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 18, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 19 to 68, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 69 to 77, inclusive, answered orally.

Defence Forces Ombudsman.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

78 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Defence Forces Ombudsman caseload has increased 192% in 2007; the steps he will take to ensure that the office has the required resources to continue to be able to deal with the cases efficiently and retain the trust built by the Ombudsman for the Defence Force with members and former members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25924/08]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

98 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces annual report 2007 and the challenge she raised regarding cases which arose out of career advancement that they often need quicker adjudication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25925/08]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

105 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Defence his views on the fact that the number of complaints lodged with the Defence Forces Ombudsman had more than trebled in the past year and the particular increase in the number of complaints relating to non-selection for promotion; the steps being taken to address the issues identified in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26002/08]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

123 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence his views on the 2007 annual report of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26016/08]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

133 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the steps being taken to address the concerns expressed by the Defence Forces Ombudsman that she did not have sufficient resources to meet the increase in demand for her services; if the Ombudsman will be provided with additional staff and resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26017/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78, 98, 105, 123 and 133 together.

I welcome the second annual report of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces covering the period January 2007 to December 2007. This is a further milestone in the development of the Office which became operational on the 1st December 2005 and which itself represented a significant development in the modernisation of the military redress of wrongs process.

The Act provides that the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces is independent in the performance of her duties and it is not considered appropriate for the Minister to report on her behalf or to give details in relation to her reports on individual cases.

The Ombudsman reported an increase in the number of referrals to her office from 26 in 2006 to 76 in 2007. She reported that 15 of the 2007 referrals were actually carried over from 2006 and that 8 were from former members of the Defence Forces. I acknowledge that the increase in the number of referrals arises from an increased awareness of the Office of the Ombudsman as well as increasing confidence among members of the Defence Forces. I welcome this.

The input of the Ombudsman has assisted the Defence Forces in the revision of a number of HR procedures including the selection processes for career courses and overseas service. The recommendations in the Ombudsman's reports to me have also informed the revision of selection processes for promotion, a new version of which is currently being progressed with the representative associations through the conciliation and arbitration scheme.

In this regard I note the Ombudsman's recognition of the continued co-operation that she has received from the Defence Forces and my Department. I remain committed to the successful implementation of the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004.

In her report, the Ombudsman highlighted the challenge of identifying appropriate and proportionate remedies while retaining due regard to the practicalities of the military environment. I fully support the Ombudsman's proposal to engage in a constructive dialogue with a view to identifying appropriate solutions. With this in mind, my officials wrote to the Ombudsman earlier this month indicating my Department's desire to engage with her in this task.

The Ombudsman reported thirty (30) referrals in respect of non-selection for promotion, thirteen (13) referrals in respect of non-selection for career courses or overseas service, twenty-nine (29) referrals for other issues, and four (4) in respect of complaints of bullying and harassment. On this final category, I understand from the Ombudsman that one of these was withdrawn, one did not fall within her jurisdiction, the Ombudsman did not uphold the complaint in one and one is being processed.

In her report, the Ombudsman mentions staff resources and office accommodation. I am advised that the Ombudsman has recently achieved a steady staff level of four (4), consisting of the Ombudsman, an investigating officer, an office manager and clerical support. The Office of the Ombudsman is currently located in Hatch Street, Dublin 2. I have supported the request from the Ombudsman to the Office for Public Works for alternative accommodation.

My commitment to the success of the office of the Ombudsman extends to ensuring that appropriate staff levels and other resources are available, in keeping with overall public service standards and requirements. My Department is in discussion with the Ombudsman on these issues.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

79 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he will confirm that an unmanned air vehicle used by the Army disappeared while in use on a reconnaissance mission; if the loss is believed to be due to mechanical failure or hostile act; the estimated value of the UAV; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26023/08]

Martin Ferris

Question:

95 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Defence if he will explain the loss of one of two unmanned air vehicle spy drones purchased in 2007 at a cost of €800,000; if the reason for it going missing has been established; and if the costs can be recouped from the Israeli arms manufacturing company from whom it was purchased. [25922/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 95 together.

An order for two (2) man portable mini Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems, commonly referred to as UAVs, was placed with Aeronautics Defence Systems Limited from Israel, in May 2007. The value of the order was in the region of €780,000, inclusive of VAT. The award of the contract followed on from a two stage tender competition in which eight proposals were initially received and three tenders subsequently evaluated by a Military Board in the first quarter of 2007. Delivery of the UAV systems took place at the end of 2007.

The UAV systems were acquired to enhance the capability of the Defence Forces to carry out surveillance and target acquisition for overseas Peace Support Operations. The UAVs have the capability to provide a low cost and low risk means to increase capabilities and enhance force protection by performing missions without requiring or risking the use of manned aircraft. The UAVs are an information-gathering asset and are unarmed.

Both UAV Systems have three unmanned mini airframes and the cost of each mini airframe is €70,000. Three mini airframes were deployed for operational use in Chad. Since the commencement of the mission in Chad one mini airframe has been lost and another damaged.

I am advised by the military authorities that on 19 March 2008, following a report of unidentified armed elements near Goz Beida in Chad, a mini unmanned airframe was launched by Defence Forces personnel. After approximately 25 minutes the controllers lost contact with the airframe. The airframe was not subsequently recovered. An investigation by the Defence Forces into the loss of the mini airframe proved inconclusive mainly due to the fact that the airframe was not recovered.

On 14 June 2008, another mini unmanned airframe was launched during an incident in Goz Beida. Shortly after the launch, the airframe malfunctioned. The airframe was recovered but was damaged. An investigation is being carried out by the military authorities into this malfunction. The investigation, which is ongoing, involves contact with the Israeli supplier, Aeronautics Defence Systems Limited.

The UAV systems are covered by warranty relating to the replacement or repair of any parts found to be defective or not working properly. The normal procedure is that a warranty claim will be raised on finalisation of investigations into issues that arise with regard to such equipment. If a warranty claim is validated, the defective parts will be replaced or repaired free of charge and the issue of recoupment of costs does not arise.

The loss or damage to equipment is not taken lightly by the Defence Forces. Every effort is made to establish the reasons for damage to or loss of equipment with the primary purpose of ensuring that, as far as possible, such incidents do not occur in the future.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Joan Burton

Question:

80 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Defence the number of recruits that will be taken into the Defence Forces throughout 2008, broken down in respect of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26004/08]

The current projected figure for recruitment to the Permanent Defence Force in 2008 is in the region of 690 general service recruits, comprising 540 Army recruits, 120 Naval Service recruits and 30 Air Corps recruits. In addition in the region of 30 apprentices will be recruited. The number of cadets to be recruited is currently under consideration and is expected to be in the region of 45.

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.

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 77.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

82 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence if the contract has been awarded in relation to the publicity and awareness campaign to promote recruitment to the Reserve Defence Force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26011/08]

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. The campaign is likely to include advertising in print, broadcast media and via the Internet. A Request for Tender issued in March 2008. A preferred tenderer has been identified and the terms of contract are currently being negotiated.

State Airports.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

83 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Defence the number of foreign military planes and others which have landed in Baldonnel Aerodrome since January 2008; the purpose of each visit; and the number of foreign military personnel involved. [25927/08]

Responsibility for the approval of overflights and landings by foreign military aircraft lies with my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In relation to civil aircraft the responsibility lies with my colleague the Minister for Transport.

I am advised that 38 foreign military planes have landed at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel to date in 2008. The purposes of these visits involved transport of troops for onward deployment to the UN mandated EUFOR mission to TCHAD/RCA, inter-military liaison visits, navigation training, aircraft delivery flights, crew rest and refuelling stops, and VIP and official visits.

The presence of foreign military personnel on board the flights referred to above is usually limited to crew, who generally number between two to four per flight.

There have been two troop transfer missions to date in 2008, which involved the arrival of a total of 65 Dutch military personnel at Baldonnel for onward travel to TCHAD with the deployment of Irish troops to the region.

A further 16 civil aircraft, both Irish and foreign registered, have landed at Casement Aerodrome to date in 2008. The purposes of these visits involved pilot training, familiarisation visits by Irish Coast Guard rescue helicopters, and landings of charter aircraft for Irish troop rotations.

Commemorative Events.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

84 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Defence the way he proposes to mark the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s involvement in peacekeeping operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25850/08]

A number of ceremonies were held last Thursday, 26th June, in barracks across the country and at overseas missions commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ireland's involvement in peacekeeping operations.

I attended the ceremony held in McKee barracks in Dublin which featured a military parade consisting of members of the Army, the Air Corps, the Naval Service, the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and the Irish UN Veterans' Association. Invited guests at the ceremony included the Lord Mayor of Dublin, spokespersons on Defence, former Ministers and Chiefs of Staff, distinguished veterans and veterans from the first mission. The ceremony was also addressed by An Taoiseach who recognised the contribution made by many Irish servicemen and women on all tours of duty served since 1958. An Taoiseach laid a wreath in memory of the 85 soldiers who lost their lives while serving abroad.

During the ceremony, the Chairman of An Post launched a special commemorative stamp featuring a photo of the first five Defence Force Officers to deploy on a UN mission. A special edition of an Cosantóir and the Defence Forces Review were issued.

Overseas Missions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

85 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel who have operated abroad, on training exercises and courses and operational duties since January 2008. [25926/08]

Since January 2008, the number of Defence Forces personnel who have operated abroad, on training exercises and courses and operational duties is set out as follows:

Desktop Training Exercises: 45;

Training Courses: 176;

Operational Duties: 1,123 tours of operational duty have been initiated since January 2008.

Of these, 311 tours have been completed.

Road Safety.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

86 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence the safety improvements made to Army vehicles in view of recent road accidents involving Army lorries on the M50 and in Granard, County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26020/08]

Arising from the accident in Granard Co. Longford in June 2007, a Study Group advised on the introduction of a roll over protection system for troop carrying vehicles incorporating roll bars and safety belts. The Defence Forces have begun the process of setting up a programme for the purchase of this equipment. A sum of €400,000 has been allocated for expenditure on the systems for 2008 and suppliers of the system are currently being sought.

A company has been requested to fit a system to a troop carrying vehicle for evaluation and trial. The company advised in April 2008 that due to the manner of construction of the vehicles it might take six to eight weeks to manufacture and fit such a system. For various reasons connected with the contractor, the fitting of the evaluation has been delayed somewhat. However, I understand that the company is ready to fit a system to a DAF 4X4 in late July.

On receipt of this system and after a period of evaluation and user feedback, tenders will be sought for the provision of a suitable restraint system. In the interim, all drivers of troop carrying vehicles have been cautioned to take due care and diligence when they are transporting personnel in the rear of troop carrying vehicles.

Overseas Missions.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

87 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the incident that took place on 14 June 2008 in the vicinity of Goz Beida in Chad where Irish troops serving with EUFOR were fired upon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25446/08]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

115 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the confrontation involving Irish personnel serving with EUFOR and armed elements at Goz Bedia in Chad. [26027/08]

Thomas Byrne

Question:

122 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Defence his views on two recent newspaper articles (details supplied) regarding the performance of Irish troops in Chad; if he is satisfied that the commanders understand their mandate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25849/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87, 115 and 122 together.

As deputies will be aware, the days prior to my recent visit to Chad had been particularly tense in the region with ongoing clashes between Chadian Government troops and rebel forces. In response to these clashes, EUFOR immediately reinforced the area between the ongoing engagement and the IDP's/refugee camps and sent ground and air reconnaissance elements to monitor the situation to ensure protection of the camps. Throughout Saturday 14 June 2008, Irish and Dutch troops operating in Goz Beida were deployed in and around Djabal Refugee Camp (approx 15,000 occupants) and four other sites for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) (approx 36,000 occupants). In the course of these clashes, a component of the Irish Forces which was deployed on observation post duties, received incoming fire from an unknown group. Irish personnel returned warning fire. There were no casualties.

At the height of the clashes, when over 250 Irish troops were deployed, a request for evacuation was made by UNHCR in Goz Beida town to the battalion HQ as they were "in imminent danger". The Officer Commanding, acting on a military evacuation plan, tasked a platoon of Dutch Marines, accompanied by Irish personnel, to go to the UNHCR compound. When they arrived at the compound there were between 100-120 rebel forces in and surrounding the compound. Over the course of the following hour the Platoon acted extremely professionally and evacuated the UNHCR staff and retrieved five vehicles, which had been stolen by rebel forces. A total of 235 humanitarian personnel were evacuated by Irish and Dutch forces to Camp Ciara, the headquarters of the 97th Infantry Battalion, where they were accommodated until it was safe for them to return to their own compounds. The Irish Forces maintained the protection of the Refugee and IDP Camps until the Government/Rebel clashes subsided and the engagement ceased.

When I visited Chad, I met with Mr. Victor Da Silva Angelo of Portugal, UN Special Representative of Secretary General and Head of the UN Mission (MINURCAT). The SRSG referred positively to the important role the Defence Forces had played in evacuating and providing safety and shelter for the humanitarian workers in Goz Beida. On 18 June 2008, the UNHCR apologised for the confusion caused by remarks published in a report in The Irish Times on that date, when a UNHCR spokeswoman criticised Irish troops serving in Chad. UNHCR appreciates the role EUFOR and the Irish forces are playing to protect refugees, displaced people and aid workers in the difficult and dangerous environment in Chad. MINURCAT also issued a press statement in this regard. I have accepted the apology and the matter is now closed. Irish troops will continue with their operations and will co-operate with and support the NGOs and the International Organisations throughout the Defence Forces deployment with EUFOR.

The Irish personnel are already making a significant difference on the ground and are enhancing Ireland's international reputation as neutral, impartial and professional peacekeepers. During my recent visit to Chad, I was very impressed by the motivation being shown by our troops in the performance of their duties, their energy and the good atmosphere in the camp generally. I want to assure the House that the personnel of the 97th Infantry Battalion know the job that they are there to do. There is no misunderstanding of EUFOR's mandate, which includes contributing to the protection of civilians in danger, particularly refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid, and the protection of UN personnel. I am satisfied that EUFOR is discharging its mandate in a professional and impartial manner.

Question No. 88 withdrawn.

Commemorative Events.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

89 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the reason the all-party committee on commemorating 1916 has not met since the establishment of this Dáil; when it is expected to meet; and the terms of reference of same. [24733/08]

I wrote to all party leaders early this year, inviting them to nominate a representative to the All-Party Consultation Group on the commemoration of the 1916 Rising. The nominations have been received and arrangements for the completion of the Consultation Group, including representation of Independent members, will be finalised shortly.

Overseas Missions.

Niall Collins

Question:

90 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence the meetings he had during his recent visit to Chad; the discussions he had with Chadian, EUFOR and UNHCR officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25447/08]

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

107 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on his recent visit to Chad and his meetings with the Irish commanders serving on the ground; his views on the duties assigned to Irish troops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25474/08]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

130 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on his recent visit to Chad. [26028/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90, 107 and 130 together.

During the period 16 –18 June 2008, I took the opportunity to visit Chad, where 393 members of the Permanent Defence Force are currently serving with the UN mandated European Union military mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, EUFOR TCHAD/RCA. The primary purpose of my visit was to see at first hand the work of the Irish Defence Forces Personnel serving with EUFOR and to convey to them, on behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, the deep appreciation felt regarding the outstanding manner in which they are performing their duties in this challenging mission. I was accompanied on my visit by the Secretary General of my Department, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lt. Gen. Dermot Earley, Assistant Secretary General Ciaran Murphy, and Ambassador Kyle O'Sullivan, Ireland's Ambassador to Nigeria, who is accredited to Chad.

On 16 June 2008, I met with Chad's Secretary of State for National Defence, General Hassan Saleh Al-Djinedi and with Mr. Victor Da Silva Angelo of Portugal, UN Special Representative of Secretary General and Head of the UN Mission (MINURCAT) in N'Djamena.

In my meeting with General Hassan Saleh Al-Djinedi we discussed the role of EUFOR TCHAD/RCA. I outlined the mandate and the neutral and impartial nature of the force. I specifically pointed out Ireland's neutral status and that our key concern and the reason for Ireland's participation was to create a safe and secure environment for refugees, internally displaced persons and for the distribution of humanitarian aid. We also discussed the difficult security situation on the ground. I advised him that we would have no role in any internal issues which would be a matter for the Chadian authorities.

In my meeting with Mr. Victor Da Silva Angelo of Portugal, UN Special Representative of Secretary General Head of the UN Mission (MINURCAT), I discussed the security situation and the ongoing work on the deployment of Police/Gendarmerie units in the camps. The SRSG pointed to the difficulties involved in progressing the return of IDPs to their homes because of the fraught security situation on the ground and the lack of support available to returning IDPs. He noted the difficult security situation which he said is also impacting on humanitarian workers and on their capacity to service the camps. He advised me that the first contingent of police and gendarmerie commanders had just graduated from the UN course. While the recruitment process is slower than expected, he hoped to have 5 or 6 companies of Gendarmes in the camps by the end of the rainy season. He advised that the mid-term review of the mission was about to commence and a joint EU/UN Technical Assistance mission was in Chad to conduct the review. The SRSG confirmed that there was very satisfactory co-ordination on the ground with MINURCAT and praised the role which the Irish Deputy Force Commander was playing in this regard. We also discussed the incidents which occurred in the days immediately prior to my arrival. The SRSG referred positively to the important role the Defence Forces had played in evacuating and providing safety and shelter for the humanitarian workers in Goz Beida.

Before travelling to Goz Beida on 17 June to visit troops of the Irish 97th Infantry Battalion at their headquarters in Camp Ciara, I met with EUFOR's Deputy Force Commander, Col. Derry Fitzgerald and other senior Irish Officers based in EUFOR Force HQ. I was briefed on the humanitarian and security situation on the ground; particularly on the recent incidents in Eastern Chad; their impact on the security of the camps and the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need.

On 17 June 2008, I visited Camp Ciara, which is the headquarters of the Irish-led multinational battalion. The standard of the camp and the facilities in it are very impressive and quite remarkable, particularly when you consider the distances and logistics involved in transporting all the equipment and constructing the camp. Great credit is due to the advance party for the magnificent effort they have put in to prepare the ground for the main contingent. The camp is adjacent to an airstrip, which is approximately 5 kilometres east of Goz Beida. While there, I met with the troops of the 97th Infantry Battalion who are settling in well into the new Camp. After a series of briefings and lunch with the troops, I addressed them and congratulated them on the tremendous job they are doing under extremely difficult conditions and terrain. I conveyed to them the best wishes of the Government and the Irish people in the work they are undertaking.

