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 8, inclusive, answered orally.

Foreign Policy Issues.

Joe Costello

Question:

9 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the programme in foreign policy terms of the new President of Pakistan taking office; his views on the departure of the previous incumbent in that post; if contact has been made with the office of the new President; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34193/08]

President Zardari faces significant political and security challenges. In addition, Pakistan is experiencing severe problems with the economy and serious, endemic, governance issues.

As regards Afghanistan, the new President has got off to a promising start. I very much welcome the invitation he extended to President Karzai of Afghanistan to attend his swearing-in ceremony in Islamabad on 9 September. I welcome also the recent meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan, at which ways and means of strengthening bilateral relations were discussed and at which the two Ministers reiterated their resolve jointly to fight extremist elements along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Strengthening relations with India is another priority for President Zardari. Under President Musharraf, there had already been some positive developments in India-Pakistan relations, and the new President has demonstrated a renewed willingness to build up trust and to improve common understanding with India. A meeting between President Zardari and Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, took place recently in New York. The leaders pledged to resolve all outstanding issues between the two countries, including the dispute over Kashmir, and to bring lasting peace to the region.

Further afield, Pakistan's relationship with the US is of crucial strategic importance to both countries. President Zardari has already made very clear commitments to fighting terrorism and militancy forcefully and effectively.

Where Europe is concerned, Pakistan has also placed a renewed emphasis on the importance of strengthening EU-Pakistan relations. A number of high-level EU-Pakistan meetings will take place shortly which will provide an opportunity for further discussions on the development of this relationship.

Regarding the departure of President Musharraf, I respect the outcome of the internal democratic process in Pakistan. President Musharraf's legacy is a somewhat mixed one, but he must be credited with agreeing to hold democratic elections in January and to return the country to civilian rule. It is encouraging that his departure and the transfer of power to President Zardari's new administration was smooth, peaceful and in accordance with the Constitution.

Messages of congratulation have been sent to President Zardari. I also availed of the opportunity to meet the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Mr Shah Mahood Qureshi, in New York on 26 September. In addition to discussing regional and international issues, we agreed that we should work to develop a framework of bilateral cooperation, so that relations with Ireland can be expanded, in areas including private sector investment, educational exchange and trade.

Foreign Conflicts.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

10 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in Georgia and in particular in those regions seeking autonomy; the assistance he and the European Union was, and is, able to offer in an effort to mediate in this crisis; and, if such mediation was offered; his views on whether such work may be useful in the future should similar events arise and the EU be in position to offer mediation then also. [34183/08]

Damien English

Question:

45 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the financial assistance Ireland has provided and will provide in order to assist in rebuilding the Georgian economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34086/08]

Damien English

Question:

51 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Ireland’s contribution to the observer force in Georgia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34085/08]

Willie Penrose

Question:

53 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent discussions which have been held between EU officials and Foreign Ministers and their counterparts in the Russian Federation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34206/08]

Jack Wall

Question:

71 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he, his Department and the European Union generally, following recent developments in various parts of Europe, are in favour of recognition, short of full sovereignty, for autonomous regions. [34203/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 45, 51, 53 and 71 together.

The EU has played a very positive role in promoting conflict resolution in Georgia, working closely with all sides while maintaining a cohesive position on issues of substance relating to the conflict. Lessons from the EU's involvement in Georgia can certainly be drawn on for the future. The outstanding role played by the Presidency, the common approach adopted by Member States, and the rapid deployment of the EU Monitoring Mission have demonstrated our ability to move quickly and decisively when there is agreement on an objective.

Following the outbreak of the conflict on 7-8 August, when Georgia sent troops into the separatist region of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation responded with overwhelming force, the EU Presidency moved quickly to get all sides to agree to a 6 point cease fire plan on 12 August. The Presidency held an extraordinary European Council on the conflict on 1 September. This endorsed the Presidency's actions, agreed to suspend talks on a new EU-Russia agreement until Russian forces withdrew to their pre-conflict positions, and confirmed the EU's opposition to Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ireland and the EU have consistently supported Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. We believe that comparisons between the situations in Georgia and in Kosovo are invalid.

On 8 September President Sarkozy secured commitments from Russian President Medvedev on a complete withdrawal of Russian forces outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia within 10 days of an EU Monitoring Mission being deployed in Georgia. The agreement also indicated that international talks on the status of the two separatist regions would commence on 15 October. Following a decision at the 15 September General Affairs and External Relations Council, the EU Monitoring Mission has commenced duties in Georgia as of 1st October. Ireland has contributed four experienced monitors to the mission.

On 22 September I had the opportunity to discuss the situation in Georgia at some length with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov when he visited Dublin. He confirmed Russia's positive impression of the EU's involvement in defusing the crisis and its intention to abide by the agreements it had made with President Sarkozy. Over the past weekend, Russia began dismantling its positions adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The tragic death of eight Russian servicemen and three civilians last Friday in South Ossetia has fortunately not slowed this process. Javier Solana confirmed yesterday his satisfaction with the progress towards final withdrawal of Russian forces from the areas around South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As agreed, this will be followed by the opening of a talks process in Geneva on 15 October under the auspices of the EU, UN and OSCE.

The situation in Georgia has stabilised but remains very tense. There was considerable loss of life and damage to infrastructure during and after the fighting in August. While conditions have improved, 50,000 internally displaced people will require temporary accommodation over the winter and there will be difficulties with the return of approximately 20,000 ethnic Georgians to South Ossetia. Russia is providing assistance to the displaced in its territory and in South Ossetia. Little is needed in Abkhazia. International humanitarian organisations have been working with the Georgian authorities to provide assistance. FM Lavrov told me that the main need now in South Ossetia is reconstruction of damaged properties.

The European Commission and World Bank are organising an international donors' conference for Georgia on 22 October in Brussels. Ireland has provided over €260,000 in humanitarian assistance since the onset of the conflict, focusing on meeting the most urgent needs. Longer-term assistance is currently under consideration.

Poverty Eradication.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

11 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the achievements of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development with particular reference to its achievement of its stated aims; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34204/08]

NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, is an African-owned and led initiative which is intended to eradicate poverty, achieve sustainable development in Africa, enhance Africa's potential in the global economy and accelerate the empowerment of women. It is based on the recognition that the primary responsibility for Africa's future lies not in the hands of donors or multilateral institutions but in the actions of Africa's governments and peoples. NEPAD has been adopted by the African Union as its socio-economic programme and has also been endorsed by the UN General Assembly which has urged international support for its implementation.The priorities of NEPAD are: (a) The establishment of conditions for sustainable development by ensuring peace and security, and good political, economic and corporate governance; (b) The promotion of regional cooperation and integration; (c) Capacity building; (d) The promotion of policy reforms and increased investment; (e) The mobilization of resources both domestically and from international sources.

The major progress achieved to date through NEPAD has been the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) which scrutinizes, monitors and reports on progress in good governance (both political and economic) through a forum of Heads of State of participating countries. Twenty-nine countries, including Irish Aid's seven programme countries in Africa, and South Africa itself have so far signed up to the APRM. Seven reviews have been completed to date — in Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya, Algeria, Benin, South Africa and Uganda. Two more reviews — in Burkina Faso and Nigeria, are due to be completed by the end of 2008. A number of others are also underway.

Progress has however been slower than expected. One reason is the lack of capacity to manage the process at national and continental level. While the reviews have highlighted some of the key governance problems in the countries surveyed, implementing the recommendations has proven challenging.

However, it should be acknowledged that this is a politically sensitive process and the full impact of the APRM on governance standards in Africa will not become apparent for several years. In spite of the challenges it faces, the APRM arguably remains one of the most important initiatives to date aimed at the improvement of governance in Africa. The commitment of African leaders to the process, the necessary capacity to manage it, and the continued implementation and guaranteed integrity of the APRM will be key to its success.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

12 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts he has recently made ten years after the unjust arrest of persons (details supplied) to raise and challenge their unjust detention by the United States. [34095/08]

The case to which the Deputy refers relates to five Cuban men, known as the Miami Five, who were convicted in the US in 2001 on charges ranging from espionage to first degree murder. On 4 June 2008, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, issued its judgement on appeals lodged on behalf of the five.

The Circuit Court concluded that the appellants' arguments, which centred on the suppression of evidence, sovereign immunity, discovery, jury selection, and the trial itself, were meritless and that there was sufficient evidence to support each conviction. The sentences of two of the defendants were affirmed, while the remaining three men have been sent for re-sentencing.

It is my understanding that the defendants' legal counsel is considering other avenues for appeal, including recourse to the US Supreme Court. As I have previously stated, the Government has no standing in this matter, which is a bilateral consular question between the US and the Cuban authorities and, consequently, I have not raised this matter.

Diplomatic Contacts.

Willie Penrose

Question:

13 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions which have been held between EU officials and their counterparts in South Africa in the context of a changing government in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34207/08]

Phil Hogan

Question:

28 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on recent developments in South Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34074/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 28 together.

On 20 September, the African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee "recalled" President Thabo Mbeki as President of South Africa, as a result of comments made by a judge in relation to the prosecution of former Deputy President Jacob Zuma. President Mbeki immediately handed his resignation to the Speaker of Parliament, to take effect once his successor was elected. ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was elected President of South Africa in a parliamentary vote on 25 September. This change of President took place in accordance with the South African constitution.

In his address to the nation following his election, President Kgalema Motlanthe paid tribute to the durability of South Africa's constitutional order and the vibrancy of its democracy. He committed the new executive to continuity in economic policy. The key priorities of his government will be to reduce unemployment, improve healthcare and tackle crime and poverty.

The EU issued a statement on 29 September expressing its warmest wishes for the success of President Motlanthe's work, and paying tribute to the achievements of former President Mbeki. On behalf of the people of Ireland, President McAleese has written to congratulate President Motlanthe on his new position. The Government welcomes the fact that the change of Government in South Africa happened very smoothly, and we look forward to continuing our good working relationship with South Africa under this new administration.

Both Ireland and the EU have continued their routine diplomatic contacts with South Africa throughout the changeover period, as is usual when an orderly change of Government takes place. The next meeting of the EU Co-operation Council with South Africa will take place in Cape Town 20-21 October, and this will be the next opportunity for political dialogue between the EU and South Africa. Finally, I should like to make the point that South Africa continues to be a source of stability in the southern African region, and an important partner for both Ireland and the EU.

Foreign Conflicts.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

14 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will mark the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba by making the right of return of refugees an enforceable and enforced condition of preferential trade with Ireland. [34096/08]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

17 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in the Israel-Palestine conflict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34071/08]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

57 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the statement made by the departing Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, that in order to effect a lasting and peaceful settlement in Israel and the Palestinian areas, the Israeli State will have to revert to its pre-1967 borders and that the city of Jerusalem will have to be administered divisionally by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities. [34197/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he or his EU colleagues continue to make a positive impact on the Arab-Israeli conflict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34373/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14, 17, 57 and 160 together.

Ireland, together with its EU partners, is committed to a negotiated and comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, with a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at its core.

Ireland strongly supports the Annapolis process, launched under US auspices in November 2007, aimed at reaching agreement between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of this year. While few now expect that this deadline will be met, it is understood that some progress has been made in the discussions, which have been led by out-going Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.

President Abbas briefed me during his recent visit to Dublin, explaining that while considerable work remained to be done, greater clarity and understanding has been achieved between the parties.

Following its most recent meeting in New York on 26 September, the Quartet commended the parties for their serious and continuous efforts to reach agreement, and expressed its desire to see the process continue. I hope that such progress as has been made can be built upon when new administrations are in place in Israel and the US, and that the process will lead to a lasting and just settlement.

I am encouraged by comments made by Prime Minister Olmert in an interview with an Israeli newspaper on 29 September. He acknowledged that, in order to make peace with the Palestinians, Israel would have to withdraw from "almost all the territories" seized during the Six-Day War in 1967, and clarified that his comments also applied to Jerusalem, "with specials solutions" for sacred and historical sites. He also made clear that any part of the pre-1967 Palestinian territory which was not returned would have to be compensated by the granting of a similar percentage of Israeli territory.

The question of borders is one of the key ‘final status' issues for negotiation between the two sides. I firmly hope that Prime Minister Olmert's successor will continue to adopt a realistic approach.

Similarly, it is clear that there will be no overall settlement without agreement on the question of refugees. While it is, of course, primarily a question for resolution between the parties — and I don't believe that it would be helpful to the process for others to seek to impose conditions on one side or the other — Ireland and its EU partners will do all within our means to support any just, viable and agreed solution.

More generally, I welcome the improved security situation in the West Bank, and hope that it will result in the urgent lifting of restrictions on access and movement for ordinary Palestinians, facilitating greater economic activity and growth.

However, despite the ceasefire that has been in place between Israel and Hamas since June, the situation in Gaza remains critical. I have consistently called for an end to the isolation of the people of Gaza, in particular through the re-opening of crossing points for people and goods.

The continued construction of Israeli settlements also remains of serious concern. In my recent speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, I urged Israel to listen to the concerned voice of the international community on this question. An end to settlement construction would be a strong and welcome signal of good faith.

Finally, I support and commend efforts being made by Egypt, on behalf of the Arab League, to advance reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Success in these discussions is greatly in the interests of the Palestinian people, and can only help to underpin efforts to secure a lasting peace.

EU Treaties.

Mary Upton

Question:

15 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position following the rejection of the Lisbon reform treaty; the decisions the Government has reached regarding future consultation with the Irish people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34184/08]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

36 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding discussions on the Lisbon treaty; and the Government’s proposals in this regard. [33996/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 36 together.

The Government has taken a number of steps to address the outcome of the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. At the European Council in June the Taoiseach gave his colleagues his initial assessment and explained that we needed time to analyse the result and to reflect on its full implications. Only then could we turn to devising solutions acceptable to Ireland and the other Member States.

The European Council in June agreed that more time was needed to analyse the situation and that it would discuss the Treaty again at its meeting on 15 October in order to consider the way forward. The Taoiseach and I have made clear at all stages that our ratification procedure and our vote would have to be respected, just as we respected the procedures and decisions of others.

Following the European Council, the Government commissioned comprehensive research, which aimed to identify our people's key concerns. The survey was conducted by experts in the research and analysis field. The results, which were published on 10 September, form an important input into our ongoing work in determining the best way forward for Ireland. The results also highlight the scale of the challenge facing us, especially in communicating more effectively about the Union's policies and purpose.

At the European Council next week, the Taoiseach will provide a thorough analysis of developments since June. The Government will not, of course, be in a position to set out a basis for a solution, as our domestic process of reflection and debate has not yet been completed.

The Taoiseach will brief his colleagues on the results of the research and on the establishment of the Oireachtas sub-Committee on Ireland's future in the European Union.

The sub-Committee is an inclusive political process designed to examine the options and challenges facing us in Europe. It will be expected to report by the end of November. The Government believes the sub-Committee's terms of reference are appropriately forward looking.

This is not a time for re-running the referendum campaign. The priority for us at this stage must be to chart a way forward for Ireland in Europe. This will involve reconciling the concerns of the Irish people with the wishes of our partners, twenty of whom have now fully ratified the Treaty while a further four have completed their parliamentary procedures. By the end of the year, it is quite possible that all 26 of our partners will have ratified.

This situation imposes a responsibility on us to strive with our partners for a solution that will enable all 27 Member States to move forward together. It has always been our firm wish to be part of the European mainstream. In the months ahead, we will be engaged in a determined effort to find a solution that respects the wishes of the Irish people and protects and develops our position within the Union.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

16 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if bilateral talks have taken place with other member states on the fallout from the Lisbon treaty referendum; the progress that has been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33991/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

58 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the nature of discussions he has had with EU colleagues following the defeat of the Lisbon treaty referendum; his plans to proceed with a particular strategy before and after the European elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34246/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of the discussions he has had with his EU colleagues with a view to addressing the issues arising in the wake of the defeat of the referendum on the Lisbon reform treaty; if it is intended or expected to have outstanding matters resolved before the forthcoming European elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34368/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 58 and 155 together.

Since the referendum in June I have discussed the outcome and its implications with my counterparts in the Council of Ministers, and with leaders of the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The June European Council agreed that more time was needed to analyse the situation and that the Irish Government would consult at home as well as with our EU partners, in order to suggest a common way forward. That is exactly what the Government has been doing since June.

Last Wednesday, for example, I accompanied the Taoiseach to Paris to again meet with President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner, in their capacity as President of the European Council. We had fruitful discussions with them in preparation for next week's European Council.

I have also had the opportunity to discuss the situation with many of my colleagues and I will be meeting more of them over the coming weeks. The Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs has also been actively engaging with colleagues and this will continue in the period ahead.

In discussions with colleagues, I have been highlighting the concerns which the Irish electorate raised during the referendum campaign. I have stressed that we wish to see these concerns addressed in a manner which accommodates both Ireland's interests and those of the other 26 Member States.

On Monday, I addressed a meeting of the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and met with President Barroso and Vice-President Wallstrom. One issue that arose during these discussions was the challenge facing the Union in the field of communications. This came out strongly from the recent research into the reasons behind the referendum result. Leaving aside the Lisbon Treaty, there is a real need for the Union to communicate more effectively. The Commission has a key role to play in that regard and we look forward to cooperating with them in making the activities of the Union, and their everyday relevance, better known to our people.

In all of our contacts in Brussels and elsewhere, we have underlined the Government's determination to maintain Ireland's position at the heart of an effective and responsive EU. All indications are that the Irish people want this positive approach to the EU to continue.

We have made it plain that we are determined to find a solution within a reasonable timeframe. I recognise that the desire for a stronger, more cohesive and more effective Union has gained momentum in light of recent political and economic developments.

At next week's European Council, the Taoiseach plans to provide a thorough analysis of developments since June. The Government will not, of course, be in a position to set out a basis for a solution, as our domestic process of reflection and debate has not yet been completed. He will brief his colleagues on the results of the research and on the establishment of the Oireachtas sub-Committee on Ireland's future in the European Union.

I hope that we will be able by the December European Council to identify more precisely the issues that need to be addressed and to outline the necessary steps to achieve our objective. It is not possible at this point to set a precise timetable for potential developments in 2009 although we fully recognise the desire of our EU partners for clarity at an early stage in relation to the basis on which the European elections will be held and the arrangements for appointing the members of the next European Commission.

Question No. 17 answered with Question No. 14.

Overseas Development Aid.

Dan Neville

Question:

18 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the countries with which he has agreed five-year country strategy papers; the amount of Irish Aid funding to be spent in each of these countries in each of the years covered by the CSPs; his plans to agree CSPs with additional countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34171/08]

The time-frame for Country Strategy Papers (CSPs) generally reflects the time-frame specified in partner countries' national development plans. Five year CSPs covering the period from 2008-2012 have been approved for Ethiopia, Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa. The amounts of funding in each of these countries, subject to annual review, for the years 2008 to 2012 are as follows:

€m

Country

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Ethiopia

36.0

40.00

46.00

To be decided following a mid term evaluation

To be decided following a mid term evaluation

Lesotho

13.5

15.50

17.00

18.50

20.00

South Africa

11.40

13.62

13.52

13.64

12.19

New CSPs are planned for Uganda and Timor Leste. The current strategy for Uganda runs until the end of 2009. The process of preparing a new CSP will get underway in early 2009, following an evaluation of the current programme. Irish Aid is preparing a one year extension to the Timor Leste CSP (2006-2008) to ensure continued support to that country, while awaiting completion of its new National Development Plan. Malawi this year became the ninth Programme Country for Ireland and an interim budget of €10 million has been put in place for 2008. It is intended to conclude a multi-annual CSP for Malawi by the end of 2009.

In the case of Zambia and Vietnam, a four year CSP covers the period 2007 to 2010 in each case with a funding commitment of €123 million and €87 million respectively for that period. Similarly for Tanzania and Mozambique, the CSPs cover the period 2007 to 2010 with total budgets of €168 million and €158 million respectively.

Emigrant Issues.

Billy Timmins

Question:

19 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the funding allocated by him to a centre (details supplied) for the years 2007 and 2008; if he has audited the accounts of this organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34083/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government continues to attach a high priority to supporting Irish communities overseas. This commitment is reflected in the unprecedented level of funding secured for emigrant services in recent years.

The needs of the Irish community in Britain, in particular older people and those at risk of social exclusion, are a key priority. Since the publication of the Report of the Task Force on Policy regarding Emigrants in 2002, Irish community organisations in Britain have been allocated more than €44 million in Government funding. In 2007 alone, Emigrant Support grants totalling €11.484 million were allocated to more than 134 frontline welfare and community organisations in Britain. In 2008, grants exceeding €8.5 million have already been allocated to 131 organisations, with further grant applications currently under consideration.

The London Irish Centre, Camden is one of the largest and oldest Irish Centres in Britain. The Centre provides a range of welfare services to the city's Irish community and is host to the offices of several important Irish organisations, including the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas, the Irish Elders Advice Network and the London Irish Survivors Outreach Workers.

