irrespective of their place of residence. The Department of Social and Family Affairs have been made aware of these findings, and are set to consider the information in greater depth, in coordination with this Department.

Energy Conservation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

126 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the content of the submission from her Department to the study into domestic lighting being carried out by the European Commission under the eco design directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20507/08]

Directive 2005/32/EC, which establishes a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products, and proposals on individual products arising under the Framework Directive, fall within the aegis of my Department. The Department deals with proposals in conjunction with an Inter-Departmental/Inter-Agency Group including representatives from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Enterprise Ireland and Sustainable Energy Ireland. The European Commission has split work on domestic lighting into two strands, Domestic Lighting part 1 including incandescent bulbs, and Domestic Lighting part 2 on directional light sources. The Study on part 1 has been carried out and on part 2 it is still under way.

Ireland has not made a written submission on the studies on domestic lighting. However, at a recent Consultation Forum meeting chaired by the Commission we expressed support in principle for the application of ecodesign requirements in relation to part 1, and looked forward to receiving an early proposal from the Commission. As with all proposals being developed under the Directive, the Commission proposal on domestic lighting part 1 is being prepared in a three-stage process. Firstly, a detailed technical study on the issue has been prepared for the Commission, in a process that was open for inputs by Stakeholders. Secondly, a more summary Commission Working Paper on the issue was submitted for views to a Consultation Forum of representatives of Stakeholders, including industry bodies, environmental protection groups and Member States.

The Commission is now preparing the third stage of the process in this case, in which it is expected to submit a draft proposal on domestic lighting part 1, setting out proposed ecodesign requirements and a timetable for their application to such products on the EU market, to a Regulatory Committee for opinion. Proposals receiving a favourable opinion are then adopted by the Commission. A Commission proposal on domestic lighting part 1 is expected to come before the Regulatory Committee later this year. A separate implementing measure is expected to be proposed on part 2 at a later date.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

127 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she personally pays the toll charges incurred on her travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20272/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of an Garda Síochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Work Permits.

Dan Neville

Question:

128 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will speed up the process of issuing a work permit to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [20290/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that this application was refused on the grounds that the proposed employee is currently resident in the State on a Student Stamp and is completing his studies. He is, therefore, ineligible to enter full-time employment. This decision was upheld on appeal. However, should the applicant successfully complete his studies and apply to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to change his status, following graduation, he may re-apply for an Employment Permit under the Graduate Permit Scheme. Full details of this scheme is available on my Department's website at www.entemp.ie.

Consumer Protection.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

129 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the recommendation of the Consumer Strategy Group report to promote the usage of codes of practices by all businesses and to encourage self-regulation schemes; the efforts she has made to promote such codes and schemes; the outcome of those efforts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20294/08]

The Consumer Protection Act 2007 empowers the National Consumer Agency to prepare and publish Guidelines to traders in relation to matters of consumer welfare and protection and matters related to commercial practices. The Act also entitles the Agency to review or approve Codes of Practice voluntarily submitted to it by traders or their trade associations where the Agency is satisfied that the Code of Practice protects consumer interests and is not inconsistent with the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act or any other enactment.

I am advised that the National Consumer Agency is currently discussing the development of possible Codes of Practice with a number of businesses and their representative bodies. The Agency is also preparing Guidelines to businesses in two specific areas namely, the Retail Sector and the Health and Fitness Sector. I understand that once it has concluded its consultations in relation to these matters, the Agency hopes to publish its final Guidelines to these sectors as soon as possible thereafter. I recognise the important part that codes of practice can play in protecting the rights of consumers and in ensuring consistent, high quality goods and services and very much welcome the positive approach of the National Consumer Agency in working with traders and their representative associations to develop a strong consumer culture amongst Irish business. I am confident that the development and promotion of such a culture through the initiatives embarked upon by the Agency will benefit not only consumers but businesses and the economy as a whole.

Enterprise Support Services.

Áine Brady

Question:

130 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the supports available from her Department or Enterprise Ireland for small service companies to start up; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20447/08]

Enterprise Ireland has primary responsibility for Irish companies in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. It supports companies employing 10 or more people and start-up companies which have the potential to employ 10 or more people and reach or exceed €1m in exports over three years. The flow of innovative start-ups into the Irish economy is critical for future growth. High growth potential start-ups that can develop innovative products and services, underpinned by the imaginative use of technology, will be significant drivers in Ireland's continued economic success.

Encouraging and supporting these innovation-led high potential start-up companies (HPSUs) with an export focus is a key priority for Enterprise Ireland and is fundamental to building the next generation of world-class Irish companies. Enterprise Ireland offers a wide range of services, including financial and non-financial supports to companies with a business strategy that encompasses all elements required for business success. For example, Enterprise Ireland provides the "Innovative HPSU offer" to support the development of start-ups with a high potential for growth. Under this programme, Enterprise Ireland provides a financial contribution towards a Company's business plan where it involves the development of innovative and technological products, services or processes.

Other initiatives include the Enterprise Start Programme, which was developed by Enterprise Ireland and FÁS to help potential entrepreneurs to develop their new business ideas into business plans. The programme is aimed at individuals with new business ideas in technology or knowledge intensive sectors that are capable of achieving export sales. Participants have the opportunity of presenting their business plans to representatives of Enterprise Ireland, FÁS and the County Enterprise Boards. This gives the entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to receive immediate feedback, support and advice on how to further their business idea. Participants who complete a business plan can also avail of one-to-one mentoring as well as receiving a Certificate from the Institute of Leadership Management.

Another incentive available is the Enterprise Platform Programme, a one-year rapid incubation programme designed to provide hands-on support and management development for entrepreneurs who wish to start their own business. Small service companies may qualify for seed and venture capital funding. A dynamic and healthy venture capital market is a prerequisite for the growth and development of high potential start-up companies in Ireland. Enterprise Ireland has focused on stimulating seed and venture capital funds in order to promote the availability of this important source of funding. Under the 2007–2012 Seed and Venture Capital Programme Enterprise Ireland is investing €175 million in a new round of venture capital funding.

The 35 County and City Enterprise Boards provide a source of support to small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of feasibility, employment and capital grants. In addition, the CEBs deliver a range of non-financial supports such as business advice and information services, management capability training and development programmes, mentoring initiatives and targeted promotion activities to improve management capability development within micro-enterprises. These supports are designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow. I am satisfied that the above programmes and supports, along with a wide range of other initiatives, will assist small service companies to start-up, grow and adapt in today's economic climate.

Consumer Protection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the extent to which diesel prices at the pumps are vastly higher than petrol prices; if an investigation has been undertaken to identify the cause of such disparities, having particular regard to the fact that people are encouraged to switch to diesel as a more eco-friendly fuel but are being penalised by the oil companies; if steps are being taken or are expected to be taken to bring diesel prices at least back into line with petrol prices or lower as was previously the case; if she will use her influence at EU level to ensure that consumers here are not in any way victimised by such price structures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20530/08]

The Deputy will be aware that since the beginning of the year there have been significant increases in both the wholesale and retail price of petrol and diesel products, caused by a combination of strong demand, tight capacities and some market speculation. Ireland has no control over world oil prices. Government policy in relation to prices, including the price of commodities such as petrol and diesel, is concentrated on the promotion of competition, consumer choice and awareness. There is no price control on these products and in common with most other goods and services price differences are an ongoing feature of the market economy.

It is a matter for retailers to explain price differences where they occur and my Department encourages consumers to raise price concerns directly with retailers. The Retail Price (Diesel and Petrol) Display Order, 1997 requires petrol stations to display their prices in a clear and prominent manner so that consumers can make an informed choice. The Order enables consumers to readily compare prices and purchase their fuel on the basis of an informed choice. The National Consumer Agency (NCA) enforces this Order. Any infringements should be reported to the NCA.

It is important, therefore, particularly in times of rising oil prices, that consumers inform themselves of the prices being charged by different traders for fuel products such as diesel and petrol so that they can achieve the best value for their money. I am satisfied that the statutory Regulations in this area ensure that consumers are given the necessary price information to allow them to make informed choices when purchasing fuel.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the extent to which multi-national chain stores operating here are charging up to 50% higher prices for food products here than in the UK; if it is intended to take action to identify the cause of such practices; the extent to which it is intended to take action to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20532/08]

I am aware of concerns expressed that some multi-national retailers are charging higher prices for food products in Ireland than in the UK. Whilst undoubtedly rising food prices are being experienced across the world, the findings of recent surveys showing that the cost of certain food items to Irish consumers is significantly greater than the cost of such items to UK consumers are certainly matters of concern. A major factor in this debate relates to concerns that some retailers may not be passing on the benefits of the appreciation of the Euro's value vis a vis sterling to Irish consumers.

The National Consumer Agency has raised this issue in bilateral discussions with retailers. In the course of those discussions, retailers have advised that the benefits of recent exchange rate movements may not be fully reflected in their prices for a variety of reasons including hedging arrangements and invoicing by UK suppliers in euro. Nevertheless, the Agency is firmly of the view that the benefits of the Euro's appreciation should be passed on to consumers. The Agency is also of the view that, in some instances, the price charged by retailers reflects a price level that the retailer anticipates the Irish market will bear irrespective of exchange rate movements. I fully share the Agency's view that consumers are entitled to expect a fair deal from business and that business has an obligation to treat their customers fairly which includes passing on the benefits of exchange rate movements and not seeking to profiteer from such movements.

I met yesterday with the Chief Executive of the National Consumer Agency. The Chief Executive advised me that the Agency has initiated a series of actions to pursue this matter with the retail sector. It is vitally important that disproportionate price differentials on basic items such as food should be tackled and where retailers fail to provide credible reasons for such differentials their failure should be put under the spotlight. I fully support the initiatives being undertaken by the Agency.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

133 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20267/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of the Garda Síochána and are exempt from tolls in accordance with Section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Sports Capital Programme.

Noel Coonan

Question:

134 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in relation to an application for funding for a club (details supplied) in County Tipperary under the sports capital grant scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20339/08]

Noel Coonan

Question:

135 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in relation to an application for funding for a club (details supplied) in County Tipperary under the sports capital grant scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20340/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 135 together.

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. Applications for funding under the 2008 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for on-line applications. All applications received before the deadline, including those from the organisations in question, are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Arts Funding.

Mary Upton

Question:

136 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to support training and professional development for the performing arts by creating, enhancing and extending modules of in-service training.. [20369/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

137 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase funding to the Arts Council for education initiatives. [20370/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

138 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to promote an appreciation of and engagement in arts and culture from early education through to all education levels through the implementation of a national comprehensive strategy. [20371/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

139 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure that arts venues are adequately funded to facilitate activities and to maximise community use and accessibility for all. [20372/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

140 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to encourage partnerships between local authorities, central Government, relevant local community groups and the Arts Council with a view to funding arts locally. [20373/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

141 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to develop a new policy to create and sustain employment in the arts, particularly arts employment that can market, operate and develop the local arts infrastructure. [20374/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

142 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to provide new tax and other incentives aimed at making cultural and educational philanthropy more attractive and to help those working in the arts to make a decent living. [20375/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

143 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to create a new combined cultural visa and work permit that simplifies and speeds up entry by incoming artists and groups to Ireland. [20376/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

144 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to continue the examination of fiscal incentives to encourage investment in the indigenous film industry here. [20377/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

145 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure that the increased level of arts activity is sustained and developed. [20378/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

146 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to digitise the collections of the National Library, the National Gallery, the National Museum and the National Archives. [20379/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

147 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to establish a museum of Irish literature in Parnell Square, Dublin 1. [20380/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

148 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to place the National Theatre, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the National Concert Hall on a statutory footing. [20381/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

149 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to complete the construction of a new National Theatre and a new National Concert Hall. [20382/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

150 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to begin a programme to digitise all State papers. [20383/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

151 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to complete phases II and III of the National Museum and Collins Barracks and complete phases II and III of the National Gallery. [20384/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

152 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to establish a national sports museum. [20385/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

153 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to roll out ACCESS II. [20386/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

154 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to support the creation of commemoration programmes of events in all cities and towns. [20388/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

155 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure a prominent cultural component to the 1916 centenary commemoration. [20392/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

156 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to provide a fund to which community groups can apply for support for the refurbishment of existing monuments commemorating events in the 1913 to 1923 period. [20393/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 to 156, inclusive, together.

The Programme for Government 2007-2012 is a five-year programme and it is my intention to give effect to the commitments in the Programme relating to arts, culture and film over the lifetime of the Government. Significant progress has been achieved to date on a range of the issues raised by the Deputy, as will be seen from the Department's recently published Arts and Culture Plan 2008, copies of which have been placed in the Oireachtas Library. In responding to the many questions posed of me in the House on 13th May last, I touched on progress on many of the arts, culture and film commitments in the programme for Government, and updated Deputies on them. I look forward to addressing all of the arts, culture and film measures as they are progressed over coming months in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

Commemorative Events.