The Irish personnel are already making a significant difference on the ground and are enhancing Ireland's international reputation as neutral, impartial and professional peacekeepers. I was very impressed by the motivation being shown by our troops in the performance of their duties in difficult circumstances, their energy and the good atmosphere in the camp generally.

The days prior to my recent visit had been particularly tense in the region, when EUFOR Irish troops, deployed to protect Djabal IDP's/ refugee camps 4 kilometres North West of Goz Beida, received incoming fire from an unknown group. Irish personnel returned warning fire. There were no casualties. The Defence Forces, along with their Dutch counterparts, were also involved in the evacuation of humanitarian workers, NGOs and staff of the UNHCR. A total of 234 personnel were brought to Camp Ciara where they were accommodated until it was safe for them to return to their own compounds.

During my time in the camp I also met representatives from the International organisations and Irish personnel from Concern who briefed me on their activities in the camps and on the security situation for them. The local UNHCR representative, Mr. Jose Fischel de Andrade, in Goz Beida thanked me for the action which the Defence Forces had taken in evacuating humanitarian personnel including UNHCR staff and in accommodating them in the camp.

Unfortunately, I had to cancel a scheduled visit to the UNHCR refugee camp and the Internally Displaced Persons' site, both in Goz Beida, due to the security situation prevailing at the time of my visit. However, I did meet with some of them near the Camp when I was departing.

I am pleased to report that the situation in the Irish-led multinational battalion's area of responsibility is currently calm.

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 77.

Military Escorts.

Michael Mulcahy

Question:

92 Deputy Michael Mulcahy asked the Minister for Defence the amount paid by the banks for the Army cash-in-transit service in each of the years 2004 to 2007 inclusive; the number of Army cash escort duties performed in 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25540/08]

From 1995 to 2004 an annual contribution of €2.86m was paid by the banks in respect of Army escorts. The contribution from the banks was designed to part-cover the total costs to the State of providing cash escorts.

The agreement which I signed with the IBF on 11 May, 2005 provides that the banks will pay the total actual costs incurred by the Defence Forces in the provision of cash escorts for the banks. Under the agreement, which is for a 5 year period, the banks are charged for their proportion of the total escorts provided i.e. approx. 78%. The remainder relates to post office escorts which are not subject to charge as they come under State expenditure.

Costs in respect of each 12 month period to end-December, are paid the following year, with payment due 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 amount paid by the banks for the years 2005 to 2007 inclusive was:

2005 — €6.03m

2006 — €6.47m

2007 — €7.34m

The total number of cash escorts during 2007 was 2,291. The total to the end of May in 2008 is 916.

Defence Forces Strength.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

93 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the number of serving commissioned officers in respect of the Army, Air Corps and the Naval Service; the number of such officers who have been commissioned from the ranks in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26019/08]

The current strength of officers in the Permanent Defence Force and number commissioned from the ranks, as at 27 June 2008, is as follows:

Service

Strength

Number Commissioned from the Ranks

Army

1,085

65

Naval Service

152

3

Air Corps

146

4

Total

1,383

72

One of my main priorities as Minister for Defence has been to provide opportunities for enlisted personnel to advance into the Officer Corps. This policy forms part of the Defence Force Modernisation Agenda and is a commitment in the Programme for Government.

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).

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 the 9th potential officers course and ultimately, a commission. Following the successful completion of the 9th Potential Officers Course, 24 personnel, drawn from the enlisted ranks, were commissioned on 10 June, 2008. The terms and conditions that will apply to future internal Commissioning from the Ranks competitions will be discussed and agreed under the Pay Agreement and Modernisation Agenda for the Defence Forces.

Apart from the Cadetship competition and the Commissioned from the Ranks competitions, serving Defence Force personnel are eligible to apply for Direct Entry Officer competitions, providing they satisfy the applicable conditions of the competition.

Consultancy Contracts.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

94 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence if the contract has been signed in regard to the consultancy on the sustainable provision of the relevant medical expertise and services to the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26007/08]

Bernard Allen

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made on the planned review of the medical services of the Defence Forces by external consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25781/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 113 together.

Military medical services and their 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.

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:

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.

PA Consulting has been awarded the contract for the medical consultancy. The first phase, which is a review of the current and future requirements in relation to medical services, has already started. I expect the report to be delivered before the end of the year. 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. 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.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 79.
Question No. 96 answered with Question No. 77.

Defence Forces Expenditure.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

97 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence the number of claims for compensation received from members of the Defence Forces arising from road accidents involving Defence Forces vehicles in each of the past five years; the number of cases settled in respect of each such year and the amount paid out in compensation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26021/08]

The State Claims Agency deals with claims arising from accidents involving Defence Forces vehicles. The Agency has provided the information requested which is outlined in the form of a Tabular Statement.

The State Claims Agency works with the Defence Forces on an ongoing basis to examine incidents in order to identify and obviate, if possible, any possible risks of injury to civilian and Defence Forces personnel. The State Claims Agency advises that the Directorate of Transport and Maintenance has done considerable work in this area.

Table 1: — Number of Claims received from members of the Defence Forces arising from road accidents involving Defence Forces vehicles received from members of the Defence Forces per annum (from 01 January 2003 to 2008 (to date))

Year

Number of Defence Force Claims received from members

2003

12

2004

16

2005

13

2006

6

2007

5

2008 (to date)

9

Total

61

Table 2: — Number of claims resolved each year and the amount of compensation paid in respect of these claims.

Year

Number of Resolved Defence Forces Road Traffic Collision Claims

Compensation paid out (Rounded to the nearest €1,000)

2003

6

91,000

2004

12

515,000

2005

9

194,000

2006

4

83,000

2007

6

199,000

2008 (to date)

3

74,000

Total

40

1,156,000

Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 78.

Naval Service Vessels.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

99 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made on the replacement programme for Naval Service vessels including funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25778/08]

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 comprising two stages — the first stage a Request for Proposals and the second stage an Invitation to Tender.

The closing date for stage 1 was 26 October 2007. The evaluation of proposals has now been completed. Detailed specification development for the vessels is nearing conclusion. It is expected to issue the invitation to tender for the second stage of the competition for the OPV in August this year. Tender evaluation will take place in October 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 year.

The purchase of the vessels will be subject to Government approval on funding. This matter will be reviewed in detail following the conclusion of the tender competition at which point detailed costings will be available to inform the Government decision. It is expected that the vessels will 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.

Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 77.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

David Stanton

Question:

101 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the most recent recruitment campaign of the Defence Forces; when this took place; the number of personnel enlisted as a result in each of the services; the number who are still enlisted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25994/08]

Peter Kelly

Question:

135 Deputy Peter Kelly asked the Minister for Defence the number of people applying to join the Defence Forces and the number of vacancies in each of the years 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; if he is satisfied with the calibre of applicants; if he expects that the Defence Forces will be able to continue recruiting in future years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25538/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 135 together.

Entry to the Permanent Defence Force is either through the Cadetship Competition, General Service Enlistment, Apprenticeship Competition or Direct Entry Competitions which are held to fill vacancies in specialist appointments.

Cadet Competition

The number of applications received for the Cadetship Competition in 2006, 2007 and 2008 was 1,085, 1,231 and 1,183 respectively. 55 Cadets were enlisted in 2006 and 48 were enlisted from the 2007 Cadetship Competition. The number of cadets to be recruited in 2008 is currently under consideration and is expected to be in the region of 45.

General Service Enlistment

The number of applications received for General Service Enlistment to the Permanent Defence Force in 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008 was 2,495, 3,958 and 1,540 respectively. 559 general service recruits enlisted in the Permanent Defence Force in 2006 and 565 in 2007. 192 recruits have been enlisted to date in 2008.

Apprenticeships Competitions

The most recent recruitment campaign was the Apprenticeship Competition for Aircraft Mechanic, Heavy Vehicle Mechanic and Fitter Armourer Apprentices. The competition was launched on 29 February 2008. A total of 612 applications were received from which the military authorities propose to offer in the region of 30 apprenticeships. The recruitment selection process is ongoing. All qualified applicants have completed the assessment phase, which includes fitness and psychometric testing. The successful candidates will be inducted in September 2008.

There were 427 applications for the Apprenticeships Competitions held in 2006 and a total of 30 Apprentices were enlisted. In 2007 there were 454 applications and a total of 28 Apprentices were enlisted.

Direct Entry Competitions

Direct Entry Competitions were held in 2006 from which 2 Doctors were appointed to the Medical Corps, 2 Engineers were appointed to the Corps of Engineers and 2 Instrumentalists were appointed to the Army School of Music. A total of 128 applications were received for these competitions.

In 2007, a total of 58 applications were received for all Direct Entry Competitions. As a result 2 Doctors, 1 Psychologist and 1 Dentist have been appointed to the Medical Corps along with 4 Instrumentalists to the Army School of Music and 2 Aeronautical Engineers (who were commissioned in 2008) to the Air Corps. To date in 2008, 2 Doctors have been appointed to the Medical Corps and 1 Instrumentalist has been appointed to the Army School of Music. In addition 1 Doctor and 2 Aeronautical Engineer Officers will be commissioned in the near future.

The number of applications received for positions in the Permanent Defence Force usually far exceeds the number of positions available in any year. In general terms, the Defence Forces are attracting more than a sufficient number of suitable candidates of the standard and calibre required for the filling of the general body of vacancies on offer.

Defence Forces Property.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

102 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence his Department’s properties deemed surplus to requirements that have been disposed of to date in 2008 or that are to be disposed of in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26014/08]

One property that was surplus to military requirements at Eldred Terrace, Cork has been disposed of in 2008. Six further properties are in the process of being disposed of. These are the former RDF Premises in Cahir, part of the lands at Renmore, Co. Galway, Ballincollig, Co. Cork, Kilcrohane, Co. Cork and two houses at Orchard Park, The Curragh. Under the Affordable Housing Initiative a further two properties, Magee Barracks, Co. Kildare and part of the lands at Gormanston, Co. Meath, are being disposed of to the local authorities.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Peter Kelly

Question:

103 Deputy Peter Kelly asked the Minister for Defence when he expects to receive the report from the Defence Forces reviewing its policy on laser eye surgery particularly as it applies to persons applying to join the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25539/08]

The position is that there are a number of physical and medical standards laid down by the Military Authorities for entry to the Defence Forces. These requirements are based on the professional advice of the Medical Corps and having regard to the nature of the job, the duties of military service and the training exercises undertaken by members of the Defence Forces.

The Medical Corps regularly reviews the medical standards for entry to The Defence Forces. The question of the suitability for military service of persons who have had laser surgery to correct their visual acuity is complex, because it depends among other factors on the exact type of surgery and on the amount of visual correction effected. I have asked the Military Authorities to report to me specifically on the issues relating to laser eye treatments and I will review the vision requirement in light of that report.

I have been advised that the report will take some time to complete in the light of the complexity of the issues arising. I anticipate that the report will be presented to me later this year.

Question No. 104 answered with Question No. 77.
Question No. 105 answered with Question No. 78.

Reserve Defence Force.

Joe Costello

Question:

106 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence if he has carried out an investigation as to the reason during the first four months of 2008, the number of females enlisted into the Reserve Defence Force is less than the number being discharged whereas the opposite is happening in regard to male recruits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26008/08]

The yearly trend from April 2007 to April 2008 indicates a similar proportional decline in numbers for males and females in the Reserve.

I have previously acknowledged the fact that numbers in the Reserve have decreased over recent years despite the significant improvements arising on foot of the implementation of the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan.

Steps to incentivise recruitment and retention in the Reserve, apart from those already provided for in the Implementation Plan, have included a significant increase to the gratuity payable to certain members of the Reserve. In addition, a recruitment and awareness campaign is planned for the near future.

Question No. 107 answered with Question No. 90.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

David Stanton

Question:

108 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the establishment and strength of the Defence Forces; when the next recruitment campaign will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25995/08]

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army. On 31 May 2008, the most recent date for which figures are available, the actual total strength of the Permanent Defence Force was 10,364. The Government remains fully committed to the policy of ongoing recruitment to ensure that an overall strength of 10,500 is achieved and maintained over time. The recruitment effort will be supported by an advertising campaign.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

109 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the implementation by his Department of the Government decision on decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26003/08]

James Bannon

Question:

118 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date on the decentralisation of the Defence Forces headquarters to the Curragh and his Department to Newbridge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25783/08]

Seán Barrett

Question:

140 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Defence the nature of costs the move of his Department under decentralisation will accrue to the State; if the costs will impact on the defence budget; if the move is on budget and on schedule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25954/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109, 118 and 140 together.

The Government decision on decentralisation provides for the transfer of my Department's Dublin-based civil service staff, together with a number of military personnel, to Newbridge, Co. Kildare and the transfer of Defence Force Headquarters (DFHQ) to the Curragh. Site acquisition, building construction and fit-out costs are borne on the Vote of the Office of Public Works (OPW).

In relation to the provision of accommodation at Newbridge, I am pleased to be able to confirm that OPW has signed a contract and work has commenced on site within the past few weeks. I am advised by the OPW that the building should be ready for occupation in December 2009 and that site acquisition, construction and fitting out costs amount to approx €30 million. Approximately 83% of clerical/administrative staff is now in place in preparation for the move to Newbridge. The building will provide for a total of 244 personnel (including 43 military).

In relation to the provision of accommodation for DFHQ at the Curragh, I am advised that OPW are currently preparing the necessary technical documentation and will shortly be inviting tenders. A definitive estimate of cost will be available once a contract has been awarded. I am advised that the current estimated date for availability of this accommodation is the end of 2010. Approximately 410 military personnel will be decentralising to the Curragh.

Reserve Defence Force.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

110 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made on the creation of the integrated reserve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25779/08]

The Reserve Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan provides for the re-organisation and development of the Reserve Defence Forces on a phased basis up to the end of 2009. The development of an Integrated Army Reserve is included in the Plan. 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 pilot scheme has been reviewed by the Military Authorities and lessons learned have been taken into account. The pilot scheme has been extended into the current year and it is anticipated that approx. 370 personnel will complete training in this year's scheme.

Defence Forces Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Question:

111 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the number of members of the Defence Forces used in State ceremonies during 2007; the cost accrued by Defence Force involvement to the State and to the defence budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25957/08]

Initial returns for 2007 indicate that the Defence Forces participated in 37 ceremonial events, including State Ceremonies, during 2007. The total number of personnel involved in all these ceremonies was approximately 6,200.

My Department does not compile costs for such events as a matter of course and it has not been possible in the time available to compile the full costs including salaries for each ceremonial event. This would involve a significant investment of resources by my Department. However, if the Deputy would like to write to me outlining his specific requirements I will arrange for them to be answered.

Question No. 112 answered with Question No. 77.
Question No. 113 answered with Question No. 94.

Reserve Defence Force.

Bernard Allen

Question:

114 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made reactivating the first line reserve as recommended in the Reserve Defence Force implementation plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25780/08]

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 underway.

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.

Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 87.
Question No. 116 answered with Question No. 77.

Overseas Missions.

Billy Timmins

Question:

117 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Defence when members of the Reserve Defence Force will be ready to take part in overseas missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25908/08]

The White Paper on Defence outlines the blue print for a new Reserve Defence Force. This blueprint outlined a new Reserve with a clearly defined role, an enhanced relationship with the PDF, better equipment and training and opportunities for reservists to serve on overseas peace support missions.

An Implementation Plan has been developed that will ensure the realisation of the White Paper vision. The Plan is being rolled out over the period to the end of 2009. There has been significant progress to date in implementing the detailed recommendations of the Plan e.g. new organisation structure implemented, major improvements in clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. In addition, the Reserve is now organised along similar lines to the PDF and the development of the integrated element of the Reserve is in its second year. All of these changes are enhancing the capabilities of the Reserve as well as improving interoperability with the PDF. These factors are significant enablers in facilitating future participation by Reserve personnel in overseas missions.

The Agreed Programme for Government contains the commitment to fully execute the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) Implementation Plan by the end 2009 target, including the introduction of procedures to allow suitably qualified RDF personnel serve on overseas duties.

There are no plans for participation by members of the Reserve in overseas missions in the current year. However, it is hoped that a small number of Reservists will be available to serve overseas by the end of next year (2009). As specified in the Plan, any such participation by members of the Reserve 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 advance training.

Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 109.
Question No. 119 answered with Question No. 77.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

120 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Defence the major equipment purchases planned for 2008 and 2009; the progress being made in sourcing new equipment and vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25475/08]

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.

A tender competition has been initiated for the acquisition of Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles and tenders are due back next week. The intention is that the LTAV will complement the Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers (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 year's Estimates provision as a down payment on an LTAV contract.

The Department has acquired eighty Mowag APCs since 2001 at a combined cost of some €120m. The final stage payment of just over €6m was paid last January. A contract was entered into with Mowag last year for the provision of a stock of strategic spares to cover all areas where the APCs are deployed. The value of the contract is over €8m spread over three years (2007 to 2009).

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 shortly.

A further 500 General Purpose Machine Guns have been ordered from FN Herstal in Belgium for delivery late this year. A sum of €3.8m is provided in 2008 to complete the purchase.

With regard to the Air Corps, a total of six utility AW 139 helicopters are being acquired from AgustaWestland, Italy at a cost of €75m, inclusive of VAT. Two AW 139s were delivered in November 2006, two were delivered in 2007 and the final two will be delivered in 2008. The final stage payments for the two helicopters will be made in 2008 at a cost of circa €13.5m.

A contract was signed with EADS, Spain, for a major mid-life upgrade for the Air Corps two CASA maritime patrol aircraft in late 2006 at a cost of €16.456m, inclusive of VAT. The upgrade on the first aircraft was completed in 2007. The upgrade on the second will be carried out this year and a final payment in the region of €5.3m will be made.

The issue of the 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 this.

On the Naval Service front, a tender competition for the purchase of replacement vessels for the Naval Service commenced in 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 comprising two stages — the first stage a Request for Proposals and the second stage an Invitation to Tender.