In 2007, the Centre was awarded funding of £582,974 (€856,526), with further funding of £437,755 (€554,857) allocated this year. These allocations, like all emigrant services funding in Britain, were approved on the basis of recommendations from the Emigrant Services Advisory Committee (Díon) and the Embassy of Ireland, London, in close consultation with the Irish Abroad Unit.

Government funding enables the Centre to provide important frontline services to the local Irish community. These services include helping people to access housing and welfare entitlements and supporting those experiencing serious problems, such as alcoholism, mental illness and domestic violence. Government funding is also directed to the Centre's Outreach Programme, which helps to tackle social isolation and provides on-going support and referral services to the elderly in Camden and its surrounding Boroughs.

In line with our financial requirements, the London Irish Centre has provided its independently audited accounts for the year ending 31 March 2007, and is expected to submit accounts for the year ending 31 March 2008 shortly. The annual accounts of all Government funded organisations in Britain are monitored and reviewed by the Embassy, London, as a matter of standard practice.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

20 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has discussed with the British Prime Minister the work of the historical enquiries team in the Six Counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25481/08]

The Government consistently raises with the British Government ongoing issues which are the legacy of the Troubles.

As the Deputy is aware, matters arising from the past are being addressed through a variety of mechanisms, including the Weston Park Inquiries, the ongoing work of the Historical Enquiries Team, the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the work of the Victims Commission.

Since its establishment by the Chief Constable in 2005, my Department has maintained contact with the Historical Enquiries Team. My officials also liaise with families and NGOs with which the HET are interacting, and have taken forward their concerns in contacts with the British side.

The wider question of the effectiveness and coherence of approaches to dealing with the past is among the issues being considered by the Consultative Group on the Past, which is co-chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames and Denis Bradley. The Government welcomed the establishment of the Consultative Group and has remained in close contact with it.

I hope that various mechanisms for dealing with the past can help bring closure to victims and survivors, and hopefully underpin community confidence in the wider process.

Commemorative Events.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

21 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to commemorate United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34082/08]

The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is the central objective of Ireland's overseas development programme. The programme has a very high international reputation based on its poverty focus and commitment to excellence.

The UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the scale of the challenge. It is appropriate that it falls so soon after the high level event on the Millennium Development Goals at the UN Headquarters in New York in September, in which the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I participated. I believe that our involvement demonstrated the determination of the Government to continue to play an important role in global efforts to combat poverty. The UN event was also the occasion of the launch of the report of the Hunger Task Force, established by the Government to examine how Ireland can make a key contribution to tackling the hunger crisis in the developing world.

On 17 October, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will address the Biennial Conference of the Irish Forum for Global Health at University College Cork. The Conference will examine global health challenges, focusing on the environment, hunger and diseases of poverty. The Irish Forum for Global Health is supported by Irish Aid.

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 8.

International Agreements.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

23 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the information he is in receipt of indicating that Iran is in breach of its International Atomic Energy Agency obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34200/08]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

39 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34088/08]

Phil Hogan

Question:

73 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the assistance he will provide to deal with a case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34076/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 39 and 73 together.

The situation in Iran, in particular in relation to the nuclear question and to human rights, remains of serious concern. On the nuclear question, Ireland fully supports the twin track approach of the EU3+3 (involving France, Germany, the United Kingdom, together with the US, Russia and China), which offers Iran positive engagement and cooperation if it changes course, but a concurrent enforcement track at the Security Council while it refuses to do so.

On 14 June, on behalf of the EU3+3, High Representative Solana handed an improved ‘incentives package' to the Iranian authorities, proposing areas of possible cooperation if Iran abandons its programme of uranium enrichment. Iran tacitly rejected this package by responding with a counter-proposal which did not provide for the suspension of enrichment.

On 12 September, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei, briefed the IAEA Board of Governors on developments since his last report in May. While his report noted some progress, it concluded that "contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities". The DG urged Iran "to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear On 12 September, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei, briefed the IAEA Board of Governors on developments since his last report in May. While his report noted some progress, it concluded that "contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities". The DG urged Iran "to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme at the earliest possible date".

Responding to this report, on 27 September, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1835 (2008), reaffirming its previous Resolutions, and calling on Iran "to comply fully and without delay with its obligations".

I met with Iranian Foreign Mottaki in New York on 29 September, and made clear to him our serious and ongoing concern regarding Iran's nuclear programme, our strong support for the EU3+3 process, and the urgent need for Iran to listen to the voice of the international community and to comply fully with the IAEA's requirements. I also raised our serious concerns regarding the worsening human rights situation in Iran.

It is clear that the Iranian regime has become increasingly resistant to receiving representations from abroad, ceasing even to operate a formal human rights dialogue with the EU. Among the many areas of ongoing concern are the suppression of dissenting voices in the media and suppression of NGOs, trades unions, women's groups and human rights defenders; torture and killings in custody; increased use of the death penalty, including executions of minors; a lack of freedom of religion, including the oppression of members of the Baha'i faith.

On the cases raised by Deputy Hogan, I am pleased that two of individuals in question — Mr Mahmoud Mohammed Matin-Azed and Mr Arash Ahmad-Ali Basirat — were released from custody last month. The third, Mr Ramtin Soodmand, remains in custody. These cases highlight the very real dangers facing Christians in Iran, including those who have converted from Islam.

The Government has been monitoring the proposed apostasy law closely through our Embassy in Tehran, in cooperation with our EU partners. As the situation currently stands, a draft of the law has yet to be finally adopted by the Parliament and a number of amendments are being proposed and debated. The EU has expressed its acute concern about the law, which clearly violates Iran's commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a party. I will continue to raise our concerns about human rights in Iran, including freedom of religion, at every available opportunity.

Diplomatic Contacts.

Shane McEntee

Question:

24 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent discussions he has had with the Belorussian authorities regarding Belorussian children visiting here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34100/08]

Visits to Ireland by children from the Chernobyl region have, for over 17 years, offered the children the chance for rest and recuperation with Irish families. The continued success of these visits is due to the efforts of the many charities and families who respond generously to the children year after year. In recognition of the valuable work of Chernobyl Children's Project International, Irish Aid committed €600,000 over three years in March 2008 for the development of day-care centres in Belarus.

In our contacts with the Belorussian authorities they have frequently underlined their satisfaction with the welcome afforded the children in Ireland. However, Belarus has proposed to a number of EU Member States, including Ireland, formal agreements that would, in their view, secure the welfare of the children and ensure their return to Belarus. Pending conclusion of such agreements, the Belorussian Government indicated in late August that it would be suspending visits by Chernobyl children.

In light of these developments, I met Adi Roche of Chernobyl Children's Project International on 8 September to hear her concerns at first hand. I explained that I had asked the Ambassador to Moscow, who is also accredited to Belarus, to travel to Minsk on 9 September to register with the Belorussian authorities the Government's strong concern about the suspension of the children's visits in the absence of a formal Agreement. In addition, at my invitation, the Chargé d'Affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus travelled to Dublin on 11 September. During meetings with him, it was agreed that we would work with the Belorussian authorities to arrive at an agreement between our two Governments that would provide a framework for such visits.

Since then, officials in my Department have worked with the Office for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Attorney General's Office to prepare a revised version of the draft Agreement presented by the Belorussian authorities. In addition, on 30 September two officials from my Department met with officials from the Department of Humanitarian Affairs in Minsk to explain Ireland's approach to the draft Agreement.

A revised draft of an Agreement was forwarded by my Department to the Belorussian authorities on 6 October and we requested that a response should be forthcoming very quickly with a view to concluding an agreement at an early date. It is our strong hope that — even if negotiations are not fully concluded — visits by the Chernobyl children to Ireland will be allowed to go ahead over Christmas.

Ministerial Meetings.

Mary Upton

Question:

25 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his recent meeting with Foreign Secretary Miliband during his recent visit to Dublin; the matters which were discussed during their interview; if matters related to Northern Ireland and the Lisbon reform treaty were touched on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34185/08]

I met with the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, on 11 September when we had substantive discussions on a wide range of European and international issues, including the Lisbon Treaty, Climate Change, the Millennium Development Goals, Zimbabwe, the Middle East, Iran and the conflict between Georgia and Russia. We also briefly touched on the Northern Ireland situation.

With regard to the Lisbon Treaty, I briefed the Foreign Secretary in detail on the results of the study conducted for the Government following the result of the referendum, and also on plans for the establishment of the Oireachtas sub-Committee on Ireland's future in the European Union. Our discussion looked forward to next week's European Council, at which the Taoiseach will brief his colleagues on developments since our referendum. I took the opportunity of the meeting with the Foreign Secretary to thank him for his Government's strong support for Ireland within the EU following the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in June.

We reviewed progress towards the formation of a power-sharing government in Zimbabwe — the meeting took place before the broad agreement reached between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, which remains to be implemented. In regard to the Middle East, we agreed that it was important to maintain such progress as has been made in the Annapolis process, with a view to building on it once political conditions allow. We discussed the implementation of the six-point peace plan for Georgia brokered by the French EU Presidency, and the future of wider EU-Russia relations. The Foreign Secretary also briefed me on discussions on the Iranian nuclear issue within the E3 + 3 grouping. A further UN Security Council resolution has since been agreed.

Co-operation between our two countries is excellent. It owes much to the close and sustained contact between the Irish and British Governments over the past eleven years of working together, building peace and bringing devolution to Northern Ireland.

Overseas Development Aid.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

26 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will establish an umbrella group to deal with individual or small group applications for overseas aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34072/08]

In the period 2006 to 2008, Irish Aid provided multi-annual support to Dóchas, the umbrella group for Irish development NGOs, amounting to €690,000. Dóchas works to maximise the impact of development NGOs. It promotes a coherent public approach on development issues by its members and helps build public awareness of development challenges. Dóchas plays an important role in building members' capacity to engage with policy issues at national and EU level.

Irish Aid also provides support directly to small and medium-sized NGOs through the Civil Society Fund and the Micro-Projects Fund. The total combined budget for these two grant schemes in 2008 amounted to some €41 million. Application forms and full details of these funding schemes are available on the Irish Aid website www.irishaid.gov.ie.

Currently, I have no plans to establish an umbrella group to deal with individual or small group applications for overseas aid. I believe it is essential that Irish Aid continues to appraise, approve, monitor and evaluate NGO projects, working in partnership with the NGOs, large and small.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

27 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amounts of direct financial aid received by each developing country in each of the past five years under multilateral or bilateral programmes; the amount of debt write-off for each in the same period; the amount and nature of indirect aid throughout; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34245/08]

For 2008 the Government has provided a total allocation of €769 million to Irish Aid. A further estimated €130 million will be spent by other Government Departments and through Ireland's allocation to the EU Development Cooperation Budget. This will bring Ireland's total expenditure on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to some €900 million, representing 0.54% of GNP on current estimates.

Ireland's ODA comprises both multilateral and bilateral contributions. Multilateral ODA consists of contributions channelled through multilateral and international organisations and these pooled contributions are not reported to Irish Aid on a country-specific basis. Bilateral ODA consists of contributions made directly by Ireland to developing countries, including contributions made through NGOs, missionary organisations and other bilateral partners.

Ireland provides assistance to over eighty countries, mainly to Least Developed Countries, in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this regard, Ireland places particular emphasis on long term strategic assistance to nine Programme Countries — Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Lesotho, Malawi, Vietnam and Timor-Leste. These countries are amongst the poorest in the world and Ireland's assistance to them is directed primarily to the health, education rural development and governance sectors.

Comprehensive details of all assistance to our partner countries are set out in the Irish Aid Annual Report, which has been placed in the Dáil Library. I will ensure that a copy of the 2007 Annual Report is provided to the Deputy.

Ireland also remains closely engaged with the issue of alleviation of the debt burden on developing countries. Moreover, our bilateral assistance to the developing world is exclusively in the form of grants rather than loans. The Government's financial contributions to debt relief have concentrated on the two main international initiatives in this area, which are implemented primarily by the World Bank and the IMF. We have provided €20 million to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, towards reducing the debt burden of qualifying countries to sustainable levels. We have also contributed €58.64m to the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI), to cancel the multilateral debt owed by many of the world's poorest and most indebted countries.

Question No. 28 answered with Question 13.

Emigrant Issues.

Seán Barrett

Question:

29 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide assurances that proposed cutbacks in the various Departments will not impact adversely on the vital front-line work being carried out by the Safe Home programme, which continues to assist in the repatriation and resettlement of Irish emigrants from various countries worldwide, who by their lifelong remittances have contributed on a major scale to the development of the Irish economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31093/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government have progressively and substantially increased the level of funding available for emigrant services in recent years. These increases have enabled the Emigrant Support Programme, administered by the Irish Abroad Unit of my Department, to provide greater financial support to frontline welfare organisations which assist the most vulnerable members of our overseas communities, including the Safe Home Programme.

My Department continues to be very supportive of the work undertaken by the Safe Home Programme. The award of a €249,900 grant in April of this year brought the Department's total funding to the organisation since 2003 to over €1,100,000. In 2007, additional Government funding, totalling €72,000, was also awarded to the Safe Home Programme by the Department of Environment and Local Government and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. This substantial funding is testament to the high value which the Government places on the work performed by the organisation in enabling elderly Irish emigrants to return to live in Ireland.

I can assure t he Deputy that the Government remains committed to supporting frontline welfare agencies and organisations, including the Safe Home Programme. As the Deputy will appreciate, however, all grant applications for Emigrant Support funding are reviewed on their respective merits each year.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 6.

Overseas Development Aid.

James Bannon

Question:

31 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of funding for overseas development aid allocated for 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34080/08]

It is estimated that Ireland's spending on Official Development Assistance (ODA) for 2008 will reach 0.54 % of GNP. During the 2008 estimates process, the Government allocated €914 million to ODA. €814 million was allocated to Vote 29 (International Cooperation) of the Department of Foreign Affairs and an estimated €100 million to other Government Departments and through Ireland's allocation to the EU Development Cooperation Budget. This allocation, based on the then estimated GNP, was made to achieve a target of 0.54% of GNP in 2008.

As the Deputy is aware, in light of the changed economic situation, the Government reviewed current expenditure allocations across all Departments in July. The overall ODA allocation was revised to €899 million, which however continued to ensure that the target of 0.54% of GNP would be achieved. Moreover, I am confident that this will also ensure that Ireland maintains its position as the sixth most generous per capita donor in the world, which was confirmed by the OECD for 2007.

International Conventions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

32 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if legislation to enable the international Convention on Cluster Munitions will be confined to the final text published following the Dublin meeting or if it will more comprehensively deal with issues of definition, new technology and interoperability. [34177/08]

The Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by consensus by the 107 states that participated at the Dublin Diplomatic Conference hosted by the Government in Croke Park from 19 to 30 May last. The Convention will be opened for signature at a ceremony to be hosted by the Norwegian Government in Oslo on 3 December.

As a demonstration of commitment to its early entry into force, the Government is resolved to ratifying the Convention as soon as possible. To this end the Government last month approved the General Scheme of the Inhumane Munitions Bill and assigned priority to its drafting. It will be introduced in the Oireachtas very shortly.

The Bill will enable the State to meet its obligations under the Convention by implementing its provisions in domestic law, as necessary, and supplementing them where appropriate. The Bill will also make further provision for the implementation of the State's obligations under the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.

The definition of a cluster munition under the Convention is comprehensive and will lead to the prohibition of all cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The Convention prohibits all cluster munitions that have ever been used in an armed conflict.

During the negotiations however we remained concerned that new technologies could be developed to circumvent a prohibition of cluster munitions. The Irish delegation therefore proposed that the Convention also prohibit weapon systems that dispense bomblets that are designed to perform similar tasks to sub-munitions and that produce the same negative humanitarian consequences, but that would not be captured by the definition of a cluster munition. I am glad to be able to report that Ireland's proposal was accepted in the negotiations and that the Convention prohibits explosive bomblets that are specifically designed to be dispersed or released from dispensers affixed to aircraft in the same way as it does cluster munitions proper. The new Bill will therefore make appropriate provision for explosive bomblets as well as cluster munitions.

The issue of interoperability concerns relations between states parties to the new Convention and states that are not party to it. This was one of the central issues in the negotiations and the Convention makes detailed provision in relation to it. The Bill will ensure that future participation by the Defence Forces in UN mandated peacekeeping operations will be consistent with the Convention.

I look forward to the co-operation of all members of the House in ensuring that Ireland can ratify the Convention on 3 December.

Human Rights Issues.

Michael D'Arcy

Question:

33 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Tibet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34075/08]

I remain deeply concerned by the situation in Tibet. Following the disturbing events there in March, and in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympic Games, the situation remained extremely tense and widespread restrictions remained in place on the local population. Some of those restrictions are gradually being lifted and tourists and other outsiders are being permitted to visit the area. But many of those involved in the March events are still in detention or imprisoned, some monasteries, monks and others remain subject to heavy restrictions and surveillance, and reports continue to come in of intimidation and ill-treatment.

As reported to Deputies on many previous occasions, I myself, and my Department, maintain close contact with the Chinese authorities regarding Tibet, as well as supporting efforts at the EU level. Through these contacts, we continue to underline the importance Ireland attaches to human rights, to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest, and to dialogue between the Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama.

We believe that dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Dalai Lama or his representatives remains the most effective way to achieve the protection of Tibetan culture, identity, religion and human rights, and some measure of autonomy for Tibet within China. However, the currently unsatisfactory pace and substance of the dialogue process need to be accelerated and upgraded. We believe that positive developments in the dialogue would benefit not only the Tibetan people, but also China itself, and that it would serve to curb increasing militancy, calls for secession and divergence from the moderate views of the Dalai Lama within Tibet, particularly among the young, which could be dangerous for all concerned.

The Government will continue to keep the situation of Tibet under careful review and high on the agenda in our contacts with China.

Overseas Development Aid.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

34 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the work being carried out in Irish Aid’s target countries; if it is proposed to expand this programme; if he will give an assurance that the overall budget for this programme will not be cut in Budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34189/08]

In 2008, ODA expenditure will be the highest in the history of the programme, amounting to almost €900 million or some 0.54% of GNP on current estimates. Irish Aid delivers assistance to over 90 countries in the developing world. Nine have been designated Programme Countries with a commitment to long term strategic assistance: Tanzania, Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Uganda, Ethiopia and Malawi, Vietnam and East Timor.

Support to Programme Countries is framed in agreed country strategies with the aim of assisting in the achievement of national development plans. These address fundamental human needs including food security, basic education and primary health care. They also emphasise the central importance for sustainable development of good governance, respect for human rights and transparency and accountability.

The Government's White Paper on Irish Aid, published in 2006, contained a commitment to increase the number of key partner countries from eight to ten, in the medium term. Malawi was designated Irish Aid's ninth Programme Country in 2007. An Embassy has now been established in the capital, Lilongwe, and Ireland will provide some €10 million in assistance for Malawi this year. This support will be targeted in particular at vulnerable communities in the areas of food security, livelihoods and protection against the effects of natural disasters.

Preliminary work has also been undertaken towards identifying a tenth Programme Country in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. In keeping with the conclusions of the White Paper on Irish Aid, Africa will remain the primary geographic focus for Ireland's development programme.

Joe Carey

Question:

35 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the outcome of the review of the management of the Irish Aid Programme undertaken in conjunction with the Department of Finance; the details of changes in the management of the programme that resulted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34172/08]

Delivering a high quality aid programme as funding expands towards reaching the UN target of 0.7% of GNP on official aid poses challenges at every level of the Irish Aid programme. The scale of these challenges was recognised in the Government's 2006 White Paper on Irish Aid which proposed a major review of the management and structures of the programme, to ensure that overseas aid is delivered optimally in terms of accountability and quality.

The review commenced in 2007 and was carried out by external management consultants guided by a Steering Committee comprised of high level officials from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Finance. The review encompassed a comprehensive examination of Irish Aid's management structures, capacity and delivery systems. Arrangements to ensure appropriate coordination, including with development partners, and foreign policy coherence were also considered.

The consultants' report was finalised in July 2008 and is currently under active consideration in my Department and the Department of Finance. It is expected that the recommendations will be submitted to Government in the coming months and, if approved, that an Action Plan will be formulated to implement them over the next two years on a phased basis.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 15.

Immigration Policy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

37 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contact he and his Department have had with the Nigerian Embassy following the treatment undergone by a person (details supplied) at Dublin Airport in September 2008. [34199/08]

Immigration arrangements at Dublin Airport are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who answered a number of parliamentary questions on this case recently. In the circumstances, there has been no Ministerial or official contact between this Department and the Nigerian Embassy, although the Nigerian Ambassador, at an informal gathering, did mention to an official here that it was her intention to liaise further with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the matter.

Planned Coup.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

38 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the recent reports regarding a planned assassination of the President of Venezuela; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34179/08]

I am aware from media reports of allegations of a planned coup against the Venezuelan Government. However, I am not in a position to assess the reliability of these allegations. I would also note that the recent meeting of Heads of State and Government of the Union of South America decided to make no statement on the matter, despite a Venezuelan request to do so.