Mary Upton

Question:

157 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to advance plans to commemorate the Irish soldiers who fell at the Somme in 1916. [20394/08]

This is a matter for the Department of the Taoiseach. I understand, however that a special consideration of the Great War and particularly the Battle of the Somme will be included in the planning of an appropriate and comprehensive Centenary commemorations programme. Continuing official support has been committed for an annual commemoration organised by the Royal British Legion to take place each July in the War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge, Dublin (an OPW property). This co-operation involves Government Departments, the Office of Public Works and the Defence Forces. Further commemorations of Irishmen who fell in the Great War take place on the battlefield sites from time to time and annually at Messines in Belgium.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Mary Upton

Question:

158 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to roll out the local sports partnership programme on a nationwide basis to promote the development of sport at community level. [20395/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

161 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to prioritise sports capital programme grants towards those areas identified as most in need of funding and facilities. [20398/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

163 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to promote a national advertising campaign highlighting the health benefits of sport and exercise. [20401/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

164 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to change the application criteria of the sports capital programme grants to require only 10% of own funding or contribution where applicants are located in a recognised area of urban disadvantage such as RAPID and a local drugs task force area. [20402/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

165 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to produce a Green Paper on animal welfare in sport and recreation. [20403/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

166 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to encourage more schools to apply for funding under the sports capital programme by collaborating with their local sports clubs or community groups. [20407/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

168 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure that local sports partnerships have an official dedicated to the promotion of girls’ and women’s involvement in sport. [20409/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

169 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to appoint a member of the Irish Sports Council to deal with all aspects of women in sport, including the gender profiling of all Sports Council decisions. [20410/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

170 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to establish a forum on female participation in sport in conjunction with the Irish Sports Council. [20411/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

171 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to create an annual women's sports award scheme. [20412/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158, 161, 163 to 166, inclusive, and 168 to 171, inclusive, together.

The Department is making good progress in implementing the commitments contained in the Agreed Programme for Government 2007-2012. It is my intention that the Programme will be delivered over a five year period and the commitments will be delivered in that context. In facilitating the Sports Capital Programme, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The 2008 Programme was advertised on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for on-line applications. For the 2008 Sports Capital Programme the Department has introduced a number of changes to implement key commitments contained in the Agreed Programme for Government.

The level of own funding required from applicants in urban disadvantaged areas has been reduced from 20% to 10%. This covers applicants from RAPID and Local Drugs Task Force areas. This change is in keeping with the Government's commitment to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas. When completed, the National Sports Facility Strategy and the National Sports Facility Audit which is currently under way will further help to direct the provision of facilities to areas most in need of funding and facilities.

The Programme for Government also contains important commitments to promote greater sharing of sports facilities between schools and local sports clubs. Under the 2008 Sports Capital Programme, schools making joint applications with local sports clubs are required to provide evidence of formal agreements with local clubs that guarantees the clubs access to school facilities for at least 30 hours per week throughout the year. In assessing applications, extra marks are also awarded to sports clubs that can show that they are allowing local schools to use their facilities. I intend to discuss with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, how his programme for the provision of sports halls in schools and the Sports Capital Programme might be dovetailed to provide greater value for money and enhanced facilities both for schools and the local community users.

In relation to the roll out of the Local Sports Partnership network there are currently 29 LSPs fully operational, with coordinators in place, and the remaining four sites are finalising recruitment arrangements. All 33 LSPs should be fully operational by July 2008. Finally, the Women in Sport programme has received significant Government funding since it was launched in 2005. Through the Women in Sport programme, this Government supports the work of the Irish Sports Council in encouraging women — young and old alike — to become involved in sport as participants, players, officials and administrators. It is my intention to launch the National Volunteer in Sport Awards Programme later this year.

Mary Upton

Question:

159 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to complete in conjunction with the local sports partnerships, a national audit of local sports facilities. [20396/08]

Mary Upton

Question:

160 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to put in place a long-term strategic plan to ensure the development of necessary local facilities throughout the country. [20397/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.

The nationwide audit of sports facilities has commenced and is being carried out in stages to help speed up the availability of information. Phase one, which focuses on national and regional sports facilities, has now been completed within my Department. Phase two of the audit, which is a more complex undertaking to establish a record of existing sports facilities at local level and identifying the need for future provision, will be undertaken during 2008 with the assistance of Local Authorities. Guidelines have now been issued to Local Authorities to assist them in carrying out the audit.

The audit is part of a wider exercise to put in place a more strategic approach to the provision of sports facilities in Ireland. Work on the National Sports Facility Strategy is currently under way in my Department. An inter-agency steering group was established to oversee the development of the strategy and consultants, involving both national and international experts in the area of sports facilities, were engaged to assist in the preparation of the strategy. The consultants' report is being finalised at present and will then be appraised by the steering group.

The aim of the strategy is to provide high-level policy direction for future investment/grant assistance at national, regional and local level. It is intended to identify the facilities requirement for sport so that participation at reasonable cost is feasible for those who wish to engage in sport at either amateur or elite level.

Question No. 161 answered with Question No. 158.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Mary Upton

Question:

162 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to support a new local authority swimming pool programme. [20399/08]

A sum of €184m has been provided in the National Development Plan 2007 — 2013 for supporting existing projects in the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme and for new projects to be selected following the launch of a new round of the Programme, as provided for in the Programme for Government. The terms and conditions of a new round will be devised taking into account the recommendations of the Value for Money and Policy Review report on the existing Programme, which has been completed by my Department and which will be published shortly. I have not yet decided on the timing for a new Programme.

Questions Nos. 163 to 166, inclusive, answered with Question No. 158.

Sports Funding.

Mary Upton

Question:

167 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to initiate a financial support package aimed at introducing primary school children to swimming. [20408/08]

The commitment in the Programme for Government aims to initiate a financial support package directed at introducing primary school children to swimming. Such a support package would be focused primarily on the costs of transport to and from pools. The Department has initiated discussions with the Department of Education and Science on how best to progress this commitment.

Questions Nos. 168 to 171, inclusive, answered with Question No. 158.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Mary Upton

Question:

172 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to recognise the importance of volunteerism in the promotion of sport through the expansion of the volunteer awards scheme for persons in sport. [20413/08]

Sport benefits enormously from the contribution of individual volunteers and the first programme of National Awards to Volunteers in Sport was successfully held last year. The Awards recognise and encourage the work of volunteers and reach out to potential new volunteers. A new scheme will be advertised later this year.

Sports Capital Programme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

173 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm that he received an application for funding from an organisation (details supplied), which hopes to provide two important initiatives; if in that context he will ensure that appropriate funding is provided for this organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20488/08]

Applications for funding under the 2008 programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for on-line applications. All applications received before the deadline, including those from the organisation in question, are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

174 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she personally pays the toll charges incurred on her travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20278/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of An Garda Síochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under section 62 of the Roads Act, 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

175 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason jobseeker’s allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was stopped from the date of their inquiry about travelling to a UK wedding rather than from the actual date of their travel to the UK; and if their payment will be restored from 2 to 18 April 2008. [20292/08]

The person concerned advised his local Social Welfare Office that he would be in the UK from 8 April 2008. He was paid for the maximum 2 week holiday period from 8 April 2008 to 21 April 2008. He failed to present himself at the Social Welfare Office again until 1 May 2008. It is understood that he remained outside the State from 22 April 2008 until 30 April 2008, and accordingly he sustained a loss of 8 days' jobseeker's benefit. It is open to him to contact his local Social Welfare Office if he has evidence to show that he was in the State for that period.

Social Welfare Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

176 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost of doubling the threshold for the means test for carer’s allowance, of eliminating the means test for carer’s allowance and of extending the period of carer’s benefit from two years to four years; if she has carried out an assessment of the case for making changes such as these; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20355/08]

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 greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have 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. Carer's allowance, in line with other social assistance schemes, is means-tested. This ensures scarce resources are directed at those in greatest need. The carer's allowance means test is one of the more flexible tests in terms of the assessment of household incomes. It has been significantly eased over the years, most notably with regard to spouse's earnings.

Increases to the carer's allowance income disregard, provided for in Budget 2008, mean that from April 2008, a single person can have an income of €332.50 per week and a couple can have an income of up to €665 per week and still qualify for the maximum rate of carer's allowance (the previous levels were €320 and €640 per week respectively). This ensures that a couple can have an income in the region of €37,200 per year and still qualify for the maximum rate of carer's allowance as well as the associated free travel, household benefits package and the respite care grant. This increase surpasses the "Towards 2016" commitment of ensuring that those on average earnings can qualify for carer's allowance.

It is estimated that the cost of doubling the threshold for the means test for carer's allowance would be in the region of €100 million and that eliminating the means test for the scheme entirely would cost in the region of €150 million per year. Budget 2007 provided for new arrangements whereby people can receive a maximum payment equivalent to a half rate carers allowance while receiving another social welfare payment, other than jobseekers benefit or allowance. In June 2006 the number of hours for which a person can engage in employment, self-employment, education or training and still be considered to be providing full time care for the purposes of carer's allowance, carer's benefit and the respite care grant was increased from 10 to 15 hours per week.

From June 2005, the annual respite care grant was extended to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care, regardless of their income. A carer who is caring for two or more people is entitled to a full grant for each of the care recipients. The rate of the grant will increase to €1,700 per year from June 2008.

Carer's benefit is specifically intended to support people who leave the workforce temporarily to care for someone who is in need of full-time care and attention. Budget 2006 extended the duration of carer's benefit from 15 to 24 months. The associated carer's leave scheme which allows for the protection of the carer's employment rights for the duration of the caring period was similarly extended in 2006. The carer's leave scheme is the responsibility of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

It is estimated that extending the duration of the carer's benefit scheme from 2 to 4 years would cost in the region of €20 million per year. However, this would depend on scheme take-up which is difficult to estimate. In this regard, employers have noted that they would experience difficulties in preserving employees' rights for more than 2 years. If the need for income support still exists after carer's benefit has expired, the carer may apply for carer's allowance. I will keep the supports for carers available from my Department under review in order to continue to improve the schemes and ensure commitments on income support are delivered.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the delay in making one parent family allowance payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20522/08]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal from the person concerned was received by that Office on 3/4/08 and a summary decision was issued on 22/4/08 disallowing the appeal. In the decision the Appeals Officer noted that "by failing to co-operate with the Social Welfare Inspector as to his means, appellant has not shown that he satisfies the conditions as to means for receipt of One Parent Family payment".

The Appeals Officer has now decided to re-open the case by way of an oral hearing. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements have been made. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of my Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Care of the Elderly.

Áine Brady

Question:

178 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the schemes his Department operates which would offer financial support for the installation of a house alarm for an old age pensioner. [20296/08]

My Department manages the Scheme of Community Support for Older People, which assists qualifying older people, aged 65 years and older, by means of a community based grant scheme. Funding is provided towards the once-off cost of installing monitored alarm systems, door and window locks, door chains, security lighting, smoke alarms and in the case of qualifying older people living on our offshore islands, interior emergency lighting. The Scheme does not cover house alarms and I have no plans at present to extend the Scheme.

Community Development.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

179 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason he refused to meet a delegation representing community development projects in south Dublin which sought a meeting with him to discuss its support needs in the context of his plan to terminate contracts with the existing regional support agencies on 31 May 2008 and if he will agree to meet with the delegation. [20254/08]

I refer the Deputy to responses to earlier questions on this topic, in particular Questions Nos. 20, 27 and 41 on 3 April 2008 and Question No. 433 of 19 February 2008. As indicated, a key objective of my Department is to ensure that the skills and talents of the volunteers and staff of Community Development Projects are recognised and developed to enable the objectives of the Programme to be realised. To this end, Projects have recently been afforded the opportunity and resources to determine their own particular support requirements in addition to those supports provided and funded centrally by the Department. Tenders for centrally provided support will be advertised publicly in the very near future as part of the development of future support services for the Programme.

My predecessor met with the Eastern Regional Network, of which the South Dublin projects are a part, earlier this year. In addition, a senior Department official met with the South Dublin CDP Cluster in late April to discuss the situation regarding the provision of continued support services to all Community Development Projects. My officials are available for further contacts from the group if these are required.

Departmental Staff.

Michael Ring

Question:

180 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the counties, in relation to the twelve approved rural recreation officers, the eight RROs appointed to date in 2008 to date have been allotted to; and the locations of the four areas which are only at interview stage. [20258/08]

At this stage nine Rural Recreation Officers have been recruited for the following areas:

Barrow Nore Suir Rural Development Limited, in Kilkenny;

Donegal Local Development Company Limited;

Laois Rural Development Company Limited;

South Kerry Development Partnership Limited;

West Cork LEADER Co-operative Society Limited;

South West Mayo Development Company Limited;

Wicklow Rural Partnership Limited;

Rural Resource Development Limited, in Clare; and

Meitheal Forbartha Na Gaeltachta Teoranta.

The three areas that are still in the process of recruiting Rural Recreation Officers are:

Mid South Roscommon Rural Development Company Limited;

County Sligo LEADER Partnership Company Limited; and

Tipperary LEADER Group Limited.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

181 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20269/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of An Garda Síochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

182 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20266/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of an Garda Síochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Departmental Correspondence.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

183 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position in relation to correspondence sent to his Department in February 2008 regarding a company (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20356/08]

The company named applied for aid under the Compensation Scheme for Sugar Beet Machinery Contractors which is one element of the EU restructuring aid package for the sugar industry. Under the EU Regulations governing payment of the EU restructuring aid, eligibility for aid is confined to sugar processors, beet growers and machinery contractors who worked with their specialised agricultural machinery for the beet growers during a reference period. In accordance with the Regulations compensation was paid to the applicant for equipment used by them in beet contracting work. The stock of spare parts is not eligible for compensation under the Regulations.

Physical Education Facilities.

Mary Upton

Question:

184 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to provide a dedicated fund of at least €100 million over five years from within the national development plan allocation for school buildings. [20405/08]

The Programme for Government commits the provision of a dedicated fund of at least €100 million for investment in school sports facilities over five years from within the NDP allocation for school buildings. I assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to promoting exercise for our children and young people — both in their community and at school. Over €2.6 billion has been provided for school building infrastructure between 2000 and 2006 and a further €4.5 billion is to be invested under the new National Development Plan 2007-2013. Close to €600m of this will be provided this year alone. In a new school building or refurbishment/extension PE facilities are included as an intrinsic part of the design.