The closing date for stage 1 was 26 October 2007. The evaluation of proposals has now been completed. Detailed specification development for the vessels is nearing conclusion. It is expected to issue the invitation to tender for the second stage of the competition for the OPV in August this year. Tender evaluation will take place in October 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 year.

The purchase of the vessels will be subject to Government approval on funding. This matter will be reviewed in detail following the conclusion of the tender competition at which point detailed costings will be available to inform the Government decision. It is expected that the vessels will be delivered on a phased basis between 2010 and 2012.

Joe Costello

Question:

121 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel and the amount of vehicles, weapons and other equipment used in the St. Patrick’s day 2008 participation by the Defence Forces in the Limerick parade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26009/08]

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.

The Defence Forces provided the following personnel and equipment for the 2008 St. Patrick's Day Parade in Limerick.

50 Permanent Defence Forces Personnel,

70 Reserve Defence Forces Personnel,

30 Naval Service Reserve,

36 strong Recruit Platoon,

3 Air Corps Helicopters,

4 PC9 (fixed wing aircraft),

6 Mowags,

3 Artillery Guns,

2 BOFAR Anti-Aircraft Guns,

1 Ambulance and 2 Nissan Patrols containing a security party of 11 personnel.

Question No. 122 answered with Question No. 87.
Question No. 123 answered with Question No. 78.

National Monuments.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

124 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence when he expects the national monument to honour deceased members of the Defence Forces at Merrion Square, Dublin 2 to be open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25891/08]

Construction work on the memorial in Merrion Square is at an advanced stage and I expect that all works on the site will be completed this month. The arrangements for the official unveiling of the memorial are currently being finalised with a view to an opening ceremony early in the Autumn.

Question No. 125 answered with Question No. 77.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

126 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence his views, further to Parliamentary Question No. 48 of 22 May 2008, on a pilot project whereby military personnel would visit first level and second level schools with a view to familiarising students with the wide range of activities carried out by the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26015/08]

I can clarify that there is no pilot project whereby military personnel visit first level and second level schools with a specific view to familiarising students on the activities carried out by the Defence Forces. Rather, there is ongoing contact between the Defence Forces and the secondary schools and third level institutions primarily with a recruitment focus.

As I indicated in my reply to Question No. 48 on the 22nd May 2008, the position is that during visits to schools and third level institutions by Defence Force recruitment teams, the 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 and current peace support operations.

Liz McManus

Question:

127 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Defence the steps he is taking to facilitate the commissioning of officers from the enlisted ranks in view of his recent statement that every private soldier joining the Army should have a reasonable expectation of being promoted to senior officer level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26018/08]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

137 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in facilitating entry into commissioned ranks by serving soldiers; the options available to a serving soldier who wishes to become an officer; the numbers of soldiers who have become officers in recent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25445/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 137 together.

Significant progress has been made recently in 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, since 2005, 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 one 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 had 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) were selected from the ranks of Junior and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers. Following successful completion of training in the Cadet School, these enlisted personnel were 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 Training.

Richard Bruton

Question:

128 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the human rights training provided for members of the Defence Forces, including subject matter, duration and upskilling requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25958/08]

There are a number of educational programmes undertaken in the Defence Forces in relation to International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law. The military authorities advise that the position is as follows: Lectures are conducted by legal officers on International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law on all basic officers courses in the Military College. In addition, a day-long seminar on International Humanitarian Law is conducted for the Command and Staff Course (CSC). Non Commissioned Officers and privates are instructed on the fundamental rules of International Humanitarian Law applicable in armed conflicts regarding the protection of war victims.

Since the 1970s, legal and line officers of the Permanent Defence Forces have attended the International Military Course on the Law of Armed Conflict at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo in Italy. A number of line officers and many legal officers have now completed this course. Since 1990, the Defence Forces have made PDF legal officers available from time to time to conduct courses provided at this Institute. All officers and senior NCOs proceeding to overseas peace support missions receive briefings at the United Nations Training School in the Curragh on International Humanitarian Law and human rights.

Defence Forces Personnel.

Pat Breen

Question:

129 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Defence the percentage of women at all ranks within the Defence Forces; the way that percentage compares to other defence forces in the European Union; if he is satisfied with the number of women in the Defence Forces here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25956/08]

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 564 at the end of June 2008. This equates to a rise from 4.38% to 5.44% in overall strength in the same period. A detailed breakdown of the numbers of females serving in the Permanent Defence Force and the percentage at all ranks, as at 30 June 2008, is presented in the following Tabular Statement. Neither the Defence Forces nor my Department maintain comparative data regarding other armies within the EU.

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. Nevertheless, I remain anxious to explore all avenues for increasing the numbers of women joining the Defence Forces. In 2006, I reduced the minimum height requirement from 5' 4" to 5' 2". This increases the potential recruitment pool of females from 60% to 90% of female population.

In 2007, I received the report of a TNS/MRBI study that I had commissioned, titled "Retention and Recruitment of Women in The Defence Forces". This research was commissioned with a view to identifying areas where action can be taken to maximise the number of women applicants to the Defence Forces, hence increasing the number joining. The question of retention was also studied.

The results of the research were, on balance, positive. Three-quarters of serving females agreed that the Defence Forces are a good place to work. In addition there was a very high level of satisfaction (70%-80%) expressed as regards the issues of job security, pay and benefits and the variety of work on offer.

The recommendations of the report have been implemented and the challenges identified therein continue to be addressed.

Female PDF Strength as at 30 June 2008

Service

Lt.Col.

Comdt.

Capt.

Lt.

Total Officers

CS

CQMS

Sgt.

Cpl.

Total NCOs

Pte.

Cadet

Total

Army

1

20

42

47

110

3

1

28

105

137

207

8

462

Air Corps

Nil

Nil

3

2

5

1

Nil

2

10

13

14

1

33

Naval Service

Nil

2

8

8

18

Nil

Nil

Nil

6

6

39

6

69

Total

1

22

53

57

133

4

1

30

121

156

260

15

564

No. of Females as % of Total

0.64%

5.61%

15.68%

13.83%

9.82%

1.57%

0.35%

2.13%

6.79%

4.09%

5.10%

20%

5.44%

Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 90.

Michael McGrath

Question:

131 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the recent commissioning ceremony at Casement Aerodrome and the presentation of medals to the families of the four Air Corps men who died in July 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25484/08]

It is always a great honour for me to participate in the commissioning ceremony for new officers of our Defence Forces. This was particularly so on the 19th of June at Casement Aerodrome where two ceremonies were held, commencing with the Commissioning of the 26th Air Corps Cadet Class which was followed by the Presentation of the Distinguished Service Medal, with Honour, posthumously to the crew members of the Dauphin DH 248 who lost their lives on the night of 1st July 1999 while returning from a successful rescue mission.

Both ceremonies were attended by members of the immediate family and friends of the new officers and the medal recipients as well as a number of distinguished guests, including the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Dermot Earley, and the General Secretary of the Department of Defence, Michael Howard, along with public representatives and a wide cross-section of other interested parties.

In speaking at the commissioning ceremony I reflected on the special commitment that these eight new officers were making in choosing a career of service to their country that will call for courage, commitment and professionalism as their guiding light. I also recognised the proud record of service to the nation that has been given over the years by the Air Corps and its pilots. I outlined the ongoing investment programme in the Air Corps, both in aircraft and facilities, which ensures a bright future for the Air Corps. In the second ceremony on the day, we remembered the sacrifice of the four members of the Air Corps arising from the tragic accident that occurred in Tramore, Co. Waterford on 1 July 1999.

The four crew members who lost their lives that night were:

Captain David O'Flaherty

Captain Michael Baker

Sergeant Patrick Mooney

Corporal Niall Byrne.

Having considered the events of the night, a military board recommended to me that the Distinguished Service Medal, with Honour, be awarded posthumously to the four men. I had no hesitation in accepting the recommendation of the board. My only regret being the length of time that it had taken to reach this conclusion.

While I understood that coming to the ceremony in Casement Aerodrome evoked very sad memories for the members of the O'Flaherty, Baker, Mooney and Byrne families in attendance, and for all the members of their families and friends, who lost their loved one so suddenly in such a tragic accident, I expressed the hope that they might take some consolation from the honour that was being accorded to the memory of these four brave young men. I presented a Distinguished Service Medal, with Honour, to:

Mr. Vincent and Mrs Anna Byrne parents of the late Corporal Byrne;

Mrs Monica Mooney, widow of the late Sgt Mooney and

Miss Davina O'Flatherty, daughter of the late Captain O'Flaherty.

It is hoped that separate arrangements can be made in the near future to present the Distinguished Service Medal to the parents of the late Capt Baker.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Jack Wall

Question:

132 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Defence if a decision has been made in regard to the replacement of the Air Corp’s Cessna fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26012/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which it is intended to increase the strength of the Air Corp; if it is intended to upgrade or replace equipment including aircraft or other hardware; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26334/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 239 together.

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 AgustaWestland, Italy 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 underway — work on the first aircraft was completed in 2007, work on the second aircraft will be completed this year.

The issue of the 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 this.

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 set out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army 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.

Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 78.

Overseas Missions.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

134 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence the number of Irish troops serving overseas and their locations; the nature of their duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25890/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of military personnel by rank that expected to be deployed overseas for the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26326/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if further requests have been received for the deployment of more Irish troops on various EU or UN peacekeeping or peace enforcement missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26327/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

235 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of locations at which the Defence Forces are serving overseas; the number of personnel involved; the expected numbers required in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26330/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134, 231, 232 and 235 together.

Ireland is currently contributing 816 Defence Forces personnel to 13 different missions throughout the world. Full details, including ranks, of all personnel currently serving overseas 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 411 personnel, the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo with 286 personnel and EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 47 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations, the European Union 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. Peacekeeping operations mounted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter e.g. UNIFIL in Lebanon, are of the traditional type, where the UN acts as a monitoring, patrolling and observing force after peace has been established.

KFOR, EUFOR (Bosnia and Herzegovina), 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 has been deployed to Chad and its headquarters are locared at Goz Beida in south east Chad. Ireland is the second largest contributor to the mission with 411 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 214 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 61 Irish personnel are serving with KFOR in support of the Framework Nation role, bringing Ireland's current total deployment to the force to 286.

Ireland has participated in EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina 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 47 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.

Ireland has offered, through the UN Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS), to provide up to 850 military personnel for overseas service at any one time. This figure equates to some 10% of Ireland's standing Army (excluding Reserves) and demonstrates Ireland's commitment to the cause of international peace. This is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas peacekeeping operations.

With regard to future deployments, Ireland receives requests, from time to time, in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. However, we are currently fairly close to the limit of our sustainable commitments. It is appropriate that we keep some level of resources in reserve, should we need to reinforce existing missions or to take on additional missions at short notice. No other deployments are planned or envisaged at this time.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as of 02 July 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)

47

(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

22

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

371

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

61

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) HQ

11

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

214

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

7

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions

782

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

(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

2

(ii) OSCE Mission in Belgrade — Serbia

1

(iii) OSCE Mission in Skopje — Macedonia

1

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

1

Total number of personnel serving OSCE

5

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

816

Breakdown by Rank of Personnel Serving Overseas

Lt Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

CF*

Total Offrs

NCO

Pte

TOTAL

1

3

12

32

65

49

13

2

177

334

305

816

* Forces Chaplain.

Question No. 135 answered with Question No. 101.

Defence Forces Property.

James Bannon

Question:

136 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made on the survey of Defence Forces accommodation and in establishing a desirable standard for such accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25782/08]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to question number 20 on 10 April last. The Military authorities have informed my Department that the survey of Defence Forces accommodation had been completed and a report is being finalised at present. When this report has been considered, my Department, in consultation with the military authorities, will set appropriate standards to be applied across the Defence Forces which will ensure that all accommodation provided will be comparable to that generally available to the civilian community.

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 127.

Overseas Missions.

Billy Timmins

Question:

138 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Defence the contact he has had with the US authorities with regard to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23737/08]

The matter to which the deputy is referring is the case of the killing of Privates Thomas Barrett and Derek Smallhorne, while serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in 1980 and the efforts to bring the alleged perpetrator of the crime to justice.

The question of the measures open to the Irish Authorities to bring the alleged perpetrator of this crime to justice have been examined in detail in the Department of Defence in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General's Office and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The Attorney General has advised that there are no provisions in Irish law which provide a basis for Ireland to pursue a prosecution against the alleged perpetrator. The Office of the DPP also examined all the available evidence in the case and concluded that he cannot pursue a prosecution against the alleged perpetrator.

While the country with primary jurisdiction in this case is Lebanon, the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs are also in contact with the US authorities, where the alleged perpetrator resides as a naturalised US citizen. The US authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Privates Barrett and Smallhorne to see if there is sufficient evidence which may enable them to take a case against the alleged perpetrator.

I can assure the House that this matter has not been forgotten and that we are continuing with our very best efforts in this case. It has been over 25 years since this tragic event happened and I will continue to actively pursue the matter so that the families concerned can get the justice they deserve.

Search and Rescue Service.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

139 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence if the service level of agreement between his Department and the Coastguard for the provision of services to the Coastguard by the Defence Forces has been finalised; and if not, when it will be finalised. [26006/08]

The Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of maritime and inland 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. 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 Defence Forces provide support to the Irish Coast Guard as the need arises and within their available capability. A Service Level Agreement has been drafted by my Department and the Irish Coast Guard to formalise the provision of services to the Irish Coast Guard by the Defence forces. Officials from my Department and the Irish Coast Guard are currently working closely on this agreement, and it is expected to be finalised shortly.

Question No. 140 answered with Question No. 109.

Programmes for Government.

Pat Breen

Question:

141 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the commitment in the programme for Government to investigate the feasibility of a regional conference centre in the Shannon region; the number of meetings of the steering group which have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26110/08]

I understand that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism will reply to the Deputy's question today.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if a review will be undertaken regarding importation tax on a vehicle imported by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26055/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no record of the person in question contacting Naas Revenue regarding a charge on the vehicle in question. I am further advised that when a query is received in a Vehicle Registration Office, the caller is asked to identify the type of vehicle and the information is input into the VRT database to calculate the VRT payable. In this case the VRT payable is €2,537.

Pat Breen

Question:

143 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Finance the progress in agreeing an alternative scheme to replace the fuel excise refund scheme for the bus transport operators which is due to terminate on 31 October 2008; his proposals to address the high cost of diesel which is affecting the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26080/08]

The 2003 EU Energy Tax Directive incorporated special derogations which allowed specific excise duty reliefs to be applied in a number of Member States. In the Irish context, these derogations allowed inter alia for reduced rates to apply to fuel used for public transport services which includes school transport services. While these derogations expired on 31 December 2006, Ireland, along with other Member States, sought retention of its derogations beyond that date. However the European Commission, who is the deciding authority, refused such requests.

The Finance Act 2008, as the Deputy is aware, provided the legislative changes to withdraw the relief in respect of fuel used for public passenger transport vehicles. The relief will be withdrawn with effect from 1 November 2008 and the appropriate full excise rates will apply from that date. In the circumstances outlined above the question of reconsidering or deferring the withdrawal of the existing relief does not therefore arise.

The Department of Transport and other relevant line Departments have, in conjunction with my Department, explored alternative mechanisms that might be used to direct Exchequer resources toward such services from that date, subject of course to compatibility with competition and EU State Aid requirements. While the matter is still being considered it is necessary however to stress, despite the claims being made otherwise, that introducing an alternative suitable mechanism is not a straightforward matter.

The increase in fuel prices is due to changes in the market and is not tax related. It is an international phenomenon affecting all countries, and all sectors of the economy and society. Ireland is indeed one of the lower taxation systems in relation to fuel. In comparison to our competitors, we are below the average price for the EU 15 and substantially below the UK. Furthermore, the excise rates for both diesel and petrol in Ireland have not been increased in the last four Budgets.

The Exchequer yield from excise, as excise is set at a nominal amount, does not increase as the price of fuels increase. On the other hand, the yield from VAT, as VAT is set as a percentage of the price, increases as the price of fuels increase. In this regard it should however be borne in mind that to the extent that spending in the economy is re-allocated to petrol and other oil products, and away from other VAT liable spending, and to the extent that the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices, there may be little or no net gain to the Exchequer.

Our overall response to the increase in fuel prices is, as was adopted at the recent Ecofin and European Council meetings, that distortionary fiscal and other policy interventions should be avoided as they prevent the necessary adjustments by economic agents. This means that taxation on oil products should not be reduced. It would send the wrong signal to consumers and to oil producers.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

144 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the tax a farmer (details supplied) has to pay in particular circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26122/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the proposed transfer by a farmer, in the circumstances outlined in the Deputy's query, is treated as a disposal for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) purposes. CGT is applied to the deemed sale price of property which is being disposed and, in this case, the aggregate market value of the land and milk quota at the date of the transfer is considered to be the deemed saleprice.

Relief from CGT is available where an individual aged 55 years or over disposes of all or part of his/her "qualifying assets" In this case, qualifying assets include assets which have been owned by the individual for a period of not less than 10 years at the date of the disposal, where these assets have been used for the purposes of farming by the individual throughout that 10-year period.

Where the transfer is from parent to child, relief is withdrawn where the child disposes of the assets within 6 years of the date of transfer. The withdrawn relief is chargeable on the child.

For the purpose of both Gift and Inheritance Tax (Capital Acquisitions Tax), the relationship between the person who provides the gift or inheritance (the disponer) and the person who receives the gift or inheritance (the beneficiary), determines the maximum tax-free threshold which is known as the Group Threshold".

The Group threshold applying to a gift or inheritance received by a child from his/her parents is the Group A threshold and for 2008 this is €521,208. Any other gifts/ inheritances that might have been received by the beneficiary from within the same Group A threshold (i.e. from parents) since 5 December 1991 will also be taken into account when applying the threshold for the purpose of calculating the Gift/ Inheritance tax. Each child is separately entitled to its own Group A tax-free threshold.

Where a gift or inheritance consists of agricultural lands, the market value of the agricultural lands (taking into account the value of the milk quota being transferred with the agricultural lands) may be reduced by 90% provided certain conditions are met. These conditions include a requirement that the land is taken by a "farmer", who is defined in the legislation as an individual in respect of whom not less that 80 per cent of his or her assets, after taking the gift or inheritance, consist of agricultural property. It is also a requirement that the land is not disposed of for 6 years after the date of the receipt of the gift or inheritance.