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 23.

Overseas Development Aid.

P. J. Sheehan

Question:

40 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that the scope and quality of assessments of the effectiveness of humanitarian aid are as rigorous and robust as those assessments carried out on development aid; his plans to extend, deepen and improve assessments of humanitarian aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34170/08]

Irish Aid's support for humanitarian action is provided through a variety of organisations which are responding to emergency needs on the ground, including multilateral organisations such as UN agencies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent.

All of our multilateral partners maintain dedicated evaluation functions. These plan and implement rigorous evaluation work programmes. The reports of these evaluations provide Irish Aid with valuable information about the quality and effectiveness of the work co-funded by Ireland. Moreover, in the contracts with NGOs, evaluation requirements are specified, including an obligation to furnish Irish Aid with the reports of any internal evaluations carried out.

Notwithstanding the rigour of the evaluation work carried out by Irish Aid's partners, Irish Aid also commissions its own evaluations of humanitarian assistance funding. In recent years, for example, we carried out Value for Money reviews of our support to Afghanistan and to the Tsunami disaster. In addition, evaluations of humanitarian assistance initiatives are being included in the annual work plans of Irish Aid's Emergency and Recovery section, as well as the Evaluation and Audit Unit.

Freedom of Information.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

41 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the freedom of information requests currently under examination by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34073/08]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

66 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the freedom of information requests released by him since 1 September 2007 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34070/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 66 together.

It is the policy of my Department to make all requests and replies made under the Freedom of Information Act, which are not of a personal nature, publicly available. There is a Freedom of Information Requests Database available on the website of my Department, which contains copies of the non-personal requests made since April 2004 to date. The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs is: www.dfa.ie.

Since September 2007, there have been 81 Freedom of Information requests made to my Department. Eleven of which were granted in full, 28 were part granted and 12 were refused in full. There were 18 requests withdrawn; four of which had information provided to the requester outside of the Act. There are currently 12 requests pending response.

Foreign Conflicts.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

42 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding our relations with the Government of Sudan; and his views on the decision of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to request an arrest warrant for President Omer Hassan al-Bashir. [33997/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

67 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Darfur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34069/08]

I proposed to take Questions Nos. 42 and 67.

I remain deeply concerned at the situation in Darfur, and the ongoing suffering of its people. The fracturing of the main rebel groups over the past year, and the apparent determination of the Government of Sudan to pursue a military solution, at a high price in terms of ongoing suffering for ordinary people, makes the search for peace even more difficult. I welcome the appointment of Djibril Bassolé as joint AU-UN chief mediator in June 2008, and am hopeful that his committed efforts to bring the two sides together will be successful. So far, however, the process has been disappointingly slow, and a lack of political will is apparent on all sides. Despite these discouraging developments, there is no alternative to a political solution.

In Darfur, ongoing conflict, including targeted attacks against aid workers and their assets, continues to constitute a major obstacle to humanitarian operations. Since 2006, the Government has committed over €48 million in assistance to the people of Sudan, including Darfur. Through EUFOR Tchad/RCA, which is under the command of an Irish officer, Lieutenant General Pat Nash, the EU is also helping provide security for those Darfuris who have fled across the border into neighbouring Chad.

Serious human rights abuses against civilians, particularly women and children, have been a constant feature of the Darfur conflict. On 14 July 2008, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested that a warrant be issued for the arrest of Sudanese President Al-Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. It is now up to the appropriate bodies of the ICC and, where appropriate, the UN to determine what action they intend to take in response to the Prosecutor's request.

Ireland fully supports the crucial role being played by the ICC in the promotion of international justice, and deeply regrets the lack of co-operation on the part of the Sudanese government with the ICC to date. While the situation in Darfur is very complex, and there is a need to foster any prospects for peace which exist, the reality should be that serious crimes such as those which have been committed in Darfur must not go unpunished.

Overseas Development Aid.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

43 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to fulfil the commitment in the programme for Government to meet the UN target of 0.7% of GDP assigned to overseas development aid by 2012. [34191/08]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

54 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give an assurance that, in view of budget 2009 which is pending, the Irish Aid budget will not suffer cuts and our commitments to the poorest of the poor will not be undercut. [34188/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 54 together.

The Programme for Government contains a clear commitment to the expansion of the Aid Programme. We have set a target of spending 0.7% of GNP on Official Development Assistance (ODA) by 2012.

For 2008 the Government has allocated approximately €900 million to ODA. The bulk of this funding — €769 million — comes under Vote 29, International Cooperation, which is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, through Irish Aid. A further estimated €130 million will be spent by other Government Departments and through Ireland's contribution to the EU Development Cooperation Budget.

Expenditure on ODA in 2008 will be the highest in the history of the programme. On current estimates, we expect it will represent 0.54 % of GNP. This level of spending will ensure that Ireland remains one of the most generous donors in the world.

The Government remains on course to meet the target of spending 0.7% of GNP on ODA by 2012. The Deputy will appreciate that all public expenditure allocations for 2009 are subject to decisions taken in the context of the Budget which the Minister for Finance will present to the House on 14 October.

The spending priorities for Irish Aid will remain as set out in the White Paper on Irish Aid, with a comprehensive focus on the reduction of poverty, in line with the Government's clear commitment to the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Jack Wall

Question:

44 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the initiatives in which his Department is involved in anti-poverty and land reform movements across Latin America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34202/08]

Irish Aid provides support to anti-poverty initiatives in Latin America, and elsewhere in the developing world, through a number of funding mechanisms. Total Government support to civil society in Latin America exceeded €16 million in 2007.

Through the Multi Annual Programme Scheme, (MAPS), Irish Aid has established a strategic and programmatic relationship with key Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) partners. The Scheme ensures predictability of financial support for an agreed programme of development activity. Three organisations supported under MAPS — Trócaire, Christian Aid and Concern — implement programmes in Latin America amounting to some €6.59 million. The areas covered include governance, human rights, gender, mobilising for justice, sustainable livelihoods programmes, and HIV/AIDS.

In addition, through the Civil Society Fund, Irish Aid provides grants for smaller NGOs for projects contributing to poverty reduction. In Latin America, the Fund supports a range of NGOs working in areas with high levels of poverty. Priority sectors include human rights, education, health and HIV/AIDS, livelihood security, fair and ethical trade, and water and sanitation. In 2007, the Fund provided €6.98m in support of such NGO programmes in Latin America.

Irish missionaries carry out important development work in fifteen countries in Latin America. Irish Aid funding is administered through Misean Cara, which was established in 2004, taking over management of existing funding schemes for missionary development work. In 2007, Misean Cara allocated €2.44 million for development work in Latin America, focusing on basic education, primary health care, income generation, urban and rural community development and water and sanitation.

An additional €134,880 was allocated last year, through our Embassies in Latin America, for local Civil Society activities. Irish Aid has also provided support for organisations working on the protection and recuperation of indigenous land rights. This includes €110,379 towards a three-year year project in Colombia which has been successfully completed this year, and funding for a three-year project focusing on the protection of Mayan indigenous land rights in Guatemala.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 10.

Foreign Conflicts.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

46 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in Burma, particularly in the view of the first anniversary of the 2007 Saffron Revolution and its subsequent military clampdown as well as the further tragedies suffered in the country due to Cyclone Nargis; and the support of a financial as well as humanitarian and diplomatic kind which Ireland has offered over the past year. [34182/08]

The situation in Burma remains of major concern. There has been a conspicuous absence of political progress since the Saffron Revolution in September 2007, and repression by the military of monks, political activists and others continues. In May, the military junta pressed ahead with a fundamentally flawed referendum on a new Constitution for Burma. At the same time, they also extended the detention order on Aung San Suu Kyi for a further six months. I immediately condemned this action and renewed the Government's call for her release.

As regards to the humanitarian situation following Cyclone Nargis, this is still very difficult but, thanks to facilitation efforts by the UN and ASEAN and the generous response of the international community, the Burmese people most affected are being actively assisted in their recovery efforts. In this regard, over €1.35 million in Irish Aid funding was provided to the emergency relief effort, as well as two airlifts of essential humanitarian supplies from our pre-positioned emergency stockpiles in Brindisi, Italy and in the Curragh.

As I highlighted in my address to the UN General Assembly last month, the continued reluctance by the Burmese authorities to engage seriously over the past twelve months with the Good Offices Mission of the UN Secretary General is gravely disappointing. The Government continues to support actively the work of the Secretary General, his Special Representative, Dr Ibrahim Gambari, and the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma. I believe the roles of the Special Representative, and of the Secretary General personally, are vital to the long-term goals of real democratisation and national reconciliation in Burma, especially in relation to ensuring that the process leading up to the elections promised in 2010 will be as inclusive as possible.

In recent weeks, we have marked not only the first anniversary of the Saffron Revolution but also the twentieth anniversary of the 8-8-88 uprising. As I stated at the time of that commemoration, Ireland remains committed to helping the Burmese people in their struggle for democracy. In pursuit of this goal, the Government has engaged in diplomatic activity at Ministerial and senior official level with Burma's neighbours and in international fora. During my recent visit to the UN, I raised the situation in Burma in the course of discussions with senior UN officials and with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, who is also deeply concerned about the situation there.

The Government have also worked to enhance the EU's role in supporting the people of Burma, including securing the extension of sanctions against the regime in December 2007. The Government has ensured that the issue remained high on the Council's agenda throughout the last twelve months, promoting and supporting European Council and GAERC Conclusions on Burma on a number of occasions in 2007 and 2008.

My Department has also continued to work closely with the Burmese community and friends of Burma in Ireland, including supporting the work of Burma Action Ireland. We have likewise maintained close working relations with the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) — Burma's government in exile. In June I launched a comprehensive report on the brutal suppression of Burma's September 2007 public protests, ‘Bullets in the Alms Bowl'. This was produced by the NCGUB and funded by my Department.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

47 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the general position in Iraq; his views on reports regarding the danger to 4,000 Iranians living in Ashraf city upon that city being handed over from American to Iraqi forces in view of their threatened deportation to Iran resulting in their lives being in danger. [34181/08]

Overall, there has been a substantial improvement in the security situation in Iraq over the last 18 months. This has been based both on intensified security actions by Iraqi and international forces, and on internal progress in reconciliation and political accommodation, which we have always stressed as an essential element in resolving Iraq's problems.

While the level of violence remains unacceptably high, there is no doubt that the improvement on the streets in Iraq has changed the political atmosphere, and provided space in which political action to achieve real inter-communal reconciliation may now be possible. It is essential that this opportunity be fully grasped.

The US Government has not, as yet, made any statement concerning the future of Camp Ashraf, or Ashraf City, the base of the People's Mujahideen of Iran, which is in an area of Iraq controlled by US forces. However, the progressive handing over of responsibility for security from US to Iraqi forces, which is a welcome development, has led to obvious speculative reports that, in due course, this will also apply to the area containing Camp Ashraf.

Iraq's elected leaders and parties have always made clear their unhappiness at the continued presence in Iraq of the PMOI, due both to the importance of improving relations with Iran, and to the actions of the PMOI in support of the former regime of Saddam Hussein, including its involvement in attacks on Iraqi civilians.

The Iraqi authorities have recently restated their determination that the group should leave Iraq. They have not, however, suggested that they be forcibly returned to Iran. Rather, they have suggested that they should move to another country, or countries, and that such a move must be carried out in coordination with the International Committee for the Red Cross.

While the issues involved are complex, I would agree that the residents of Camp Ashraf should not be forcibly returned to Iran, where they would very probably face a real threat of persecution.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

48 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position as it pertains in Somalia in view of the fact that there has been widespread displacement and a threat of famine; if his Department has been asked to assist in non-governmental organisations gaining access to the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34190/08]

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991, and despite an initial period of stability after Ethiopian troops and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces defeated the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in December 2006, the situation has worsened catastrophically in the last year. There has been a pattern of fighting in the capital Mogadishu since November 2007, between Ethiopian and TFG forces on the one hand, and clan militias and Islamists on the other hand. An agreement between the TFG and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) was initialled in Djibouti in June and signed on 19 August. However, despite this agreement, violence by opposition groups has increased since June, and has affected previously stable areas. Violence has intensified further in Mogadishu in September, and over 100 people have been killed there since 22 September.

Drought, widespread violence and displacement have caused the UN to estimate that 3.2 million Somalis are currently in need of assistance; a forty per cent increase since January. It is feared that this figure will rise even further by the end of 2008.

The humanitarian situation across Somalia remains grave, particularly in and around Mogadishu. Food shortages and drought have been compounded by escalating violence against civilians and aid-workers, which has made Somalia one of the most dangerous environments for aid workers in the world. This is the primary challenge for all NGOs and aid agencies in seeking to respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Somalia. Security issues include random violence, piracy, kidnapping, landmines and general banditry.

Since 2006, Ireland has contributed more than €17 million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia. Thus far in 2008, Ireland has provided €5.65 million in humanitarian assistance. In addition to our financial support, we have made three successive deployments of members of the Rapid Response Corps (based in Nairobi) to assist UNHCR in their operations for Somalia.

The serious threat posed by piracy to the effective delivery of humanitarian aid is a cause for great concern, with so many in Somalia being dependent on food aid delivered through the World Food Programme (WFP). The EU is playing its part in the international efforts to combat the problem of piracy and EU Member States have decided to co-ordinate their maritime action in response to this issue and facilitate the escort of WFP ships into Mogadishu.

My officials are in continuing contact with a range of agencies and NGOs in order to monitor the situation, particularly on the issue of humanitarian access to those needing assistance.

Election Monitoring.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

49 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has been monitoring the preparations for the elections planned in Bangladesh for December 2008 at which it is planned to reintroduce a multi-party democracy; and if the EU has offered to supply election monitors or other assistance which may be of use in this context. [34194/08]

Together with our EU partners, Ireland has been monitoring preparations for the parliamentary elections planned in Bangladesh for December 2008.

An election observation Exploratory Mission was deployed to Bangladesh between 15th and 28th June last to assess whether re-deployment of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EOM), suspended on 11th January 2007 when the elections scheduled for last year were cancelled, would be useful, feasible and advisable. The deployment of the Exploratory Mission followed the renewal of the invitation from the Bangladesh Election Commission (BEC) to observe the elections.

During its deployment, the Exploratory Mission met representatives of the state and electoral authorities, as well as representatives of major political parties, civil society, the media and the international community. It also took notice of the findings of the previous Exploratory Mission conducted in September 2006.

Several of the 2006-2007 EOM's key recommendations have been followed up on by the BEC, or their implementation is underway, including the production of an electronic voter list; enhancing BEC's independence; mandatory registration of political parties; the display of results at polling station level; a fresh delineation of constituencies; and establishing a specific timeframe for the adjudication of electoral complaints. At the same time, progress remains outstanding on issues such as the involvement of civil society in observing the voter registration process; a women's quota and the role of the media.

Overall the Exploratory Mission was broadly positive about the feasibility and usefulness of an Election Observation Mission, subject to the easing of the State of Emergency which was declared at the time the elections were cancelled last year, and the resolution of certain election-related rights. A decision regarding the deployment of the mission is due shortly.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 8.
Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 10.

Foreign Conflicts.

Billy Timmins

Question:

52 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures he will take to assist in reaching a settlement in Sri Lanka; his views on the situation there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34084/08]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

69 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to the conflict in Sri Lanka, especially with regard to the independence sought by the Tamil people for those areas of the country where there is a Tamil majority; if Ireland has been able or proposes to be of assistance in efforts to find a just settlement in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34178/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 69 together.

As I have reported to the House on a number of previous occasions, the Government is seriously concerned about the political, security and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. I am particularly troubled at the extent of civilian casualties, the increasing numbers of internally displaced families and the disruption to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the needy which have resulted from both the government's military offensive and from acts of terrorism on the part of the LTTE and others.

This is particularly the case since the decision taken in January by the Government of Sri Lanka to pull out of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement, to terminate formally the peace process and to seek to resolve the Tamil issue through military force. But, equally, we remain deeply concerned about the widespread wanton acts of terrorism and violence carried out by the LTTE (‘Tamil Tigers') and other groups, including this week's suicide bombing in Anuradhapura. Such actions have resulted in the EU and others in the international community listing the LTTE as a terrorist organisation and, therefore, ceasing contact with them.

In the Government's contacts with the Government of Sri Lanka and in all our international contacts regarding Sri Lanka, we have consistently expressed the view that there can be no military solution to the Tamil issue. It is the Government's clear view that the legitimate aspirations of Tamil people for their ethnic, cultural and religious rights to be safeguarded, and for some form of autonomy, should be the subject of peaceful, national dialogue and negotiation, with a view to reaching a comprehensive political agreement that will address the aspirations of both Tamils and the majority Sinhalese community in Sri Lanka.

This was the objective of the currently defunct ceasefire and peace process, which was facilitated by Norway, backed up by the Nordic Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, and supported with development assistance by the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka. I believe that it is vital that every effort is made to try to reinvigorate this peace process.

We remain strongly supportive of the role Norway has played and we very much welcome its commitment to continue contacts with both sides in hopes of encouraging them back to the negotiating table.

In the meantime, we will continue to provide practical, humanitarian support to the people of all communities in Sri Lanka. Since 2005, Irish Aid has provided more than €5.3 million for humanitarian and development activities in Sri Lanka. This includes significant emergency assistance provided in the aftermath of the tsunami, and continuing support to the World Food Programme in Sri Lanka.

Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 10.
Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 43.

Sporting Events.

Alan Shatter

Question:

55 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that offensive anti-Irish songs were sung by supporters of Glasgow Rangers Football Club attending the match that took place between Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers on 31 August 2008 and that the singing of such songs is a regular event and has caused both fear and concern to Irish residents and their children who on occasion visit Glasgow for such football matches; if he will take an initiative with the relevant authorities in Scotland in the interest of Irish-Scottish relations to bring this behaviour to an end; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33971/08]

I am aware of the concern, and indeed the intimidation, that can arise from slogans and songs during and after Celtic-Rangers matches.

Since its opening in 1998, the Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh has maintained a wide-ranging dialogue with the Scottish Government on all relevant issues. In September, for instance, the Consul-General met with senior officials in the Scottish Government to discuss recent incidents of sectarianism. Following from these and other on-going discussions, I am assured that tangible new steps to tackle sectarianism are currently being reviewed by the Scottish Government and I am hopeful that the proposed measures will help to improve the situation. The Consulate General will continue to monitor closely developments in this regard.

Overseas Development Aid.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

56 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his priorities for the coming year in respect of development aid for Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33995/08]

The Government's official programme of development assistance, Irish Aid, has as its overarching objectives poverty reduction and sustainable development. Africa remains the principal geographic focus for Irish Aid, containing as it does 34 of the world's least developed countries. In this regard, seven of our nine Programme Countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa — Tanzania, Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Uganda, Ethiopia and Malawi.

In recent years Ireland and other donors have moved towards a more programmatic approach to aid, aligned with the national planning of partner countries. Priorities and strategies for engagement are based on the particular circumstances in each country. These priorities are reflected in Country Strategy Papers, which are now in place for each Programme Country.

Within this overall context, our development priorities are focused primarily on basic needs, including in the key social sectors of health and education, and the fight against HIV/AIDS. We also focus on the productive sectors, including rural development, the private sector and support for livelihoods.

Irish Aid also places a particular emphasis on building good governance in its partner countries. This includes enhancing parliamentary oversight, promoting democratic systems of government, improving transparency and accountability and enhancing respect for human rights.

Overall, I believe our funding enables us to make a real and tangible difference to the lives of the poorest of the poor in our partner countries in Africa.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 14.
Question No. 58 taken with Question No. 16.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

59 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way aid funding is audited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34068/08]

Irish Aid has in place rigorous accounting and audit controls that recognise the various types of risk inherent in delivering a large scale and multi-faceted aid programme in difficult and challenging environments.

The Evaluation and Audit Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs has responsibility for overseeing the internal audit function, which includes Irish Aid. This unit is staffed by professionals and they carry out and oversee a range of audit, evaluation and Value for Money review activities that are appropriate to the various components of the aid programme using a risk-based approach. Clear priority is given to the audit of expenditure in partner countries where the risks are judged to be highest.

The audit strategy embraces four separate, though very complementary, approaches:

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

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

(c) Joint donor funded audits of specific programmes and

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

Internal auditors, based in our Missions in the field, implement an audit programme which consists of the independent examination of partner organisations that receive Irish Aid funding. In addition the internal auditors actively review the controls in place at our Missions. The Missions are also audited annually by internationally reputable audit firms.

NGO partners funded by Irish Aid under the Multi Annual Programme Scheme or the Civil Society Fund are required to submit their annual audited financial statements. The Evaluation and Audit Unit also conducts its own internal audit and review work of NGO partners, as part of its evaluation and audit work programme.