At primary level, Physical Education is one of the seven curriculum areas and is an intrinsic element of the Primary School Curriculum. A revised curriculum in physical education at primary level was introduced in September 2005 supported by a national programme of professional development for teachers. The programme provides for six strands of activity — athletics, dance, gymnastics, games, outdoor and adventure activities and aquatics. All qualified Primary teachers are qualified to teach the full spectrum of the Primary Curriculum including Physical Education.

The PE curriculum has been designed on the basis that facilities in schools may vary. Many primary schools have a general purpose room and practically all schools have outdoor play areas which are used for teaching different aspects of the PE programme. A similar situation with sports halls and outdoor facilities applies at second level. In addition, many schools use adjacent local facilities, including public parks, playing fields and swimming pools. Primary schools received €2000 each in PE equipment grants in 2006, at a total cost of €6.5 million. In addition, since 2000 my Department has provided in excess of €5.5m in grant-aid to primary schools to facilitate the provision of coaching or mentoring in connection with physical education or to purchase resource materials associated with the provision of physical education.

The extent and quality of local sports facilities has been improved dramatically in recent years, with more than €450 million invested by the Government since 1998 in over 5,000 projects through the Sports Capital Programme. At the same time, PE, general purpose and outdoor play facilities have been provided for schools all over the country through the School Building Programme. So, through an increased focus on exercise in school and in the community, the Government is working to encourage more children and young people to get active. Indeed, the ‘State of the Nation's Children' report published by the Minister for Children recently, found that children in Ireland are doing well on physical activity, ranking second across the 32 WHO countries in being physically active for at least 4 hours per week.

School Curriculum.

Mary Upton

Question:

185 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to work towards making physical education mandatory at second level and put a revised PE curriculum for senior cycle students in place. [20406/08]

In accordance with the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, all second-level schools should provide Physical Education as part of the curriculum. The programme that each school plans and delivers should be based on my Department's approved syllabuses and the teaching hours should be registered in the school timetable. The syllabuses have been developed on the basis of a time allocation of two hours per week. A revised syllabus in Physical Education as a non examinable subject at Junior Cycle was introduced in post-primary schools in September 2003 and implemented on a phased basis over the period to 2005. No implementation dates have been set as yet for further reforms in this area.

Curriculum support services provide training and school-based support for teachers. School-based support is a very rich form of support and allows the teacher explore the possibilities and limitations of the environment in which they teach. Through modelling of lessons and professional dialogue, the quality of teaching is enhanced and teachers are further enabled to develop their teaching skills. Teachers must also aim to include all students in PE lessons — irrespective of gender, or physical and/or learning deficits. The PE Association of Ireland have been active in organising conferences where teachers can avail of an opportunity to witness the latest thinking in physical education, and my Department also funds programmes on PE through the network of education centres.

This Government has worked hard to improve the opportunities for young people to get physical exercise both in school and in their local communities. In a new school building or refurbishment/extension, PE facilities are included as part of the design. Between 2000 and 2006 a total of 516 large-scale projects were delivered in primary and post-primary schools by my Department as part of a record overall investment of €2.6 billion in modernising primary and post-primary school facilities throughout the country. Many more large-scale projects are under construction or due to go to construction in the near future. New PE equipment such as balancing benches and gym mats are funded as part of any major building programme.

A special PE funding package of €3 million issued to post-primary schools in 2007, providing a grant of €4,000 per school towards the cost of replacing and upgrading PE equipment. This grant was issued, as a once-off measure, to enable schools to replace older equipment such as goalposts, PE mats, benches etc. So, through an increased focus on exercise in school and in the community, we are working to encourage more children and young people to get active. Indeed, the ‘State of the Nation's Children' report published by the Minister for Children recently, found that children in Ireland are doing well on physical activity, ranking second across the 32 WHO countries in being physically active for at least 4 hours per week.

Telecommunications Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

186 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on a school (details supplied) in County Sligo whose broadband provision is just one half MB; if this is an insufficient broadband speed for a school; his further views on recent EU figures showing Ireland ranked 19th out of the EU 27 for broadband for schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20471/08]

As the Deputy will be aware my Department is providing broadband connectivity to primary and post-primary schools under the Schools Broadband Access Programme, which is being supported by industry in the context of a Government — IBEC/TIF (Telecommunications and Internet Federation) Agreement. A competitive, technology neutral, central procurement process for the provision of local connectivity for schools was undertaken based on a tiered bandwidth provision, ranging from 0.5 Mbps in the case of small primary schools with less than 100 pupils up to 2 Mbps for larger post-primary schools.

The school in question, which is a small primary school, was installed with a 0.5Mbps satellite broadband connection in December 2005. In general, satellite connections were recommended only for those schools where no alternative access technology was available at the time. Having regard to observed usage levels, my Department has procured additional bandwidth from its two satellite providers to improve the broadband connection speeds for schools on this portion of the Schools Broadband Network and the situation continues to be monitored closely.

I have received representations from this school in relation to broadband and I am aware that, while being a small primary school, it is actively using its broadband connection. A new Request for Tenders for the next phase of the Schools Broadband Programme will be issued shortly and will be based on a minimum requirement that each individual school receives a service that is at least equivalent, in terms of speed and reliability, to that currently provided. Having regard to the general developments in broadband availability nationally, I expect that improved service offerings will be received under the new tender process.

The Deputy also refers to recent EU figures on broadband for schools. I assume that the Deputy is referring to the European Commission's Study on Benchmarking Access and Use of ICT in European Schools, which was published following two surveys carried out in Spring 2006. The study found that 66% of Irish schools had broadband internet connections as compared with 67% of European schools generally, which ranked Ireland at number 20 of the 27 countries surveyed. The surveys underpinning this Report were undertaken during the roll-out of the Schools Broadband Access Programme and I understand that at the time of survey in March/April 2006, the percentage of schools connected under the Programme would have been in the mid 80s. Having regard to the current almost universal availability of broadband connectivity in our schools as a consequence of the Schools Broadband Access Programme, I am confident that our relative performance internationally has improved significantly.

Schools Building Projects.

Billy Timmins

Question:

187 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if, in view of the present conditions, he will sanction the works to go ahead; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20253/08]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of applications for large scale capital funding from the schools to which he refers. The projects have been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects. Progress on the proposed works will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of these projects at this time.

School Transport.

John Deasy

Question:

188 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in payment of the out of area school transport grant for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; if he will ensure that payment issues to those in receipt of this payment at the end of each term as is the case at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20255/08]

In general, remote area grants are paid at the end of the school year and my Department is currently reviewing cases where payments are made on a more frequent basis. The person referred to in the details supplied is eligible for a remote area grant and the case is among those under review.

Grant Payments.

Dan Neville

Question:

189 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide details of all grant schemes and funding available to an organisation (details supplied) in Limerick west. [20263/08]

The Order of Malta Cadets is the national youth work division of the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps (Ireland) and receives funding from my Department through the Youth Service Grant Scheme (YSGS). Funding under this scheme is made available on an annual grant-in-aid basis to national and major regional voluntary youth work organisations. In 2007, 31 organisations received funding under this scheme including the Order of Malta Cadets which received €64,673 towards the provision of developmental programmes and services for its young members.

At local level, grant-in-aid is also made available each year to youth clubs and groups through my Department's Local Youth Club Grant Scheme (LYCGS). Funding for this scheme amounted to €1.6m in 2007. Local Order of Malta Cadet groups in a number of counties have availed of this funding in the past. Applications for this funding should be made through local Vocational Education Committees (VECs) who administer the scheme on behalf of my Department.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

190 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20271/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of an Garda Síochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

School Accommodation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

191 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if authorisation will be given for a school (details supplied) in County Laois to move to a new site. [20283/08]

My Department has not given authorisation to the school to move to a new site. However, my Department is examining options for the provision of permanent accommodation for the school referred to and in this regard the school authorities will be informed of any progress.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

192 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will approve funding for the replacement of prefabs in a national school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [20284/08]

There is no record in my Department of an application for the replacement of temporary accommodation at the school in question. I have arranged for an official to contact the school authorities in the matter.

Site Acquisitions.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

193 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has ever requested either the Office of Public Works or a local authority to use their compulsory purchase powers to acquire a site for a school; if so, the location, cost and date of the acquisition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20293/08]

As part of my Department's recent interaction with the local government sector in relation to site acquisitions, my Department has asked Meath County Council to consider using its CPO powers for the acquisition of land required for the completion of an education campus at Laytown, Co. Meath. I am advised that a formal response to same is awaited. My Department in communications, in April 2007 with Fingal County Council indicated that a reserved site at Annfield, Diswellstown, Dublin 15 should be acquired using their statutory powers if necessary. Due to commercial sensitivities it is not possible to provide costs associated with specific sites.

Computerisation Programme.

Áine Brady

Question:

194 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Education and Science when his Department will launch the Information and Communications strategy for schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20295/08]

The Programme for Government sets out our commitment to implementing a comprehensive Schools ICT Strategy. This strategy will be underpinned by the investment of €252m in the National Development Plan 2007-2013. The Deputy will be aware that my predecessor appointed a Strategy Group to advise on the priorities for expenditure on ICT in Schools and it is my intention to publish the report of this Group shortly.

This report will cover areas of required investment over the lifetime of the National Development Plan. At its core will be the embedding of ICT in the teaching and learning culture of schools. Among the issues which the new strategy will address are the upgrading and renewal of hardware, the provision of software and digital content for learning, teacher professional development, curriculum development, the maintenance of the national broadband network for schools and technical maintenance and support requirements.

Decisions in relation to both the timing and the amount of expenditure in this area this year must be taken within the overall context of the current budgetary situation and the requirement that I manage within the budget set for my Department. I am reviewing the overall financial position with my officials at present having regard to spending trends to date and emerging pressures. Following this review, I anticipate being in a position to make decisions in relation to specific areas of expenditure.

Asbestos Remediation Programme.

Noel Coonan

Question:

195 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will provide funding for the removal of asbestos tiles from post-primary schools (details supplied) in County Tipperary in the interest of health and safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20337/08]

I have asked the School Building and Modernisation Unit of my Department to carry out an examination of the case referred to by the Deputy as a matter of urgency. As soon as this is completed the school will be informed of the position without delay.

School Accommodation.

Noel Coonan

Question:

196 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for additional accommodation for a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if his attention has been drawn to the urgency of this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20338/08]

An application for temporary accommodation from the school to which the Deputy refers has been received. The application is currently being assessed. My Department will be in contact with the school as soon as a decision has been made.

Schools Building Projects.

Noel Coonan

Question:

197 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for funding for a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if his attention has been drawn to the urgency of this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20341/08]

My Department is in receipt of an application for major capital funding for the school to which the Deputy refers. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage 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. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of these projects at this time.

Noel Coonan

Question:

198 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application by a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary which has made an application for additional accommodation; the reason for the delay in processing this application; if his attention has been drawn to the urgency of the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20342/08]

My Department is in receipt of an application for major capital funding for the school to which the Deputy refers. The application was made in 1999. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage 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. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

199 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science if two new schools (details supplied) in County Wicklow will be ready to open in September 2008. [20346/08]

Provisional recognition was granted to the schools to which the Deputy refers to in April 2008 to open for September 2008. The Department had envisaged that accommodation for both these schools would be provided for September 2008 at a site in the area to which the Deputy refers. However, as negotiations for site acquisition are still ongoing it is now considered unlikely that construction of these buildings will be completed in time for the start of the school term in September 2008. In this context, the schools have been approached with a view to securing alternative accommodation in the interim and officials from my Department are liaising with the patron bodies in this regard to assist them until the school building is delivered.

Irish Language.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

200 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of secondary schools in north Kildare which provide secondary education through Irish for pupils; if he will expand this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20416/08]

Two all-Irish schools currently serve the needs of County Kildare at post primary level. Coláiste Cois Life in Lucan and Gaelcholáiste Chill Dara in Newbridge. A multi-million Euro building project was recently completed to provide Coláiste Cois Life with permanent accommodation to cater for a long term projected enrolment of 600 pupils, to include pupils from the north Kildare area. Transport arrangements to this school for those pupils will continue to be available, as necessary, subject to the usual conditions.

In the recent past, my Department gave careful consideration to an application for a further all-Irish post primary school for the North Kildare area and decided that the application was premature and should not be granted. In arriving at this conclusion, account was taken of the establishment of Coláiste Cois Life under the aegis of Co. Dublin VEC to serve the needs of the west Dublin/north Kildare area. My Department has, however, agreed to keep this situation under review.

School Enrolments.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

201 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science when information sought under Parliamentary Question No. 240 of 28 November 2007 will be available. [20417/08]

Class size data for primary schools for 2007/2008 are currently being compiled by my Department and are not yet available. The source of this data is the Annual Census of Primary Schools. Data will become available when returns for all schools have been processed.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

202 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction the acceptance of a tender for the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [20420/08]

A tender report in respect of the school to which the Deputy refers has been received by the Department. As is the case with all large capital projects currently on hand within the Unit, their progression will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. I am not in a position to say at this stage when construction is likely to commence on the project in question.

Special Educational Needs.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

203 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if proposals for the implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 have been completed. [20421/08]

The National Council for Special Education was required under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 to make a report on the implementation of the Act. Following consideration of the issues raised in the Council's implementation plan, and the consultations to date with the Education Partners, it is envisaged that the five year timeframe to 2010 acknowledged in the legislation is the appropriate period in which to implement the provisions of the Act in full.

My Department is now at an advanced stage in finalising proposals on this basis to facilitate implementation of the remaining sections of the Act, including the provisions in respect of assessment and individual education plans. The time taken to finalise proposals reflects the complexities involved, the need for consultation across the wide range of people and sectors involved, the need to align with the requirements of the Disability Act, 2005 and define how the Health Service Executive (HSE) and NCSE will work together under both acts.