In general terms, a gift of land attracts a Stamp Duty liability based on the market value of the land transferred. The value of the milk quota attached to the land is included in the market value of the land. The non-residential property rates of Stamp Duty apply to gifts of this nature but any Stamp Duty payable is reduced by 50% in the case of a gift from a parent to a child.

There is an exemption from Stamp Duty in the case of the transfer of land to a person who is under 35 years of age provided that the person holds specified educational qualifications and they comply with certain other conditions. However, having regard to the details supplied by the Deputy, this exemption would not apply to the transfer in this case.

Willie Penrose

Question:

145 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that not for profit community based child care organisations are organised as limited companies, are not rateable and while they may be entered in the valuation list by the valuation office, that the relevant local authority does not have a right to levy rates on such childcare facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26132/08]

Generally, all buildings for whatever purpose, are rateable under the provisions of the Valuation Act, 2001, except for certain categories of buildings, provided for as non-rateable under Schedule 4 of the Act.

The categories of buildings provided for as non-rateable under Schedule 4 of the Act would principally include those used for public worship, education and institutions of Art and Science. While Schedule 4 (relevant property not rateable) does not specifically provide for the exemption of community-based childcare organisations, there may be instances where such enterprises which are operated on a not-for-profit basis are deemed not to be rateable if conducted in a community hall. The activities of a community hall are exempt from rates under Schedule 4, section 15 of the Act, the exception being the premises of a club registered under the Registration of Clubs Act, 1904. Within the context of the legislation, a community hall means a hall or similar building, which must not be used primarily for profit or gain and is occupied for use by the inhabitants of the locality generally for purposes that are recreational or otherwise of a social nature. Therefore, if a community childcare facility operates in a community hall as so defined, it will be treated as non-rateable.

Similarly, any building used by a community childcare organisation, whether incorporated as a limited company or not, which operates on a non-profit basis as a registered charitable organisation may be deemed to be exempt depending on the terms and conditions of the organisation's Memorandum and Articles of Association. The exemption in such an instance is provided for under Schedule 4, section 16(a) of the Act.

The local authority may levy rates on all rateable properties entered in the valuation list in accordance with rating legislation, but does not have authority to levy rates on the exempt categories of property provided for in Schedule 4, including property as defined by sections 15 and 16(a) of the Valuation Act, 2001.

Capital Expenditure.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

146 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if the allegations contained in a newspaper article (details supplied) in relation to metro north where a source is quoted as saying metro north will be the first to go are true. [26149/08]

The Metro North project remains on course, contrary to what the article in question alleges.

Customs and Excise.

Joe McHugh

Question:

147 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the number of trained customs staff deployed at Killybegs and Letterkenny ports; if a risk assessment has been carried out on non tidal ports along the west coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26257/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that one officer is assigned full time to Killybegs port and mobile enforcement staff also cover that port as part of their ongoing patrols. As there has been no shipping activity in Letterkenny port for a long number of years, no officer has been assigned to that port but several Customs staff are based in Letterkenny town.

Customs officers have assessed the risk along the west coast over a number of years, including any small ports and other landing places, and this assessment is being continually updated. All of the coastline is patrolled by Customs officers on an ongoing basis. Attendance by these officers is selective and targeted and is based on analysis and evaluation of national and international seizure trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence. These patrols are kept under constant review in particular to take account of available intelligence and emerging smuggling trends.

As well as land-based Customs staff, Revenue has a sea-going vessel, the Customs Cutter, which patrols the coastline. Where necessary, Revenue can call on assistance from the Naval Service and the Air Corps.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are fully aware of the possibility of the landing of illegal drugs anywhere around the coast and they are actively promoting the Customs Drugs Watch programme in all coastal areas. This programme seeks to enlist the help of the public in combating drug smuggling by noting any unusual or suspicious activity and reporting it immediately to a local Customs Drugs Watch Officer.

The Revenue Commissioners have placed an order for a second cutter which is expected to be operational by late 2009 and this vessel will be of further benefit in the fight against illegal drugs.

Tax Yield.

Michael Ring

Question:

148 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the tax take on a price range of vehicles (details supplied) in each of the past two years. [26258/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the tax take on individual cars comprises VRT and VAT. The standard VAT rate of 21% applies to cars. The VRT liability for passenger cars ('category A' vehicles) is calculated as a percentage of the Open Market Selling Price (OMSP) of the car concerned. The OMSP is defined in Section 133 of the Finance Act 1992 and is the price, inclusive of all taxes and duties, which a vehicle may reasonably be expected to fetch on a first arm's length sale in the open market in the State by retail.

In the years 2006-2007, to which the question relates, the VRT rate was based on the engine size of a car. Cars were divided into 3 subcategories, referred to as A1, A2 and A3; based on the engine capacity of the vehicle. The categories of passenger car and associated VRT charges were:

Category A1 — up to 1,400cc — 22.5% of OMSP

Category A2 — 1,401 to 1,900cc — 25% of OMSP

Category A3 — over 1,900cc — 30% of OMSP

The basis of calculating VRT for cars changed on 1 July 2008; and VRT is now charged as a percentage of the OMSP on the basis of a car's Carbon Dioxide emissions.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax take for cars for a range of prices/OMSP between €15,000 and €45,000 as requested, is set out in the following table. The tax take is the same for each of the last two years.

Tax Take on Cars for a Range of Sample Prices/OMSP

Category

A1

A2

A3

Sample Price/OMSP (€)

(€)

(€)

(€)

15,000

5,393

5,702

6,322

20,000

7,190

7,603

8,430

25,000

8,988

9,504

10,537

30,000

10,785

11,405

12,645

35,000

12,583

13,306

14,752

40,000

14,380

15,207

16,860

45,000

16,178

17,107

18,967

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

149 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of Revenue received by the Exchequer in each of the past five years in taxes associated with motoring, that is, VRT on cars, VRT on other vehicles, VAT on motor vehicles, VAT on repairs, VAT on fuels, tax on motor insurance, company car taxes, excise duty on petrol and diesel, road tolls and benefit in kind; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26277/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the amounts of tax revenue collected from VRT on cars and other vehicles, the estimated VAT yield, and the tax revenue collected from Mineral Oil Tax on petrol and diesel, for the relevant periods, are set out in the following tables.

VRT Yield

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007 Prov.

2008 (Jan to May) Prov.

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Cars

806.7

930

1128.6

1257.5

1376.4

830.2

Other Vehicles

12.7

16

20.2

29.9

29.6

16

Total

819.4

946

1,148.80

1,287.40

1,406.00

846.2

Estimated VAT Yield

2003 Est.

2004 Est.

2005 Est.

2006 Est.

2007 Est.

2008 (Jan to May) Est.

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Motor Vehicles

431

480

559

599

657

402.5

Car Repairs

46

50

56

64

73

30.4

Petrol

296

342

393

440

465

222.0

Auto Diesel

32

38

46

53

57

29.0

Road Tolls

n/a

10

12

15

17

7.5

Total

805

920

1,066

1,171

1,269

691.4

Mineral Oil Tax

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007 Prov.

2008 (Jan to May) Prov.

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

Petrol

853.8

970.7

1001.9

1026.4

1051.3

471.5

Auto Diesel

731.5

870.7

920.5

1016.7

1075.8

484.7

Total

1,585.3

1,841.4

1,922.4

2,043.1

2,127.1

956.2

The VAT yield from Oil Products and Motor Vehicles is estimated, as the information to be furnished on VAT returns does not require the yield from a particular sector or sub-sector of trade to be identified. The figures provided for the VAT yield in 2008 are estimates of the amount of VAT yield that would be generated by the volume of clearances of oil products and the number of cars registered for VRT purposes up to the end of the period in question. Depending on the nature of the registration status of a trader, VAT returns can be made monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, half yearly or annually and this will dictate the point in time when VAT on sales will actually be paid. It should also be noted that the VAT content of purchases of auto diesel is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system.

In relation to tax revenue from motor insurance, a Stamp Duty levy is charged on most non-life insurance premiums, including motor insurance; but it is not possible to distinguish between the different types of insurance business within the yield from that levy.

I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest year for which relevant figures are available in respect of benefits-in-kind arising from the provision of cars is 2003 and the yield in that year is estimated at €81.6m. This figure includes income earners whose main source of income is assessable to tax under Schedule D (self-employed) but who also have income from an employment subject to PAYE in respect of which a benefit-in-kind arises. The figure for 2003 is based on returns made by individual PAYE taxpayers. New procedures introduced from 1 January 2004 mean that employers are now required to account for PAYE, PRSI and Health Contributions on the taxable value of certain benefits-in-kind and other non-cash benefits provided by them to their employees. Provision was made for the return of this information in the form P35 for 2004 due for filing by employers in February 2005. However, as details of taxable benefits are required in aggregate form only on the P35 return it is not possible to separately identify different types of benefits.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

150 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax payable on a car valued at €15,000 under the current system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26278/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

151 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax payable on a car valued at €25,000 under the current system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26279/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

152 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax payable on a car valued at €35,000 under the current system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26280/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

153 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax payable on a car valued at €45,000 under the current system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26281/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 to 153, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the tax take on individual cars comprises VRT and VAT. The standard VAT rate of 21% applies to cars. VRT liability for passenger cars ('category A' vehicles) is calculated as a percentage of the Open Market Selling Price (OMSP) of the car concerned. The OMSP is defined in Section 133 of the Finance Act 1992 and is the price, inclusive of all taxes and duties, which a vehicle may reasonably be expected to fetch on a first arm's length sale in the open market in the State by retail.

The basis of calculating VRT for cars changed on 1 July 2008; and from that date VRT is charged as a percentage of the OMSP on the basis of a car's Carbon Dioxide emissions. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax take for cars for a range of prices/OMSP, as requested, for each of the CO2 Emissions Categories, is set out in the following table.

Tax Take on Cars for a Range of Sample/OMSP

CO2 Emissions Category

A0-120g

B121–140g

C141–155g

D156–170g

E171–190g

F191–225g

G226g and over

VRT Rate

14%

16%

20%

24%

28%

32%

36%

Sample Price / OMSP

€15,000

4,339

4,587

5,083

5,579

6,074

6,570

7,066

€25,000

7,231

7,645

8,471

9,298

10,124

10,950

11,777

€35,000

10,124

10,702

11,860

13,017

14,174

15,331

16,488

€45,000

13,017

13,760

15,248

16,736

18,223

19,711

21,198

National Monuments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

154 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works will confirm when the works on the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, will be completed; the situation regarding a visitor centre for the rock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26303/08]

I refer the Deputy to the replies to Parliamentary Questions 207 of 30 January 2008, 178 of 19 February 2008 and 75 of 6 March 2008. The position regarding the provision of a visitor centre remains unchanged from the answer provided on 6 March 2008. It is envisaged that the series of maintenance and conservation projects, including major construction works at Cormac's Chapel, on the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary will be undertaken over the next three/four years.

Social Insurance Fund.

Brian Hayes

Question:

155 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the yield from investment arising from the surpluses involved in each year over the past ten years since 1997 to date in 2008 in respect of the surplus that has arisen from the Social Insurance Fund in recent years, which is invested and managed by the National Treasury Management Agency, subject to guidelines issued by him; the year when the surplus first arose since the fund was established in 1953; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26337/08]

An annual surplus first arose on the Social Insurance Fund in 1997. Since then, the annual yield that accrued from the investment of the accumulated surplus of the Social Insurance Fund has been as follows:-

Year

Yield

(€m)

1997

0.3

1998

1.7

1999

3.4

2000

26.6

2001

45.8

2002

51.0

2003

40.7

2004

34.6

2005

49.0

2006

53.1

2007

112.1 (provisional)

The Revised Estimates Volume includes a projection of €155m for the yield on investment for 2008.

Health Services.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

156 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of Government funding allocated to each of the hospice centres here, on a county basis, over each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26273/08]

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.

Adoption Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

157 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is an appeals procedure available in circumstances whereby a couple are assessed by an adoption agency and deemed unsuitable; her views on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26086/08]

Assessments are carried out under Section 8 of the Adoption Act, 1991. The requirement of the assessment is to assess both eligibility and suitability of applicants for adoption. Guidance on the intercountry adoption assessment procedure was developed in 1999 in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and practitioners. This guidance establishes five standards which all persons must reach in order to be deemed suitable to adopt. The assessment process begins with a preparation course which provides prospective adopters with a chance to reflect on the issues involved in adoption. Some applicants opt to self-select out of the process at that stage.

For applicants who continue the process, social workers carry out what is known as the "home study" or "social work report" with prospective adopters. Once complete the social worker is required to make a recommendation regarding the applicant's eligibility and suitability. Each case is then reviewed by an Adoption Committee at local level. The Committee is obliged to consider the recommendation of the social worker and in turn decide whether the evidence adduced supports the recommendation made. If the recommendation is agreed by the Committee, the applicants are informed of the outcome. For cases where the applicants are deemed eligible and suitable, the application is forwarded to the Adoption Board for its consideration with a recommendation for the issuing of a declaration of eligibility and suitability — which is required to adopt a child from abroad. Unsuccessful applicants are advised of the outcome and the case does not proceed further. However, if the applicants are not satisfied with the recommendation, they have an opportunity to submit their case to the Adoption Board for further consideration.

The Adoption Board considers every case on its merits and can hear applicants on their application if they have received a negative recommendation. Ultimately, the decision to issue a declaration of eligibility and suitability rests with the Board. The Board must consider whether the evidence advanced supports the recommendation made, whether that recommendation is positive or negative. I am satisfied that this is a fair set of procedures with good checks and balances.

My Office is working continuously to further develop the appropriate legislative, policy and administrative framework which will ensure a well regulated regime of both domestic and intercountry adoption. Our aim is to support and protect prospective parents, and even more importantly,the children for whom adoption services are devised and provided.

Care of the Elderly.

Enda Kenny

Question:

158 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding in place for contract beds; the waiting lists to obtain such a bed; the breakdown of these waiting lists on a regional basis; her views on making extra funding available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26087/08]

The number of contract beds nationally in May 2008 was 3,106. These beds are funded from within the HSE's overall allocation in respect of long-term residential care for older people. The Minister currently has no plans to make additional contract beds available. However, the Minister is introducing a new Nursing Home Support Scheme, A Fair Deal, which will replace the existing subvention scheme and the system of charges for public beds and introduce a transparent uniform system of support towards the cost of care that will be fair to all, irrespective of whether they are in public or private nursing homes.

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 provide information on the waiting lists for contract beds. 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.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

159 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for a tuberculosis vaccination by a person (details supplied) in County Cork is being expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26097/08]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Bernard Allen

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children when payment will be made under the nursing homes repayment scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [26117/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

161 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is in a long-term stay bed. [26127/08]

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.

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

162 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will have arrangements made to have a person (details supplied) in County Cork referred for a specific medical examination. [26128/08]

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

Tom Sheahan

Question:

163 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is Health Service Executive policy to send letters of condolences to families of patients who die while in hospital in the care of the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26136/08]

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

Tom Hayes

Question:

164 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify the situation regarding the provision of orthodontic treatment in respect of persons over the age of 16 who have a medical card. [26143/08]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

165 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for psychological assessments for children in County Roscommon; if a restriction has been placed on accepting new cases onto the waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26146/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

166 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people in the years 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008 who had full medical cards and who now are only in receipt of a general practitioner card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26152/08]

Details of the numbers of medical card holders and GP visit card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive (HSE). The following table shows the number of persons with medical cards in respect of the years 2006-2008

Year

No. of medical card holders

31st December 2006

1,221,695

31st December 2007

1,276,178

2008 (as at 31st May 2008)

1,306,470

In addition, as at 31st May 2008, 80,035 persons held a GP visit card.

The HSE does not routinely provide my Department with statistics on the number of GP visit card holders who were previously in receipt of a medical card. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

167 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26160/08]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

168 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not received their payment under the health repayment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26251/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive.

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

Pat Breen

Question:

169 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has not received their payment under the health repayment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26252/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive.

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

Pat Breen

Question:

170 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason persons (details supplied) in County Clare have not received their payment under the health repayment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26253/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive.

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Joe McHugh

Question:

171 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for an appointment with each specialist located at a hospital (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26260/08]

The management of out-patient waiting lists is a matter for the Health Service Executive and the individual hospitals concerned. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

172 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the nature of the services that are being provided to people in south Westmeath at the primary care campus at Clonbrusk, Athlone, County Westmeath when it is up and running; if it is planned for the provision of a comprehensive service at which up to 95% of the peoples’ health and social service needs will be properly met within a primary care setting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26269/08]

Under the Health Act 2004, the management and delivery of health and personal social services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. This includes operational responsibility for the establishment of Primary Care Teams.

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 as a matter of urgency.

Cancer Incidence.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

173 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the recorded number of persons suffering from cancer illness in the areas of Cobh, Ringaskiddy, Passage, Aghada and Midleton, County Cork, in each of the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26275/08]

Statistics in relation to cancer incidence are collated by the National Cancer Registry. My Department has asked the Director of the Registry to examine this matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

174 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the new waiting list initiative that is to be put in place in the developmental co-ordination disorder, DCD, Cork unit of St. Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork; if, as a result of this initiative, parents are being pressurised to pay for psychological and occupational therapy assessments in order to improve their chances of diagnosis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26336/08]

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

Road Network.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

175 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Transport the estimated expenditure by his Department on road improvements in each of the past five years. [26282/08]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The total funding allocated to the National Roads Authority for road improvement and maintenance in each of the past 5 years is set out in the following table:

Year

Construction,

Maintenance

Total

€,000

€,000

€,000

2003

1,169,424

53,396

1,222,820

2004

1,178,959

51,328

1,230,287

2005

1,263,770

53,394

1,413,164

2006

1,582,500

55,064

1,637,564

2007

1,712,706

55,097

1,767,803

The implementation of individual national road projects, including their maintenance and upkeep, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Act 1993, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Total road grants paid to local authorities for works on regional and local roads in each of the last 5 years are set out in the following table.