In addition to these robust internal systems, the Department has an independent Audit Committee which reports to the Secretary General. It provides an independent appraisal of audit reports and of the Department's audit and evaluation arrangements. The Committee meets with the Secretary General and annually with the Comptroller and Auditor General. It also publishes an annual report on its work.

Regular reviews of the overall audit approach, audit work programmes and resources are undertaken by management to ensure that developments in audit keep abreast of the challenges posed by the expanding programme.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 8.

Foreign Conflicts.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

61 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, with regard to the newly formed Government in Zimbabwe, he will indicate which sanctions have been either lifted, or newly imposed, upon that country. [34201/08]

Shane McEntee

Question:

74 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the support measures put in place by the EU to support the transitional Government in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34099/08]

Billy Timmins

Question:

166 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the support measures in place to assist the transitional government in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34093/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61, 74 and 166 together.

More than three weeks after the signing of a power-sharing agreement between Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, and the Tsvangirai and Mutambara factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), there has still been no agreement on forming a Government, and the situation in Zimbabwe remains deeply worrying. Although political violence has greatly diminished, it has not yet stopped. The rate of inflation is almost impossible to calculate, but has now reached unimaginable levels — one US think-tank estimates that it reached 531 billion per cent by the end of September. The World Food Programme estimates that 3.8 million people will require food assistance in October, and that this figure will rise to 5.1 million in January 2009 at its peak.

EU Foreign Ministers stated after our meeting of 15 September that the EU stands ready to support a transitional government which is taking steps to restore democracy and the rule of law in Zimbabwe. That commitment stands, and the EU very much hopes that ongoing dialogue will soon result in the formation of a government of national unity which is credible and reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people, as expressed at the 29 March elections. Ireland supports a co-ordinated international approach to addressing Zimbabwe's problems, once an administration is in place in Harare which is committed to working with us to rebuild the country economically and politically.

Meanwhile, however, the EU is continuing to act on our concern for the suffering of the ordinary people of Zimbabwe at this very difficult time. The European Commission has allocated an additional €10 million in relief assistance for people affected by the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, while Irish aid to Zimbabwe for the period 2006 to 2008 (to date) amounts to approx €25m.

Zimbabwe is again on the agenda for the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council next Monday, 13 October. Given the disappointing rate of progress in the talks on forming a Transition Government, I do not believe that my colleagues and I will be in a position to lift the EU restrictive measures on the Zimbabwean leadership. We will of course review what we can do to assist our African partners in bringing the ongoing negotiations to a successful conclusion, so that we can begin the real task of working with Zimbabweans to restore peace, stability, and sustainable economic development.

Election Results.

Joe Costello

Question:

62 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent election results in Austria where the far right won 29% of the popular vote; if this has been discussed at European Union level; if he has done so with his fellow Foreign Ministers; the outcome of such deliberations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34192/08]

I accept the democratically expressed will of the Austrian people. I have no doubt that other EU member States take a similar position.

Overseas Development Aid.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

63 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the food crisis in Ethiopia, reports of which, it is suggested, the Government may be trying to suppress although the UN’s World Food Programme reports that it is receiving increasing reports of hunger related mortality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34196/08]

I am aware of the recent increase in food insecurity in Ethiopia which is currently facing its most vulnerable period since the early 1980s because of a combination of food price inflation and drought. A number of regions in Ethiopia are particularly at risk because the cumulative effect of repeated shocks of this kind have left them especially vulnerable and without any means of coping.

While there had been some reports that the Government were initially less than frank about the real situation in some regions or districts, my understanding is that they are now more open about the seriousness of the situation.

My colleague Micheál Martin T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, raised the situation in Ethiopia with the UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, when they met on 26 September. The Under Secretary-General had just returned from a visit to Ethiopia and Minister Martin urged him to continue to provide every possible assistance and to maintain a careful watching brief on developments over the coming period.

Ethiopia is a partner country for Irish Aid and we are maintaining a particular focus within our programme on the issue of food security. Of our planned €36 million programme country budget this year, over €11 million is for the Productive Safety Nets Programme which provides cash and/or food to vulnerable households in return for work on projects targeted at reducing the vulnerability of their communities. Following the food crisis this year an additional €2 million from the programme country budget has been allocated for food security initiatives. In addition to the Country Programme, we have provided more than €2.1 million in humanitarian funding through a number of Irish NGOs to support the food insecure in Ethiopia.

Foreign Conflicts.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

64 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position as it pertains in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34198/08]

I am deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan. As was the case when I last addressed this issue in the House on 1 May, there are very clear difficulties regarding security, human rights, governance and rule of law issues, and the production of narcotics.

The security situation remains a particular cause for concern. In his most recent report on Afghanistan entitled "The Situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security", released on 23 September, the UN Secretary General concludes that it has deteriorated markedly over the last six months. The influence of the insurgency has expanded beyond the traditionally volatile areas and has increased in provinces neighbouring Kabul. Incidents stemming from cross-border activities from Pakistan have increased significantly. Another worrying development is that attacks on aid-related targets and NGOs have become more frequent and more deadly. Tragically, the tactics of the insurgency, as well as military operations, have caused the number of civilian casualties to rise sharply.

On 22 September, the UN Security Council unanimously extended the mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan for another year and called for it to be strengthened in the face of increased violence and terrorism from the Taliban, Al-Qaida and drug smugglers. It urged ISAF and other partners to continue training Afghan national security forces towards the goal of setting up self-sufficient and ethnically balanced national forces to provide security and the rule of law.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has also deteriorated, in part due to the on-going conflict. The most pressing humanitarian problem is that drought and high global food prices have created food shortages affecting one sixth of the country's population.

The Secretary General has, however, also identified recent positive developments. The Paris Conference on 12 June launched the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS) which, together with the Paris Declaration, establishes a road-map for future efforts by the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to provide for the security and prosperity of the Afghan people. In addition to seeking international endorsement of the ANDS, the key aim of the Conference was to redefine the programme of support for Afghanistan and to encourage increased Afghan ownership of the reconstruction process. A total of $21 billion was pledged by donors. Ireland pledged €9 million for relief, reconstruction and development in Afghanistan over the two-year period 2008-9.

The mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was renewed in March.

A new EU Special Representative for Afghanistan, Mr. Ettore Francesco Sequi, took up duty on 1 September and will take forward the implementation of EU policy in Afghanistan. I wish him every success in his new appointment.

For its part, Ireland has allocated over €15 million in relief, recovery and development assistance to Afghanistan since 2005. In addition, seven members of the Irish Defence Forces are serving in non-combat roles with ISAF in Kabul.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

65 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent expulsion from Bolivia of the US Ambassador; the reason in his view for which this has occurred; and the status of Bolivian-Irish diplomatic relations. [34180/08]

Ireland established diplomatic relations with Bolivia in 1999. Ireland is accredited to Bolivia on a non-resident basis through our Embassy in Buenos Aires, while Bolivia is accredited to Ireland on a non-resident basis through their Embassy in London.

In relation to the recent expulsion from Bolivia of the US Ambassador to that country, and the subsequent reciprocal expulsion of the Bolivian Ambassador to the US, this is a bilateral matter between the two countries in question. It is clearly related to the ongoing political crisis in Bolivia, which I hope can be resolved through peaceful and constitutional means.

Question No. 66 taken with Question No. 41.
Question No. 67 taken with Question No. 42.

Overseas Development Aid.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

68 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if aid funding goes to government organisations or agencies in Ethiopia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34087/08]

Wherever it is feasible and effective to do so, Irish Aid is committed to working through existing national systems, so as to reinforce good governance and avoid undermining national capacity. This approach is recognised as best practice and is pursued by all those donors who have acceded to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, including Ireland.

No Irish Aid funding goes directly to the Government of Ethiopia via direct or general budget support. Rather, it goes through the dedicated distribution and delivery systems (health, education etc) which have been built up over many years. The funding that we do provide is ring-fenced for its intended purposes and is channelled to recipients using sectoral Ministries, or regional or local government channels. For example, Irish Aid supports the provision of basic services in health and education and also social "safety-nets" programmes which are vital to saving the lives and livelihoods of millions of Ethiopians.

Effective and responsible donors and NGOs must take account of local authorities and systems. For example, when we train teachers, we must use the training systems and institutions, colleges etc. that are in place nationally. It would be a total waste of money, and it would be unsustainable in the long term, if we were to try to create a parallel system. NGOs and voluntary organisations also work with local and national systems.

In 2007, €32m was allocated to Ethiopia through the bilateral country programme and a further €36m has been allocated for 2008. In addition, in 2007 Irish Aid provided over €7m, mostly for multi-annual funding to major Irish NGOs, but also to other civil society projects. A further €9.1m has been committed to date in 2008. In 2007 and 2008, €2.5m was allocated for humanitarian aid to Concern, Goal and the World Food programme in Ethiopia.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 52.

Debt Relief.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

70 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the assistance he will provide the Jubilee Debt Campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34081/08]

Ireland is closely engaged with the issue of alleviation of the debt burden on developing countries. The Government has provided considerable resources to initiatives designed to ease or cancel the debt burden. Moreover, our bilateral assistance to the developing world is exclusively in the form of grants rather than loans.

The Government's financial contributions to debt relief have concentrated on the two major international initiatives on the issue. We have paid €20 million to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, towards reducing the debt burden of qualifying countries to sustainable levels. We have contributed €58.64m to the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI), to cancel the multilateral debt owed by many of the world's poorest and most indebted countries. Each of these initiatives is implemented by the World Bank and the IMF. The MDRI also involves the African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Irish Aid maintains a close dialogue with Irish NGOs on the debt issue, but has not provided assistance to the Jubilee Debt Campaign, a British-based coalition of groups and organisations established to influence British Government policy on debt. There are no plans to provide such assistance. I strongly appreciate the work of NGOs in highlighting the issue of the debt burden. The Government remains fully committed to playing its part in tackling the issue urgently and effectively.

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 10.

Diplomatic Representation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

72 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the suggestion that in embassies in Europe, including here, there is non-compliance with internationally recognised labour rights and standards, particularly in relation to non-EU staff. [34205/08]

All locally recruited staff in Irish Missions abroad, including those based in the other EU Member States, are treated equitably regardless of nationality. Local staff are remunerated at the mid to upper end of local salary norms and are employed in compliance with the applicable labour legislation. Where Irish statutory minimum standards exceed local entitlements, Irish standards are applied.

As regards Embassies in Ireland, the general position is that under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, it is the duty of all persons enjoying privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. Nevertheless, in the case of an employment law dispute involving an Embassy located in Ireland and a locally-recruited employee of that Embassy, the international law doctrine of sovereign immunity may apply in certain circumstances to deny the jurisdiction of the Irish courts. However, even where this is the case, the employment rights and standards at issue may still be enforceable in the courts of the foreign country concerned, if that state subscribes to those rights and standards.

Notwithstanding the above, my Department is not aware of any case where foreign Embassies in Ireland may be treating non-EU nationals any differently to EU nationals in their employment.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 23.
Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 61.

Companies Registration.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

75 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 68 of 1 October 2008, the average length of time involved in the registration of a business name in the Companies Registration Office; the steps proposed to be taken in order to eliminate the backlog for registration of business names; the targets and timescale, having regard to the inconvenience and delay being caused to business and commerce as a result of the backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34266/08]

At present, the average length of time from receipt to registration of an application for a business name with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) is eight weeks.

The Office recently allocated extra resources to this area and it is anticipated that the backlog will be eliminated by the end of November if applications continue to be received at their present rate.

Workplace Accidents.

David Stanton

Question:

76 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts her Department is making to reduce deaths and injuries from workplace accidents in different industries, such as construction, agriculture and so on; the number of such accidents by individual sector which occurred in 2007 and to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34356/08]

I would refer the Deputy to my combined written answer in the Dáil Debates for 24 September 2008 to Questions Nos. 136, 141 and 159.

Statistics

In 2007 a total of 67 workplace fatalities was reported to the Health and Safety Authority compared to 48 to date (7 October) in 2008 and compared to a total of 51 fatalities in the whole of 2006.

There were over 7,000 non-fatal work injuries overall reported to the Authority in 2007 compared to over 5,000 non-fatal injuries to date in 2008.

The NACE industrial and economic sector classification system changed in January 2008. Therefore, a direct comparison on the sector codes for each year is not possible as the sectors represented by some codes have changed significantly. However, the figures for five key sectors have been extracted from the data and are on the following table.

Health and Safety Authority

Operational responsibility for the enforcement of occupational health and safety policy and the promotion of a general awareness of occupational health and safety issues rests with the Health and Safety Authority.

Details of the Authority's planned activities, in pursuit of its operational remit, are contained in its annual Programme of Work 2008 which can be accessed at the Authority's website (http://publications.hsa.ie/index.asp?locID=17&docID=268). I expect to receive the Authority's proposed Programme of Work for 2009 before the end of this month.

Construction and Agriculture

It is obvious, from the statistics, that both construction and agriculture are the leading high risk sectors. It is my view that the Authority should prioritise its efforts in accordance with the sectoral risk profiles and this is, in fact, how the Authority operates in practice.

For my part, I will continue to use all opportunities to drive home the health and safety message. For example, on the construction side, I formally launched the Construction Safety Partnership Plan 2008-2010 on 17 June 2008. The overall aim of the partnership is to achieve the highest possible standard of safety, health and welfare in Irish construction. The Construction Safety Partnership (CSP) includes representatives of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and other relevant Agencies and Government Departments.

On the agriculture side, I attended and addressed the first All Island Farm Safety Conference in Monaghan in June of this year. This conference was co-hosted by the Health and Safety Authority along with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI). The conference attracted over 200 from North and South to hear both national and international experts present on safety strategies and initiatives on farm safety.

I also, participated in the Authority's awareness initiative at the recent National Ploughing Championships in Kilkenny. I have encouraged the Authority to continue and develop its partnership with Teagasc and to follow through on the development and distribution of the Farm Safety Code of Practice which was distributed to 160,000 farm households in December 2006. This joint initiative focuses on increasing the use of this Code of Practice and take up of half day training courses on the Code of Practice available at Teagasc Advisory Centres.

I am satisfied that the Health and Safety Authority is proactive in encouraging safety in all workplaces and have prioritised its initiatives in the agriculture and construction sectors. However, it is always important to remember that the Authority, on its own, cannot deliver health and safety in every workplace. Ultimately, health and safety in the workplace can only be delivered by those who control and work in each workplace.

2007*

2008

Fatal

Non-fatal

Fatal

Non-fatal

Construction.

18

13

920

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing

23

17

66

Mines and Quarries

2

0

60

Manufacturing

3

6

1,156

Transport and Storage

8

3

656

Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

3

0

50

Water supply; sewerage, waste mgt & remediation

0

2

81

Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles

1

2

548

Information and communication

1

0

66

Professional, scientific and technical activities

0

1

30

Administrative and support service activities

2

0

70

Public administration and defence

4

1

571

Arts, entertainment and recreation

0

1

21

Other service activities

2

2

162

Other sectors

0

0

1,010

Totals

67

48

5,467

*Due to the change to the NACE industrial and economic sector classification it is not possible to give definitive numbers of non-fatal accidents for the each sector (as defined in NACE) reported to the Authority in 2007.

Reported accidents 2007

Economic Sectors

Reports

Agriculture, hunting, forestry

100

Fishing

10

Mining and quarrying

71

Manufacturing

1,609

Electricity, gas, water supply

27

Construction

1,660

Wholesale and retail trade

778

Hotels and restaurants

125

Transport, storage, communication

987

Financial intermediation

156

Real estate, renting, business activities

238

Public administration, defence, social security

903

Education

73

Health and social work

877

Other

213

Total

7,827

Company Restructuring.

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

77 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding a company (details supplied) in County Limerick in view of the media reports regarding the company; and if she will make a statement regarding the future of this plant. [34413/08]

The fact that Dell is undertaking a fundamental review of its manufacturing operations and global business model has been in the public domain for some time. It is standard IDA practice, where any of its client companies is undertaking restructuring of this type, to engage with the company with a view to mitigating the impact on the company's Irish operations. I can confirm that IDA has been engaged in extensive discussions with the company at the highest level. I have been fully briefed on these discussions as they have occurred. I need hardly say that such contacts always proceed on a confidential basis and it is vitally important, if the best possible outcome for the Irish operations is to be secured, that confidentiality is respected.

Departmental Staff.

John O'Mahony

Question:

78 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the number of officials engaged in customs duties in the Border, midland and west region for the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34263/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of officials engaged in customs duties in the Border Midlands West region for the years in question is as follows:

2005 — 89

2006 — 87

2007 — 84

2008 — 89

The counties covered by the Border Midlands West region are: Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Longford, Donegal, Westmeath, Offaly, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

79 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if there are vacancies within the Office of Public Works in County Wexford or south Leinster which could be filled by transfer at general operative level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34305/08]

At present the Office of Public Works has no vacancies in County Wexford or in South Leinster which could be filled by transfer at general operative level. However, any general operative in OPW can apply for a transfer, which would be considered in the event of a suitable vacancy arising.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

80 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if there are vacancies within any Department in County Wexford or south Leinster which could be filled by transfer at general operative level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34306/08]

I have no function in the filling of General Operative level vacancies in other Government Departments.

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 79, ref. 34305/08, and advise that, other than the Office of Public Works, my Department has no General Operative posts in County Wexford or South Leinster nor do they have any posts that could be filled at General Operative level.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

81 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of properties purchased, leased, built or under construction for the decentralisation programme; the floor space in respect of each; the number of occupants for which it was designed; the cost in capital or annual lease; and the numbers in occupation to date. [34335/08]

The number of properties purchased, leased, built or under construction under the Decentralisation Programme are outlined in the following tables. The numbers in occupation to date is a matter for each individual Department. Note: The following table does not include €24m approximately in respect of furniture, total rent, VAT on fit outs, surveys and fees, per cent for art scheme and other miscellaneous expenditures.

Location

Occupier

Permanent places available now or under construction or at advanced stage of procurement

Places available advance

Building lease area/ area as per planning application

Site acquisition costs

Annual lease/rent

Project construction costs to date

Fit Out costs excl VAT, fees and Furniture

Athlone

Dept. of Education & Science (includes local office rationalisation)

210

4,665

None

12,489,489.00

Athy

Revenue Commissioners

100

1,269

231,554.00

493,000.00

Ballina

Road Safety Authority

62

972

151,641.00

319,000.00

Buncrana

Dept. of Social and Family Affairs

120

2,460

1,105,860.00

None

2,372,671.00

Carlow

Dept. of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

300

21,334

1,440,000.00

None

28,000.00

Carlow

Dept. of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

100

1,806

369,436.00

2,068,000.00

Carrick-on-Shannon

Dept. of Social and Family Affairs

186

3,716

800,000.00

4,331,000.00

Cavan

Dept. of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and HIQA

2,900,000.00

None

Cavan (4)

Dept. of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

43

478

102,818.00

196,000.00

Claremorris

OPW plus local staff of Dept. Agriculture, D/SFA, PSA and Courthouse

2,500,000.00

None

Claremorris

OPW

40

68,712.00

725,106.00

Clonakilty

Dept. of Agriculture, BIM & Others

210

6,458

2,875,000.00

None

12,932,941.00

Clonakilty (Lease 1)

Dept. of Agriculture, BIM & Others

100

1,152

157,480.00

118,855.00

Clonakilty (Lease 2)

Dept. of Agriculture, BIM & Others

45

870

118,910.00

116,744.00

Drogheda

SFA, CIB, (& Courts Service)

12,400,000.00

None

Dundalk

Sustainable Energy Ireland

30

503

96,000.00

190,000.00

Dungarvan

OSI

2,100,000.00

None

Location

Occupier

Permanent places available now or under construction or at advanced stage of procurement

Places available advance

Building lease area/ area as per planning application

Site acquisition costs

Annual lease/rent

Project construction costs to date

Fit Out costs excl VAT, fees and Furniture

Edenderry

Dept. of Education & Science

1,500,000.00

None

Furbo

Dept. of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

34

722

None

2,805,325.00

Furbo

Dept. of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

13

223

24,382.00

22,000.00

Killarney

Dept. of Arts, Sport and Tourism

135

4128

4,500,000.00

None

13,972,099.00

Killarney

Dept. of Arts, Sport and Tourism

70

1,115

140,000.00

64,000.00

Kilrush

Revenue Commissioners

65

585

85,050.00

411,000.00

Limerick

Dept. Of Foreign Affairs

170

4,300

833,112.00

6,086,000.00

Limerick

Dept. Of Foreign Affairs

55

854

128,694.00

Listowel

Revenue Commissioners

65

1,140

183,000.00

1,352,000.00

Longford

Irish Prisons Service

178

5,523

576,250.00

None

18,478,714.00

Loughrea

Transport

50

808

139,235.00

572,000.00

Mullingar

Dept. of Education & Science

314

9,068

8,250,000.00

None

20,559.00

Navan

Dept. of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

150

2,744

440,000.00

3,093,740.00

Navan

Revenue Commissioners

130

2,671

575,360.00

2,135,235.00

Newbridge

Department of Defence

288

7,806

6,300,000.00

None

5,757,000.00

Newcastlewest

Revenue Commissioners

51

877

325,000.00

None

2,141,110.00

Newcastlewest

Revenue Commissioners

50

492

68,771.00

Portarlington

NCCA, DATA PC, Equality Tribunal, NEWB

22

547

73,500.00

Portlaoise (Lease 2)

Dept. of Agriculture

100

1,479

264,640.00

106,000.00

Portlaoise (Lease 1)

Dept. of Agriculture

153

1,324

191,000.00

Portlaoise (Lease 3)

Dept. of Agriculture

35

406

75,000.00

Portlaoise (Lease 4)

NCCA, Equality Tribunal

26

69,661.00

357,952.00

Portlaoise

Dept. of Agriculture

850

20,873

1,027,636.00

None

1,247,148.00

Roscommon

Land Registry

3,000,000.00

None

Roscrea

Equality Authority, Garda Authority (Ombudsman)

22

542

108,000.00

Location

Occupier

Permanent places available now or under construction or at advanced stage of procurement

Places available advance

Building lease area/ area as per planning application

Site acquisition costs

Annual lease/rent

Project construction costs to date

Fit Out costs excl VAT, fees and Furniture

Sligo

Dept. of Social and Family Affairs

83

4,404

None

12,595,481.00

Sligo

Dept. of Social and Family Affairs

18

146

27,926.00

Thomastown

H.S.A.