As the EPSEN Act does not provide for phased commencement by age cohort the education sector must be in a position to provide the required services to all children before the relevant provisions are commenced. My Department's priority, therefore, is to ensure that the necessary training, guidance and supports are in place to facilitate the commencement of the remaining sections of the Act. As the Deputy will be aware, during this necessary period of preparation for the roll-out of the EPSEN Act, my Department continues to expand capacity and services for students with special educational needs across the schools network, through the work of the National Council for Special Education.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

204 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has received the stage three submission in relation to the required extension of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [20422/08]

Officials from my Department are still awaiting a date for receipt of the Stage 3 submission (i.e. Developed Sketch Scheme) from the school's Design Team. On receipt of this date a review meeting will be organised between the Board of Management, its Design Team and the Department to assess the submission.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

205 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has received the stage 2a submission in relation to the new school for Ardclough in County Kildare. [20423/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers to is at early architectural planning. Officials from my Department have requested the Developed Sketch Design. On receipt of this, my Department will be in contact with the school authorities. The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to tender and construction, including this project, will be considered in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

206 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if a design team has been appointed for the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [20429/08]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

208 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science when he will sanction the appointment of a design team for the required extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that his Department has already agreed the expansion of the school to a 24 classroom school. [20431/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 206 and 208 together.

The process of appointing design teams to the school building projects referred to by the Deputy is ongoing. The commencement and progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including these projects, is considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. It is not possible at this early stage to say when construction will commence.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

207 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the provision of a permanent school for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [20430/08]

The project at the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at stage 3 of the architectural planning process. The Client for this project is the School Board of Management. The stage 3 submission is currently being reviewed by the Client's design team in advance of being referred to my Department for approval.

Question No. 208 answered with Question No. 206.

Psychological Service.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

209 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the schools in County Kildare which do not have direct access to the National Educational Psychological Service. [20434/08]

I attach for the Deputy's information a list of primary and post-primary schools in Co. Kildare which do not have an assigned NEPS psychologist in the current academic year but who can avail of the Scheme for Commissioning of Psychological Assessment (SCPA) to have assessments carried out.

Roll No.

Name

Address

01821V

S N Rath Mór

Naas, Co Kildare

07790U

Churchtown N S

Churchtown, Athy, Co Kildare

09414C

St Laurence’s N S

Crookstown, Ballytore, Athy, Co Kildare

11976K

Scoil Chóca Naofa

Cill Chóca, Co. Chill Dara.

14643V

S N Na Cloiche Móire

Ballyraggan, Rathvilly, Co Carlow

16345A

Scoil Bhríde

Nurney, Co. Kildare.

16535F

Timolin N S

Timolin, Co. Kildare.

16654N

S N Brighde

Milltown, Newbridge, Co Kildare

16817P

Brannocktown N S

Brannocktown, Co Kildare

17650K

S N Íde

Kilmeade, Athy, Co Kildare

17714K

S N Cill Cae

Castledermot, Athy, Co Kildare

17787O

S N Colmcill Naofa

Moone, Athy, Co Kildare

17968S

Ursaille Naofa

Teach An Da Mhíle, Naas, Co Kildare

18055B

S N Mhuire

Ballymore Eustace, Naas, Co Kildare

18063A

S N Naomh Lorcáin

Levitstown, Maganey, Athy, Co Kildare

18179T

S N Bríde

Lackagh, Monasterevan, Co Kildare

18378C

S N Naomh Ioseph

Baile Ailbhir, Kilcullen, Co Kildare

18675I

S N Cill Daingin

Kildangan, Monasterevan, Co Kildare

18988G

St Raphael’s Special Sch

Celbridge, Co Kildare

19277B

St Anne’s Special School

The Curragh, Co Kildare

19455W

St Mark’s Special School

Piercetown, Newbridge, Co Kildare

19786W

Castledermot Ns Mxd

Castledermot, Co Kildare

20192A

Gaelscoil Átha Í

Athy Town Afc, Pairc Aldridge, Dublin Road, Athy

20271T

Scoil Na Naomh Uiligh

C/O Parish Office, Parish Centre, Station Road, Newbridge, Co. Kildare

61680T

Newbridge College

Newbridge, Co. Kildare

61720F

Clongowes Wood College

Naas, Co Kildare

68072I

Gaelcholáiste Chill Dara

An Bóthar Glas, An Currach

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

210 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 3 April 2008, if there has been a successful conclusion regarding the acquisition of the site. [20435/08]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Department has been in recent communication with the VEC in relation to the negotiations for the site in question. The conclusion of same can only be considered in the context of the Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

211 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction capital funding in 2008 to enable construction to commence on the new national school for Kill, County Kildare. [20437/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that written approval of the Stage 2(a) submission (Developed Sketch Scheme) issued to the design team on the project in question on 23rd April 2008. The Stage 2(b) submission (Detailed Design) is due to be submitted to my Department on 18th August 2008. The progression of this and all large capital building projects in my Department will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Higher Education Grants.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

212 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that recipients of the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Science scholarships are unable to avail of the student maintenance grant because in 2008 local authorities regard the scholarship which is below the income threshold, in addition to the payment of fees to the college as exceeding the income threshold for receipt of the maintenance grant despite the fact that in previous years college fees were waived and therefore the student could receive the maintenance grant; if it is fair to penalise leading academic students in this manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20441/08]

Under Clause 2.2 of the Higher Education Grants Scheme 2007 and Clause 2.1 of the Vocational Education Committees' Scholarship Scheme 2007 provides:

A candidate shall not be eligible to hold a grant under this Scheme if he/she holds: (i) a scholarship/grant awarded by either a Vocational Education Committee, a Local Authority or the Department of Education and Science, or (ii) any other award payable from public funds, or (iii) the equivalent of (i) or (ii) from another E.U. Member State.

The provisions at (ii) or (iii) do not include awards such as scholarships, prizes or bursaries made by the institution being attended or postgraduate research grants where the grant received does not exceed a specified amount, which for the 2007/08 academic year is specified to be €16,000. In addition, the provision at (ii) does not include awards to candidates under the Student Assistance Fund, the Millennium Partnership Fund, the Fund for Students with Disabilities and the Easter Week, 1916, Commemoration Scholarships.

Under this Clause the full value of the award to the student, from public funds, is considered. Such awards may include two elements: one in respect of fees — either an amount towards the cost of fees or a fee waiver — and, the second, a stipend paid directly to the student for living costs. Where the full value of the award does not exceed the limit specified in the Schemes the student may also be approved for funding under the student grant schemes.

School Staffing.

Áine Brady

Question:

213 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review his Department’s decision not to pay sick leave to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the circumstances that the person finds themselves in. [20446/08]

The conditions of employment of the person referred to by the Deputy include leave of absence in the case of illness as outlined in Circular letter 12/05. Paid sick leave is not available within the first three months' service. Subsequently full pay may be allowed during sick absence up to the following limits:

(a) after three months' continuous service, sick pay at full rate for up to six weeks in any period of twelve months' service;

(b) after six months' continuous service, sick pay at full rate for up to nine weeks in any period of twelve months' service;

(c) after twelve months' continuous service, sick pay at full rate for up to thirteen weeks in any period of twelve months' service.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Breen

Question:

214 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 399 and 400 of 11 March 2008, the progress to date in finalising agreement with a group (details supplied) for the provision of education for children with autism; if he will review the decision not to include an ABA centre in County Clare in the ABA pilot programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20460/08]

The Deputy will be aware of the Government's commitment to ensuring that all children with special educational needs, including those with autism, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants and the appropriate school curriculum. The establishment of a network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. In excess of 315 classes have now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level, including many in special schools.

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). These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Funding is also provided for assistive technology and specialist equipment as required and special school transport arrangements may also be put in place.

My Department has put in place a training programme for teachers in autism-specific interventions including TEACCH, PECS and ABA through the Special Education Support Service. A recent initiative has been the expansion of this service to enable it to recruit a behavioural specialist support team, led by a person with a PhD in ABA. My Department's ABA pilot scheme was established in the absence of this network of special classes in our schools. Now that a national network of special classes catering specifically for children with autism is available in schools, new centres will not be brought into the pilot programme.

Since July 2007, my officials has met on a regular basis with the group in question in relation to the commitment in the current programme for Government to long-term funding for the centres that are in the ABA pilot scheme subject to agreement with my Department on standards that will enable them to be supported as primary schools for children with autism. The discussions have been wide-ranging and have included curricular issues, funding and staffing. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the discussions are progressing well. My Department is very anxious to finalise these discussions so that permanent arrangements can be put in place as soon as possible. It has been agreed not to disclose the details of the discussions while they are ongoing. The Deputy will therefore appreciate that I am not in a position to provide details of the discussions.

Schools Building Projects.

Noel Coonan

Question:

215 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of an application for building works for a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when a decision will be made; if his attention has been drawn to the urgency of this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20466/08]

An application for an extension to the college referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. The commencement and progression of all large-scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including this project will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Schools Refurbishment.

Noel Coonan

Question:

216 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application has been received for a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary for the emergency works grant; when the application will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20467/08]

My Department received an application for Emergency Funding for various works from the school in question. Emergency works grants are made available to schools most in need of resources as a result of unforeseen emergencies of a capital nature that may arise during the school year. Following assessment of the application from this school and in light of the large number of projects seeking funding from my Department for works of this nature from the budget allocated, it was not possible to provide funding under the Emergency Works Scheme on this occasion for the works sought.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael Creed

Question:

217 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will approve an extra year in a special school for a pupil (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20468/08]

I wish to advise the Deputy that special schools funded by my Department are intended to cater for children and young persons with special educational needs from 4 years until the end of the school year in which they reach their 18th year. At that point, the Department of Health and Children/Health Service Executive assumes direct responsibility for young adults with special educational needs who are over 18 years. My Department, at that stage, may allocate resources towards an education component of such provision. I understand that the person in question may remain in the special school for the 2008/2009 school year as he will not reach 18 years of age until 2009.

Higher Education Grants.

Willie Penrose

Question:

218 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the income limits applied by his Department for eligibility for higher education grants in 2008/09; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is only a 3.5% increase on the limits in the 2007/08 income eligibility criteria, which is inadequate in view of the inflation figures for the said period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20489/08]

The income limits for the 2008/09 academic year are currently being examined. It has been my Department's practice in recent years to increase the reckonable income limits under the maintenance grant schemes in line with movements in the average industrial wage in the previous year. In 2007/08 the income limits were increased by 3.5% on that basis.

School Staffing.

Finian McGrath

Question:

219 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support an issue (details supplied). [20496/08]

The Programme for Government sets out the overarching policy position in relation to the provision of additional teachers and on reductions in class size over the life of the Government. The Programme contains a commitment to increase the number of primary teachers by at least 4000 and on that basis to make further progress on reducing class sizes.

Budget 2008 provided my Department with €4.6 billion or €380 million extra for teacher pay and pensions. This was a very substantial level of additional investment in the terms of the economic environment on which the budget was based. That allocation provides for paying for over 2000 extra primary teachers more than the number in schools when the Government took office last Summer. It covers the additional teachers that went into schools last September for the previously announced reduction to a 27 to 1 based staffing schedule along with additional teachers this school year and in the coming school year to meet increasing enrolments, to provide for special needs and the language requirements of newcomer children. This means that in terms of the overall commitment to provide at least 4000 additional teachers the Government in its first two years in office will be well ahead of target.

All Programme for Government commitments to improve public services including those relating to class size are contingent on the economic and budgetary environment and the need for prudent expenditure and fiscal management. Even since the presentation of Budget 2008 last December there have been significant alterations in the external and domestic environment. In that context any reasonable observer would regard the fact that the Government has already taken measures that will see the allocation of over 2000 additional teachers to primary schools as a considerable investment all things considered.

Schools Building Projects.

Martin Ferris

Question:

220 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science when he will allow a school (details supplied) in County Donegal to proceed to the next stage which is the tender stage for the necessary extension to the school; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the first application for the new school was made 11 years ago and that many obstacles have been put in the board of management’s way over this time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20498/08]

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 this project, from initial design stage through to construction will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

221 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the date and location by which it is expected to meet the educational needs of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; the way this child’s needs can best be met in early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20528/08]

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 processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special needs supports on the basis of applications in respect of individual pupils. The SENOs operate within the policy outlined in my Department's circulars for allocating such support.

Each SENO works in an assigned local area with parents, schools, teachers, psychologists, health professionals and other staff who are involved in the provision of services in that area for children with special educational needs. All schools have contact details of their local SENO. It is also open to parents to contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, including issues that arise in relation to suitable educational placements, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. My officials have been in contact with the NCSE and have been advised that the local SENO has not been made aware of the pupil referred to by the Deputy. It is open to the parents of the pupil to contact the local SENO regarding their child's special educational needs.

The Deputy may also be aware that it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000.

Where a Board of Management refuses to enrol a student in a school, the parent of the student or, where the student has reached 18 years of age, the student himself or herself, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. A committee is established to hear the appeal with hearings conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases appeals must be dealt with within 30 days. Where appropriate, the Secretary General may give whatever directions to the Board of Management that are considered necessary to remedy the matter complained of.

Cyber Bullying.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

222 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the extent of Internet and cyber mobile phone bullying presenting a particular threat to young people, sometimes ending in suicide; the extent to which action is taken or is expected to be taken to deal with the issue. [20534/08]

I can assure the Deputy that I am aware of the recent survey conducted by the Irish Independent in conjunction with RTE on the issue of "cyber bullying", through the use of the internet and mobile phones. I share the Deputy's concern that any child would feel upset in school because of bullying — be it physical, verbal or what is being termed cyber bullying and I assure him that supports are in place to enable schools both to prevent bullying and to deal with cases that may arise.