Year

Total Payment

2003

436,592,000

2004

480,200,000

2005

495,270,000

2006

557,730,000

2007

607,525,000

Public Transport.

Pat Breen

Question:

176 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport the progress in agreeing an alternative scheme to replace the fuel excise refund scheme for bus transport operators which is due to terminate on 31 October 2008; his proposals to address the high cost of diesel which is affecting the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26079/08]

I refer the Deputy to my response yesterday to question 309. As the Deputy is aware, the cost of diesel is determined by international market forces over which I have no control.

Rail Network.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

177 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if the allegations contained in a newspaper article (details supplied) on metro north, where a source is quoted as saying, metro north will be the first to go, are true; and if he will make a statement on the future of the project and the timescale for completion. [26148/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

178 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm the Government’s commitment to fund the development of the metro north project; when construction of this project is due to commence; when construction of this project is due to be completed; when it is due to open; the amount it is expected to cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26286/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 178 together.

The Government remains committed to the implementation of the Metro North project which is a critical element of the Transport 21 strategy to transform the public transport system in the Greater Dublin Area.

The primary purpose of Metro North is to provide a high quality public transport service for north Dublin. It will serve a number of important generators of traffic — the Mater Hospital, DCU and Dublin Airport. More importantly the successful implementation of Fingal County Council's development plan, particularly in the greater Swords area, hinges on the delivery of Metro North.

The Metro North project is progressing well- the tender documents were issues to the four PPP bidding consortia in mid May, the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) has held meetings with the consortia recently. The bidders are putting their bids together with a view to submitting them towards the end of this year.

Detailed planning and design work on the project is ongoing and the RPA expects to lodge an application with An Bórd Pleanála for a railway order in the current year.

The target date for completion of the project is 2013. However, this date will be critically determined by the outcome of both the planning and procurement processes. These processes will also determine when the main project will commence, when a contractor will be appointed, when the project will be completed and when operations will commence.

In January 2008, the Government approved the funding structure for the Metro North PPP, including an Exchequer provision for advance works ahead of the main PPP contract.

I am not in a position to publish the estimated capital cost of the Metro North project in advance of the completion of the public procurement process. The publication of such commercially sensitive information prior to the completion of the competitive procurement process would prejudice the State's capacity to derive maximum value for money in respect of the project.

Joan Burton

Question:

179 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm the Government’s commitment to fund the development of the metro west project; when construction of this project is due to commence; when construction of this project is due to be completed; when it is due to open; the amount it is expected to cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26287/08]

The Government remains committed to the implementation of the Metro West project, which is contained in the Transport 21 strategy to transform the public transport system in the Greater Dublin Area.

The emerging preferred route for Metro West was announced by the RPA in July 2007 following an extensive consultation process on route options which included the public, residents, property owners, local authorities and other stakeholders.

A further round of consultation is now underway to provide greater definition to the route. The current phase of the consultation process will conclude in the coming weeks and the RPA will then proceed with the preparation of a Railway Order application which will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála in 2009.

I am not in a position to publish the estimated capital cost of the Metro West project in advance of the completion of the public procurement process. The publication of such commercially sensitive information prior to the completion of the competitive procurement process would prejudice the State's capacity to derive maximum value for money in respect of the project.

Joan Burton

Question:

180 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm the Government’s commitment to fund the upgrade of the Maynooth rail line to a fully electrified, DART standard, line; when this upgrade is due to commence; when this project is due to be completed; the amount it is expected to cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26288/08]

Transport 21 provides for the electrification of the Maynooth, Kildare and Northern lines in the context of the DART Interconnector project. The detailed planning and design of the project is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. I understand that Iarnród Éireann intend to undertake the electrification project on a phased basis commencing with the Maynooth and Northern lines over the period 2009-2012. When completed the Maynooth line will become an integral part of the DART network. The position regarding costs is that it is Departmental policy not to disclose costs in advance of the tendering process being completed.

Joan Burton

Question:

181 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport the changes in the prioritisation of the metro west, metro north or Maynooth rail line upgrade within the national development plan framework in view of the shortfall in Exchequer income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26289/08]

There has been no change in the prioritisation of Metro North, Metro West and the Maynooth line upgrade.

Public Transport.

Joan Burton

Question:

182 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport when the planned efficiency review of Dublin buses is due to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26290/08]

Joan Burton

Question:

183 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport when he will give the go-ahead for the purchase of 100 further new buses by Dublin Bus in line with their application to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26291/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 183 together.

A cost and efficiency review of both Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann has commenced and it expected that a final report will be received in the Autumn. The funding of further new buses will be considered in the light of the outcome of this review and the available funding.

Joan Burton

Question:

184 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he will review the decision to prohibit the extension of the 37 bus route from its temporary and unsafe terminus in Carpenterstown to the planned new terminus at the Blanchardstown town centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26292/08]

My Department has not refused Dublin Bus any proposed changes to its Route 37 bus service.

Where proposed services by the Company are deemed to be in competition with services that are the subject of a licence held by a private bus operator issued under the Road Transport Act, 1932, Dublin Bus is required to obtain my consent under section 25 of the Transport Act 1958 before the Company can introduce such services.

My Department received a proposal from Dublin Bus on 1st May, 2008 for changes to its Route 37, the proposal made no reference to safety issues at the existing terminus. Following an initial examination, which included consultation with Dublin Bus, my Department deemed that the proposal would give rise to competition with an existing licensed service.

Accordingly, my Department advised Dublin Bus on 9th June, 2008 that an application in accordance with Section 25 of the Transport Act, 1958 was required should the Company wish to pursue the introduction of the change. Alternatively, Dublin Bus was also advised that it could review its proposals in order to avoid competition with the licensed operator. No revised proposal has been received in my Department.

The safety and location of bus stops is a matter for the Garda Síochána and controls on the parking of buses generally are applied under the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2007. It is the responsibility of Dublin Bus to obtain approval from the Garda Síochána under Section 85 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 for all stops on existing routes or stops along proposed routes, including the terminal points.

Joan Burton

Question:

185 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he will outline, date and itemise the status of all applications received by his Department with respect to new bus routes, both from public and from private operators from the beginning of 2007 to date in 2008. [26293/08]

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

Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus are not subject to licensing in accordance with the provisions of the Road Transport Act 1932. However, the initiation or alteration of a bus service by either company is subject to compliance with the necessary regulatory requirement of giving advance notice to my Department and to compliance with the provisions of Section 25 of the Transport Act 1958 concerning competition with licensed private operators.

Generally applications from private operators and notifications from the State Companies are dealt with on a first come first served basis.

Where it is necessary for an application or notification to be held pending the outcome of a prior case, the applicant is advised accordingly.

Details in relation to the status of individual cases which are currently being considered by my Department are subject to commercial confidentiality.

Between 1st January, 2007 and 30th June 2008:

a total of 340 licence applications were received from private bus operators for new bus routes during the period 1st January, 2007 until 30th June, 2008. A total of 348 licences were issued for new routes during that time;

191 notifications were received from Bus Eireann of which 41 were for new routes. A total of 290 notifications were finalised during the same period of which 58 were for new routes;

79 notifications were received from Dublin Bus of which 16 were for new routes. A total of 82 notifications were finalised during the same period, of which 9 were for new routes.

The details of all current licences issued to private operators are available to view on my Department's website. Details of all services in operation by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus are available on the respective Company websites and are listed in the Companies' published timetables.

Rural Transport Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

186 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the reason there was no provision for rural transport links or systems in the programme for Government in 2007; the action he will take regarding the poor transport provision in small towns and villages; and the support in place for older people who are unable to drive themselves. [26305/08]

The Programme for Government 2007-2012 contains a commitment that my Department will build on the success thus far of the Rural Transport Initiative (RTI) and extend the Rural Transport Programme nationwide.

My Department is giving effect to this commitment through the Rural Transport Programme (RTP), launched in February 2007, which places the former pilot Rural Transport Initiative on a mainstreamed basis with significantly increased funding which in the current year is €11m, an increase of €2m on 2007. Under the Programme, thirty-four community transport groups around the country are being funded to address social exclusion in their rural areas arising from unmet public transport needs. Older people and people with disabilities form the core customer base of the RTP. Earlier this year I was delighted to announce increased funding for the Programme, which is providing for additional services together with expanded area coverage.

Pobal, which administers the RTP on behalf of the Department, has commenced a process to extend the Programme on a phased basis with a goal of achieving nation-wide coverage in due course in line with Government policy. It is planned that by end-2008, RTP Groups will be operational in every county and will be working towards maximising coverage in their operational areas. At present, County Louth is the only county without a scheme.

In addition, Bus Éireann and a number of private operators also provide transport services in rural areas.

Rail Network.

Tom Hayes

Question:

187 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport his plans for upgrading the train lines in south Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26306/08]

Tom Hayes

Question:

188 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the plans for upgrading the train station in Cahir, County Tipperary; the improvements planned for the routes going through Cahir; and the average number of people who currently use the station on a weekly basis. [26312/08]

Tom Hayes

Question:

189 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the plans for upgrading the train station in Clonmel, County Tipperary; the improvements planned for the routes going through Clonmel; and the average number of people who currently use the station on a weekly basis. [26313/08]

Tom Hayes

Question:

190 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the plans for upgrading the train station in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary; the improvements planned for the routes going through Carrick-on-Suir; and the average number of people who currently use the station on a weekly basis. [26314/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 to 190, inclusive, together.

The maintenance and development of the railway network, including stations, and railway services are a matter for Iarnród Éireann. I am informed by the company that Cahir, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir are currently served by 8 trains per day (four in each direction between Waterford and Limerick Junction, with connections to and from Dublin trains at Limerick Junction).

I understand that this represents an improvement in the previously very minimal service and as a consequence Iarnród Éireann report that the passenger business on the Limerick Junction-Waterford route has increased by 40% in the first five months of 2008, compared to the same period in 2007.

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that work is currently underway on the line to renew the track to continuous welded rail consistent with Iarnród Éireann's mainline standards.

Job Creation.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

191 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created through her Department, the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland in counties (details supplied) in each of the years 2000 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26119/08]

State support for enterprise and job creation is channelled through the industrial development agencies. While I may give general policy directives to the agencies, I am precluded under the Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings, or from giving preference to one area over others.

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are supported by the industrial development agencies. Data is compiled on an annualised basis and is aggregated at county level only. Figures for 2008 will not be available till early 2009.

In the period 2000 to 2007 the number of new jobs created in IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland supported companies in counties Limerick and Wexford amounted to 13,616.

The breakdown in respect of each agency in respect of each count by county is shown in the following tabular statements. In the same period the County Enterprise Boards, which provide support for micro enterprise assisted in the creation of 369 jobs in County Limerick and 516 jobs in Wexford.

Table 1: Table showing the numbers of Jobs created in Limerick and Wexford in the period 2000 to 2007 in IDA supported companies.

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

Limerick

1,365

389

445

131

475

374

789

264

4,232

Wexford

125

72

164

134

333

71

98

67

1,064

Table 2: Table showing the numbers of Jobs created in Limerick and Wexford in the period 2000 to 2007 in Enterprise Ireland supported companies.

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

Limerick

718

618

369

552

563

776

1,041

789

5,426

Wexford

419

337

419

523

177

413

237

369

2,894

Job Losses.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

192 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost in counties (details supplied) in each of the years 2000 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26120/08]

Period 2000 to 2004 shows the notifications of proposed redundancies received on a county basis for those years. Notification of proposed redundancies are for the county as a whole, as it is not possible to provide figures for part of a county.

Period 2005 to end of May 2008 shows the actual number of redundancies received on a county basis for those years. Actual numbers of redundancies are for the county as a whole, as it is not possible to provide figures for part of a county.

The data contained in the table does not reflect those who lost their jobs with less than two years service in an employment.

Wexford/Limerick Notified/Actual Redundancies by Area 2000-31st May 2008

*2000

*2001

*2002

*2003

*2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Total

Wexford

307

571

697

435

639

513

754

534

357

4,807

Limerick

513

1,119

1,268

1,550

1,082

1,132

1,114

1,250

786

9,814

*2000 to 2004 Notified Redundancies.

Conference Centres.

Pat Breen

Question:

193 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the commitment in the programme for Government to investigate the feasibility of a regional conference centre in the Shannon region; the number of meetings of the steering group which have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26109/08]

The Programme for Government states that the Government will investigate the feasibility of a regional conference centre in the Shannon/Limerick area. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism has asked Fáilte Ireland to arrange an objective and independent study of the feasibility of such a facility.

A steering group was established to oversee the study and has met on four occasions. A draft report was received from the consultants on 25 June 2008 and was discussed at a steering group meeting held on 1 July 2008. A briefing paper on the outcome of this discussion is being prepared and will be submitted for consideration at the next meeting of the Fáilte Ireland Authority.

Sports Capital Programme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

194 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the precise date that the capital grants allocations for sporting clubs and community organisations have been announced since 1994 and for each year up to and including 2007 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26131/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by the Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The aim of the Programme is to maximise participation in sport through the provision of modern high quality, safe, well-designed and sustainable facilities and sports equipment. The provision of such facilities allows for increased numbers to participate in sport.

Since the establishment of the Department, the Sports Capital Programme allocations for local, regional and national projects have been announced on the dates set out in the following table.

Year

Date of Announcement

2002

29 March 2002

2003

25 July (local) & 29 August (regional and national) 2003

2004

7 May (local) & 10 August (regional and national) 2004

2005

21 July 2005

2006

6 June (local) & 12 July (regional and national) 2006

2007

5 April 2007

Abbey Theatre.

Mary Upton

Question:

195 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the person who will be the owner of the Abbey Theatre once it is completed as a public private partnership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26140/08]

The Abbey Theatre, Amharclann na Mainistreach, is a company limited by guarantee. No change to this corporate status is envisaged in the context of the Public Private Partnership framework for the new theatre building, which will be procured on a build, finance and maintain model.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Tom Hayes

Question:

196 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the increase in the fuel allowance, in tabular form, every year since its inception; if she will provide the annual inflation rate for that sector for every year in that table and provisionally include the figures for the first half of 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26296/08]

Tom Hayes

Question:

200 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the measures that have been taken to assist persons on low incomes to avoid fuel poverty since June 2007; the measures planned to tackle this problem in the future; and if he will make a statement on the figure of 18.5% of households here suffering fuel poverty. [26317/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 and 200 together.

This Department's role is to assist social welfare recipients with heating costs, both through their basic payments and through the fuel allowance scheme and the household benefits package of electricity and gas allowances. These schemes have been improved significantly in recent years.

The national fuel allowance scheme assists householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive (HSE) payments with meeting the cost of their heating needs during the winter season. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. It is not intended to meet those costs in full. Over 290,000 people will benefit from this scheme in 2008.

In January 2007, the weekly rate of fuel allowance was increased by €4 from €14 to €18 a week or €21.90 for recipients living in designated smokeless areas. The income threshold for eligibility for fuel allowance was also increased by €49 from €51 to €100 above the appropriate weekly rate of state pension (contributory). The duration of payment of fuel allowance was extended to 30 weeks in 2008.

According to the Consumer Price Index for May 2008, the overall cost of home heating fuel products has increased by 7.4% in the last 12 months and by 120.3% since the inception of the fuel allowance scheme in 1987. The rate of fuel allowance payment has increased from £5.00 (€6.35) in 1987 to a current value of €18.00, an increase of 183.5%. The fuel allowance rates and the CPI for home heating fuels since 1987 are shown in the following tabular statement.

Electricity and gas allowances under the household benefits package, are payable throughout the year to over 355,000 pensioners, people with disabilities, and carer households towards their heating, light and cooking costs at an estimated overall scheme cost of €159m in 2008. The electricity allowance covers standing charges plus VAT and up to 2,400 units of electricity in each billing period, increased from 1,800 units in January 2007. The gas allowance covers a cash equivalent amount.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme can also be used to assist people in certain circumstances with specific heating needs due to infirmity or a particular medical condition.

The income maintenance needs of those on social welfare payments have been met in recent years through increased primary social welfare rates. Government policy has focused on significantly increasing social welfare rates to ensure that people can meet their basic living costs, including heating, throughout the year and also achieve an improvement in quality of life. This is a more costly approach than increasing fuel allowance as the increase is paid for the full year and not just the 30 weeks of the winter heating season. Since December 2001, overall inflation has increased by 27% while energy product prices have increased by over 71.4%. However, increases in social welfare payments have been between 71% and 88% in the same period.

The fuel poverty figure referred to by the Deputy, while from a 2007 report, actually relates to 2001. The report concerned, the "All Ireland policy paper on fuel poverty and health", which was published by The Institute of Public Health acknowledged that there has been an overall decline in fuel poverty over the past decade and that while the fuel and household benefits package has sought to be responsive to the issue of rising fuel prices, putting warmth into thermally inefficient homes is ultimately a bad long-term investment. A primary contributory factor to fuel poverty has been identified as the energy efficiency of the private and public housing stock.

The Department is cooperating with a number of organisations including Sustainable Energy Ireland, Combat Poverty Agency and the Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government in action research projects on energy efficiency. Reports on these research projects will help to inform Government policy in relation to fuel poverty.

Any improvements to social welfare programmes to assist with heating costs would have considerable cost implications and will be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of resources available for improvements in social welfare payments generally. The main focus of the Government will be on increasing social welfare payments in real terms to enable social welfare recipients to better meet heating and other needs.

Table: Fuel Allowance Rate & CPI for home heating fuel 1987-May 2008

Date

Fuel Allowance rate

CPI for Home Heating FuelAverage annual index*

% age annual increase

Jan-88

6.35

77.8

0.00

Jan-89

6.35

77.8

0.00

Jan-90

6.35

79.9

2.70

Jan-91

6.35

82.1

2.75

Jan-92

6.35

84.9

3.41

Jan-93

6.35

85.4

0.59

Jan-94

6.35

85.7

0.35

Jan-95

6.35

86.3

0.70

Jan-96

6.35

86.4

0.12

Jan-97

6.35

87.8

1.62

Jan-98

6.35

87.8

0.00

Jan-99

6.35

87.8

0.00

Jan-00

6.35

89.4

1.82

Jan-01

6.35

97.5

9.06

Jan-02

9.00

99.9

2.46

Jan-03

9.00

102.9

3.00

Jan-04

9.00

110.0

6.90

Jan-05

9.00

117.8

7.09

Jan-06

14.00

136.3

15.70

Jan-07

18.00

149.5

9.68

Jan-08

18.00

160.7

7.49

May-08

18.00

171.4

6.66

Pat Breen

Question:

197 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs her plans to review the grant aid available to parents to meet the cost of school clothing and footwear; if her attention has been drawn to the recent Combat Poverty Agency conference highlighting the financial difficulties that families face putting children through school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26111/08]

The Back to School Clothing and Footwear allowance scheme provides a one-off payment to eligible families to assist with the extra costs when their children start school each autumn. The allowance is not intended to meet the full cost of school clothing and footwear but only to provide assistance towards these costs.