1,800,000.00

None

Thurles (Lease 1)

Garda Fines Office — Temporary Accommodation

67

1,236

186,186.00

1,267,000.00

Thurles (Lease 2)

Garda Vetting Unit

66

393

66,254.00

262,271.00

Thurles

Garda Branches plus Revenue Commissioners and DSFA

967,500.00

None

Tipperary Town (Lease 1)

Private Security Authority

60

502

108,200.00

Tipperary Town

Private Security Authority

67

None

3,349,429.00

Tipperary Town (Lease 2)

Dept. of Justice / INIS

70

628

103,597.00

800,693.00

Tipperary Town

Dept. of Justice / INIS

1,035

1,625,000.00

None

Trim

OPW

30

382

67,752.00

43,000.00

Trim

OPW

333

8331

3,600,000.00

None

12,500,000.00

Knock

Dept. of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

390,000.00

None

Tubbercurry (Lease 1)

Dept. of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

60

753

86,755.00

81,000.00

Tubbercurry (Lease 2)

Dept. of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

42

810

88,138.00

321,318.00

Tullamore

Dept. Of Finance (building purchased)

130

10,034,000.00

None

Waterford

Dept. of Environment, Heritage and Local Government

8,000,000.00

None

Wexford

Dept. of Environment, Heritage and Local Government

283

6,586

3,500,000.00

None

6,860,000.00

Wexford

Dept. of Environment, Heritage and Local Government

44

581

75,000.00

206,000.00

TOTALS

4,464

1,461

80,716,246.00

6,305,764.00

113,635,966.00

19,652,914.00

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

82 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the rates of excises and VAT which apply to each of the excisable products showing in respect of each product the final price and the amount of this final price which is made up by VAT and by excise duty; and the total revenue expected to be raised in each case from the product in 2008. [34336/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the excise duty and VAT that applies to the main excisable products are as shown in the following table.

With respect to the total revenue expected to be raised in each case from the products in 2008, I will be publishing the annual Budget next Tuesday, 14 October 2008.

Tax Context of Main Excisable Products

Product

Measure

Price

Excise Content

VAT Content

Total Tax Content

Lager

Pint

4.40

0.47

0.76

1.23

Whiskey

Standard Measure

3.73

0.56

0.65

1.20

Wine

Bottle 75cl

9.02

2.05

1.56

3.61

Cider

Bottle 33cl

4.56

0.27

0.79

1.07

Cigarettes

20 Pack

7.55

4.56

1.31

5.87

Unleaded Petrol

Litre

1.23

0.44

0.21

0.66

Auto Diesel

Litre

1.29

0.37

0.22

0.59

Marked Gas Oil

1000 Litres

792.00

47.36

94.20

141.56

Consumer Price Index.

Richard Bruton

Question:

83 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the impact on the consumer price index of a five cent increase on motor fuels, €20 per tonne carbon tax, 50 cent on a bottle of wine, 10 cent on a pint of beer, 10 cent on a measure of whiskey and 50 cent on a packet of 20 cigarettes respectively. [34337/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on data currently available, their estimate of the impact on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of increases on the products referred to are as follows:

Excise Increase (VAT inclusive) of

Impact on CPI in a full year

Petrol

5 cent

+0.13%

Diesel

5 cent

+0.03%

Wine

50 cent

+0.05%

Beer

10 cent

+0.13%

Spirits

10 cent

+0.05%

Cigarettes

50 cent

+0.21%

The impact on the CPI of the increases referred to above would, of course, vary depending on the timing of any such increases.

The CPI impact from a carbon tax will depend on the extent to which a carbon tax will apply. Consequently, it is not possible to establish any reliable CPI impact at this stage from a carbon tax.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

84 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the tax credits in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare with a statement from 1 January to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34367/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a letter detailing the 2008 tax credits granted to the person concerned issued on 7 October 2008.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

85 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if and when a primary medical certificate will issue to facilitate qualification under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) 1994 Regulations in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34381/08]

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

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

Parliamentary Questions.

Michael Ring

Question:

86 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive has yet to issue a full reply in relation to a previous parliamentary question (details supplied). [34265/08]

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that a reply issued to the Deputy on 24 September 2008.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

87 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a claim for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been refused on the basis that they were not entitled to claim when in fact they were; and when the new claim which was made on their behalf by their solicitor will be dealt with. [34278/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael McGrath

Question:

88 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the circumstances in which an application under the motorised transport scheme could be approved without the applicant being in employment or in a position to return to employment. [34292/08]

The Motorised Transport Grant is a grant towards the purchase/adaptation of a vehicle by a person with a severe disability where the vehicle is essential for him or her to retain employment. Persons with a disability who qualify but are incapable of driving and who have to be driven to and from work are also considered eligible for a grant provided that they are driven by another named person to and from work.

The grant may also be provided other than for retaining employment, (in exceptional circumstances) to a person with a severe disability who lives in very isolated circumstances. The person's disability must prevent them from using public transport and they must have serious transport difficulties. However, the applicant still needs to meet the medical criteria, the means test, he or she cannot be in receipt of the Mobility Allowance and the calculation of the amount of grant will factor in any tax relief received under the Disabled Drivers and Passengers Tax Relief Scheme (administered by the Revenue Commissioners).

Suicide Incidence.

James Reilly

Question:

89 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the target for the reduction of suicides by 20% by 2012; the number of suicides that have been reported for 2007 and 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34308/08]

James Reilly

Question:

90 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of recommendations of Reach Out that have been implemented as promised in the Programme for Government; the number of the recommendations of the sub committee on the high levels of suicide that have been implemented as promised in the Programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34309/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 90 together.

According to the Central Statistics Office the provisional number of deaths by suicide in 2007 was 460. The figures for 2008 are not yet available. Suicide prevention rates have been agreed with the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) — an interim target for a 10% reduction in suicide is to be achieved by 2010. In addition, a target of 5% reduction in repeated self-harm by 2010 and a further 5% by 2016 has been set.

The recommendations of the Joint Committee on Health and Children regarding the "High Levels of Suicide in Irish Society" are consistent with the actions identified in "Reach Out". The HSE, through the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), oversees the implementation of "Reach Out". The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

91 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of multi disciplinary mental health teams that have been established nationwide; the number of teams it is estimated that will be needed; the number of staff; the cost of establishing such teams; the timeframe for these teams to be in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34310/08]

"A Vision for Change"- the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy provides a framework for action to develop modern, high quality mental health services over a seven to ten year period. The Report estimates that 332 community mental health teams are required to deliver the proposed community-based mental health service. Each multidisciplinary team will include the core skills of psychiatry, nursing, social work, clinical psychology, and occupational therapy. To implement this, substantial change is required in the organisation and delivery of mental health services. Current resources require to be reallocated and remodelled to fund the new structure.

Implementation is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

James Reilly

Question:

92 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of the estimated €800 million from the sale of existing mental hospitals that has been realised; the use to which the moneys received has been put; the length of time her Department had those moneys; the mental health purpose for which they will be used in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34311/08]

"A Vision for Change", the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy has been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of our mental health services. The Report recommends inter alia that a plan to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals should be drawn up and implemented and that the resources released by these closures should be protected for reinvestment in the mental health service. It is understood that the Health Service Executive (HSE) has disposed of a small number of assets since the launch of the Report in January 2006.

As the HSE has primary responsibility for implementing this recommendation, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. Therefore, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

93 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of extra post graduate training places that have been provided for clinical psychologists as promised in the programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34312/08]

As previously outlined to the Deputy in Parliamentary Question No. 268 of 8 July 2008, a Working Group within the Health Service Executive continues to examine the issue of training places for clinical psychologists. Accordingly, I have requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to furnish me with a report on the current position, and I will communicate further with the Deputy in relation to this matter as soon as it comes to hand.

Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

94 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of chest and pain respiratory clinics that have been established as promised in the programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34313/08]

James Reilly

Question:

96 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of local injury clinics as promised in the programme for Government that have been established; the location of same; the hours they are open to the public; the services available therein; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34315/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 96 together.

Improving the delivery of Accident and Emergency services continues to be a high priority for this Government.

The Programme for Government contains a number of commitments designed to further improve the delivery of Accident and Emergency services including:

the further development of chest pain and respiratory clinics to ease pressure on A & E

the establishment of a national network of Local Injury Clinics.

Chest pain assessment and respiratory services are provided at existing Emergency Departments. There are also examples of dedicated GP access to chest pain assessment units in hospitals such as the Mater, Connolly, Cork University and South Infirmary. Dedicated respiratory clinics are conducted at hospitals such as the Mater Hospital and Connolly.

Capital provision has been included by the HSE within its Capital Plan 2008-2013 for the enhancement of Emergency Department facilities in line with the recommendations of the Emergency Task Force. The funding is to be targeted at upgrading and extending existing departments and the development of new departments. A number of the new Emergency Departments have provision for minor injury clinics at hospitals including Connolly, Cork University, St Vincent's, St James's and South Tipperary General Hospitals.

Outside of Dublin, funding was provided for the expansion of the minor injury service at St. John's Limerick, and the provision of a minor injuries unit at Waterford Regional Hospital. These services are fully operational.

In line with the recommendations of the Teamwork Report "Improving Safety and Achieving Better Standards", the HSE is also committed to the development of Minor Injury Units in local hospitals in the North East. The first of these units is to be developed at Monaghan Hospital. Other units are to open at Our Lady's Hospital, Navan and Louth County Hospital, Dundalk.

My Department has asked the HSE to communicate directly to the Deputy on the additional operational issues raised.

Hospital Staff.

James Reilly

Question:

95 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of new, not replacement, accident and emergency consultants who have been appointed as promised in the national development plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34314/08]

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

Question No. 96 answered with Question No. 94.

James Reilly

Question:

97 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of the 2000 extra consultants promised in the programme for Government who have been appointed; the percentage that number represents of the 2,000 promised; the specific funds that have been allocated to recruit 2,000 consultants in 2008; the estimated cost in 2009 and other years thereafter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34316/08]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

James Reilly

Question:

98 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of the 1,500 public only hospital beds promised in the programme for Government that have been provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34317/08]

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to provide an additional 1,500 public acute hospital beds. Approximately 1,000 of these will be provided through the co-location initiative and the balance through the Health Service Executive's (HSE's) capital plan, which is part of the National Development Plan. The co-location initiative aims to deliver approximately 1,000 of these beds for public patients through the development of private hospitals on public sites. The intention is to transfer private activity to those hospitals thereby freeing up capacity for public patients. The Board of the Health Service Executive (HSE) has approved preferred bidder status for the development of co-located hospitals at the following six sites:

Beaumont Hospital,

Cork University Hospital,

Limerick Regional Hospital,

St. James's Hospital,

Waterford Regional Hospital and

Sligo General Hospital.

Project Agreements for the Beaumont, Cork and Limerick sites have been signed. The necessary preparatory work for Project Agreements in respect of St. James's Hospital, Waterford Regional Hospital and Sligo General Hospital is proceeding.

Connolly Hospital and Tallaght Hospital, which are also participating in the co-location initiative, are at an earlier stage of the procurement process. A tender in respect of Connolly Hospital has been received and is under consideration. Work is being undertaken to finalise the Invitation to Tender (ITT) for Tallaght Hospital.

In 2007 the HSE commissioned an independent review of acute bed capacity requirements for Ireland until the year 2020. The report produced reaffirms the case for continuing to increase our focus on a primary and community care model. The review recommended that Ireland develop an Integrated Model of Care system. This overall strategic direction has already been adopted by other developed countries, such as Denmark and Canada. The review forms a basis for discussion with key stakeholders on how best to plan for the provision of public health care to 2020.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to furnish the Deputy with the specific information requested on progress on the additional public acute hospital beds and day places being provided under the Executive's capital programme.

Hospitals Building Programme.

James Reilly

Question:

99 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of the €2.4 billion acute hospital capital programme in the national development plan that has been expended to date; the percentage that represents of the target; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34318/08]

Responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services including estate management was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore the Executive is the appropriate body to respond to the particular query raised by the Deputy.

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

Medical Cards.

James Reilly

Question:

100 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has index linked the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage as promised in the Programme for Government; if she has doubled the income limit eligibility for parents with children under the age of six and trebled them for parents of children with an intellectual disability under the age of 18 as promised in the programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34319/08]

In conjunction with the development of a new legislative framework to provide for clear statutory provisions on eligibility for health and personal social services, my Department is currently reviewing the assessment criteria for medical cards in the context of financial, medical and social need in line with the commitment in Towards 2016. A Steering Group has been established to undertake this review and is expected to complete its work and report to me within the next few months. Upon completion of this report, it is my intention to then consider how best to progress the commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to medical card eligibility.

Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

101 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of the €2.1 billion promised in the programme for Government that has been invested in the primary care capital investment programme in the national development plan; the percentage of the €2.1 billion that represents; when the programme will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34320/08]

Responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services including estate management was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore the Executive is the appropriate body to respond to the particular query raised by the Deputy.

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

Water Quality.

James Reilly

Question:

102 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has been mandated to report on the fluoridation of water; if it has been resourced to do so; when the report will be completed and published as promised in the programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34321/08]

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government that the Health Service Executive will publish a comprehensive report on water fluoridation. My Department is working with the HSE to ensure that the commitment will be met.

Vaccination Programme.

James Reilly

Question:

103 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children when a cervical vaccine will be introduced; the funds that have been set aside to introduce it; the vaccine or vaccines that have been chosen; the cost per patient and in total; the number of vaccines expected to be administered and to which age groups; if appropriate arrangements have been made with the medical professions to roll out the vaccine nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34322/08]

In August 2008, the Health Service Executive was requested by my Department to examine operational and procurement issues relating to the introduction of a HPV vaccination programme for 12 year old girls on a basis that would achieve maximum cost effectiveness and appropriate national uptake rates. A response has recently been received from the HSE and it is being examined by my Department.

Alcohol Abuse.

James Reilly

Question:

104 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of the recommendations of the working group on alcohol abuse established under Sustaining Progress that have been implemented as promised in the programme for Government; the funds that have been set aside to do so; when the recommendations will be implemented in their entirety; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34323/08]

An Implementation Group was established by my Department in November 2006 in order to monitor and report the progress on the implementation of the 29 actions identified in the Report "Working Together to Reduce the Harms caused by Alcohol Misuse". The Report of the Implementation Group will outline the progress made to date on the actions identified, which fall across a range of sectors, and identify where continued progress is needed in order to deliver on the commitment in the Programme for Government. The Report of the Implementation Group Report will be published shortly.

Obesity Strategy.

James Reilly

Question:

105 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of recommendations of the National Strategy for Tackling Obesity her Department or the Health Service Executive has implemented; the percentage of the number of recommendations that represents; the funding that has been provided to implement the recommendations; the timeframe for the completion and implementation of the recommendations of the National Strategy for Tackling Obesity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34324/08]

Implementation of the report of the National Taskforce on Obesity is ongoing. A range of initiatives are being taken by various Government Departments and Agencies. These include the following:

my Department and the Department of Education and Science are developing healthy eating guidelines for schools. Guidelines for preschools and primary schools are already developed and appropriate healthy eating training by community dieticians with preschool and primary school staff is currently under way. The guidelines for post-primary schools will be published shortly. Guidelines on levels of physical activity are currently being devised by the Population Health Directorate of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

my Department is finalising the first National Nutrition Policy. This will fulfil a key recommendation of the Taskforce on Obesity. While addressing the nutritional needs of the whole population, it will have a particular focus on the 0 -18 year age group.

the Cardiovascular Health Policy Group, due to report this year, will be advising on measures to tackle lifestyle issues like obesity at population level as well as in the primary care setting.

my Department, through the HSE, is participating in the World Health Organisation (WHO) European Growth Surveillance Initiative, which aims to monitor child growth and overweight and obesity trends throughout Europe and is targeted at children aged between 7 to 7.9 years. This initiative will contribute to the development of a National Database to monitor prevalence trends of growth, overweight and obesity in children, as one of the priority actions in Improving Health Outcomes for Children in the National Partnership Agreement-Towards 2016.

In order to give a new impetus to this issue, I am commencing a series of bilateral discussions with relevant Departments with regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the Taskforce. It is my intention to work closely with Government colleagues to ensure a coherent approach to implementing the recommendations of the Taskforce.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in respect of relevant aspects of the question.

Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

106 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she appointed an expert group in 2007 to develop the personal health check programme promised in the programme for Government; if so, if the report of the group has been published; the funding she put in place to implement the promise to provide a personal health check programme; when it will be rolled out nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34325/08]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to the development of a freely available and personalised national programme to provide for the prevention and early detection of illnesses for both men and women.

The Programme intends that guidelines should be developed for the Personal Health Check based on best available national and international evidence of what works well, with structured call and recall arrangements during a person's life and provision for appropriate clinical follow-up where required.

My Department is continuing to examine a range of issues which need to be addressed in order to decide how best to proceed in relation to this commitment, in the context of international best practice, our own national health policy and the many competing priorities for heath service development.

Mental Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

107 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding and financial arrangements in place to build a new central mental hospital at Thornton Hall; the financial arrangements intended, that is, if the project will be funded by direct Government investment or by way of public private partnerships; the projected cost of the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34327/08]

In accordance with the Government decision of 16th May 2006 to approve the development of a new national forensic mental health facility at Thornton Hall, Co. Dublin, the cost of developing the hospital will be met from the proceeds of the sale of the existing site in Dundrum.

Medical Cards.

James Reilly

Question:

108 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the estimated cost of means testing the over 70s medical card per person and, in total, for the current number of over 70s medical cards issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34328/08]

James Reilly

Question:

111 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of over 70s medical cards issued for each year since the over 70s medical card became available; the number of such cards issued to date in 2008; the total fees awarded to general practitioners for those specific medical cards; the fees paid to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34331/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 111 together.

All persons aged 70 and over have had a statutory entitlement to a medical card since July 2001 and, therefore, it was not necessary to assess means. Information provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to my Department indicates that on 30th September 2008 there were 138,269 persons aged 70 and over who had a medical card which attracts the higher GP capitation fee of €640. A GP capitation payment of between €139.59 and €244.64 (depending on the person's age, gender and distance from their residence to the GP surgery) applies in respect of a medical card for a person reaching the age of 70 years who previously held a medical card.

Details of the number of medical card holders are provided to my Department by the Health Service Executive (HSE) on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database. The HSE has provided the following information in relation to the number of higher GP capitation medical card holders at the end of each year from 2001 to 2007.

31-12-2001

31-12-2002

31-12-2003

31-12-2004

31-12-2005

31-12-2006

31-12-2007

Total

64,317

83,771

94,241

103,957

113,842

122,158

131,668

As the information regarding the total fees awarded to general practitioners in respect of those specific medical cards is not provided by the Health Service Executive to my Department as a matter of routine, the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive has been requested to arrange to address these matters and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

James Reilly

Question:

109 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the present day build cost of a 55 to 60 bed community nursing home unit (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34329/08]

My Department has been in touch with the Health Service Executive and I am informed that the Unit referred to by the Deputy is a 50 bed Community Nursing Unit (CNU) consisting of mainly 4 bedded and 2 bedded rooms with a small number of single rooms and was constructed circa 1998-2000.

The Executive is currently undertaking a construction programme for Community Nursing Units which are being procured by means of a Design Build tenders. These units comply fully with the recent Health Information and Quality Authority Design Guidelines for Residential Accommodation (80% single rooms, all with en suites etc). These 50 bed Community Nursing Units are being delivered for approximately €10 million each. This cost includes construction, design and equipping costs. On a pro rata basis a 55 to 60 bed unit would therefore cost approximately €11 million to €12 million.