There is no requirement for schools to report incidents of bullying to my Department, nor do I believe that this should be the case. I also believe that it is unreasonable to expect schools to have a sole responsibility for tackling it, responsibility extends beyond the school and parents and young people themselves must take protective measures. It is at local level that an effective anti-bullying climate must be established. However, I am anxious to support schools in tackling bullying and it is for that reason that a number supports have been put in place in recent years. Each school is required to have in place a policy which includes specific measures to deal with bullying behaviour, within the framework of an overall school Code of Behaviour and Discipline. Such a code, developed through consultation with the whole school community and properly implemented, can be the most influential measure in countering bullying behaviour in schools.

My Department has issued guidelines as an aid to schools in devising measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour and to increase awareness among school management authorities of their responsibilities in this regard. These guidelines were drawn up following consultation with representatives of school management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of their school. In view of the increasing demands which have been placed on schools as a result of statutory obligations and the requirement for policies in a range of areas, my Department has been working to ensure greater availability of guidelines and template policies to assist schools.

My Department has published policy templates for post-primary schools in five key areas, including anti-bullying on its website of as part of our ongoing efforts in this regard. The template documents are not prescriptive, but rather highlight possible approaches and potential material for inclusion in school policies. The anti-bullying policy template is based primarily on the key document Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour. However, it does take account of more recent legislative and regulatory changes, and reference is also made to issues of contemporary concern such as the need to tackle text bullying, cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) has developed further guidelines for schools on Codes of Behaviour, as provided for under section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. These guidelines have been informed by broad consultation. The guidelines are currently being distributed to schools. It is envisaged that implementation will commence in the next school year. Once schools have had an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the NEWB Guidelines, my Department will commence the process of revising and updating its own "Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour". This review will take into account issues such as legislative developments, the involvement of the support services available to schools, technological advancements such as use of the Internet, e-mail, mobile phones and camera phones and the latest developments in International best practice on dealing with bullying behaviour.

My Department, through the National Centre for Technology in Education has also developed Policy Guidelines and Advisory Notes for schools and parents which deal with the issues of internet and mobile phone bullying. I wish to draw the Deputy's attention to the "think b4 u click" internet safety campaign. This new campaign seeks to raise awareness and promote safe, responsible practice by young people when online. The key messages of the campaign are:

be creative

be yourself

but be in control.

The campaign has a strong peer-to-peer perspective and centres on an interactive online service, www.watchyourspace.ie developed by the National Centre Technology in Education (NCTE). This site offers practical tips and advice and supports teenagers who use the web. A key feature is the advice given from teenagers to teenagers on how to cope with the fall-out from abuses and misuse of social networking and picture-sharing websites. This new initiative perfectly complements the other NCTE safety activities that are already up and running successfully such as Webwise, SAFT and the Once projects. The site offers invaluable help to those who may encounter cyber-bullying:

DO NOT respond to the message as this will only make things worse

DO keep a record of the message so that the problem can be dealt with properly

DO block the sender and

DO talk to someone in authority about what has happened.

The NCTE provides ongoing advice and support to all schools to have an up to date Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP) in operation to deal with use of the Internet. Schools cannot be connected to the schools broadband network until they confirm that they have an AUP in place. Within the school environment access to social networking and computer based instant messaging services are blocked under current filtering arrangements, inherent in the Schools Broadband Network, to which 99% of schools have connected.

The NCTE has advice on tackling cyber bullying on both www.ncte.ie. and on www.webwise.ie. The NCTE works with the National Parents' Councils (NPC) on developing and promoting advice to parents. Webwise.ie is the key Irish website for advice and guidance to schools, pupils and parents. The site has materials and resources for both teachers and parents to assist children to develop safe online skills and a sense of responsibility about what to write and post on websites. Working with the NPC (Primary) the NCTE has developed a seminar to advise parents on how to engage with their children's online lives. Since September 2007, over a 100 seminars have been delivered in schools around the country. The NCTE has 41 trainers throughout the country.

Through the combined work of the Department, the NCTE and the NEWB schools will have available to them extensive guidance to enable them fulfil their responsibilities in relation to this issue. Dealing with bullying has also been incorporated in training for principals through the Leadership Development for Schools programme. I have also stressed to the teacher unions the importance of not just having a written policy on bullying but also ensuring a climate in which it is not tolerated in any form and in which children know that if they make a teacher aware of bullying that it will be dealt with. The education of students in both primary and post-primary schools in relation to anti-bullying behaviour is part of the SPHE curriculum. SPHE is now a compulsory subject both at primary level and in the junior cycle of post-primary schools.

Departmental Records.

Mary Upton

Question:

223 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to make available to historians and to the public, records of the military pensions archive in his Department. [20389/08]

An Taoiseach Mr. Bertie Ahern, T.D., announced in the context of the 90th Anniversary celebrations of 1916 that the Government had decided to make the Military Pension Archive, covering the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence, available to historians and to the public. It is the intention of the Government that the records will be made available in good time for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising in 2016.

I am pleased to report on progress with the project. Additional staff have been recruited for the Military Archives in Cathal Brugha Barracks. Of these, 1 senior civilian archivist/project manager and 3 archivists have been assigned the Military Pensions Archive project. The assignment of a dedicated project manager and archivists will ensure that the project proceeds in a timely manner.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

224 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Defence if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20270/08]

In response to the Deputy's questions I wish to state that ministerial cars are driven by members of An Garda Siochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under Section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Defence Forces Training.

John Cregan

Question:

225 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Defence the reason discussions are taking place under the conciliation and arbitration scheme in relation to payment of the permanent instructors allowance to qualified MT instructors with the transport company, Collins Barracks, Cork, in view of the fact that two corporals in Transport G, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin are already being paid this allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20280/08]

A claim for the payment of Instructors allowance to qualified MT Instructors with the Transport Company, Collins Barracks, Cork was received from the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA) under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme (C&A Scheme) for members of the Permanent Defence Force. The claim is the subject of correspondence between the Department and the Representative Association. The Deputy will appreciate that as discussions under the C&A scheme are confidential to the parties involved it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this time.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

226 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that all Irish troops based at home or abroad including the Navy and Air Corps are trained to the highest possible international standards and that the same degree of modern technology is made available to them as is available to other armies worldwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20535/08]

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

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

Defence Forces Security Escorts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

227 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of cash in transit missions supported by the Defence Forces in each of the past three years; the extent to which payment has been made to the Exchequer in lieu thereof by the various financial agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20536/08]

Following a detailed formal agreement with the Irish Bankers Federation, which was signed on 11 May 2005, the banks pay the total actual costs incurred by the Defence Forces in the provision of cash escorts. Costs in respect of each 12 month period to end-December, are paid the following year on or before the 1st June. This is to allow for the compilation of returns from the brigades and allocation of costs following the year-end. The total cost in respect of the provision by the Defence Forces of assistance to the Garda Síochána in protecting movements of cash for the years 2005 to 2007 was as follows:

Year

2005

2006

2007

Total number of escorts

2,252

2,259

2,291

Payment received from Irish Bankers Federation

€6.03m

€6.47m

Payment due June 2008.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

228 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Navy and Air Corps personnel currently involved or expected to be involved in present or future EU or UN overseas deployments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20537/08]

As of 20 May 2008, a total of 792 members of the Permanent Defence Force are serving overseas. Of the 792 currently serving overseas, 13 are Air Corps personnel and 4 are members of the Naval Service. When full deployment to Chad is completed on 1 June 2008 a further 10 members of the Air Corps and 16 members of the Naval Service will have been deployed overseas. No Air Corps or Naval Service assets are deployed overseas.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent of discussions he has had with his UN or EU colleagues in the matter of participation by Irish personnel in battlegroups or rapid response forces at various locations in Europe or elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20538/08]

With regard to Ireland's participation in future Battlegroups, we are committed in principle to participation in the Nordic Battlegroup (NBG) which will stand up again in 2011. Other contributors to the Nordic Battlegroup are Sweden, acting as Framework Nation, Finland, Norway and Estonia. Informal discussions have also taken place between staff in the Department of Defence and representatives from Austria, Germany, Czech Republic and Croatia regarding Ireland's possible participation in the proposed Austrian/German Battlegroup that will be on stand-by in the second six (6) months of 2012. During my visit to Vienna on 24 April 2008, I held discussions with Mr. Norbert Darabos, the Austrian Minister of Defence. The issue of Battlegroups was one of the items we discussed. Mr. Darabos advised me of the progress made to date in setting up arrangements for 2012 and the contacts that had taken place with other EU states with a view to such an arrangement. I responded that it was too early yet for Ireland to decide on any follow-up arrangement to the one we had agreed with the Nordic battlegroup. Government approval would be required before any decision to participate in the Austrian/German Battlegroup was made.

Question No. 230 answered with Question No. 14.

Coastal Surveillance.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of coastal surveillance here having particular regard to the degree to which Navy and Air Corps personnel are required in the context of such surveillance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20540/08]

The Naval Service provides the maritime element of the Defence Forces and has a general responsibility to meet contingent and actual maritime defence requirements. The Naval Service operates eight general purpose patrol ships. All eight ships are involved in coastal and offshore patrolling and surveillance for the State in that part of the seas where State jurisdiction applies.

The Naval Service provides a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. The Service is tasked with patrolling all Irish waters from the shoreline to the outer limits of the Exclusive Fishery Limits. At present, fishery protection activity accounts for roughly 90% of all Naval Service patrol time. However, as the need arises, Naval Service vessels may be deployed to other duties such as aid to the civil power, search and rescue, drug interdiction operations and assistance with pollution control.

The current Exclusive Fishery Limits extend to 200 miles offshore and cover an area of 132,000 nautical square miles. The Naval Service currently patrols the entire 200 mile limit and periodically patrols beyond these limits to protect specific fisheries. These patrols are carried out on a regular and frequent basis and are directed to all areas of Irish waters as necessary. The number of Patrol Vessels on patrol in Irish waters at any one time varies between three and seven. The Naval Service is committed to having at least three vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time. Naval Service patrols are complemented by assistance provided by the Air Corps. The Air Corps Maritime Squadron carries out aerial surveillance of territorial waters using the two CASA maritime patrol aircraft.

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

Responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking rests primarily with An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. However, the White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in this important work. Government measures to improve law enforcement in relation to drugs, including the establishment in 1993 of a Joint Task Force involving An Garda Síochána, the Customs Service and the Naval Service, have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking. The Air Corps provide air support and, on occasion, carry the Customs National Drugs Team in an observational capacity for the purpose of monitoring vessels suspected of drug trafficking and other illegal activities. There is close co-operation between the civil authorities and the Naval Service and the Air Corps in discharging this important mission.

I am satisfied that the Permanent Defence Force is appropriately resourced to meet its operational requirements, including in relation to its role in coastal surveillance and supporting the civil authorities in this regard.

Question No. 232 answered with Question No. 6.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that the extent of military hardware available to Irish troops on all overseas missions at present is adequate to meet military as well as health and safety requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20542/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, significant investment has been made in Defence Forces equipment in recent years to provide them with the most modern equipment to undertake tasks assigned to them by Government. The equipment issued to the Defence Forces is in keeping with the most modern requirements from the health and safety perspective. Ongoing investment in the Defence Forces will ensure that this remains to be the case and will continue to be a key focus for me as Minister for Defence.

The net result is that Defence Forces personnel serving both at home and on overseas missions are equipped with the most modern and effective equipment, including body armour and breathing apparatus. This equipment enables troops to carry out the mission assigned, as well as providing the required protection specific to the mission. In the case of the EU mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, the Defence Forces have deployed a full range of Force Protection assets. This equipment includes twenty-two Mowag APCs, armoured vehicles and indirect fire capabilities.

Ongoing threat assessments are carried out in mission areas and a continuous review process on both personal equipment and force assets is in place to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately equipped to fulfil their roles in specific missions.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number and location of Irish troop deployments on overseas missions; the strength and nature of the mission in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20543/08]

Ireland is currently contributing 763 Defence Forces personnel to 15 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas on UN mandated operations, observer missions or undertaking representative or staff postings are listed in the tabular statement.

The main overseas missions, in which Defence Forces personnel are deployed, are the UN Mandated EU multi-national mission to Chad and the Central African Republic — EUFOR TCHAD/RCA with 394 personnel, the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo with 280 personnel and EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina with 45 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the UN, EU, OSCE and NATO.

Members of the Irish Defence Forces serve on peacekeeping missions under Chapter VI and Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

KFOR, EUFOR, ISAF and EUFOR TCHAD/RCA operate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, that is, they are entitled to use force to implement their mandates and to protect themselves and the international civil presence. Peacekeeping operations mounted under this Chapter are commonly known as peace enforcement operations where the consent of the parties is not required.

The European Union military mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, EUFOR TCHAD/RCA, established under the authority of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1778 (2007), was formally launched by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 28 January 2008. The mission achieved Initial Operational Capability on 15 March 2008. This marked the start date for the 12-month duration of the Operation. The 97th Inf Battalion is being deployed to Chad and when fully deployed Ireland will be the second largest contributor to the mission with 425 personnel. The aim of the mission is to protect civilians in danger, particularly refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, and protect UN personnel.

KFOR was established in June, 1999 to support the maintenance of civil law and order within Kosovo, so as to develop a climate of safety and security, which will enable the transfer of increased responsibility to the civil authorities.

Ireland has participated in KFOR since August 1999. The Irish (38th) Infantry Group currently serves in the Multi-National Task Force (Centre). In addition to Ireland, the Task Force also comprises troops from the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Sweden, Finland and Latvia. The Task Force's area of responsibility is generally the Pristina region, covering 7 municipalities with a population of approximately 1 million.