A person may qualify for payment of an allowance if they are in receipt of a social welfare or Health Service Executive payment, are participating in an approved employment scheme or attending a recognised education and training course and have household income below standard levels.

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme is an important support for parents at a time of particular financial strain. The improvements to the scheme in recent years have provided a major boost to meeting the financial costs associated with return to school for those who are most need assistance.

Since 2005, the allowance has been increased from €80 to €200 in respect of qualified children aged from 2 to 11 years and from €150 to €305 for those aged from 12 to 22 years. These are increases of 150% and 103%, respectively. In 2006, the income limits for BSCFA were increased by €50 to €100 above the state pension (contributory) rate.

The number of children benefiting from the allowance increased from 161,000 in 2006 to over 180,000 in 2007. The annual expenditure on the scheme has increased from €16.7m in 2005 to €40m in 2007. Over €46m has been provided for the scheme in 2008.

These improvements in BSCFA are very significant when viewed in the context of clothing and footwear price trends. According to the Consumer Price Index for May 2008, the overall cost of clothing and footwear has fallen by 3.7% over the past twelve months. The adequacy of back to school clothing and footwear allowance payments will be kept under review. Any changes to the structure of the scheme, rates of payment, income limits or amendments to the qualifying criteria would have cost implications and would have to be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of resources available for improvements in social welfare payments generally.

Tom Hayes

Question:

198 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of people who received the fuel allowance every year since its inception. [26298/08]

The national fuel allowance scheme was introduced in 1987 as a result of a Government decision to rationalise the Urban and National Fuel Schemes which existed at that time. The scheme assists householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive payments, with meeting the cost of their heating needs during the winter season.

The smokeless fuel allowance scheme was introduced in Dublin and the surrounding areas in October 1990, and extended later to other parts of the country, in response to smoke control regulations introduced by the Department of the Environment. This allowance is paid in addition to the fuel allowance in areas where the sale of bituminous fuel is banned.

The number of people who received the fuel allowance since 1987 is shown in the following tabular statement.

Fuel Allowance recipients 1987-2007

Year

Normal Allowance

Smokeless Allowance

1987

180,735

1988

205,634

1989

210,402

1990

219,744

74,000

1991

230,000

74,000

1992

245,507

76,000

1993

255,000

77,000

1994

263,600

78,000

1995

197,654

100,000

1996

216,592

98,700

1997

286,800

98,000

1998

277,000

96,600

1999

274,300

114,000

2000

270,000

109,000

2001

265,000

108,000

2002

259,000

115,000

2003

270,000

118,000

2004

272,000

121,000

2005

266,000

115,000

2006

288,800

114,200

2007

295,000

118,000

Advocacy Service.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

199 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 114 of 25 June 2008, the number of posts, apart from the director, envisaged as part of the personal advocacy service budget that are to be provided out of the €1.8 million set aside in budget 2008; the date when sanction was sought from the Department of Finance for these posts; and the month in 2008 when she expects them to be filled. [26315/08]

Sanction was sought from the Department of Finance in June, 2007 for 10 posts as it is proposed to establish the Personal Advocacy Service on a phased basis. This included the post of Director of Personal Advocacy Service as well as the staffing required to allow the service to commence operation. Provision was made within the funding provided to the Citizen Information Board in 2008 to cover these posts.

In view of the lead time required to recruit and train staff it is not possible to give a definitive date as to when the service will be launched and fully operational.

Question No. 200 answered with Question No. 196.

Departmental Schemes.

Michael Ring

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the other items in addition to the herd number that are required by a participant on a rural social scheme. [26133/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

203 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a person who holds a herd number is entitled to go on the rural social scheme. [26135/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 203 together.

The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) was established to provide income support for low income farmers and fisherpersons who are in receipt of certain long-term social welfare payments and to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities.

In order for farmers to satisfy the eligibility criteria they must be actively farming and must be in receipt of one of the qualifying payments from the Department of Social & Family Affairs, as outlined below:

Farm Assist

Jobseeker's Allowance

Jobseeker's Benefit, if previously on a Community Employment (CE) Scheme or on the RSS AND that your term on that Scheme ceased within the last 12 months.

One-Parent Family Payment

Widow(er)'s Pension — (Contributory or Non-contributory)

Disability Allowance

Adult Dependents of Non-Contributory State Pensioners who themselves are under 66 years of age.

The possession of a herd number does not necessarily indicate that an applicant is actively farming as herd numbers in various formats are issued by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for a variety of reasons and therefore the production of one of the following documents is being requested in order to assist in establishing the applicants eligibility:

A copy of the application for the EU Single Payment Scheme for the current year, which includes a valid herd number together with a copy of the associated receipt (official proof of postage) or

A declaration from the District Veterinary Office (D.V.O) confirming stock details at last test or

The most recent notice of assessment from the Revenue Commissioners, indicating their income derived from a farming activity.

I would encourage any person interested in either renewing their place on the scheme or completing a new application form to contact their local LEADER group or Údarás na Gaeltachta who manage the scheme on my Department's behalf at a local level and they will be able to advise them further.

Michael Ring

Question:

202 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if changes have taken place for the participants of the rural social scheme. [26134/08]

The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) was launched in May 2004 with provision for 2,500 participant places. Since the introduction of the scheme, I have made a number of positive changes for the overall benefit of participants, which are outlined below.

With effect from 22nd May 2006, I extended the eligibility criteria for participants:

To include siblings/children of qualified farmers;

To include widow(er)s and One-Parent Families;

The removal of the tapering system for payments for adult dependants

The removal of the €88.88 limit on earnings outside of the scheme;

The setting of a cut-off date of 31st December 2006 for direct transfer of persons from CE (Community Employment), who meet the underlying criteria for the Rural Social Scheme;

With effect from 8th September 2006, I extended the eligibility criteria for Fisherpersons to include:

A self-employed fisherperson whose boat has been issued with a Pot Fishing Licence. The Department of Communication, Marine and Natural Resources introduced this for small fishing boats such as currachs who traditionally have fished for Lobsters and were mainly unlicensed;

A self-employed fisherperson who has been issued with a Commercial Eel Fishing Licence from one of the seven Regional Fisheries Boards;

A self-employed fisherperson who has been issued with a dredging licence for shellfish from one of the seven Regional Fisheries Boards;

Holders of an Aquaculture licence issued by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources;

Permit holders for shell fishing issued by a registered Cooperative

It should be noted however, that this latter category has not applied to new applicants since 26th July 2007. The ‘Salmon Hardship Scheme' had not been finalised by the RSS renewal date in 2007 and an exception was made to allow participants holding a Commercial Salmon Fishing Licence at that time to renew their 2007/2008 contract.

For those existing participants who have still not received compensation under the "Salmon Hardship Scheme" I am making a further exception for the 2008/2009 contract year by allowing them to renew their contract again provided they satisfy all other conditions. This category is being kept under review and local Implementing Bodies will be able to advise those participants of any further updates.

I have also made a number of general improvements to the scheme which include the provision of 100 additional places in September 2006, the introduction of new work measures, the introduction of temporary contracts in order to allow Implementing Bodies to cover those on long-term absences such as Maternity, Carers and Adoptive leave. Full details in relation to the scheme can be found on the Department website, www.pobail.ie.

Question No. 203 answered with Question No. 201.

Departmental Investigations.

Michael Ring

Question:

204 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in relation to the chief executive officer of an organisation (details supplied). [26141/08]

Michael Ring

Question:

205 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if funding has been withdrawn from an organisation (details supplied); if so, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26142/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 together.

An investigator has recently been appointed to look into a number of issues regarding the organisation in question that have been raised with my Department. I expect the process to be completed in a matter of weeks.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

206 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the application by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo for entitlements as a new entrant. [26093/08]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the 2005 National Reserve under Categories B and D.

Category B catered for farmers who made an investment in production capacity in a farming sector for which a direct payment under Livestock Premia and/or Arable Aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000-2002. Investments could include purchase or long-term lease of land, purchase of suckler and/or ewe quota or other investments. The application was in respect of the purchase of suckler quota but the person named was deemed ineligible under this category, as he did not purchase any suckler quota.

Category D catered for farmers who inherited or purchased land and who commenced farming after 31 December 2002 or who commenced farming in 2002 but who did not receive direct payments in respect of that scheme year. The person named commenced farming and received a herd number in July 2000 and therefore he could not be catered for under the New Entrant category of the National Reserve. An application under the 2002 Area Based Compensatory Allowance Scheme was received from the person named on 8 May 2002. One of the primary provisions of the 2002 Area Based Compensatory Allowance Scheme was that applicants were required to maintain a minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare of the farm for at least four consecutive months. However, where the holding of an applicant was identified as potentially not meeting this minimum stocking density requirement, the applicant was invited to submit evidence of satisfactory stocking i.e. Flock Register, Horse Passports, or, alternatively, the applicant could submit details of a REPS plan or a Commonage Framework Plan, which provided for a lower stocking level.

As the stocking density of the holding of the person named did not appear to meet the minimum required, the person named was written to and invited to submit appropriate evidence of livestock units maintained on the farm. On receipt of this evidence the application was further processed and full payment of €4,126.60 issued to the person named on 10 September 2003. The payable order was cashed on 22 September 2003.

Milk Quota.

Willie Penrose

Question:

207 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the legislation underpinning the dairy premium payments industry indicating the way they are calculated since 2005; if they and the quotas are transferable upon the sale of farm lands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26130/08]

The Council of Agriculture Ministers provided for the introduction of a Dairy Premium in 2004 as part of the CAP Mid-Term Review agreement in June 2003. The agreement also provided for the decoupling of the Dairy Premium to become part of the Single Payment Scheme, which was also introduced as part of that agreement. Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003 provided that the Dairy Premium could be decoupled in 2005, 2006 or 2007.

The Minister for Agriculture and Food decided to decouple the Dairy Premium in Ireland with effect from 2005. Therefore, while the Dairy Premium was paid to eligible applicants as a coupled scheme in 2004, in 2005 an amount equivalent to the Dairy Premium established in March 2005 was incorporated as part of the Single Payment for eligible farmers. The 2006 increase in the Dairy Premium was added to the payment entitlements of those farmers, who benefited from the decoupled premium in respect of 2005.

In order to be eligible to benefit under the 2005 decoupled Dairy Premium Scheme a farmer was required, inter alia, to hold a milk quota on 31 March 2005, and deliver milk from his/her holding during the 2004/2005 milk quota year or commence milk deliveries in his/her own right prior to the deadline for application.

The provisions governing the transfer of entitlements under the Single Payment Scheme, including entitlements which include a dairy premium element, are contained in Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003. If the holder of these entitlements utilised 80% or more of his entitlements in a scheme year, he or she can permanently transfer the entitlements. Otherwise, he or she can permanently transfer or lease the entitlements with an equivalent number of eligible hectares.

The provisions on the transfer of milk quotas upon the sale of the relevant lands are contained in the European Communities (Milk Quota) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No 94 of 2000), as amended.

Veterinary Qualifications.

David Stanton

Question:

208 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his views on making changes to the Veterinary Practice Act 2005, to allow for the recognition of the qualifications of a number of veterinary nursing students who studied at St. John’s Central College, Cork in 2005 to allow for their inclusion on the provisional register of veterinary nurses as per the Veterinary Practice Act 2005 thus allowing them to continue working as veterinary nurses after 1 July 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26311/08]

While I am the sponsoring Minister for the Veterinary Practice Act 2005, which governs the regulation of veterinary practitioners and veterinary nurses, the day to day regulation of the professions is a function of the Veterinary Council of Ireland in accordance with the principles laid down in the legislation.

For the first time veterinary nurses enjoy formal recognition in the legislation. From 1 July 2008, only veterinary nurses who are registered or provisionally registered in the "Register of Veterinary Nurses" established by the Veterinary Council may practise veterinary nursing.

The prescribing and recognition of educational qualifications in relation to veterinary nursing and the registration of veterinary nurses is a matter for the Veterinary Council and I have no function in the matter.

Afforestation Programme.

James Bannon

Question:

209 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the afforestation programme; the plans he has put in place to ensure afforestation targets for 2008 are achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26346/08]

The current suite of Afforestation Grant and Premium Schemes, along with the various support measures, is the most financially attractive package made available in the history of forestry in Ireland. The establishment grant covers 100% of the planting costs, while the annual forestry premium is payable to farmers for 20 years. Both the grant and premium rates have been reviewed in recent times and increased in order to make the scheme more attractive.

Under the Forest Environment Protection Scheme (FEPS), landowners can receive a premium of up to €200 per hectare, over and above their forestry premium, should they choose to participate in the scheme, which promotes the establishment of high nature value forestry. This scheme was launched as a pilot in 2007, and after some refinements, including reducing the planting level threshold from 8 hectares to 5 hectares, has been adopted into the suite of afforestation schemes.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food provides funding to a variety of organisations within the sector to promote new forestry planting, sustainable management of the growing crop and the initiatives to effectively market the timber produced. We are also undertaking significant promotional activities to encourage further participation in forestry. Radio advertisements aired earlier this year, highlighting the benefits of planting forests, are supplemented by promotion and publicity in other media throughout the year.

Earlier this year Mr. John Malone completed a review of the factors affecting the rate of afforestation in Ireland. His report outlined a number of recommendations, aimed at furthering the afforestation program, which are currently under review.

I believe that the combination of the very attractive financial package available and the significant supporting promotional efforts being undertaken will assist in furthering our afforestation programme in 2008.

James Bannon

Question:

210 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he plans to introduce the trimming of broadleaves scheme; when funding will be released by his Department to support this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26347/08]

The Broadleaf Thinning and Tending Scheme aims to improve the quality of broadleaf plantations by encouraging thinning and tending at a young age. While demand for all the forestry schemes is quite high this year, my Department is in the process of prioritising expenditure within the Forestry budget as a whole.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the third junior infant classes proposed at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare in early 2007 have not been met and that only two such classes are now proposed with consequent impact on class size; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26053/08]

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas, including Maynooth. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

In this context, the status of all schools in Maynooth is being assessed. The school referred to by the Deputy is being included in this assessment.

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.

Information and Communications Technology.

Jack Wall

Question:

212 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the factors schools in County Kildare will have to use to ensure proper computer services for each school to overcome recent changes due to the fact that the information technology adviser for primary and secondary schools in the county has not been reappointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26115/08]

A Value for Money Review of the ICT Support Service, which addressed the work of the NCTE, the ICT Advisory Service and specific posts assigned to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, was undertaken by my Department. While concluding that the Service is generally effective and efficient, the Report recognises that each school must plan and execute its own policy for ICT integration across the curriculum. It concludes that now, ten years on, the resources currently utilised by the ICT Advisory Service operating from the regional Education Centres would be better employed focussing supports for ICT leadership and change within each school.

The Education Centres have been advised that my Department is not prepared to renew secondment arrangements for the 14 teachers seconded as ICT Advisors. The implementation of these arrangements has been discussed with the Education Centres and schools concerned. My Department will ensure that any difficulties arising in specific schools by the return of the teachers concerned will be addressed. The position of the three non-seconded ICT advisors is under consideration.

As the Deputy will be aware, I intend to publish the report of the Strategy Group appointed to advise on priorities for investment in ICT in Schools. The National Centre for Technology in Education will continue to provide advice and support to schools on the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. The role of the school's ICT coordinating teacher will be prioritised as central in the provision of ongoing ICT support and advice to teachers and ICT will be integrated into all the support service activities and ongoing curriculum development.

Schools Building Projects.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

213 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science when a phase 1.2 meeting will take place between the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Louth and his officials, together with the design team appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26125/08]

The Revised Stage 2 documentation for the project referred to by the Deputy is currently being examined by my Department's Technical Staff.

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. I am currently reviewing with my officials the Department's spending plans for this year, I am in the middle of this process and it will not be complete for some time. I will not be making decision on any further capital expenditure until that process is completed. When this is done the school management will be informed of the position without delay.

School Transport.

Denis Naughten

Question:

214 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 424 of 20 May 2008 if he has finalised proposals on the review of the school transport system including catchment boundaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26145/08]

My Department is currently finalising proposals for progressing the commitment given in The Programme for Government to review the school transport system including catchment boundaries.

Schools Refurbishment.

Joe McHugh

Question:

215 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the summer works scheme is not going ahead at a school (details supplied) which had been promised money for work to be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26255/08]

Since the Summer Works Scheme was introduced, over 3,000 projects, costing in excess of €300 million, have been completed. With so many smaller projects having been completed over the past few years, the particular emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in developing areas, while also delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country. Accordingly my Department is focusing on delivering as many large projects as possible in 2008 and funding was not made available for a Summer Works Scheme this year.

However, I recognise the benefits of the scheme in addressing the needs of schools and I intend to have a Summer Works Scheme in 2009.

Special Educational Needs.

Joe McHugh

Question:

216 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Donegal had their care hours cut from 32 hours per week to ten hours per week in view of the fact that they suffer from third degree spina bifida; if it is NCSE policy to implement cutbacks, regardless of students’ needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26256/08]

As the Deputy may be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special needs. Applications for SNAs may be considered by the NCSE where a pupil has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or to other pupils.

The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. An SNA may be allocated to meet the care needs of a younger pupil. For some pupils, as they mature, their care needs may diminish over time. For example, an incontinence difficulty in a 4 year old pupil may be fully addressed by the time the pupil is a teenager. In such situations, the NCSE will review and adjust the overall level of SNA support in the school concerned. This may mean that some pupils who had previously been supported by a full time SNA may have their needs met through the shared support of an SNA or perhaps they may have no need of SNA support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for the details supplied by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

217 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in County Galway is losing one of its special needs assistants despite the fact that there are a number of children in the school who would benefit greatly from such help; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26271/08]

As the Deputy may be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special needs. Applications for SNAs may be considered by the NCSE where a pupil has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or to other pupils. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for the details supplied by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Schools Refurbishment.