Nursing Home Subventions.

James Reilly

Question:

110 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of elderly people or patients awaiting funding for nursing home beds per county and per Health Service Executive area, specifically in north Dublin City and County and in total here; her plans in the short term to address the shortfall in funding in this area which is causing hardship and clogging up acute hospitals through no fault of the patients who cannot leave hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34330/08]

In 2007, expenditure by the HSE on nursing home subventions was almost €205 million. This year the Government has redirected an additional €25 million from the overall allocation in respect of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, A Fair Deal, for the purpose of nursing home supports, including subvention. This includes €13 million for the provision of 200 contract beds.

In addition, the long-term residential care fast-track initiative, which commenced in 2007 and is continuing until 2009, aims to provide 860 new intermediate and long-term residential care beds. The latest information received from the Health Service Executive indicates that 188 beds were provided in 2007 and that 325 and 347 are to be provided in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Of these, 75 are in the HSE West, 316 are in the HSE South, 242 are in the HSE Dublin North East and 227 are in the HSE Mid-Leinster.

Finally, the Deputy has asked about the number of elderly people or patients awaiting funding for nursing home beds per county and per Health Service Executive area. 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. I am referring the Deputy's query to the HSE for direct reply.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 108.

Medical Cards.

James Reilly

Question:

112 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of general practitioner visit only medical cards issued in each year since these cards became available; the number of such cards issued to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34332/08]

I introduced the GP visit card in 2005. Details of the numbers of GP visit card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive. The figures are provided on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. The following table shows the number of persons with a GP visit card on the dates requested by the Deputy.

Year

Number of GP Visit Card holders

31st December 2005

5,080

31st December 2006

51,760

31st December 2007

75,589

31st August 2008

82,198

James Reilly

Question:

113 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of full medical cards issued for each of the years 2004 to date in 2008; the percentage of the population those numbers represent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34333/08]

Details of the numbers of medical card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive. The figures are provided on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. The following table shows the number of persons with a medical card on the dates requested by the Deputy.

Year

National Population

No. of medical card holders

Proportion of National Population with medical cards

31st December 2004

4,130,700

1,145,083

27.72%

31st December 2005

4,234,900

1,155,727

27.29%

31st December 2006

4,239,848

1,221,695

28.81%

31st December 2007

4,339,000

1,276,178

29.41%

2008 (31st August 2008)

4,422,100

1,324,477

29.95%

Health Service Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

114 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the regulation of dental technicians; and if it is intended to make changes to same in the near future. [34362/08]

In December, 2007, a new scheme for the creation of Clinical Dental Technicians was submitted to me by the Dental Council under the Dentists Act, 1985 for my consent. The draft scheme was examined by my officials and I granted my consent to this scheme in July, 2008.

This scheme will set down the training, qualifications and necessary knowledge for an individual to qualify to apply to join the register of Clinical Dental Technicians. This register of Clinical Dental Technicians will be operated by the Dental Council.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which moneys or expenses have been granted to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34379/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering Patient Private Property Accounts 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.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when a primary medical certificate will issue to facilitate qualification under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) 1994 Regulations in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34380/08]

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

Rail Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

117 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Transport his intentions in regard to rail freight following the refusal by An Bord Pleanála to allow the transfer of the Port of Cork in the absence of rail freight facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34252/08]

I refer the Deputy to my composite reply to Questions Nos. 262 and 265 that I answered on the 7th October which sets out the general position regarding the greater use of rail freight.

In relation to Cork Port, it is a matter for the port company in the first instance to consider the implications of the decision of An Bord Pleanála. The port company will convey the outcome of this consideration to my Department in due course.

Private Airports.

John O'Mahony

Question:

118 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Transport the number of privately owned aircraft which enter the State via private airports for the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34264/08]

My Department does not hold records of the number of private aircraft entering the State through privately owned airports or through the State airports. Under the provisions of the Chicago Convention which governs international civil aviation, privately owned aircraft may enter the State for non-traffic purposes without obtaining prior permission from my Department. In addition aircraft may land at Irish airports for technical stops (e.g. for refuelling purposes) without notifying my Department.

Rail Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

119 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 719 of 24 September 2008, the amount of funding sought by Irish Rail towards the cost of the project in 2009; and if that sum is available for allocation. [34286/08]

The allocation of capital funding to individual rail development projects will be decided following the announcement of the budget for 2009 taking account of the overall funding available and the requirements of individual projects.

Prison Building Programme.

James Reilly

Question:

120 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the proposed prison at Thornton Hall; if funding is in place to build the facility; if a binding contract has been entered into with the preferred bidder under PPP; his views on recent media speculation (details supplied) that 25 banks have withdrawn funding and support for the €400 million prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34334/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

128 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will proceed with building a prison at Thornton Hall in view of the fiscal crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34353/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 128 together.

Negotiations are currently at an advanced stage with a commercial consortium, which was selected following an E.U. tender procedure, as the preferred tenderer for the design, construction, finance and maintenance of the proposed prison facilities at Thornton Hall as a PPP.

It is a matter for the commercial consortium, under the PPP process, to arrange the funding of the project. Obviously, closure of the contract cannot be completed without the necessary funding being in place and it would not be appropriate, for commercial and procurement reasons, for me to comment on the specific financial funding aspects of the PPP contract negotiations.

For all PPP projects a Public Sector Benchmark is determined in advance of the project being tendered. The Public Sector Benchmark is a monetary value that represents a risk adjusted cost, over the construction and 25 year maintenance period, to the Sponsoring Agency of delivering the project using "traditional" public sector procurement.

Before the contract is awarded the final cost must be within the budget (capital envelope) allocated to the project and be below the Public Sector Benchmark. The National Development Finance Agency provides a letter to my Department indicating that the project represents Value for Money when compared to this Public Sector Benchmark, if this is their opinion.

In the current fiscal situation facing the country it is important that we all strive to reduce costs, live within our budgets and avoid any cost increases. The Irish Prison Service is currently examining all issues that have arisen in relation to the project and in this regard all options available are under review.

The bidder must meet all the criteria, including the financial criteria, in the tender. Although a preferred tenderer was selected, there are other tenderers and other viable options which can still be considered if for any reason the negotiations referred to are not successfully concluded.

Private Security Authority.

Richard Bruton

Question:

121 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on broadening the membership of the Private Security Authority to include persons knowledgeable in the certification of security operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34341/08]

The Private Security Authority was established as an independent statutory authority under the Private Security Services Act 2004.

The Act contains provisions for the appointment of members to the Board of the Authority and provides for appointment of persons with a wide range of experience or knowledge of the industry. Section 7 sets out certain categories of persons for appointment but also enables the Minister to appoint up to two additional persons.

The current membership of the Board includes two Ministerial nominees with particular expertise in training and in the security industry more generally.

Departmental Offices.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

122 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of the budget of €9.2 million allocated to the Office of Integration he has disbursed to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34342/08]

The amount disbursed to end-September was approximately €3.081 million.

Visa Applications.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

123 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on providing a special visa for visiting relatives allowing them to stay for more than three months or pay multiple visits here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34343/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

124 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on providing tourist visas for longer than a three month period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34344/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 124 together.

It is not the general practice of the Visa Office to issue multiple journey visas unless a compliant travel history to Ireland in the recent past has been shown. In that context, a Visa Officer would normally expect to be satisfied that the conditions of at least two previous visas has been observed.

There are two main categories of visa — a ‘C' visa is for a stay of a maximum of 90 days, a ‘D' visa is for a longer stay. Where a ‘D' visa has been approved and a stay in excess of 90 days is intended, the applicant is required to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB.)

Each visa application is considered on its individual merits, with the onus resting on the applicant to satisfy the Visa Officer as to why a visa should be granted. It should be borne in mind that a visa is merely a pre-entry clearance to seek permission to enter the State — no automatic right of entry is conferred. Whether the person is permitted to enter and the exact period for which s/he is allowed to remain is a matter for the Immigration Officer at the port of entry. The overwhelming majority of family visitors and tourists should find current visa and entry clearance arrangements adequate for their needs and consistent with the immigration policy of most other countries similar to Ireland. It is unlikely that such visitors would wish to become involved in the GNIB registration process. It is more likely that people wishing to come to Ireland for a period in excess of 90 days have something other than a visit planned and the ‘D' visa caters to their needs.

Departmental Programmes.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

125 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the Minister with responsibility for integration closed the fund for integration, which was established in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34348/08]

The fund to which the question refers was a targeted initiative put in place in 2006 to provide funding for initiatives to support the integration of legally resident immigrants. This was intended as a once off initiative for a period of one year and €3 million was allocated to it to be administered by Pobal. Subsequent to the original allocation of €3 million, I allocated a further €1 million in 2007 to fund an additional number of NGOs and Partnerships, again to be administered by Pobal. In my statement on integration strategy and diversity management, Migration Nation, I announced the establishment of new funding lines to promote integration. These measures are being rolled out at the moment and will be the primary means by which my Office will support integration in the future.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

126 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for the national action plan against racism, in view of the fact that it is due to close in December 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34349/08]

I am committed to continuing to promote national campaigns aimed at challenging racism and promoting understanding of diversity. In the aftermath of the conclusion of the National Action Plan Against Racism, this work will proceed in conjunction with new structures which I outlined in my statement on integration strategy and diversity management, Migration Nation.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

127 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an organisation (details supplied) will receive future funding for its activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34350/08]

The organisation to which the question refers received monies from a special integration initiative introduced in 2006. This provided for seed-funding in relation to integration initiatives for legally-resident immigrants. As was made clear in the official guidelines for this special fund, support was provided on a once-off basis.

In my statement on integration strategy and diversity management, Migration Nation, I announced the establishment of new funding lines to promote integration. One of these funding lines is for sporting bodies. In Migration Nation, I stated that the time seems right to support the integration of migrants by making funding available to national sporting organisations to help them implement integration plans in their organisations. I went on to say that, as funding is necessarily limited, the intention is to provide it to the bodies with the greatest potential to involve large numbers of migrants in their activities. I am about to allocate monies to such bodies. I would suggest that the organisation referred to in the question should liaise with these bodies in relation to programmes which it wishes to promote and I am prepared to consider funding in that context.

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 120.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for temporary or long-term residency or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34389/08]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 26 July 2004. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 24 March 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on granting temporary residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34390/08]

I refer the Deputy to the detailed Reply I gave to his recent Parliamentary Question, No. 382 of Tuesday 30 September 2008. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency, citizenship or family reunification status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34391/08]

I refer the Deputy to my answers to his previous Parliamentary Questions.

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that a Family Reunification application was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in May 2002 and that a decision was issued in January 2005. A review of that decision was carried out in 2005 and following the review the person in question was notified that the original decision was upheld.

A new application for Family Reunification was received from the person in question in December 2007. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. The investigation has been completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department.

The report will be considered by my Department and a decision on the application will issue in due course.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency or citizenship status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34392/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 243 of Thursday, 24 April, 2008 and the written Reply to that Question. The person concerned arrived in the State on 8 December 2003 and applied for asylum. Her two children arrived in the State on 16 April 2005 and 16 May 2005 respectively and were reunited with their mother and included in her application for asylum. The asylum application was refused following consideration of the case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 10 November 2006, that the Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of her and her children. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she and her children should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, the person concerned was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and, following consideration of this application, it was determined that the person concerned was not eligible for Subsidiary Protection in the State. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 22 April 2008.

The case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will now be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34393/08]

The first named person concerned was granted permission to enter and reside in the State under family reunification.

The second named person concerned arrived in the State on 20 May 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 16 May 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34394/08]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 26 March 2003. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 30 June 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency or family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34395/08]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to his previous Parliamentary Question.

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person concerned is the subject of a Family Reunification/Permission To Remain application made in September 2006.

The Family Reunification/Permission To Remain application for the person in question was withdrawn by the applicant in September 2008.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34396/08]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 2 June 2005. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner. The person concerned was notified of his entitlement to appeal this determination to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal but chose to not do so.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 13 January 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

The person concerned later submitted an application to be re-admitted to the asylum process in accordance with the provisions of Section 17(7) of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended). Following consideration of this application, a decision was made to refuse the application.

On 10 October 2006, regulations known as the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No 518 of 2006) came into force. The person concerned was notified of his entitlement to submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations. The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State and, following consideration of this application, it was determined that the person concerned was not eligible for Subsidiary Protection in the State. The person concerned was notified of this decision by letter dated 21 August 2008.

The case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, now falls to be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Citizen Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to an application for residency or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34397/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the individual referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 13 December 2004.

Officials in that Section inform me that processing of the application has commenced and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the very near future.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application to the refugee appeals tribunal in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34398/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34399/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to an application for citizenship in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34400/08]

Officials in the Citizenship Section of my Department inform me that there is no record of applications for a certificate of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34401/08]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 13 February 2006. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 26 October 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file is passed to me for decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected family reunification status in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34402/08]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to his previous Parliamentary Question.

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question was issued with a decision on his Family Reunification application in January 2003.

The person in question requested a review of his decision and the application was re-examined under section 18 of the Refugee Act and a decision issued to the person in question on 6th October 2008.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current of expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34403/08]

I can inform the Deputy that the person's case is the subject of Judicial Review proceedings, and is due for mention in the High Court on 16 October, 2008. When these proceedings have been concluded the person's case will be assessed by the relevant officials in my Department, and the person concerned will be informed of any decisions made. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the matter further while legal proceedings are ongoing.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected citizenship status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34404/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 962 on 24 September 2008. The position remains as stated.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34405/08]

The person concerned applied for a declaration of refugee status in the State on 5th January, 2005. Her application was refused and a deportation order was made in respect of her on 15th September, 2005.

The individual submitted an application for subsidiary protection pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006, S.I. No. 518 of 2006 ('the Regulations') on 24th January, 2007. She was informed on 27th February, 2007 that her application was invalid and could not be considered as she was a person in respect of whom a deportation order was signed prior to the coming into force of the Regulations on 10th October, 2006. Judicial review proceedings challenging this decision were instituted on 20th April, 2007.

These judicial review proceedings were settled following the judgement of the High Court in the cases of Djolo and Hila, where it was determined that under Regulation 4(2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006, S.I. No. 518 of 2006, it is open to me to exercise discretion to accept and consider applications for subsidiary protection from persons who do not have an automatic right to apply but who have identified new facts or circumstances which demonstrate a change of position from that which pertained at the time the deportation order was made.

The individual in question submitted an application pursuant to Regulation 4(2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 S.I. No. 518 of 2006 on 26th November, 2007, for my predecessor to exercise discretion to accept and consider an application for subsidiary protection from her. Following consideration of the material submitted, the application was refused and the person was notified of this decision on 14th March, 2008.

The applicant instituted judicial review proceedings on 31st March 2008 challenging the decision to refuse to exercise discretion to consider an application for subsidiary protection. As the matter is sub judice, I do not propose to comment further.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34407/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

A final decision on each application is made following receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review and revoke the Deportation Order in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34408/08]

I refer the Deputy to the Reply I gave to his Parliamentary Question no. 929 of Wednesday 24 September 2008. The status of the person concerned remains as set out in that Reply.

As there is no application before me seeking revocation of the Deportation Order in this case, the matter does not arise.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34409/08]

I refer the Deputy to the detailed Reply I gave to his recent Parliamentary Question, No. 909 of Wednesday 24 September 2008. The position in the State of the person concerned is as set out in that Reply.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when travel documentation will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34410/08]

The person concerned initially contacted the Ministerial Decisions Unit of my Department regarding a request to travel to Spain for medical reasons. The Immigration Division wrote to the person concerned on 25 September 2008 informing her that, as she had not been granted a declaration of Refugee status, the Immigration Division was not in a position to issue her with a 1951 UN Convention Travel Document. However, the letter also stated that the Immigration Division may be able to facilitate the person in question with a temporary Travel Document to travel for the purpose referred to.

The Spanish Embassy have advised that they cannot grant a visa for travel to Spain on a temporary Travel Document. Should the person concerned wish to apply for a temporary Travel Document for travel to another EU State for the purpose of medical treatment, she should advise the Travel Document Section of my Department. The Embassy of the proposed country of destination should be contacted prior to application to ensure that travel to that country is possible using a temporary Travel Document.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34411/08]

I refer the Deputy to Replies given to Parliamentary Questions No. 844 of Tuesday 17 June 2008, No. 602 of Thursday 17 April 2008, No. 467 of Tuesday 26 February 2008 and No. 247 of Thursday 31 January 2008.

The person concerned applied for asylum on 11 May 2005. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 12 June 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

The person concerned was notified, by letter dated 31 January 2008, of his entitlement to submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) within the following 15 working days. The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned is passed to me for decision.

Hunger Task Force.

Billy Timmins

Question:

151 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to implement the recommendations of the recently published task force report on hunger; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34094/08]

The current escalation in world food prices has highlighted the importance of food security. The establishment of the Hunger Task Force was a key recommendation of the White Paper on Irish Aid which was published before the onset of the current crisis. We established it because we knew from our people on the ground in developing countries that hunger was increasing — particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and that many countries would fail to achieve the Millennium Hunger Goal which is "to reduce by half the proportion of people suffering from hunger by 2015".

The Hunger Task Force submitted its report on 25 September to the Taoiseach at the recent UN Millennium Summit in New York. I would like to pay tribute to our former colleague Joe Walsh who did a splendid job in chairing this group of national and international experts and to record my gratitude to every member of the Task Force for their diligent work in producing this report. The report has been circulated to all members of the Oireachtas and copies placed in the library.

The Report makes disturbing reading. It is a disgrace that in 2008 there are more than 862 million people who do not have enough to eat. At the presentation of the report, Bono, who was a member of the Task Force, pointed out that this figure was already out of date, and that the current figure is approaching 900 million and rising — driven by the continuing escalation in global food prices.

The report of the Task Force is timely and I welcome its focus on three key areas:

To follow through on commitments made by all Governments, both donor Governments and Governments of developing countries and to increase the priority given to hunger in the aid programme

to target smallholder agricultural productivity; and

to promote effective actions to counter maternal and infant under-nutrition.

As an initial response I am establishing a new section which, inter alia, will have a special dedicated focus on food security tasked with advancing our work on addressing hunger.

Hunger is a complex issue and the Task Force have made detailed recommendations. Our first task will be to carry out a careful analysis of the recommendations, and of the extent to which current aid programming is responding to the many facets of hunger. Once that exercise has been completed, we will be in a position to plan how we can strengthen our efforts to address the root causes of hunger, with a view to making a real and lasting contribution to the abolition of hunger from our world.

Foreign Conflicts.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

152 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the crisis in Darfur; and the efforts being pursued at present at EU level to help ensure that civilian refugees receive the food and medical attention needed. [34302/08]

I remain deeply concerned at the situation in Darfur, and the ongoing suffering of its people. As a result of ongoing violence, the broader humanitarian situation in Darfur continues to be characterised by forced movement of civilians, continuing increases in internally displaced persons (IDPS) and rising tension in camps.

Ireland and our European Union colleagues are particularly concerned that humanitarian aid has stopped in many areas, in particular Jebel Marra. The European Union has called on all the parties to unconditionally honour their cease-fire commitments, and to abide by international humanitarian law, Human Rights Conventions and the resolutions of the Security Council. In particular, humanitarian workers and the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) must have free access to these areas, and UNAMID must be free to carry out its civilian protection mandate. The international community must of course go beyond alleviating the symptoms of this humanitarian crisis to address its causes, and the EU and Ireland fully support UN and African Union efforts to bring about a lasting peace.

Through the military mission, EUFOR Tchad/RCA under the operational command of Irish Lieutenant General Pat Nash, the EU is also helping provide security for those Darfuris who have fled across the border into neighbouring Chad.

The fracturing of the main rebel groups over the past year, and the apparent determination of the Government of Sudan to pursue a military solution make the search for peace even more difficult. I and my EU colleagues welcome the appointment of Djibril Bassolé as joint AU-UN chief mediator in June 2008, and we are hopeful that his committed efforts to bring the two sides together will be successful, despite the disappointing lack of political will apparent on all sides.

Emigrant Issues.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

153 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps which have been taken to ensure the safe return of Irish expatriates who wish to return home. [34303/08]

According to Central Statistics Office estimates, approximately 16,200 Irish emigrants returned to live in Ireland in the past year, bringing the total number of returned emigrants since 2003 to over 107,000.

As the Deputy will be aware, the vast majority of returning emigrants do not request State assistance in making arrangements for their return. However, some returning emigrants do require support and, in this context, my Department allocates financial support to frontline welfare organisations which assist such people.