The Irish contingent currently comprises an APC Mounted Infantry Group of some 215 personnel, including a number of personnel in staff posts at various KFOR Headquarters. Last August, Ireland assumed the role of Framework Nation for the Multinational Task Force (Centre) in Kosovo for a period of 12 months. An additional 57 Irish personnel are serving with KFOR in support of the Framework Nation role, bringing Ireland's current total deployment to the force to 280.

Ireland has participated in EUFOR since December 2004, the successor mission to the Stabilisation force (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina with which Ireland had previously been serving since 1997. The Irish contingent with EUFOR currently comprises 45 personnel. The role of the Defence Forces personnel currently serving in EUFOR is to provide personnel for the headquarters, the Military Police Unit, Verification Teams and the National Support Element. All Irish personnel are located at Camp Butmir, Sarajevo.

Members of the Permanent Defence Forces Serving Overseas as of 20 May 2008

No.

1. UN Missions

(i) UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ

7

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

12

(iii) MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)

3

(iv) UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo)

4

(v) MONUC (United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo)

3

(vi) UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

TOTAL

31

UN Mandated Missions

(vii) EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

45

(viii) EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) OHQ — Paris

18

EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) FHQ — Chad

10

EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) Initial Entry Force

51

EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) 97th Inf Battalion

168

EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) Advance Group, RSOM, Working Party

147

(ix) KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) Framework Nation

57

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) HQ

11

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) 38th Inf Group

212

(x) ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)

7

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions

757

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

(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

2

(ii) OSCE Mission in Tbilisi — Georgia

1

(iii) OSCE Mission in Belgrade — Serbia

1

(iv) OSCE Mission in Skopje — Macedonia

1

(v) Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

Total number of personnel serving OSCE

6

3. EU Military Staff

Brussels

7

New York

1

4. HQ EU Nordic Battlegroup

12

5. Military Representatives/Advisers/Staff

(i) Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York

1

(ii) Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

1

(iii) Military Representatives to EU (Brussels)

4

(iv) Liaison Office of Ireland, NATO/PfP (Brussels)

2

(v) Military Representative to NATO/PfP Co-ordination Cell/Supreme

1

Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

Total Number Defence Forces Personnel Serving Overseas

792

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 6.

Garda Training.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

236 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to prioritise effective enforcement of the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act 2006 and the Geneva Conventions Acts 1962 to 1998 by making resources available for specialised training in the provisions of those statutes to members of An Garda Síochána and by other means as may be required by An Garda Síochána in order to ensure effective protection for the dignity of all persons within or passing through the State. [20315/08]

The importance attached to human rights compliance in policing in Ireland is highlighted by Section 7 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. This Section sets out the functions of the Garda Síochána, which include providing policing and security services with the objective of protection of life and property and of vindicating the human rights of each individual.

Human Rights training forms an integral part of ‘Contextual Policing Studies', which is incorporated into the ‘Student/Probationer Development and Training Programme' at the Garda College. New members of the Garda Síochána now make a declaration of the need to have regard for human rights in carrying out policing duties. Human rights training also forms part of the training provided by the ‘Continuous Professional Development' staff allocated to each of the Garda Divisions for serving members of the Garda Síochána.

My Department has been in communication with the Garda Commissioner to ensure that these commitments are fully honoured, particularly in the ongoing development of training programmes within the Garda Síochána. I can also assure the Deputy that all necessary resources are being made available in this regard.

Parental Leave.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

237 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to examine the possibility of introducing paternity benefit. [20362/08]

My Department is examining the issue of paternity benefit as part of a review of maternity, parental and paternity leave as promised in the Agreed Programme for Government and the Social Partnership agreement "Towards 2016". The issue of the introduction of a statutory entitlement to paternity leave was examined before, in 2002, by a working group, as part of the Review of the Parental Leave Act, 1998. The Working Group could not reach consensus on the issue.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

238 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to examine the possibility of shared parental leave. [20363/08]

The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006 contains a provision whereby parents employed by the same employer may transfer all or part of their parental leave to the other relevant parent, subject to the employer's agreement. This Bill is currently awaiting Committee Stage in the Seanad. A wider examination of the issue of shared parental leave will be undertaken as part of the ongoing review of leaves such as maternity, parental and paternity as promised both in the Agreed Programme for Government and the Social Partnership agreement "Towards 2016".

Juvenile Offenders.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

239 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to outline the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to double the number of Garda youth diversion projects and fund the development of other programmes for children who offend. [20368/08]

The target envisaged under the Agreed Programme for Government for the number of Garda Youth Diversion Projects is 168 by 2012. The interim target of 100 projects by the end of 2007 was achieved, with 29 new projects established that year. The Garda Commissioner has indicated that it is anticipated that between 15 and 16 projects will be recommended for establishment each year over the next four years and that applications for 2008 will be forwarded to me later in the year.

The recently published National Youth Justice Strategy 2008-2010 details the plans for the development of complementary programmes to the existing Garda projects. The first step is an audit of existing programmes and the identification of any gaps. This stage will be completed by the end of 2008 and the development of new initiatives will be considered at that stage.

Visa Applications.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

240 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm receipt of an application for a spouse visa from a person (details supplied); the date on which this application was received; the status of this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20451/08]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Visa Office, Dublin on the 10th April 2008. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the visa application was approved on 29 April 2008.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

241 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20277/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of the Garda Síochána and are exempt from tolls in accordance with Section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Garda Deployment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

242 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are no designated gardaí with specialised training to deal with crimes of sexual and domestic violence in the Buncrana area; and if he will raise the matter with the Garda Commissioner with a view to rectifying this crucial shortfall. [20291/08]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that as part of Student/Probationer training all members of An Garda Síochána receive training to prepare for and assist them in the investigation of incidents relating to domestic violence. They receive this in two modules, namely Social & Psychological studies and Legal & Policing studies. Additional training is also provided as part of the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes and a dedicated training programme is provided for those selected for the Detective Branch. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) incorporated domestic violence in the 1997 Core Programme for all members of Garda and Sergeant rank after the Domestic Violence Act came into force in 1996. Furthermore, a policy document was issued to all members.

The Core Continuous Professional Development Programme for 2006 contained a module on Sexual Crime, developed in consultation with the Rape Crisis Counselling Network and covered areas pertinent to domestic violence. The situation is kept under constant review by Continuous Professional Development. There is a Garda Inspector in each Garda Division nominated to monitor all incidents of domestic violence within the Division and to ensure that members of An Garda Síochána investigating such incidents adhere to the Garda Síochána Policy on domestic violence.

Traffic Fines.

James Bannon

Question:

243 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford has received 41 parking tickets, despite being assured by the letting agent that parking was included with the rental property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20343/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the parking tickets in question were issued to the person concerned on behalf of the local authority in the area mentioned and is therefore outside the remit of An Garda Síochána. My Department has no responsibility in respect of the matter.

Citizenship Applications.

Jack Wall

Question:

244 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an application for naturalisation for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20349/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in June 2005. Processing of the application has commenced and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Jack Wall

Question:

245 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20350/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in June 2005. Processing of the application has commenced and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Garda Deployment.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

246 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will ask the Garda Commissioner to provide additional resources to Tallaght Garda station to allow special action to be taken to deal with the significant increase in reported burglaries in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20449/08]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of Tallaght Garda Station on 30 April 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 180. The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual stations may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers etc.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. In doing this he takes into account all relevant factors, including of course population but also including other factors such as crime rates and trends as well as operational priorities. The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the allocation of Gardaí to Tallaght Garda Station will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Citizenship Applications.

Finian McGrath

Question:

247 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6W. [20456/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in August 2007. Officials in that Section are currently processing applications received in late 2005 and have approximately 12,600 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person concerned. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

248 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department will issue to the higher education grant section of Galway County Council a letter stating that a person (details supplied) in County Galway has applied for naturalisation; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the person needs this letter in order to qualify for a higher education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20465/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in January 2008. The person concerned was issued with an acknowledgement of receipt of her application on 28 January 2008. This letter was re-issued on 19 May 2008. I refer the Deputy to the reply to Parliamentary Question 507 of 8 May 2008. The position remains as stated.

Prisoner Transfers.

Michael Creed

Question:

249 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners transferred from Cork Prison to Shelton Abbey in the past six months; the number of those prisoners subsequently approved for early release and their average length of stay in Shelton Abbey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20470/08]

I am informed that a total of 77 prisoners transferred from Cork Prison to Shelton Abbey during the time period from 17 December, 2007 to 19 May, 2008. The prisoners concerned were deemed suitable for transfer to an open centre having, in each case, taken into account a wide range of factors including the nature of their offence, length of sentence, engagement with the therapeutic services and behaviour while in custody. I can also advise the Deputy that the capacity of Shelton Abbey increased by 50% recently following the completion of a new accommodation block.

The aims and objectives of open centres such as Shelton Abbey is to provide a place of detention aimed at the rehabilitation of offenders through education and training linked with a regime which encourages a sense of personal responsibility and self respect in order to assist in them leading law-abiding lives on their return to the community. The profile of open centres generally includes either low risk offenders who are serving short sentences for minor offences or offenders nearing the end of longer sentences whose transfers have been approved as part of a sentence management programme. It is the case that, in view of their status as lower security prisoners, many of the persons transferred to open centres do benefit from release in advance of their remission dates but I do not have the exact details sought by the Deputy immediately available to me.

Citizenship Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

250 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for a certificate of naturalisation by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be dealt with and a decision given thereon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20492/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in May 2007. Officials in that Section are currently processing applications received in late 2005 and have approximately 10,700 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person concerned. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20519/08]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 313 of the 20 February 2008. My Department has no record of a subsequent application from the person concerned. It is open to the applicant to make a fresh application at any point.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

252 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Dublin will be granted special leave to remain in the State notwithstanding the fact that their parents who have residency status here propose to emigrate to Canada; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20523/08]

I have been informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person referred to in the Deputy's question arrived in the State on foot of a study visa. If she wishes to continue to reside in the State to study on expiry of her current permission to remain in September 2008, she should go to her local immigration officer, with details of her course and payment of fees in order to seek further permission to remain.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

253 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20525/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in June 2006. Officials in that section inform me the processing of the application is near completion and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the near future. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is permissible for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is resident here on foot of a work permit and stamp one status to travel to Spain for one week and return to Ireland without interfering with their status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20527/08]

The person in question will need to apply for a re-entry visa prior to their departure from the State. Comprehensive information on making a re-entry visa application is available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service atwww.inis.gov.ie.

Planning Issues.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

255 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the Programme for Government to ensure a supply of affordable child care premises by requiring housing developers to make a monetary contribution or provide a site to local authorities for child care facilities. [20359/08]

The provision of childcare facilities is primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister of State with responsibility for children. My Department published Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Childcare Facilities in June 2001, which provide a framework to guide all local authorities in the preparation of development plans and in assessing applications for planning permission; assist developers and childcare providers in formulating development proposals; and aim to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country in the treatment of applications for planning permission for childcare facilities. The matter is also addressed in Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Development Plans, which were published by my Department in June 2007, reflecting that the provision, or facilitation of the provision, of services for the community, including childcare facilities, is a mandatory objective for development plans under section 10 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000.

In addition, the need for essential community facilities, including childcare, to be incorporated into the design and development of new residential developments is set out in the draft Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas which will issue in their final form later this year.

Under section 48 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, planning authorities may levy development contributions in respect of public infrastructure and facilities provided by, or on behalf of, the local authority that benefit development in the area, based on a scheme of contributions adopted by the elected members of the authority. The money collected in development levies is used to fund public infrastructure, including community facilities, servicing new development. As indicated in the reply to Question No. 584 of 20 May 2008, the operation of the development contributions system will be kept under review by my Department.

Wildlife Protection.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

256 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he is taking to overcome the spread of Lagarosiphon major in Lough Corrib, Galway; if he will set up a full-time, adequately staffed and fully resourced task force to deal with this serious infestation of Lough Corrib waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20260/08]

Lagarosiphon major, also known as the curly-leaved pondweed, is a native of southern Africa. It has been widely sold for many years as an oxygenating plant for garden ponds and aquaria. However, it is viewed as a major threat to Irish lakes and their associated wildlife since it became established in Lough Corrib in 2005.

A Lagarosiphon Task Force has been established to address the spread of the pondweed in the lake. The Task Force includes representatives of my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Central Fisheries Board, the Western Regional Fisheries Board, the Office of Public Works and Galway County Council. Last year my Department provided funding to the Central Fisheries Board to purchase a weed cutting boat to be dedicated exclusively to removingLagarosiphon major in the lake. I understand that the boat is now moored on the lake and will begin operations in the next few weeks. In this regard, I have provided additional funding of €200,000 this year to the Central Fisheries Board for work involving the removal and control of Lagarosiphon major in the lake.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

257 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20273/08]

Ministerial cars are driven by members of An Garda Síochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Water Supply Contamination.

Joe Carey

Question:

258 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the protocols he has issued to local authorities in respect of dealing with the potential for cryptosporidium entering public water supplies; the funding he has put in place to deal with the issue from a prevention point of view; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20286/08]

While my Department has in the past issued guidance to local authorities in relation to cryptosporidium in water supplies, since the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations, 2007 came into effect, the Environmental Protection Agency is the supervisory authority for public water supplies. I understand that, in that capacity, the Agency issued a Guidance Booklet "Risk Screening Methodology for Cryptosporidium" to each local authority in January 2008. My Department's current Water Services Investment Programme includes 300 water supply schemes with a combined estimated value of €2.4 billion. A primary objective of these, and similar schemes funded under previous phases of the Programme, is to ensure that water supplied to the public is clean and wholesome.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Phil Hogan

Question:

259 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress on the seven-village sewerage scheme in County Waterford with particular attention to the Cappoquin sewerage scheme; the reason its progress is being delayed due to the proposed introduction of a new tender procedure that a Department working group is putting together and is not expected to have finalised for the next few months. [20287/08]

The Waterford Grouped Towns and Villages Sewerage Scheme is approved for construction under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007 — 2009. I understand that the upgrading of the wastewater collection system in Kilmacthomas is underway and that the works to improve Tallow's collection system have already been completed. I also understand that the Council is finalising contract documents for the wastewater treatment plants for the seven locations covered by the scheme.