Joan Burton

Question:

218 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the poor condition of the science laboratories of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; if he will provide funds to refurbish the school’s science labs; the position regarding the plans to provide a new or comprehensively refurbished school building for the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26283/08]

The school referred to by the Deputy has an application with the Department for major capital grant aid.

The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building works. Progress on the 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.

Since 2004 the school has received significant funding under the Summer Works Scheme and the Emergency Works Scheme for refurbishment works on areas such as roofs, drainage, windows and toilets. The school was also awarded a grant of €340,000 under the Permanent Accommodation Scheme for the provision of permanent classrooms.

The authorities of the school applied for funding under the 2008 Summer Works Scheme to renovate/upgrade the science and home economics facilities in the school at an estimated cost in excess of €1.6m. Since the Scheme was introduced in 2004, over 3,000 projects costing in excess of €300 million have been completed. With so many smaller projects having been completed over the past few years, my Department is focusing on delivering as many large projects as possible in 2008. Accordingly, there is no Summer Works Scheme for 2008. However, it is intended to have a Summer Works Scheme in 2009 and projects involving the upgrade of science laboratories will be considered for funding under the scheme in 2009.

Schools Building Projects.

Joan Burton

Question:

219 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects work to commence on the proposed gymnasium for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the amount of money allocated for the building of the gym; when he expects the gym to be completed and open for use by the student body; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the school has accepted extra pupils on the basis of Government promises to provide the gym and ancillary rooms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26284/08]

The project at the school to which the Deputy refers is as an early stage of Architectural Planning. Progress on 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 further progression of the project at this time.

Schools Recognition.

Joan Burton

Question:

220 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the proposals to establish a gaelscoil in Tyrellstown, Dublin 15; if he has received an application for recognition of this school by his Department; if he has granted, is in the process of granting or will commit to granting such recognition; the conditions that are attached, or would be attached, to the granting of such recognition; if he has examined possible sites for the location of this school; if he has requested, or will commit to requesting, the cooperation of Fingal County Council in acquiring a site for this school through the Fingal schools model mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26285/08]

My Department is not aware of any proposals to establish a Gaelscoil in Tyrellstown, Dublin 15. I can also confirm that the New School Advisory Committee (NSAC) did not receive an application for the recognition of a new Gaelscoil in Tyrellstown, Dublin 15, for September 2008.

Schools Building Projects.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

221 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the building project at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6W has been halted; if his attention has been drawn to the concern of the school community and the fact that the additional facilities, many years in planning, are urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26294/08]

The school to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced 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. I am currently reviewing with my officials the Department's spending plans for this year, I am in the middle of this process and it will not be complete for some time. I will not be making decision on any further capital expenditure until that process is completed. When this is done the school management will be informed of the position without delay.

Departmental Policy.

Pat Breen

Question:

222 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 716 of 17 June 2008, if he is satisfied that this response reflects the views of an organisation (details supplied); if he will report on recent discussions between his Department and the organisation in relation to this matter; if they have disassociated their organisation from this reply; if so, the names of the experts and references to the research which supports his Department’s use of the eclectic model; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26307/08]

My reply to the parliamentary question clearly states that this is my Department's policy position and it is not intended to state the position of any other body.

The Deputy will appreciate that, as it has been agreed by both parties that there will be no public statements on the ongoing discussions between officials in my Department and the organisation in question, I am not in a position to make further comment.

Higher Education Grants.

Pat Breen

Question:

223 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to review the higher educational grant schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26308/08]

The annual process of reviewing the income limits, rates of grant and other aspects of the general criteria for the student grant schemes for the coming year is well advanced and I hope to be in a position to publish these shortly.

As part of a wider programme of legislative and administrative reform of the student grant schemes, the recently-published Student Support Bill will provide a statutory framework for reforming the administration of student grants and a coherent basis for the development of a new single unified grant scheme.

Special Educational Needs.

Tom Hayes

Question:

224 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science when a special needs assistant will be appointed for a pupil (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [26318/08]

As the Deputy may be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special needs. Applications for SNAs may be considered by the NCSE where a pupil has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or to other pupils. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for the details supplied by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

School Accommodation.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

225 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide a second level school in an area (details supplied) in County Cork in view of the growing population in the area. [26335/08]

Forward Planning Section of my Department is in the process of identifying the areas where significant additional accommodation will be required at primary and post-primary level for 2009 and onwards.

Factors under consideration include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and capacity of existing schools to meet demand for places. Having considered these factors decisions will be taken on the means by which emerging needs will be met within an area.

Post-primary accommodation requirements in the area referred to by the Deputy will be considered in this context.

School Services Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

226 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the IMPACT and SIPTU trade union campaign to attain appropriate wages and conditions for school secretaries and caretakers. [23568/08]

In general the arrangements for supporting secretarial and caretaking services in schools mirror those for providing support funding to schools.

Primary and secondary schools are funded through capitation grants and likewise secretarial and caretaking services are funded by grants that are related to the number of pupils in the school.

It is the case that a small number of primary and post-primary schools continue to have caretaker and secretary posts funded under a scheme that was put in place in 1978 but which is being phased out as it has been superseded by the grant scheme that I have mentioned. The original 1978 scheme covered a relatively small number of primary and secondary schools and the decision to phase it out was part of a policy decision to spread the support more widely and ultimately cover all primary and secondary schools with funding for such services.

The funding approach adopted for caretaking and secretarial provision in second level schools in the VEC and Community and Comprehensive sectors schools is in line with the funding mechanisms that apply generally in those schools.

The amount of funding given to primary and secondary schools is not directly linked to any particular pay rates and furthermore schools have discretion how to apply this funding across their support service needs. My Department does not have a direct role in determining the pay and conditions under which they are engaged. These are matters to be agreed between the staff concerned and the school authorities. However, Boards of Management of individual schools are expected to comply with employment legislation and are advised accordingly in guidance from my Department.

In the context of discussions on the Social Partnership Agreement Towards 2016 an Informal Forum was established in the public sector to explore a number of staffing-related issues arising in companies/bodies operating in the voluntary/community sector that are largely funded from public funds.

As part of that informal process my Department has facilitated a number of meetings between the managerial bodies of schools employing secretaries and caretakers and the IMPACT and SIPTU trade unions representing the grades concerned. The most recent meeting took place on 11th March 2008 at which my officials undertook to continue to facilitate those discussions. In addition representatives of the management bodies of schools agreed to meet separately with the trade unions concerned on issues of concern to their members.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

227 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the position in regard to the extent of future participation in EU or NATO led or inspired rapid response forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26322/08]

With regard to Ireland's participation in future Battlegroups, we are committed in principle to participation in the Nordic Battlegroup (NBG) which will be on stand-by for the first six (6) months of 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. This Battlegroup will be on stand-by for the second six (6) months of 2012.

Government approval will be required before participation in either Battlegroup is finalised.

The Defence Forces do not and will not be participating in any manner in the NATO Response Force.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

228 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if it has been determined the extent of military hardware, transport, communication and logistical equipment required in such operations as are in place for the Irish contingent to Chad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26323/08]

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 also in keeping with the most modern requirements from the health and safety perspective. On-going 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 equipment provided to Defence Forces personnel serving both at home and on overseas missions ensures that troops are able to carry out their assigned missions, as well as providing the required protection specific to each particular 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 and communication and logistical equipment. The Force Protection assets include twenty-one Mowag APCs, armoured vehicles and indirect fire capabilities.

On-going threat assessments are carried out in mission areas in which Irish troops are serving 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 role and discharge their mandate on an on-going basis.

Defence Forces Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if it is intended to increase the strength of any or all the Defence Forces in view of the expected demands for overseas deployment in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26324/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the strength by rank of the Army; the way this figure compares with 10 years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26333/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 and 238 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. A detailed breakdown of the numbers in the Permanent Defence Force by rank as at 30 September 1998 and 31 May 2008 are in the form of the following Tabular Statement.

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.

Strength of the Defence Forces 31-May-08

LT GEN

MAJ GEN

BRIG GEN

COL

LT COL

COMDT

CAPT

LT

TOTAL OFFRS

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

TOTAL NCOS

PTES

CADETS

TOTAL

Army

1

3

8

41

132

318

234

327

1,064

30

35

130

252

1,053

1498

2,998

4,384

37

8,483

Air Corps

1

2

13

31

57

34

138

7

4

50

15

138

173

387

292

22

839

Naval Service

1

2

12

43

43

51

152

5

7

74

15

218

154

473

401

16

1,042

Total

1

3

10

45

157

392

338

412

1,354

43

46

254

282

1,407

1,782

3,815

5,101

75

10,364

Strength of the Defence Forces 30-Sept-98

LT GEN

MAJ GEN

BRIG GEN

COL

LT COL

COMDT

CAPT

LT

TOTAL OFFRS

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

TOTAL NCOS

PTES

CADETS

TOTAL

Army

1

2

6

33

112

358

402

182

1,096

31

41

134

285

1,102

1,875

3,468

5,040

64

9,668

Air Corps

1

1

10

32

51

34

129

5

4

48

15

126

202

400

467

996

Naval Service

1

2

10

40

37

33

123

7

5

55

15

163

192

437

431

991

Total

1

2

8

36

132

430

490

249

1,348

43

50

237

315

1,391

2,269

4,305

5,938

64*

11,655

* The total only figure for Cadets available.

Defence Forces Promotions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

230 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of women promoted in the Defence Forces in the past 12 months, by rank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26325/08]

A breakdown of the number of female personnel promoted in the Permanent Defence Force since 1 May 2007 is as follows:

Promotion

Number

Recruit to Private 2*

18

Private 2* to Private 3*

20

Private 3* to Corporal

19

Corporal to Sergeant

11

2/Lieutenant to Lieutenant

3

Lieutenant to Captain

11

Captain to Commandant

8

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 564 as at 31 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.

Questions Nos. 231 and 232 answered with Question No. 134.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if the Naval Service is adequately equipped and upgraded to meet expected requirements such as participation in international operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26328/08]

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. 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 such as Internal Waters, Territorial Sea and the Irish Sector of the Exclusive EconomicZone.

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. There are no plans for the participation of the Naval Service in international operations.

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. The 2000 White Paper on Defence 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 Aishling, 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 comprising two stages — the first stage a Request for Proposals and the second stage an Invitation to Tender.

The closing date for stage 1 was 26 October 2007. The evaluation of proposals has now been completed. Detailed specification development for the vessels is nearing conclusion. It is expected to issue the invitation to tender for the second stage of the competition for the OPV in August this year. Tender evaluation will take place in October 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 year.

The purchase of the vessels is subject to Government approval on funding. This matter will be reviewed in detail following the conclusion of the tender competition at which point detailed costings will be available to inform the Government decision. It is expected that the vessels will be delivered on a phased basis between 2010 and 2012.

Defence Forces Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which Naval Service and Air Corps strength is adequate to combat drug or people trafficking activities off the coasts; if coastal surveillance is adequate in all circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26329/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if it is intended to increase the strength of coastal surveillance and defence with particular reference to the need for increased air and sea rescue services and coastal surveillance to combat drug trafficking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26332/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 237 together.

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army.

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 and people trafficking rests primarily with the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána respectively. 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 fully resourced to meet all its operational requirements. There are no plans, nor is there any requirement to increase the authorised strength of the Defence Forces having regard to their assigned roles including in relation to the support they provide in the areas of search and rescue, coastal surveillance, drug interdiction or people trafficking.

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 134.

Reserve Defence Force.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the Reserve Defence Forces have increased or decreased in numbers in the past five years, on a yearly basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26331/08]

A breakdown of the number recruited into and discharged from the Reserve Defence Force from 2003 to 2007 inclusive is as follows:

Year

Recruited

Discharged

Change +/-

2003

1,987

2,306

- 319

2004

1,377

1,876

- 499

2005

1,069

3,085

- 2,016

2006

1,124

1,948

- 824

2007

972

1,497

- 525

The Reserve Defence Force (RDF) comprises the Army Reserve and the Naval Service Reserve. As of 31 May 2008, the number serving in the Army Reserve is 7,918 and in the Naval Service Reserve is 298.

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.

Question No. 237 answered with Question No. 234.
Question No. 238 answered with Question No. 229.
Question No. 239 answered with Question No. 132.

European Defence Agency.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

240 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence if the Defences Forces have used the European Defence Agency in the procurement of supplies; the nature of savings that resulted from its use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25986/08]

The European Defence Agency (EDA) was established under a Joint Action of the Council of Ministers on 12 July, 2004 "to support the Member States and the Council in their effort to improve European defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to sustain the European Security and Defence Policy as it stands now and develops in the future". The EDA is an Agency of the European Union. Ireland participates in the framework of the Agency and is represented on the Steering Board by me.

The Agency has made significant progress in many areas since 2004, such as the development of the inter-Governmental regime for defence procurement of which Ireland is a member. The EDA Code of Conduct for defence procurement and a Code of Best Practice in the Supply Chain was developed to ensure transparency in procurement and to create a more competitive European defence equipment market.

There are 25 subscribing Member States (including Ireland) to the Code of Conduct. Under the regime an Electronic Bulletin Board (EBB) has been developed as a single portal for advertising defence equipment contract opportunities and 2007 was the first full year of operation through the Code of Conduct.

My Department is obliged to advertise tender competitions for defensive equipment with a value of €1m and over on the EBB. To date, four tender competitions, including the current tender competition for the provision of Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles to the Defence Forces, have been advertised by the Contracts Branch in my Department on the EBB. The benefits from advertising on the EBB in the EDA relate directly to the ability to attract tenders from a wide number of companies in the relevant fields leading to a more competitive tendering process. It is not possible to directly attribute savings to the use of the EBB, but I am confident that the use of the system will assist my Department in obtaining value for money when placing contracts for defensive equipment.

Registration of Title.

James Bannon

Question:

241 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of the delay envisaged in the issuing of maps for County Longford by the Land Registry as a person (details supplied) in County Longford has been waiting since 9 April 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26348/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority was established as and from 4 November, 2006. The Property Registration Authority replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

I would also like to refer the Deputy to a service for TDs and Senators concerning the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006. The service was introduced, inter alia, to provide a speedier and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. This service, which is operated by the Property Registration Authority, is available all year round.

I can further inform the Deputy that his query has been forwarded to the Property Registration Authority for attention and direct reply via the above mentioned service.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when visas will be arranged for persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26054/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the applications referred to were approved at the Visa Office, New Delhi on 30 June 2008.

Garda Strength.

Pat Breen

Question:

243 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there are plans to increase the number of gardaí at a station (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26112/08]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 31 May 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of Miltown Malbay Garda Station was 3. Miltown Malbay Garda Station forms part of the Ennistymon Garda District and the personnel strength of that District on the same date was 33.

The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day personnel strengths of individual divisions, districts and stations may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking all relevant factors into account. In that regard, the needs of the Garda Station referred to by the Deputy will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda Divisions throughout the country.

Registration of Title.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

244 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will have the Land Registry issue dealt with for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26137/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority was established as and from 4 November, 2006. The Property Registration Authority replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

I understand that, in circumstances where the completion of an application in a particular case is urgent, the Property Registration Authority will make every reasonable effort to facilitate such requests on receipt of a written explanation as to the reason underlying the urgency.

I would also like to refer the Deputy to a service for TDs and Senators concerning the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006. The service was introduced, inter alia, to provide a speedier and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. This service, which is operated by the Property Registration Authority, is available all year round.

I can further inform the Deputy that his query has been forwarded to the Property Registration Authority for attention and direct reply via the above mentioned service.

Finian McGrath

Question:

245 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [26153/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority was established as and from 4 November, 2006. The Property Registration Authority replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

I understand that, in circumstances where the completion of an application in a particular case is urgent, the Property Registration Authority will make every reasonable effort to facilitate such requests on receipt of a written explanation as to the reason underlying the urgency.

I would also like to refer the Deputy to a service for TDs and Senators concerning the current status of applications, such as the subject of this question, which was introduced in May 2006. The service was introduced, inter alia, to provide a speedier and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. This service, which is operated by the Property Registration Authority, is available all year round.

I can further inform the Deputy that his query has been forwarded to the Property Registration Authority for attention and direct reply via the above mentioned service.

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.

Brian Hayes

Question:

246 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of anti-social behaviour orders that have been successfully implemented in each year since their implementation within the Dublin 24 area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26254/08]

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that up to 31 May, 2008, 700 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 351 to children. There have been ten formal good behaviour contracts agreed.

I am further informed that in 2007, 32 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 27 to children in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) South Garda Division, which includes Dublin 24. One good behaviour contract was agreed. In 2008, up to 31 May, 12 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 11 to children. No civil orders, in the case of adults, or behaviour orders, in the case of children, have been issued to date.

In setting up the regime in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, the intention was that these warnings or good behaviour contracts would themselves address the problem behaviour. It is only if they fail that a court order will be applied for. In any case, it inevitably takes time to reach the stage where a court order itself might be sought. No significance therefore should be attached to the fact that the stage has not yet been reached in the process where a court order has been issued. Where warnings or good behaviour contracts do not succeed in altering a person's behaviour, however, they will culminate in an order being sought by the Garda authorities from the courts.

Criminal Records Bureau.

Jack Wall

Question:

247 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is a check here, similar to the Criminal Records Bureau check in the UK, for a person who wishes to obtain employment in the UK and who needs such a check completed or a similar one before they can obtain employment in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26272/08]

As regards Northern Ireland a reciprocal arrangement is in place with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and results received are disclosed to the relevant registered organisation concerned. A Memorandum of Understanding is currently being negotiated with the Disclosure Scotland agency with a view to putting in place a reciprocal arrangement for vetting requests. Discussions are also ongoing with the Criminal Records Bureau of England and Wales to agree a similar Memorandum of Understanding.

Crime Levels.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

248 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the headline crime figures in respect of 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008 in the Garda districts covered by the Garda stations in Whitehall, Santry, Ballymun, and Finglas; and the details of the crimes recorded in the local area covered by these stations in these years with a breakdown by headline offence group and sub-group. [26319/08]

Following the submission of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 consequently makes provision for this, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to her.