My Department has provided funding to two organisations working specifically in this area, the Safe Home Programme and the Crosscare Migrant Project. The award of a €249,900 grant in April of this year brought the Department's total funding for Safe Home since 2005 to over €900,000. I have also approved funding of €159,000 this year to support the Crosscare Migrant Project, bringing the total Emigrant Support funding awarded to the organisation since 2005 to €475,000. This substantial funding is testament to the high value which the Government places on their work. The Government remains committed to supporting frontline welfare agencies and organisations.

In addition, our network of Missions overseas are happy to advise Irish citizens who contact them seeking information on returning to live in Ireland.

International Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

154 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he and his EU colleagues have discussed the possible effects on Pakistan of the facilitation of the US-India nuclear agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34304/08]

This matter has not arisen in discussion among EU colleagues.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group decision to permit nuclear trade with India followed the statement on 5 September 2008 by the External Affairs Minister of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, reiterating India's voluntary steps in relation to nuclear non-proliferation, testing and related policies. This decision was specific to India. I am unaware of any intention on the part of any NSG member to propose a similar decision in regard to Pakistan.

Question No 155 answered with Question No. 16.

EU Treaties.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action taken at European level to address the growing strength of the Eurosceptic movement with particular reference to the funding of such organisations, their objectives and their implications for this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34369/08]

I had a meeting on 6 October with the Committee on Constitutional Affairs of the European Parliament which provided a useful opportunity to hear first-hand the concerns of MEPs from across the Union on issues related to the Lisbon Treaty. A number of MEPs also raised concerns about the funding of organisations seeking a No vote during our referendum campaign. I confirmed to the European Parliament Committee that the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) is responsible for issues connected with the funding of election and referendum campaigns here.

I am aware also that the Conference of Presidents of political groups in the European Parliament issued a statement on 25 September about the funding of those who sought a No vote during our referendum. The statement acknowledged that SIPO is the appropriate body to address these matters.

There are those across Europe who have always opposed the development of the European Union and, in our democratic societies, they have every right to argue their case. The risk for Ireland is that anything that makes it more difficult for us to retain our place at the heart of the Union is likely to be detrimental to our economic prospects. Such positions are diametrically opposed to Ireland's interests within the EU.

The Irish people have consistently shown themselves to favour full Irish engagement in the European Union. The findings of the recent research on the referendum confirms this in that, by a factor of three to one, people believe that Ireland's interests are best pursued by remaining fully involved in the EU rather than by opting to be less involved.

The study also pointed to the importance of improved communications in promoting enhanced knowledge and awareness of EU affairs. Lack of information about the Union makes it easier for opponents to spread half-truths and outright distortions about the Union's policies and intentions. The study also pointed to the importance of improved communications in promoting enhanced knowledge and awareness of EU affairs. Lack of information about the Union makes it easier for opponents to spread half-truths and outright distortions about the Union's policies and intentions. We are now looking at ways in which we can improve the manner in which European issues are communicated. We plan to work closely with the European Commission in this regard.

So called Euro-sceptic ideas, which have long existed in other countries, have not traditionally been part of our European debate and have nothing to offer us today as we seek, against a backdrop of great international economic turbulence, to preserve and build upon the great gains we have made as a member of the Union during the past 35 years.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which it is intended to formulate and co-ordinate a European response to the present impasse with regard to the Lisbon treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34370/08]

The decision of the Irish people on 12 June has been the subject of considerable discussion with our European Union partners. Most recently, last week, on 1 October, I accompanied the Taoiseach as he travelled to Paris to discuss the matter with the President of the European Council, Nicolas Sarkozy. On Monday of this week, I had a series of meetings in Brussels with Members of the European Parliament and the Commission. Next week's European Council will discuss the issue further, as agreed at the June European Council.

In all of these discussions, we have highlighted the concerns which the Irish electorate raised during the referendum campaign. We wish to see these concerns addressed in a manner which accommodates Ireland's interests and those of the other 26 Member States.

At this stage, no definitive decisions have been taken by the Government regarding the Treaty. I hope that by the December European Council we will be in a position to identify more precisely the issues that need to be addressed and to outline the next steps we intend to take. It would be premature however, at this relatively early stage, to outline the content of any possible response.

Overseas Development Aid.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which it can be verified that overseas development aid is received by those to whom it was intended in each, all or most cases; the procedures in place for such verification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34371/08]

I would like to assure the Deputy that it is of particular importance to me that Irish tax payers' money benefits the poorest and most vulnerable people of the countries in which we operate.

Irish Aid funding is protected by rigorous monitoring, accounting and audit controls which are in place in all countries where we provide development assistance and such controls and systems mean that funding is directed to those areas most in need. In our Programme Countries, Country Strategy Papers (CSPs) are developed in consultation with the national government and in support of their poverty reduction strategy. These papers outline the programmes and projects that Irish Aid will support over a three to five year period. The strategies have a monitoring framework with indicators and targets to measure improvements in basic services.

In addition, Irish Aid is actively engaged with Governments and other donors in national policy and budget allocation discussions. These discussions are aimed at ensuring that funding for basic services and poverty reduction programmes are protected or increased. A number of Programme Countries are introducing special social protection programmes to target those who are chronically poor.

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

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

In addition, there are regular audits carried out by independent audit firms whilst Irish Aid has also its own Evaluation and Audit Unit which monitors the assistance provided.

The results of the work of Irish Aid and other partners are clear on the ground. The incidence of extreme poverty is dropping in a number of Programme Countries. Economic growth in Africa is the highest in a generation. More children are at school than ever before. The context remains challenging, but progress is being made, and Ireland is playing its part.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of countries scheduled for debt write-off in the past five years; the extent to which this has been delivered or is outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34372/08]

The Government has strongly supported initiatives to ease or cancel the debt burden on developing countries. Importantly, Ireland's bilateral assistance to the developing world is exclusively in the form of grants rather than loans.

There are two main international instruments which address the problem of the debt burden in the developing world, the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. The MDRI was agreed by the G8 Countries at Gleneagles in July 2005 with a focus on debt cancellation. It came into effect on 1 July 2006, and provides for 100% relief on eligible debt from the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund for many of the poorest countries in the world, most of them in Africa. The aim is to relieve these countries from the burden of servicing debt and assist them in making progress on the UN Millennium Development Goals, with the overall objective of halving global poverty by 2015. In 2007, the Inter-American Development Bank agreed to provide similar debt relief to the five poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

To date, 25 countries have benefited from debt relief under the MDRI, at a cost of some $43.5 billion. Ireland's share of the total cost of debt relief provided by the World Bank under the MDRI is €58.64 million. The Government contributed this amount in full in 2006.

The HIPC Initiative is implemented by the World Bank and the IMF. It was launched in 1996 in order to reduce the debt burden of qualifying countries to sustainable levels but does not involve cancellation of debt. Progress on the implementation of the initiative has been relatively slow. However, t o date US$68 billion in debt-service relief has been approved under the initiative for 33 countries, 27 of which are in Africa. Ireland has contributed €20 million towards the cost of implementing this initiative.

Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 14.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU or UN colleagues are in discussion in regard to the most sensitive areas in Africa affected by hunger, war and instability; the degree to which a particular plan is being pursued in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34374/08]

The reduction of hunger, war and instability in Africa is one of the most important tasks of the international community in the 21st century, and continues to be a priority for both the European Union and the United Nations. In our dialogue with partners in the EU and the UN, Ireland is a strong advocate for the developing world and for international peace and security.

Conflict has many causes and many manifestations, but poverty and inequality have proved to be the most fertile breeding grounds for violence and instability. Most armed conflicts occur in poor countries, and the causes and effect of conflict are exacerbated by poverty and corruption. The risk of corruption, strife and famine is greater where political, economic and administrative systems are weak, and Ireland's development co-operation programme focuses on all of these risks. Irish Aid supports specific actions designed to promote political stability, including by strengthening government systems and combating inequality. Irish Aid has a specific focus on governance in several programme countries.

The Government established a Hunger Task Force in 2007, with the aim of identifying the particular contribution that Ireland could make to tackle the root causes of food insecurity, particularly in Africa. The Report of the Hunger Task Force, which was presented at the UN in New York in September 2008, highlighted the continued threat posed by hunger, and made several very concrete recommendations on how this threat can be dealt with.

Promoting stability and supporting progress towards peace in Africa requires a huge international effort. UN-authorised peacekeeping missions have a major role in stabilising former and current conflict zones throughout Africa, not least the current EU-led military mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, EUFOR Tchad/RCA, in which the Irish contingent is playing a prominent role. Ireland has a strong tradition of contributing to UN-mandated peace-support missions in Africa. We have also provided support to the UN's Peace Building Fund and have been strongly supportive of the establishment of the Peace Building Commission.

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

The challenges facing Africa are enormous. But there is some encouraging news. Many African economies are growing. The work of the International Criminal Court, which Ireland strongly supports, marks a real effort to end impunity for war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. While there are exceptions, notably Somalia, Zimbabwe, and Darfur, many African countries now have less violence and civil strife than has been the case for many years. There is relative peace in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, northern Uganda and southern Sudan, although international engagement will be needed for some time. Through our aid programme, Ireland will continue to address issues of poverty, conflict and instability, and to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of many.

Common Security and Defence Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in regard to EU emergency battlegroups or response forces; the extent of agreement and formation to date, current operations and future proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34375/08]

The Battlegroup concept is designed to provide the European Union with the capacity to respond rapidly to emerging crisis situations, within the overall context of the European Union's security and defence policy.

Battlegroups are designed to participate in time-limited missions of 30 days, extendable to a maximum of 120 days, by which time the operation would have concluded, or the Battlegroup been replaced by a larger force. Developments in relation to Battlegroups are reviewed regularly within the European Union.

The purpose of the EU Battlegroups is to undertake operations (commonly referred to as the Petersberg Tasks which are set out in the Amsterdam Treaty) such as rescue tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking, in addition to peacekeeping and humanitarian tasks. Battlegroups would probably be deployed on operations at the higher end of the Petersburg spectrum. Battlegroups have been on stand-by on a rotational basis since January 2007, but to date none has been called to deploy.

Ireland provided a contingent of 100 members of the Defence Forces to the Nordic Battlegroup which was on stand-by for the first half of 2008. The contingent comprised specialists in Explosive Ordnance and Improvised Explosive Device disposal, together with a protection detail. Ireland also had a number of posts in both the Force and Operational Headquarters. Sweden, as Framework nation, together with Norway, Finland, and Estonia also participated.

With regard to Ireland's participation in future Battlegroups, we are committed in principle, subject to Government decision, to participation once again in the Nordic Battlegroup, which will be on stand-by for the first six months of 2011. The same five countries will participate, with Sweden again acting as Framework Nation.

Informal discussions have also taken place between staff in the Department of Defence and representatives from Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia and FYROM regarding Ireland's possible participation in the proposed Austrian/German Battlegroup. This Battlegroup will be on stand-by for the second six months of 2012.

It should be stressed that any deployment of the Battlegroup would require a unanimous decision of the Council of the European Union. Furthermore, deployment of an Irish contingent in a Battlegroup context would be subject to the requirements of the ‘triple-lock' of Government decision, Dáil approval, and UN authorisation.

Diplomatic Representation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Irish embassies worldwide; the number of new embassies contemplated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34376/08]

Ireland has a network of 75 resident diplomatic and consular Missions abroad, as well as the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Secretariat in Belfast and the North-South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat in Armagh. While the opening of new Embassies abroad is considered by the Government on an ongoing basis, any expansion of our diplomatic network can, as I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, only be undertaken having regard to clear priorities and available resources.

The most recent Embassy to be established was in Malawi in October 2007. The Government decided to establish an Embassy there, after the White Paper on Irish Aid, published in September 2006, designated Malawi as Ireland's ninth programme country.

The successful trade mission, led by the former Taoiseach in January 2007, to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates underlined the potential value to Ireland of having a second resident Embassy in the Gulf region. Accordingly, and in order to take advantage of this potential, the Government in March 2007 agreed that an Embassy be established in the United Arab Emirates. The timing of the establishment of this new Embassy in Abu Dhabi is under consideration. However, this decision must take account of the wider budgetary context, in particular the availability of the necessary resources.

Apart from the United Arab Emirates, there are no plans at present to establish any other new Embassies or Consulates abroad.

Overseas Development Aid.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made with tackling AIDS in each of the African countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34377/08]

Recent data released by the United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) demonstrate that the global HIV prevalence — the number of people living with HIV — has levelled off and that the number of new infections has fallen. This is primarily due to much improved surveillance methodologies, along with some positive impacts of HIV programmes.

However, in 2007 over 33 million people were still living with HIV. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region most severely affected in the world and is home to over 22 million people living with HIV or 68 per cent of the global total. AIDS remains the primary cause of death in Africa.

Ireland has emphasised that the fight against HIV and AIDS is fundamental to poverty and vulnerability reduction. We spend over €100 million annually on combating HIV and other diseases of poverty. Our assistance is targeted at those countries most affected by the pandemic including Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Uganda.

The Government is investing in programmes that are benefiting those most in need, delivering anti-retroviral treatment in countries most affected and providing support to children made vulnerable by AIDS. We also invest in empowering women and girls to protect themselves from infection.

Significant progress has been made in a number of countries in reducing the prevalence of HIV and AIDS. For example, Uganda has succeeded in reducing the rates of infection from 18.3% in 1992 to 6.4% today. Ireland has played its part in this improvement.

There is now better access to anti retroviral treatment for those infected with AIDS. In partnership with the Clinton Foundation, Ireland has increased its funding to the Governments of Mozambique and Lesotho to improve the accessibility of HIV treatment in rural areas and in particular to women and children. As a result of our work in Mozambique, over 78,000 people are now on HIV treatment, up from less than 2,000 people at the end of 2002. In Lesotho, following one year of operation, 4 health facilities have been refurbished and over 2,500 people are accessing HIV treatment including 100 children.

This week Ireland co-hosted with UNICEF the fourth Global Partners' Forum on Children affected by HIV and AIDS which was addressed by the Taoiseach and myself. It successfully identified consensus around the main strategies that need to be employed to improve the lives of children affected by HIV and to reduce the vulnerability of children to HIV.

We are committed to continuing our work to address HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases and to ensuring that men, women and children get access to quality health and HIV services.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the political situation in the south-western Balkans; the extent to which it is expected to achieve political equilibrium and stability in the region within the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34378/08]

The December 2007 European Council reaffirmed that the future of the Western Balkans lies within the European Union. The countries within that region (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) continue to feature on the agenda of the General Affairs and External Relations Council.

The European Union's Stabilisation and Association process for South-East Europe aims to bring the countries of the region closer to EU standards and principles. The process involves the negotiation of Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs) with each of the countries. SAAs focus mainly on trade liberalisation in goods and other economic and trade-related issues, political dialogue, legal approximation, and cooperation in sectors such as industry, environment and energy.

Stabilisation and Association Agreements have now been signed with all of the countries in the region with the exception of Kosovo. The Agreements with Croatia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are already in effect. Interim Agreements dealing with economic and trade related matters — essentially matters which fall within the exclusive competence of the European Community — are in force with Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, pending the ratification of the main agreements and their entry into force. The SAA with Serbia was signed on 29 April 2008. An Interim Agreement dealing with economic and trade matters was signed at the same time. The Council welcomed the signature of the SAA and the Interim Agreement as an important step on Serbia's path towards the EU. The Council decided that the ratification process of the SAA by Member States and implementation of the Interim Agreement would begin as soon as the Council decided unanimously that Serbia was cooperating fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In this context, the arrest in Belgrade on 11 June of Stojan Zupljanin, one of the four remaining war crime fugitives charged with crimes committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, marked a welcome and significant step towards fulfilling the condition of full cooperation with ICTY.

Furthermore, I congratulated President Tadic and the Serbian security forces on the successful arrest on 21 July of the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was indicted in July 1995 by ICTY on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. I would urge the Government of Serbia to build on this success and continue its efforts to finalise full cooperation with ICTY, and hope that the SAA will be ratified as soon as possible.

Negotiations on an SAA with Bosnia-Herzegovina concluded late last year. Signature of the agreement was linked to key reform priorities being advanced. In the light of progress made by Bosnia-Herzegovina in its reform programme, the SAA was signed in Luxembourg on 16 June 2008.

In addition to the Stabilisation and Association Process, the European Union opened negotiations on accession with Croatia in 2005. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has obtained candidate status, although its negotiations on accession have not yet commenced.

Recent developments in the Western Balkans have largely focused on Kosovo and the decision of the Kosovo Assembly to declare independence on 17 February 2008. At the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 18 February, EU Foreign Ministers agreed a common response to Kosovo's declaration of independence, noting the uniqueness of Kosovo's situation, arising from the conflict of the 1990s and the eight years of UN administration which followed, and reaffirming the EU's willingness to play a leading role in strengthening stability in the region including by means of the planned ESDP rule of law mission, EULEX KOSOVO.

The Council also agreed that Member States would decide, in accordance with national practice and international law, on their relations with Kosovo. Since then, 21 EU Member States, including Ireland, have recognised Kosovo's independence.

With the coming into force of the new Kosovo constitution on 15 June, the focus for the EU is to ensure a smooth transition from the current UN mission (UNMIK) to the EU's EULEX KOSOVO mission, and to ensure that the international presence can operate effectively throughout Kosovo, including Serb majority areas in the North. The EU is working closely with the UN to achieve this.

Question No. 166 answered with Question No. 61.

Performing Arts.

Denis Naughten

Question:

167 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the grant or bursary options open to a person studying dance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34269/08]

Responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is primarily devolved to the Arts Council. The Arts Council is the principal agency through which State funding is channelled to the arts. Under the Arts Act, 2003, the general functions of the Council include the following: -to stimulate public interest in the arts;to promote knowledge, appreciation and practice of the arts;to assist in improving standards in the arts.

Grants and bursaries for persons studying dance are allocated through the Arts Council and I would refer the Deputy to the Council's website www.artscouncil.ie for details of the Council's funding schemes.

Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

168 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén uair a bheidh an plépháipéar a d’ullmhaigh a Roinn ar chúrsaí fógraíochta dátheangach faoi alt 9 d’Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 ag dul os comhair an Chomhchoiste um Ghnóthaí Ealaíon, Spóirt, Turasóireachta, Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta arís; cathain a bheidh sé á shíniú; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [34279/08]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

170 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an aontaíonn sé go mbeadh sé go mór ar son leas na Gaeilge timire teanga amháin ar a laghad a fhostú i ngach contae sa tír chun dul i mbun an phobail, sa Ghalltacht agus sa Ghaeltacht araon, le tacaíocht a thabhairt d’iarrachtaí áitiúla leis an nGaeilge a chur chun cinn agus leis an teanga a chothú agus a chomhordú go náisiúnta ar bhonn eagraithe, cuimsitheach; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [34281/08]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

172 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an mbeidh sé sásta reachtaíocht a dhréachtú chun pacáistiú dátheangach a thugann cothrom na Féinne don Ghaeilge agus don Bhéarla araon ar earraí leithéid bia agus deochanna a thabhairt os comhair na Dála i dtreo sochaí agus timpeallacht atá iomlán dátheangach a chothú sa tír, san earnáil phoiblí agus san earnáil phríobháideach, amhlaidh a dhéantar i gCeanada, sa Bheilg agus i dtíortha eile ag a bhfuil níos mó ná teanga oifigiúil amháin nach iad; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [34283/08]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 168, 170 agus 172 le chéile.

I dtús báire, beidh áthas ar an Teachta a chloisint go bhfuil Rialacháin faoi alt 9(1) d'Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 déanta agam le déanaí. Mar is eol don Teachta, baineann na Rialacháin sin le húsáid na Gaeilge agus an Bhéarla i bhfógairtí béil réamhthaifeadta, ar stáiseanóireacht agus ar chomharthaíocht ag comhlachtaí poiblí, Ranna Stáit, údaráis áitiúla agus eile. Mar atá mínithe agam cheana féin, rinne mé cinneadh nach mbeadh fógraíocht san áireamh san Rialacháin sin ag an bpointe seo mar nach bhfuilim sásta go bhfuil an réamh-obair iomlán atá riachtanach déanta go fóill. Sa chomhthéacs sin, mar is eol don Teachta, leag mé plé-pháipéar mar gheall ar fhógraíocht faoi bhráid bhaill an Chomhchoiste Oireachtais um Ghnóthaí Ealaíon, Spóirt, Turasóireachta, Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta ar 2 Iúil 2008. Leag an plé-pháipéar amach roinnt roghanna maidir leis an cur chuige a d'fhéadfadh a bheith ann maidir le fógraíochta. Mar a thug mé le fios an lá sin, is plé-pháipéar atá anseo a d'eisigh mé d'aon ghnó le díospóireacht a spreagadh mar go bhfuil cinntí le déanamh maidir leis na roghanna éagsúla a luaitear ann. Tá súil agam go mbeidh deis agam dul os comhair an Comhchoiste arís réasúnta luath chun tuilleadh plé a dhéanamh ar an ábhar fíor-thábhachtach seo. A luaithe agus a bheidh an plé sin thart, déanfar measúnú ar an mbealach agus an cur chuige is fearr agus is éifeachtaí chun fógraíocht a chlúdach faoi Rialacháin a dhéanfaí faoi alt 9(1).