In October 2006, the Department of Finance, which is responsible for public procurement rules, issued instructions requiring all traditional public works projects to use new forms of construction contracts from February 2007 onwards. The new forms of contract were introduced to achieve greater cost certainty, better value for money and more timely and efficient delivery of publicly funded projects. However, contracting authorities were given the option of either switching over to the new forms of contract or completing any contract documents on which detailed drafting was already underway. I understand that Waterford County Council elected to complete the contract documents they were working on for five of the collection systems, including Cappoquin.

This interim arrangement has been brought to a conclusion by the Department of Finance. All public works contracts must now be awarded using the new forms of contract. Waterford County Council has been informed accordingly. The contract documents for the treatment plants, which are being procured under a Public Private Partnership arrangement, are not affected.

Election Management System.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

260 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to establish an independent electoral commission to take responsibility for electoral administration and oversight. [20319/08]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish an independent Electoral Commission which will take responsibility for electoral administration and oversight, implement modern and efficient electoral practices, revise constituency boundaries, take charge of compiling a new national rolling electoral register, take over the functions of the Standards in Public Office Commission relating to election spending, and examine the issue of financing the political system. My Department has appointed consultants to carry out preliminary research on issues arising in relation to the establishment of the Electoral Commission. The consultants' work has recently begun.

Seanad Reform.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

261 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to determine the extent of cross-party agreement on the recommendations of the report on Seanad reform to advance proposals for implementation. [20320/08]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to determine the extent of cross-party agreement on the recommendations of the April 2004 Report on Seanad Reform by the Seanad Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform, and to advance proposals for implementation. The Report sets out comprehensive recommendations for further consideration and action concerning the composition, functions and future role of Seanad Éireann.

I consider that Seanad reform should be advanced on the basis of an All-Party, consensus approach, insofar as possible. Representatives of each of the Parties have been invited to attend a meeting of the All-Party Group on Seanad Reform on 18 June 2008. The aim of the Group will be to establish, in a small number of meetings, the extent of cross party agreement on the recommendations of the Seanad Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform's 2004 Report.

Local Government Policy.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

262 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to reform local government making it more transparent and more responsive to its customers. [20323/08]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

267 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to review the operation of local government legislation to ensure that the decision making processes in local authorities are rebalanced in favour of the democratically elected representatives of the people. [20328/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 267 together.

I published the Green Paper, Stronger Local Democracy — Options for Change on 22 April 2008. The Green Paper presents a set of options which share a common theme of strengthening local democratic leadership. For example, Stronger Local Democracy proposes a Regional Mayor for Dublin to meet the strategic challenges the city faces. The Paper also contends that local leadership, accountability and connection with the citizen can be achieved through the provision of directly elected mayors for all counties and cities with key powers of initiative. Copies of Stronger Local Democracy have been sent to all members of the Oireachtas. Stronger Local Democracy represents the initial phase of a transparent, inclusive policy formulation process. The purpose is not to arrive at a single solution, but to present options for further consideration.

My Department is now embarking on a public consultation process to inform the drafting of the White Paper which I hope to finalise by year end. I look forward to receiving the views of all concerned. Details of how to contribute to the consultation process are available on my Department's website. I will also be holding a number of regional seminars in the coming weeks to gather as full a range of perspectives as possible.

Planning Issues.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

263 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to ensure that advice given in pre-planning discussions is consistent and does not get overturned every time there is a change in planning staff. [20324/08]

Under section 247 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 a person who intends to make a planning application to the planning authority may with the agreement of the planning authority concerned enter into pre–application consultations in relation to the proposed development. My Department issued Development Management Guidelines to planning authorities in June 2007, which are a step by step guide to all stages of the planning application process, beginning with pre-application consultations. A copy of the guidelines is available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

The Guidelines recognise the benefits of pre-application consultations in that they provide the planning applicant with an opportunity to discuss the merits of a proposal for development at an early stage. The pre-application consultations also allow the planning authority an opportunity to play a proactive role in guiding a project from its inception in accordance with proper planning and sustainable development principles.

The Guidelines note that a written record must be kept of section 247 consultations and that a copy of the record must be placed on the planning file in the event of a subsequent planning application. The stated intention is to inform those involved in determining any subsequent application, particularly if they were not directly involved in the prior consultation. The Guidelines also recommend that planning authorities put in place management structures to inform applicants if, when the planning application is received, there has to be a material departure from the approach adopted by the planning authority at the pre-application consultation: such a departure might be required if the subsequent application is substantially different from that originally discussed, or if the planning authority needs to respond to valid issues raised by the public or by statutory consultees following submission of the application.

The Development Management Guidelines were issued under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and planning authorities are obliged to have regard to them in the performance of their planning functions. The implementation of the guidelines by planning authorities will assist in ensuring a consistency of approach at pre-application consultation stage.

Local Authority Funding.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

264 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to modernise the financial and budgetary processes of local authorities in order that councillors and the public can readily grasp the options open to the local authority when it comes to spending and revenue raising priorities. [20325/08]

Substantial progress has been made to date on the modernisation of the financial and budgetary processes of local authorities. Following the roll out of full accrual based accounting, my Department is currently working in partnership with local authorities to develop and implement a new costing system which will deliver enhanced management information, particularly in relation to unit costs. The costing system will introduce a new service structure in local authority accounts to replace the existing programme structure. City and county authorities have prepared or adopted their 2008 budgets under the service structure format, and this will be applied by all local authorities from 2009.

Section 5 of the Local Government (Business Improvement Districts) Act 2006 provides a framework for the establishment by local authorities of audit committees with an appropriate structure and remit. The functions of an audit committee under these provisions are to review financial and budgetary reporting practices and procedures within a local authority, foster the development of best practice in the internal audit function, review auditors' reports and special reports and assess follow-up action by management, assess and promote efficiency and value for money, review risk management systems and make such recommendations to the authority as the committee considers appropriate in respect of such matters. It is a matter for each local authority to prioritise its spending, with the resources available to it, across the range of services it provides.

Local Government Audit Service.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

265 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made on the commitment in the programme for Government to ensure that local authority spending is overseen by powerful audit committees much like the Committee of Public Accounts of Dáil Éireann, with power to summon witnesses and call local authorities to account. [20326/08]

Section 5 of the Local Government (Business Improvement Districts) Act 2006 provides a framework for the establishment by local authorities of audit committees with an appropriate structure and remit. The functions of an audit committee under the new provisions are to review financial and budgetary reporting practices and procedures within a local authority, foster the development of best practice in the internal audit function, review auditors' reports and special reports and assess follow-up action by management, assess and promote efficiency and value for money, review risk management systems and make such recommendations to the authority as the committee considers appropriate in respect of such matters.

The remit of the audit committee provides that the committee may request the Manager, Director of Service — including the Head of Finance, and the Head of the Internal Audit Unit to attend meetings. The committee will be facilitated in respect of briefings it requires from either the Manager or other council officials. Audit committees are now in place in 33 of the 34 local authorities. In the remaining authority, arrangements are in progress to move from the existing audit efficiency group to the committee approach envisaged in the new provisions.

Local Government Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

266 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made on the commitment in the programme for Government to build on the experience gained from the service indicators initiative by putting in place more challenging indicators for the years ahead, including additional indicators on environmental performance and water quality. [20327/08]

The local authority service indicators initiative has been in place since 2004, and in line with the commitment given in the Programme for Government to build on the experience gained from the service indicators, the Local Government Customer Service Group recently completed a review of the indicators. This group is representative of the local government sector (elected members and officials) and my Department.

As a result of this review, from 2008 onwards there will be indicators across 46 headings as compared to the original 42. The new indicators cover housing, motor tax, unaccounted water, planning, library services and community participation, in some cases replacing existing indicators in order to make them more meaningful. In addition, a large number of existing indicators, including some in relation to the environment, have also been amended.

Question No. 267 answered with Question No. 262.

Library Projects.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

268 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made on the commitment in the programme for Government to ensure that the library service responds to changing public demand for services as a result of the revolution in communications technology. [20329/08]

I intend shortly to launch Branching Out — Future Directions, a policy document which will drive the development of the public library service in Ireland over the next five years. A number of ICT initiatives which have been implemented throughout the library service in recent years will continue to be developed, to enhance the quality of access to a rich diversity of information which is now freely available through the Internet at public libraries. Further development of the Student Zone of www.askaboutireland.ie is ongoing. This is designed to support school curricula by providing National Council for Curriculum and Assessment approved, age-appropriate structured modules for teachers and students and for independent learning.

Under the Changing Libraries programme a number of nationally significant historic datasets have been developed into a collection of electronic services for the public. The Irish Times Archive was digitised in a joint partnership with my Department and is freely accessible from the www.askaboutireland.ie website in public library branches and schools. The Ordnance Survey historic map viewer provides on-line access to a national map set originally mapped by the Ordnance Survey between 1829 and 1913.

An on-line version of Griffith's Valuation, the most important surviving genealogical source from the nineteenth century is in the final test stages, and is due to go live and freely available on the www.askaboutireland.ie website shortly. A core collection of seminal local studies texts is in the process of being digitised and will be made available on-line this year. Future Public Library Capital Programmes will also build on previous investment in ICT developments and promote its continuing spread throughout the public library service.

Fire Service.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

269 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made on the commitment in the programme for Government to ensure the fire services operate to best international standards with a new community focus on fire prevention. [20330/08]

The Department has continued to support the modernisation programme for the fire services with increased capital investment and the development and implementation of programmes initiated under the Fire Services Change Programme. The programmes are developed having regard to best practice internationally. The Department's community fire safety programmes are aimed at shifting the focus from response to prevention and the Department is working with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, who have made significant progress in this area. The development of a risk analysis system is currently under way and that process will assist fire authorities with fire safety management.

Public Service Staff.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

270 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made on the commitment in the programme for Government to ensure there is an acceptable buffer period before civil servants or local government officials can take up employment in related areas of the private sector. [20331/08]

Under Section 10 of the Code of Conduct for Local Authority Employees, local authority employees must inform the appropriate authority before taking up employment outside the sector where the possibility of a conflict of interest may exist. Employees below Director of Services must inform the relevant County or City Manager. Employees at or above Director of Services level are required to inform the Outside Appointments Board for the Local Government Sector before taking up such employment.

Also, employees to whom Part 15 (Ethical Framework) of the Local Government Act 2001 applies, or applied at any time during the six month period prior to their retirement or resignation, must obtain the consent of the relevant County or City Manager, or the Outside Appointments Board for the Local Government Sector as appropriate if, within twelve months of resignation or retirement, they intend to accept an offer of employment or consultancy engagement the nature and terms of which could lead to a conflict of interest.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

271 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made on the commitment in the programme for Government to consider legislation to regulate lobbyists. [20332/08]

Arising from previous research completed by the Institute of Public Administration in 2004, my Department commissioned further research by a Trinity College-Dublin City University joint team to establish a clear profile of formal systems for regulating lobbyists in public life in certain jurisdictions, thereby facilitating an assessment of their relevance to public life in Ireland. This research report, entitled Examining and Assessing the Regulation of Lobbyists in Canada, the USA, the EU Institutions, and Germany has been published electronically on my Department's website and copies of the report were placed in the Oireachtas Library in June 2007.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to consider legislation to regulate lobbyists, and this will be taken forward having regard to the conclusions of the Trinity College-Dublin City University report and emerging developments at international level, such as the publication of the OECD's Lobbyists, Governments and Public Trust: Building a Legislative Framework for Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in Lobbying document.

Public Service Charges.

Seán Barrett

Question:

272 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the valuable contribution that old folks associations make to local communities in providing old folks centres for the aged and retired, he will exempt such centres from water charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20345/08]

I greatly respect the contribution made by old folks associations to their local communities; however, it is not possible to exempt these or other community or voluntary organisations from water charges. Ireland has, under the EU Water Directive, secured an exemption but this is restricted to dwelling houses using water for ordinary household purposes.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

273 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 985 of 2 April 2008, if there has been further progress. [20428/08]

In October 2006, the Department of Finance, which is responsible for public procurement rules, issued instructions requiring all traditional public works projects to use new forms of construction contracts from February 2007 onwards. The new forms of contract were introduced to achieve greater cost certainty, better value for money and more timely and efficient delivery of publicly funded projects. However, contracting authorities were given the option of either switching over to the new forms of contract or completing any contract documents on which detailed drafting was already underway. I understand that Kildare County Council opted to complete the contract documents the Council was working on for Phase 2 of the Kildare Water Supply Scheme (Castlewarden to Ballygoran).

This interim arrangement has been brought to a conclusion by the Department of Finance. All public works contracts must now be awarded using the new forms of contract. Kildare County Council has been informed accordingly.

Local Authority Staff.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

274 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress he has made in the past four months on the issue raised with him in Parliamentary Question No. 1409 of 30 January 2008. [20432/08]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 513 of 2 October 2007. As indicated previously, while no formal study has been carried out, the views of local authorities, including authorities with rapidly expanding populations, have been taken into account in the context of the consultation between my Department and the Department of Finance. My Department continues to maintain appropriate contact with the Department of Finance in this regard.