Departmental Properties.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

249 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the person who has the responsibility for a building (details supplied) in County Wexford; if this building will be used for its present purpose into the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26123/08]

The meteorological station at Rosslare Harbour is part of a site owned by the Office of Public Works. Since 1956, the station has been operated by Met Éireann, which is part of my Department.

The station operated continuously as a Synoptic Station from the time of opening until April 2008. During that period hourly weather observations were made manually by trained Met Éireann personnel. The observing programme at Rosslare Harbour has now transferred to a new Automatic Weather Station at Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford.

While some staff transferred to other locations following the automation, others remain on site at Rosslare to carry out other meteorological work. Met Éireann plans to continue occupying the station in the short to medium term. Consultations are currently taking place with the OPW regarding the overall provision of sites for Met Éireann's future weather and climate observation programmes. It is likely that a final decision regarding the occupation of the site will emerge in the context of those discussions.

Departmental Reports.

Shane McEntee

Question:

250 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he has taken to implement the recommendations contained in a report prepared by an expert group on health effects of electric magnetic fields submitted to him in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26144/08]

The report of the Expert Group on Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields examined a wide range of issues in relation to the potential health effects of electromagnetic fields, including those produced by electric appliances in the home and from electricity pylons. It answers many of the health risk questions raised by the public in relation to the potential effects of electromagnetic fields, and is available for download on the Department's website (www.environ.ie).

Following the publication of the report, responsibility for the health effects of electromagnetic fields was transferred to my Department, where the report and its recommendations are currently under consideration.

Tax Yield.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

251 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of revenue received by the Exchequer in each of the past five years associated with road tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26277/08]

Motor tax revenue, which includes driving licence duties and other related charges, is paid into the Local Government Fund, which is used primarily to finance the general purpose needs of local authorities and to contribute to expenditure on local and regional roads.

The revenue collected for the years 2003 to date in 2008 is set out in the table below.

Motor Tax Revenue

Year

Amount

€m

2003

680.4

2004

747.3

2005

802.4

2006

879.7

2007

956.7

2008 (to end May)

492.7

National Monuments.

Dan Neville

Question:

252 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the grant aid funding available from his Department to bring the access roadway of Knockfierna historic site and national monuments, Famine Village, Knockfierna, County Limerick up to a standard as would be expected for such an important public amenity and for an Irish historical site. [26082/08]

There is no specific funding available from my Department to improve the access road to the historic sites referred to in the question. There may be archaeological implications arising from any proposed works and details of any access road improvement scheme should be referred to the National Monuments Service of my Department so that any such implications can be assessed.

Waste Management.

Enda Kenny

Question:

253 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his policy in relation to waste incineration here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26083/08]

Enda Kenny

Question:

254 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether incineration is required as part of the Government’s waste management strategy; if so, the tonnage capacity required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26084/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 253 and 254 together.

The Programme for Government contains a range of commitments in respect of waste management policy centred on the Government's continued support for the internationally recognised waste hierarchy which places major emphasis on the prevention, reuse and recycling of waste while minimising reliance on landfill and incineration. This commitment to the waste hierarchy has added significance in the context of the requirements of the EU Landfill Directive to divert waste from landfill. Meeting this obligation will entail doubling the existing level of diversion from landfill by 2010 and further increases in diversion in subsequent years. This is a process which will be assisted by the major review of waste policy, also provided for in the Programme, which is now underway and which will address how best to implement waste prevention and minimisation, and the emergence of new technologies in waste management.

Enda Kenny

Question:

255 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way a private incinerator (details supplied) in County Dublin is classified as an exempt development; the criteria required for a development to be classified as an exempt development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26085/08]

Section 4 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 provide for exempted developments for the purposes of the Act.

The Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 amended the 2000 Act to provide for the introduction of a new consent process for specified classes of infrastructure of regional or national importance. The Seventh Schedule of the 2000 Act lists particular classes of environmental, energy and transport infrastructure that may be deemed strategic infrastructure for the purposes of Sections 37A and 37B of the Act. This Schedule includes waste disposal installations for the incineration of hazardous and non-hazardous waste.

A decision on whether or not a proposed development should be subject to the new consent process is a matter for determination by An Bord Pleanála under the pre-application consultation procedures set out under the Act.

I understand that following a pre-application meeting in December 2007 between a prospective applicant and An Bord Pleanála, the project in question was deemed by the Board to be strategic infrastructure. A planning application and environmental impact statement was subsequently submitted to the Board, and will shortly be available for public inspection and the making of submissions and observations.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Bernard Allen

Question:

256 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has been told that their application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme can not be considered due to financial constraints on the scheme in view of the fact that they themselves and their spouse are both old age pensioners. [26116/08]

The administration of the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme, including the prioritisation, processing and approval of individual applications, is a matter for individual local authorities and one in which my Department has no direct function.

My Department made a combined capital allocation to all local authorities on 21 May for the operation of the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability in private houses in 2008. The schemes are funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department, together with 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. It is a matter for each local authority to decide on the level of funding to be provided for the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme, from within the combined allocation notified to them and to manage the operation of the scheme from within this allocation.

Election Management System.

Phil Hogan

Question:

257 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the 2009 European election will be based on Lisbon or Nice rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26118/08]

The Lisbon Treaty does not affect the number of seats (12) in the European Parliament allocated to Ireland under existing arrangements from 2009. The Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2008, which was published on the 27 June, provides, inter alia, for 12 members of the Parliament to be elected from Ireland at the next European elections.

Rental Accommodation Scheme.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

258 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the level of take-up in relation to the rental accommodation scheme operated by his Department; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Meath County Council no longer offers this scheme; his views in relation to local authorities who have discontinued the scheme; the action he plans to take to ensure availability of the scheme to all those eligible regardless of the position taken by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26139/08]

All local authorities are implementing the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and all have transferred cases to RAS to date. At end May 2008, a total of 13,618 cases nationally had been accommodated; 7,082 were housed directly under RAS, with a further 6,536 accommodated under other social housing options.

Meath County Council achieved its RAS implementation targets for 2007. In total, in the period from the commencement of RAS until May 2008, the Council has accommodated a total of 97 cases — 61 cases directly under RAS, with a further 36 cases accommodated under other social housing options.

I am advised by Meath County Council that a staff vacancy in early 2008 prevented them from fully implementing RAS in recent months. I understand that the vacancy will be filled in a number of weeks, enabling full implementation of RAS to resume.

Overall, RAS is progressing well and is on target to transfer an additional 5,000 cases, nationally, from Rent Supplement in 2008.

Departmental Schemes.

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

259 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when an application under the rural renewal scheme will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26259/08]

A Certificate of Reasonable Cost was issued on 14 February 2008 in this case.

Site Investigations.

David Stanton

Question:

260 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of reports or investigations commissioned by various Government Departments or State bodies on the former Irish ISPAT site in Haulbowline, County Cork since 2000; the persons who carried out each report and the cost of each respectively; the action the Government Departments or State bodies undertook as a result of these reports or investigations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26270/08]

Two site investigations have been carried out at the steelworks site since 2000. Enviros Aspinwall carried out a desk-top study in 2002 on behalf of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and a more recent site investigation by White Young Green, in 2005, was organised by Cork County Council on behalf of my Department.

The 2002 study identified a range of issues which would require to be addressed into the future including site security, the disposal of radioactive scrap which at the time was stored on the area known as Rocky Island, the decontamination and demolition of the steelworks buildings and the carrying out of a comprehensive site investigation survey to inform decisions on remediation tailored to future end use of the site.

The State, acting through my Department in a co-ordinating role, took over custody of the site from the liquidator in June 2003 as mandated by Government. The mandate required the Department to co-ordinate all legal actions in relation to the site, to cover matters such as site security, ongoing maintenance, and other issues arising, and to enable a site investigation to be carried out to assist in determining the best option, economically and environmentally, for the future use of the site and its remediation.

In 2003, the Department appointed Lisney's to sell any remaining plant and machinery at the site. In 2004 a proposal was made to Lisney for the scrapping of the remaining plant and machinery and the metal content of the buildings on site. The final agreement with the successful tenderer was a combined sale of metal content for scrap, netted of the cost of decontaminating the melt shop area of the plant. The decontamination and demolition of the buildings on site is now complete.

Following the demolition works large volumes of waste material remained on the site. Significant quantities of inert construction and demolition (C&D) waste have been re-used on site to fill voids, leaving remaining waste for disposal. Procurement of a contractor for site surface clearance, back filling of voids and the disposal of the remaining surface wastes was undertaken. This was awarded to Hammond Lane Metal Company Ltd.

The current issue relates to the uncovering by a sub-contractor of a sub-surface sludge pit during these surface clearance works. Owing to the potential extent and nature of the waste, the extent of the minimum works required to remove the risk of environmental pollution remaining unclear, and the extent to which there may be a wide range of practical measures which might be necessary to remove the risk of pollution, my Department instructed that excavations of the material should stop.

The sub-contractor persisted with unauthorised works and ultimately it became necessary to terminate the contract. My Department's instructions, which were endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency, were designed to prevent further piecemeal unauthorised works with unknown environmental consequences.

The site investigation by White Young Green in 2005 indicated no evidence of any immediate threat to human health or the environment. My Department has now re-engaged these consultants to carry out an independent and rigorous assessment of site conditions following the unauthorised works. This assessment, which will begin in the coming week, will involve analysis of soil, slag, dust, surface and ground water samples for all likely contaminants, including heavy metals such as chromium, and it will be utilised in determining the best way forward in serving the site from an environmental and health and safety point of view in the short term.

I am currently preparing a report to update the Government on the outcome of the extensive site investigations and the interim works carried out since 2004. Decisions by Government on the future use of the site will determine the level and extent of further remediation required.

My Department is compiling details of the costs of the previous studies, which will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

National Monuments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

261 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the policy that has been drawn up for the conservation of the walled towns of Clonmel, Cashel and Fethard, County Tipperary; the investment these towns will receive to preserve their special historical status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26297/08]

The Walled Towns Initiative was launched last year to support the conservation of Walled Towns in Ireland including Clonmel, Cashel and Fethard. Over €1.4m was spent on the Initiative in 2007 and I have allocated a further €2m in funding in 2008. This funding is administered independently by the Heritage Council through the Walled Towns Network.

I am advised by the Heritage Council that €150,000 was provided in 2007 under the Initiative to fund a conservation plan, a public realm plan and to carry out capital works in Fethard; €87,000 was provided to fund a conservation plan and a public realm plan in Cashel. Funding towards a conservation plan for Clonmel was allocated but not drawn down in 2007. An additional €252,000 has been allocated under the Initiative for works in Fethard in 2008 and a further €100,000 has been allocated for works in Cashel.

Tom Hayes

Question:

262 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a conservation plan has been drawn up for the site of the passage tomb at Shrough, on Slievenamuck, south of Tipperary town, which dates from neolithic times; if he will undertake such a plan; if not, the way the tomb will be preserved for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26299/08]

The monument in question is in private ownership, and, accordingly, there is no basis on which I could draw up a conservation plan for it. However, it is included on the statutory Record of Monuments and Places issued for Tipperary South under reference TS073-007 and is thereby protected under the provisions of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 2004.

Tom Hayes

Question:

263 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a conservation plan has been drawn up for the network of barrows in Emly and Lattin in South Tipperary; if not, the way he will preserve these historic monuments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26301/08]

The area between Emly and Lattin contains a large number of barrows and ringditches listed on the statutory Record of Monuments and Places. This part of Munster is known to have been intensively occupied in the Bronze Age and the distribution of barrows is particularly dense in this part of the country. As the monuments are in private ownership there is no basis on which I could draw up a conservation plan for them. The monuments are, however, protected under the provisions of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 2004.

Departmental Schemes.

Tom Hayes

Question:

264 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of people assisted under the fuel poverty pilot scheme in Ballyfermot; the number of houses that have had work completed; the amount this project cost; the estimated impact on the individuals and locality; if a report has been drawn up on the project; if the project has been completed; and if there are plans to roll out this pilot to other disadvantaged areas. [26304/08]

My Department's role in the pilot central heating scheme, which is being administered by Dublin City Council in association with Energy Action Ltd, relates mainly to the recoupment of a percentage of the cost of the works undertaken. The pilot scheme has operated under the framework of the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme with my Department recouping 80% of the cost of works to Dublin City Council and the authority providing the remaining 20% from its own resources. No recoupments have yet been made to Dublin City Council in respect of works carried out under the pilot scheme.

The pilot scheme provides for the installation of central heating systems, associated insulation works and energy advice to private households, occupied by older people, in Ballyfermot, Whitehall and Crumlin. In the Ballyfermot area, 61 dwellings are being facilitated under the pilot scheme.

I have been advised by Dublin City Council that the installation of central heating works has been completed in all the dwellings. The latest information received from Energy Action Ltd is that some 90% of dwellings have received insulation works and some 70% have received energy advice. It is expected that works to the remainder of the dwellings will be completed by the end of July.

An independent evaluation of the pilot scheme is currently underway and any proposals to extend it would have to be considered in the context of the outcome of that evaluation and the availability and most effective use of resources. The monument in question is in private ownership, and, accordingly, there is no basis on which I could draw up a conservation plan for it. However, it is included on the statutory Record of Monuments and Places issued for Tipperary South under reference TS073-007 and is thereby protected under the provisions of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 2004.

Waste Management.

Michael Creed

Question:

265 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that the Waste Management (Packing) Regulations 2007 are being implemented uniformly by all local authorities and that no company is being placed at a competitive disadvantage by virtue of the regulations not being applied in all areas; his views on the categorisation under the regulations of pallets as packaging in view of the fact that these items are destined for multiple re-use; his further views in this context on whether the packaging charges associated with these regulations should in all probability be levied on the end user rather than the manufacturer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26316/08]

The Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2007, which revised earlier regulations, are intended to facilitate the achievement by Ireland of the 60% packaging waste recovery target by end 2011 as set out in Directive 2004/12/EC which amended the original Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste. The principle underlying the Directive and the Regulations is that of Producer Responsibility i.e. that the costs of ensuring the appropriate recovery of packaging materials falls on those who have placed them on the market.

Enforcement of the Regulations is primarily a matter for local authorities. Some €8.9m was allocated to local authorities in 2007 from the Environment Fund to support stepped-up enforcement of waste management legislation generally and a further €10.8m is being allocated for 2008. Local authorities have been requested to give particular priority to enforcement of the 2007 Packaging Regulations. The Office of Environmental Enforcement, which is located within the Environmental Protection Agency, has set up a National Enforcement Network to ensure a consistent standard of enforcement quality and evenness of activity across local authorities in the area of environmental legislation.

The comprehensive structures now in place are delivering a significantly enhanced waste enforcement service and the resources available are sufficient to ensure that no company is placed at a competitive disadvantage by virtue of "free riders" operating within the marketplace. The allocation of dedicated waste enforcement staff to local authorities, coupled with the efforts of the National Enforcement Network in co-ordinating activities and providing training, means that non-compliance with waste legislation, including the Packaging Regulations, can be tackled in a more targeted and focussed manner.

Under the Regulations, all producers placing packaging materials, packaging or packaged products on the Irish market must segregate the packaging waste arising on their own premises into specified waste streams and have it collected by authorised operators for recycling. In addition, major producers, i.e. those who have an annual turnover in excess of €1 million and who place more than 10 tonnes of packaging on the Irish market, have additional responsibilities with regard to the recovery of packaging waste from their customers, meeting quarterly targets, preparation of implementation plans and annual reports, placing of signage on their premises, advertising take-back, and registration with local authorities.

The definition of packaging in the legislation includes material used in connection with the transport of products, and therefore would encompass pallets. However, when determining major producer status, account is not taken of "packaging destined for reuse" provided that documentary evidence can be produced by the producer concerned to substantiate the reuse of such packaging. This exemption may be availed of for pallets where the relevant provisions in the Regulations can be satisfied.

Major producers have the option of either complying directly with their producer responsibility obligations (i.e. self-compliance), or alternatively, getting an exemption from those requirements by becoming a member of a packaging waste compliance scheme. Registration with local authorities is subject to a minimum registration fee of €500 per premises rising by an incremental €15 per tonne of packaging placed on the market up to a maximum fee of no more than €15,000 per premises and applies equally to all producers.

Repak Limited — established by Irish industry in 1997 to promote, co-ordinate and finance the collection and recovery of packaging waste with a view to achieving Ireland's packaging waste recovery and recycling targets under the Packaging Directives — is the sole approved compliance scheme for the recovery of packaging waste in Ireland. The membership fees charged by Repak are modelled on a shared responsibility approach and are, ultimately, a matter for the compliance scheme and its Board of Management. The monument in question is in private ownership, and, accordingly, there is no basis on which I could draw up a conservation plan for it. However, it is included on the statutory Record of Monuments and Places issued for Tipperary South under reference TS073-007 and is thereby protected under the provisions of the National Monuments Acts, 1930 to 2004.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Ulick Burke

Question:

266 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide for the introduction of a wood log gasifier grant scheme in view of the high costs of oil and gas and the Government’s commitment to the greener homes scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26108/08]

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.

Greener Homes Phase II which was opened in October 2007 is designed 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. The scheme is continuing to support a range of objectives including more competitive offerings, revised product standards, improved training standards and stable growth in the renewable heating industry.

The Greener Homes Scheme is being kept under regular review to ensure that it is delivering optimally across the renewable heating sector. It will continue to evolve in light of the maturing technologies and market developments, including the consideration of additional technologies such as wood log gasifiers.

Sustainable Energy Ireland.

Jack Wall

Question:

267 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the mechanism available to a church body (details supplied) in County Kildare to obtain an Sustainable Energy Ireland grant for their new community hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26147/08]

My Department has been advised by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) that an application was received under the ReHeat programme for the property referred to by the Deputy. However, it emerged in processing the application that the work was already completed and the system had been installed.

It is a stated condition of the ReHeat grant scheme, as set out in the Application Guide and accepted by an applicant's signature on the form, that grant approval must be in place before any purchases are confirmed or installation works commenced. No payments will be made retrospectively for costs incurred prior to approval being granted.

The client and his installer were advised that the project was ineligible for grant aid as a result.