Water Supply.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

275 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received the preliminary report in relation to sourcing additional water for the greater Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20438/08]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 1410 of 30 January, 2008. The position in unchanged.

Public Order Offences.

Áine Brady

Question:

276 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the recourse open to residents of households where neighbouring residents are involved in anti-social or abusive behaviour (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20448/08]

Action to deal with anti-social behaviour is primarily a matter for the Garda Síochána and legislation in this regard is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Landlords are, however, responsible for enforcing the obligations that apply to their tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. The Act prohibits anti-social behaviour in, or in the vicinity of, a dwelling to which the Act applies and allows a landlord to terminate any tenancy where the tenant is engaging in or allowing other occupiers of, or visitors to, the dwelling to engage in such behaviour, subject to a notice period of only 7 days in the case of serious anti-social behaviour or 28 days in the case of less serious but persistent behaviour. It also provides for a third party affected by anti-social behaviour to take a case to the Private Residential Tenancies Board against a landlord who has failed to enforce tenant obligations. The Board can also direct the landlord to ensure that tenants comply with their obligations and can enforce compliance through the Courts.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Enda Kenny

Question:

277 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received an application for a serviced land initiative from Mayo County Council regarding a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Mayo; the progress on processing this application; if a timescale is in place; if so, the timescale involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20452/08]

Mayo County Council's application for Serviced Land Initiative funding for sewerage facilities at Ballyheane is being examined in my Department and a response will issue to the Council as quickly as possible.

Local Authority Funding.

Enda Kenny

Question:

278 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the applications under an initiative (details supplied) that have been received by his Department from Mayo County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20453/08]

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Grant Payments.

Martin Ferris

Question:

279 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the list of playgrounds in County Kerry awarded grants in 2007 is available. [20500/08]

A payment of €17,822 was made to Kerry County Council in 2007 in respect of the completion of a playground at Ballyheigue under the 2006 Scheme. As previously indicated, the playground scheme was deferred in 2007 in order to allow local authorities to make progress with over 80 outstanding projects.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

280 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the other Departments in addition to the Department of Defence which have prepared biodiversity plans in accordance with the national biodiversity plan; the steps he is taking to ensure that those Departments that are required to prepare a biodiversity plan and have not done so, do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20504/08]

The production of biodiversity action plans under the National Biodiversity Plan by other Government Departments is a matter for those Departments. However, to support the process, my Department has developed and circulated guidelines on the development of sectoral biodiversity action plans to all Government Departments.

EU Directives.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

281 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the European Union directives on environmental law which have been the subject of warnings, court proceedings or fines from the European Commission or the European Court of Justice for failure to transpose the directive concerned at all or properly, that have yet to be transposed to the satisfaction of the European Commission; the steps he will take to ensure timely transposition of the directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20505/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

286 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of sites which Ireland is the subject of proceedings by the European Court of Justice or warnings by the European Commission for failures under the landfill directive or other European Union environmental law directives; the counties in which the sites concerned are located; the breaches for which these warnings or court cases have been initiated; if he will provide the information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20511/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281 and 286 together.

In areas for which my Department has responsibility, the European Commission is currently in correspondence in respect of 29 cases relating to possible infringements of EU environmental legislation. The cases are at various stages of proceedings as listed in the following table. There is no case awaiting a fines decision against Ireland, and fines have never been imposed on Ireland in relation to an environmental infringement.

There are currently three Directives that are outstanding for transposition. Work is ongoing with a view to completing their transposition at the earliest possible date. In one case that would have been listed as outstanding, I have made the necessary regulations and these have been formally notified to the Commission, so I would expect the Commission formally to close this case soon. In the other 25 cases the Commission has raised issues about the implementation and transposition of the Directives listed; in 8 of these cases the European Court of Justice has issued judgements and my Department is working to meet their requirements.

As indicated in the table nearly all cases are of national application. Some are also site specific and location information is provided. Given that the ‘pre court' cases are the subject of correspondence which could lead to court proceedings it would not be appropriate to provide more site specific information in relation to these cases.

Stage in Proceedings

Locations: Site/County

Directive Reference

Article 226 Letter of Formal Notice

Article 226 Reasoned Opinion

Being Referred to the European Court of Justice

Before the European Court of Justice for hearing or awaiting judgement

European Court of Justice Decision to be Implemented

Article 228 Letter of Formal Notice

Article 228 Reasoned Opinion

Directives Outstanding for Transposition

2003/35/EC on public participation in certain plans and programmes relating to the environment

1

Of national application; not site specific

2004/107/EC on Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, Nickel and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Ambient Air

1

Of national application; not site specific

2004/35/EC on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage

1

Of national application; not site specific

Directives Recently Transposed

2005/33/EC on the sulphur content of marine fuels

1

Of national application; not site specific

Directives where there are Issues on Implementation or Transposition

75/439/EEC on the disposal of waste oils

1

Of national application; not site specific

75/442/EEC the waste directive

1

Of national application; not site specific

1

1

1

Of national application; not site specific

1

A case of national application and also related to certain sites. (See note one.)

76/464/EEC on dangerous substances in water

1

Of national application

79/409/EEC on wild birds

1

Of national application

1

Of national application

Stage in Proceedings

Locations: Site/County

Directive Reference

Article 226 Letter of Formal Notice

Article 226 Reasoned Opinion

Being Referred to the European Court of Justice

Before the European Court of Justice for hearing or awaiting judgement

European Court of Justice Decision to be Implemented

Article 228 Letter of Formal Notice

Article 228 Reasoned Opinion

80/68/EEC on groundwater

1

Ballymurtagh, Co. Wicklow

80/778/EEC on the quality of drinking water for human consumption

1

Of national application

85/337/EEC On the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment

1

Of national application

1

Of national application but also site specific

1

Of national application but also site specific

1

Of national application

91/271/EEC on urban waste water treatment

1

Of national application

1

Of national application but also site specific

92/43/EEC on habitats

1

Of national application but also site specific

1

Of national application

1

Of national application

98/81/EC on the contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms

1

Of national application; not site specific

99/31/EC on landfill

1

Of national application; not site specific

2000/60/EC the water framework directive

1

Of national application; not site specific

2001/42/EC on the Assessment of the Effects of Certain Plans and Programmes on the Environment

1

Of national application; not site specific

2002/96/EC on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

1

Of national application; not site specific

Note 1: Poolbeg, Dublin City; Powerstown, Co. Carlow; Cullinagh and Ballard, Fermoy Co. Cork; Drumnaboden Co. Donegal; Lea Rd. and Ballymorris, Portarlington Co. Laois; Limerick City wetlands, Co. Limerick; Greenore, Co. Louth; Various wetlands at Ballynatin, Pickardstown, Ballygunner Bog and Castletown, as well as Tramore and Killbarry, Co. Waterford; Pembrokestown, White Rock Hill Co. Wexford; Bray Co. Wicklow.

Local Authority Staff.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

282 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if an audit or count has been carried out by his Department to identify the number of local authorities that have appointed or designated biodiversity officers; the local authorities that his Department has information confirming that a biodiversity officer has been put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20506/08]

My Department has not carried out an audit on the number of biodiversity officers employed by local authorities. However, from bilateral contacts, my Department is aware that biodiversity officers are currently employed in Fingal County Council, Clare County Council and Dublin City County Council. Biodiversity Officers, or indeed Heritage Officers who discharge the biodiversity function in a number of other areas, play an important role in the development and implementation of local biodiversity action plans. I have provided €300,000 to support the implementation of local biodiversity action plans during 2008.

Local Authority Housing.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

283 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of local authority houses that were completed in the years 2006 and 2007 and to date in 2008 including a table showing the number of houses completed broken down into each local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20508/08]

Data in relation to the number of social housing completions in each local authority area, including data for 2006 and 2007, are published in my Department's Annual Housing Statistics Bulletins, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas library. These data are also available on my Department's website. Data for the first quarter of 2008 will be published shortly.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

284 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of people on the waiting list for local authority housing for each local authority in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20509/08]

The results of the 2005 statutory assessment of housing need indicated that there were 43,684 households on local authority housing waiting lists. More comprehensive data in relation to that assessment for each housing authority are available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. Local authorities are currently carrying out the 2008 statutory housing needs assessment, the results of which will be published in due course.

Strategy on Homelessness.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

285 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the numbers of homeless people in Ireland and by county for the years 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20510/08]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 555 of 20 May 2008 which set out the most recently published national figures for homelessness. Details of the number of homeless households in each local authority area are published in the Annual Housing Statistics Bulletins, which are available in the Oireachtas Library and on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

Question No. 286 answered with Question No. 281.

Local Authority Housing.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

287 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the effectiveness of public private partnership projects in view of a number of housing projects under threat in Dublin City in particular the regeneration of an estate (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20513/08]

Catherine Byrne

Question:

288 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the regeneration schemes underway in Dublin city; the action he will take to ensure that projects already in the pipeline and at an advanced stage will go ahead as planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20514/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 287 and 288 together.

The regeneration of estates is a key element of the Government's housing policy statement Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities and over €120 million has been provided from the Exchequer in 2008 to aid this process. This is in addition to funding from the private sector and from local authorities' own resources. Public Private Partnerships (PPP) are one of a range of options used by Dublin City Council to renew and regenerate their social housing estates and provide new social and affordable housing in the city. PPPs are a way of promoting sustainable development through encouraging social, income and tenure mix in an economically efficient way.

Dublin City Council recently announced that the PPP regeneration projects which it had with Castlethorn/McNamara Construction in St Michael's Estate and O'Devaney Gardens, and with McNamara Construction on Dominick Street, Convent Lands in Sean McDermott Street, and Infirmary Road will not now go ahead as planned. The Council is working with its tenants to explore options for regenerating the five areas concerned and is also to examine all the social, economic and legal implications of the recent announcements, with a view to putting forward alternative proposals so that the process for the regeneration of these areas can proceed. My Department will be actively engaging with the City Council in relation to alternative proposals for these projects. It will also be considering the wider implications, if any, for the approach to PPPs generally.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Tom Hayes

Question:

289 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the grant aid available to farmers for the installation of wood log gasifiers. [20501/08]

Liz McManus

Question:

291 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will introduce a wood log gasifier grant scheme under the greener homes schemes; his views on whether this is an ideal carbon neutral renewable fuel resource for domestic homes and should be encouraged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20472/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289 and 291 together.

The Greener Homes Scheme provides support to homeowners to invest in a range of domestic renewable energy heating technologies including solar panels, biomass boilers and stoves and heat pumps. There has been a strong interest in the scheme since it was launched in March 2006. On foot of the achievement of the original scheme targets three years ahead of schedule, Phase I of the Greener Homes Scheme was closed on 3 September 2007. Phase II of the scheme was opened on 1 October 2007 with assistance still provided under the above mentioned headings.

The objective in Greener Homes Phase II is to consolidate the market, underpinning it with quality standards and training and providing for a long-term future that is not grant dependent. The aim is to ensure that the market for these products, services and fuels continues to develop strongly in a robust manner and that consumers continue to be guided towards discerning choices. Continuing the scheme is helping secure a range of objectives including more competitive offerings, revised product standards, improved training standards and stable growth across the renewable heating industry.

The Greener Homes Scheme will continue to be kept under review, and will continue to evolve in light of the maturing technologies and market developments, including the consideration of additional technologies such as wood log gasifiers. Wood energy is a sustainable and renewable energy source. There are however supply chain issues with any new technology and I am cognisant of the issues involved.

Ministerial Travel.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

290 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he personally pays the toll charges incurred on his travels; if not, the cost to the taxpayer of such tolls for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20268/08]

When travelling in a private capacity I would be liable to pay toll charges as appropriate. As the Deputy will be aware, Ministers do not personally pay toll charges incurred on official travels. Ministerial cars are driven by members of an Garda Síochána. Such vehicles are exempt from tolls under section 62 of the Roads Act 1993. Accordingly, no cost arises to the Exchequer.

Question No. 291 answered with Question No. 289.

Motor Fuels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

292 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the extent to which diesel prices at the pumps are vastly higher than petrol prices; if an investigation has been undertaken to identify the cause of such disparities having particular regard to the fact that people are encouraged to switch to diesel as a more eco-friendly fuel but are being penalised by the oil companies; if steps are being taken or are expected to be taken to bring diesel prices at least back into line with petrol prices or lower as was previously the case; if he will use his influence at EU level to ensure that consumers here are not in any way victimised by such price structures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20529/08]

I have no function in relation to oil, diesel or petrol prices. The Irish oil industry is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated. There is free entry into the market. Prices at the pump reflect global market price, transportation costs, Euro/Dollar fluctuations and other operating costs. The Competition Authority is a statutory independent body with a specific role in the enforcement of competition law. The National Consumer Agency has specific responsibilities for protecting the rights of consumers. Their function is to ensure that competition works optimally for the benefit of consumers throughout the country. Ireland's high dependence on imported oil makes us price takers, sensitive to the volatility of the markets and reflecting the combination of world prices and the relative strength of the Euro against the Dollar.

Traditionally, diesel has been cheaper than petrol in Ireland at the forecourts. This was due to the fact that international prices for both products were previously in the same range, and excise duty is lower on diesel. The excise differential in favour of diesel is 7.46 cents. Figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) show that the international price of diesel is now higher than the price of petrol. This is because of increased demand for diesel both within Europe, and in China and other developing economies. European refineries are currently not able to keep pace with the demand for diesel, which means it must be sourced from further afield, particularly from Russia. Conversely, the IEA's reports show that US refineries have been producing more barrels of petrol than usual and domestic US stocks have been well above their 5 year range. High stocks and low US prices are likely to have curbed exports of petrol from Europe to the US, leaving North West European petrol stocks high. The combination of these market factors has contributed to the rise in diesel prices across Europe relative to petrol.