Maidir leis na Ceisteanna faoi phacáistiú dátheangach agus timirí Gaeilge, tá, mar is eol don Teachta, Straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge á ullmhú faoi láthair. Cé gur "léarscáil bóthair" don treo ceart le dul ar aghaidh a bheidh sa Straitéis sin, agus ní plean sonrach gníomhaíochta, is amhlaidh go mbeidh na réimsí saoil éagsúla — na meáin chumarsáide, stádas na Gaeilge, an Ghaeilge sa phobal agus sa chóras oideachais, fáil ar sheirbhísí poiblí i nGaeilge agus mar sin de — clúdaithe ann. Beidh gá gach réimse ar leith acu sin a fhorbairt i bpleananna earnála nuair a bheidh an Straitéis féin ceadaithe ag an Rialtas. Tuigfidh an Teachta, mar sin, go bhfuil sé ró-luath cinneadh den chineál a luann sé a dhéanamh.

Feidhmeannaigh Teanga.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

169 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén fáth nach gcuireann an Roinn dlús leis an scéim faoina raibh an Roinn ag cur maoiniú ar fáil chun feidhmeannaigh teanga a fhostú sna pobail Ghaeltachta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [34280/08]

Cuireadh tús le scéim phíolóteach pleanála teanga sa Ghaeltacht i 2004 nuair a cheadaigh mo Roinnse deontais do roinnt eagraíochtaí pobal-bhunaithe chun a chumasú dóibh tabhairt faoi phleanáil teanga ina gceantair feidhme. Deontais gur fiú beagnach €2m ar fad atá ceadaithe d'fhonn pleananna teanga a ullmhú agus a chur i bhfeidhm ar mhaithe leis an Ghaeilge a threisiú mar theanga teaghlaigh agus pobail. Tá na pleananna á gcur i bhfeidhm faoi láthair agus tá os cionn 50% den airgead íoctha ag mo Roinnse go dáta. Déanfar aon chinneadh maidir le leanúint leis an mbeartas seo i gcomhthéacs na Tuarascála ón Staidéar Teangeolaíochta ar Úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus obair an Choiste Rialtais atá ag déanamh anailíse ar an Tuarascáil sin faoi láthair.

Question No. 170 answered with Question No 168.

An Teanga Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

171 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an mbeadh sé sásta cothrom na hinfheistíochta a chur ar fáil don Ghaeilge chun lárionad cultúrtha na Gaeilge a thógáil sa phríomhchathair mar chuid de Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge de chuid an Rialtais; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [34282/08]

I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom a mhiniú don Teachta go bhfuil teagmháil rialta idir Conradh na Gaeilge agus mo Roinn-se maidir le lárionad Gaeilge nua a thógáil i gcathair Bhaile Átha Cliath agus go háirithe maidir leis na féidearthachtaí a d'fhéadfadh a bheith ann chun tacú le lár-ionad sóisialta Gaeilge dá leithéid. Sa chomhthéacs sin, tuigim go bhfuil ceannáras Chonradh na Gaeilge ar Shráid Fhearchair ar an margadh le díol faoi láthair mar nach bhfuil an suíomh agus an foirgneamh reatha oiriúnach do riachtanais an lae inniu, cé go bhfuil luach ann a d'fhéadfadh cur go mór le hinmharthanacht an togra chun lár-ionad sóisialta Gaeilge a bhunú.

Maidir leis an Straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge, is "léarscáil bóthair" don treo ceart le dul ar aghaidh a bheidh ansin, agus ní plean sonrach gníomhaíochta. Is amhlaidh, áfach, go mbeidh na réimsí saol éagsúla — na meáin chumarsáide, stádas na Gaeilge, an Ghaeilge sa phobal agus sa chóras oideachais, fáil ar sheirbhísí poiblí i nGaeilge agus mar sin de — clúdaithe ann agus go mbeidh gá gach réimse ar leith acu sin a fhorbairt i bpleananna earnála nuair a bheidh an Straitéis féin ceadaithe ag an Rialtas.

Question No. 172 answered with Question No. 168.

Conradh na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

173 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an gcuirfidh sé tacaíocht agus maoiniú ar fáil le gur féidir le Conradh na Gaeilge an feachtas GLAC LEIS, le daoine óga ach go háirithe a spreagadh agus a chumasú chun leas a bhaint as na seirbhísí Gaeilge, á n-ofráil ag an earnáil phoiblí a bhuíochas le hAcht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003, a fhorbairt agus a leathnú i bhfianaise na tuairisce a thug 81% de na rannpháirtithe i gceardlanna eolais an Chonartha sna coláistí samhraidh i mí Iúil 2008 le fios go lorgóidís seirbhís trí Ghaeilge uaireanta, go minic, an-mhinic nó i gcónaí amach anseo tar éis dóibh páirt a ghlacadh i gceardlanna GLAC LEIS an Chonartha (sonraí tugtha); agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [34284/08]

Bheinn-se go hiomlán i bhfabhar daoine a spreagadh chun leas a bhaint as na seirbhísí Gaeilge atá á chur ar fáil anois mar thoradh ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla agus aithním gur gnó lárnach do na heagrachtaí agus na greasáin Gaeilge é seo a dhéanamh. Táim go láidir den tuairim, áfach, gur chóir áit tosaíochta a thabhairt don chúram seo taobh istigh de na hacmhainní atá ag an earnáil Ghaeilge cheana féin.

Mar shampla den chineál tionscnaimh atá ar siúl ina leith sin cheana féin, luaim an scéim GLEO (Gaeilge Labhartha in Earnáil an Oideachais), atá á reáchtáil ag Foras na Gaeilge. Faoin scéim sin, iarrtar ar na scoileanna atá páirteach inti seirbhísí i nGaeilge a lorg agus, sa chomhthéacs sin, tuismitheoirí na bpáistí a ghríosadh chun an rud céanna a dhéanamh.

Ag cur san áireamh go bhfuil breis agus 200 craobh ag Conradh na Gaeilge fein, agus go bhfuil líon mór coistí ag feidhmiú faoi Ghlór na nGael, Gaelscoileanna, Cumann na bhFiann, Comhluadar agus na Scéimeanna Pobail atá maoinithe ag Foras na Gaeilge, feictear domsa go bhfuil bonn láidir ag an earnáil Gaeilge cheana féin chun tabhairt faoina leithéid d'fheachtas d'fhonn tuilleadh feasachta agus úsáide a bhaint amach i gcomhtéacs Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

Is fiú a lua chomh maith go bhfuil Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga ann chun comhairle a chur ar an bpobal maidir le hAcht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, mar aon leis na seirbhísí agus na cearta atá ag an bpobal ó thaobh na Gaeilge de.

Community Development.

Michael McGrath

Question:

174 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on increasing the number of representatives from the national social partners on the board of an urban partnership company (details supplied) from two to four. [34361/08]

The Government Decision in relation to the establishment of integrated local development companies provides for the appointment of two representatives from the national social partners to the boards of urban partnership companies such as the one described by the Deputy.

As I have previously indicated, I am willing to consider this matter when all integrated companies and urban partnerships have achieved full compliance with the Government's requirements as set out in Guidelines issued in October 2007.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

175 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated average cost to the Exchequer of each 1,000 extra entrants on the live register. [34300/08]

The estimated annual cost of Jobseeker's Allowance and Jobseeker's Benefit of each 1,000 extra entrants onto the Live Register is around €11.5 million in a full year.

Child Support.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

176 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the average length of time for an application for child benefit to be processed; the reason families must wait so long; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34277/08]

There is no delay in processing the majority of Child Benefit applications. Awards on behalf of Irish-born children are processed either automatically or in a partially automated way using the child's birth details when they are registered with the General Registrar's Office. Parents are contacted by the Child Benefit office within two days of the registration of their child's birth. The Early Childcare Supplement is paid automatically when Child Benefit is awarded.

Currently there are delays in processing Child Benefit for children born outside Ireland who have come to live in Ireland with their parents or who reside in another EU member state but have an entitlement to Irish Child Benefit under EU regulations.

In the case of non Irish born children resident in Ireland, the process is slow as the customer must satisfy the Habitual Residency condition test and this may entail contacting employers, Department of Justice and other relevant bodies to confirm their status in the state. The residency of the children in Ireland must also be confirmed. This additional complexity, combined with an increase in the volume of applications received in recent years, has led to arrears of claims to be processed. Additional staff resources have been assigned to this area and it is envisaged that all arrears on hand will be cleared during the first half of 2009.

EU nationals who come to work in Ireland but whose families remain in their home country may have an entitlement to Family Benefits in Ireland under EU Regulation 1408/71. Before payment of Child Benefit is made for non-resident children, it is necessary to contact the authorities in the country of residence of the children to confirm details and establish what, if any, family benefits are payable in the home country as this will determine entitlement to Irish payments. This process can take a number of months to complete in normal circumstances.

The number of claims received from EU nationals for non-resident children is down approximately 50% on the same period last year. Applications currently being received are being processed within normal timeframes. The arrears of claims on hand are being processed by additional temporary staff recruited for this purpose and it is anticipated that these applications will all be finalised by mid 2009.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

177 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has reviewed the rent levels for single persons in the Dublin city area to confirm that there are sufficient properties available within the €130 per week rent ceiling. [34285/08]

Rent supplement is administered on behalf of the Department by the Health Service Executive (HSE), as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

Rent supplement is subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant may incur. Rent limits are set at levels that enable the different eligible household types to secure and retain basic suitable rented accommodation, having regard to the different rental market conditions that prevail in various parts of the State. The objective is to ensure that rent supplement is not paid in respect of overly expensive accommodation having regard to the size of the household.

Setting maximum rent limits higher than are justified by the open market would have a distorting effect on the rental market, leading to a more general rise in rent levels. This in turn would worsen the affordability of rental accommodation unnecessarily, with particular negative impact for those tenants on lower incomes.

A review of rent limits was undertaken earlier this year. The review was informed by analysis of data sourced from the Private Residential Tenancies Board, the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the Community Welfare Service and by the views of statutory and voluntary agencies working in this area.

Data provided by the CSO indicates that the increase in private rent levels began to decelerate at the beginning of 2008 and rent levels declined by almost 5% by August of this year. This deceleration in rent levels is also reflected in the Daft.ie rental reports where a decrease of over 5% was reported in the first half of 2008 and this included Dublin city. It is also reported that the supply of available rental accommodation has more than doubled in the last year.

Given the current downward trend in private rent levels and the fact that the overall housing market is currently in a period of adjustment, increasing rent limits in the rent supplement scheme would send an inappropriate signal to the market where a third or so of private sector tenants receive rent supplement. There is currently no hard evidence that the prescribed upper limits on rent levels supported under the rent supplement scheme are having a detrimental impact on the ability of eligible tenants generally to secure suitable rented accommodation to meet their needs.

Rent levels will continue to be monitored particularly for households that may find it difficult to secure or retain accommodation within the limits in certain areas. The position will be reviewed in January 2009 at which stage the results of the latest Private Rented Index report published by the CSO will be analysed for impact on rent limits.

The Health Service Executive has flexibility to award rent supplement above or below rent limits, having regard to local rent levels or to meet the particular needs of an individual. These discretionary powers ensure that individuals with particular needs can be accommodated within the scheme and specifically protects against homelessness.

Jack Wall

Question:

178 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive financial assistance in relation to rent payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34288/08]

Rent supplement is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE), as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

The Executive has advised that the person concerned applied for rent supplement in respect of his current address on 3 October 2008. His application has been approved and payment will issue as soon as possible. He has also been given assistance towards a rent deposit for this accommodation.

He also applied for rent supplement on 7 May 2008 in respect of his previous address. However, he did not furnish supporting documentation, as requested by the Community Welfare Officer (CWO) and his application cannot be processed. He should contact that CWO who will again clarify the requirements in respect of this application.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a non-contributory old age pension will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34298/08]

An application for State Pension (Non Contributory) was received from the person concerned in the Department on 23 September 2008. The application was forwarded to the local Social Welfare Inspector for investigation on 1 October 2008. The inspector will be in contact with the customer in the near future to arrange an interview. On receipt of the inspector's report a decision will be made and the customer will be notified of the outcome.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

180 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost to the Exchequer of doubling the rate of the living alone allowance. [34363/08]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

181 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost to the Exchequer of raising the rate of fuel allowance by €12 per week. [34364/08]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

182 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost to the Exchequer of raising the qualified child allowances by €4. [34365/08]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

183 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost to the Exchequer of raising welfare rates by 2.5%, 5%, 7.5% and 10% respectively. [34366/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 to 183, inclusive, together.

The information sought by the Deputy is contained in the following table.

Measure

Estimated Cost €m (in a full year)

Double the rate of the living alone allowance

67.8

Increase the rate of fuel allowance by €12 per week

108

Increase the rate of the qualified child increase by €4 per week

75.4

Increase all weekly personal and qualified adult rates of payment by:

2.5%

330.8

5%

661.6

7.5%

992.5

10%

1,323.3

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the further assistance that will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34383/08]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes mortgage interest supplement, is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. A mortgage interest supplement provides short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence.

Mortgage interest supplement is normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of mortgage interest, has an income equal to the rate of SWA appropriate to their family circumstances less a minimum contribution, currently €13, which recipients are required to pay from their own resources. Many recipients pay more than €13 because recipients are also required, subject to income disregards, to contribute any additional assessable means thatthey have over and above the appropriate basic SWA rate towards their accommodationcosts.

The first €75 of additional income, that is, income above the standard rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to a person's circumstances, is disregarded for mortgage interest supplement purposes, with any additional income above €75 assessed at 75%. This measure ensures that people have a financial incentive to take up education or training opportunities or return to employment.

The Executive has advised that the person concerned had been awarded a mortgage interest supplement of €466.20 per month from 1 August 2008. She has since been awarded family income supplement of €150 per week from 1 October 2008. When this additional income is taken into account the revised rate of mortgage interest supplement payable is €194.07 per month from 1 October 2008.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will award the necessary credit contributions for qualification for contributory old age pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34384/08]

According to the records of the Department, the person concerned will not reach 66 until 29 January 2012. He has been provided with a copy of his contribution record together with an information guide on State Pension (Contributory).

In general credited contributions are awarded on foot of periods of illness, unemployment and caring which are reckonable for pension entitlement. If the Deputy supplies information relating to any period for which credited contribution should be awarded, the matter will be further investigated.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when child benefit will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34388/08]

In order to qualify for a range of Social Welfare payments, including Child Benefit, applicants are required to satisfy the Habitual Residence condition (HRC), which was introduced on 1 May 2004.

The HRC requires the applicant to satisfy the deciding officer that they meet certain conditions, including that their centre of interest is in Ireland and that their future intentions, as demonstrated, are to remain in Ireland. The legal right to undertake employment and be self supporting are considered by the deciding officer when the person's centre of interest and future intentions are being examined.

In order for Romanian nationals to work in Ireland, they are required to have a work permit; neither the person referred to nor her partner appear to have such a permit. Both appear to have been in Ireland prior to Romania's accession to the EU in January 2007 but did not register with the Dept of Justice or have work permits for this period.

The Child Benefit application was refused on 14 September 2007 as the Deciding Officer, having considered all the circumstances, did not consider that the person concerned satisfied the HR condition as her centre of interest and future intentions have not been clearly established due to her inability to work legally in Ireland, or alternatively to support herself independently. The person concerned was notified of the decision in writing on 14 September 2007 and given the right of appeal.

A further Child Benefit application was received from the person concerned on 5 August 2008, and this has also been refused as the Deciding Officer does not consider that she satisfies the Habitual Residence Condition. The person concerned was notified of the decision in writing on 7 October 2008 and of her right of appeal.

Official Engagements.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

187 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the meetings he has held or the events he has attended with groups or agencies working for the homeless since coming to office; the number of invitations to such events received by his office in that period; the number of occasions on which he has been represented by a Junior Minister from his Department at such events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34250/08]

While it is not possible to compile definitive details of all invitations received and events attended in connection with homeless matters, I as the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Minister of State at my Department with delegated responsibility for housing matters, and officials of my Department engage with a wide range of interests in the homeless sector. These engagements arise in many different capacities, including through Ministerial attendance at formal events and meetings, and through my Department's role chairing the National Homeless Consultative Committee. These interactions provide a comprehensive platform of engagement between my Department, both at Ministerial and official level, and the interests concerned.

Turbary Rights.

Enda Kenny

Question:

188 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of bog cutting for personal use at special areas of conservation on blanket bogs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34274/08]

At the present time, turf cutting for personal domestic use may continue on blanket bogs Special Areas of Conservation and Natural Heritage Areas, although the use of "sausage" cutting machines is not permitted. However, the conservation status of these designated peatlands is being kept under review.

Housing Grants.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

189 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied with the time it is taking to approve the home improvement grant for the over 60’s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34345/08]

Leo Varadkar

Question:

190 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will publish the criteria for the home improvement grant for the over 60’s on the internet or in the national newspapers in order that people can determine if they qualify for the grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34346/08]

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

The revised suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability introduced in November 2007 provide a more targeted and integrated response to the housing needs of older people and people with a disability. To announce the launch of the revised suite of grant schemes, my Department placed notices in the national press and on the Department's website, while the local authorities notified the public of the launch of the schemes at local level.

Information on each of the grant schemes, including a brief explanation of the types of works allowable and the applicable means-tests, can still be obtained at my Department's website, www.environ.ie, or from local authority offices.

Local authorities prioritise applications under the Housing Aid for Older People (HAOP) scheme on the basis of the medical needs of the applicant and on the urgency and necessity of the identified works. Special consideration is given to applicants in hospital who require works to be completed in order to facilitate the continuance of their care in their own home, or to facilitate their direct return home. The administration of the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, 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.

The high level of publicity surrounding the revised grant schemes since their launch has led to an increased level of activity being experienced by local authorities this year. In response to the particularly high levels of activity under the revised schemes experienced in 2008 by certain local authorities, my Department recently made supplementary Exchequer allocations totalling €3.6 million towards the operation of these schemes this year. The issue of a further round of supplementary allocations to other local authorities will be considered in the event of further funding becoming available. My Department has re-emphasised to local authorities the importance of prioritisation in assessing grant applications given the level of demand being experienced nationally.

Wildlife Conservation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

191 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of deer that have been culled from 1 October 2007 to 1 October 2008 in County Wicklow and the remainder of this State; the way this is organised; the action taken in relation to the deer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34437/08]

My responsibilities under the Wildlife Acts relate to the conservation of populations of certain protected species including all deer species.

Deer may only be hunted under licence. The open season for most deer species, including Red, Fallow and Sika, operates annually from 1 September to 28 February, depending on the gender and age of deer. However there is a 12-month open season for Muntjac Deer.

Applications for licences to shoot deer under Section 29(1) of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended, are considered by my Department from 1 August for the following open season. Information on the numbers of deer killed in the previous season is gathered at this stage. It is estimated that 23,699 deer were killed in the State in the 2007/2008 season, of which 10,282 deer were killed in County Wicklow.

Telecommunications Services.

Michael Creed

Question:

192 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when contracts will be signed under the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34272/08]

My Department has reached the evaluation stage of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) procurement process. The closing date for receipt of tenders was 6 October 2008 and two bids were received from Eircom Ltd and Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd. The evaluation of the bids is scheduled for completion on 31 October 2008 and the contract is expected to be signed next month. Subject to agreement with the chosen service provider, rollout of services is expected to begin shortly thereafter.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Creed

Question:

193 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the expenditure by his Department in 2008 on public relations; the individual companies involved; the amount paid to each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34254/08]

My Department has not employed external public relations companies in 2008. Public relations advice, where required is provided by my Department's Corporate Affairs Division.

World Trade Negotiations.

Michael Creed

Question:

194 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the situation regarding the World Trade Organisation talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34255/08]

The WTO Ministerial meeting convened in July last in Geneva ended without agreement on agriculture and NAMA modalities despite emerging convergence on a range of headline numbers and detailed technical issues. The sticking point was irreconcilable differences between US, India and China on the extent of remedies that developing countries would be allowed to apply to counter import surges in agricultural products that might arise following the import tariff cuts proposed. However, a range of other issues had not at that stage been addressed and no formal agreement had been reached in agriculture on the points under discussion.

In closing the Ministerial conference, DG Lamy and other participants spoke of the need to preserve the progress achieved, notwithstanding the failure to agree on all matters. However the process for moving the negotiations forward from this point is far from clear. Discussions are continuing at official level with meetings among the so-called G7 group of countries (EU, US, Brazil, India, Japan, Australia and China). However, the constraints of the forthcoming US and Indian elections and the appointment of a new Commission are expected to delay serious political decision-making for the foreseeable future. While it cannot be ruled out that attempts will be made to bank the convergence already achieved, the negotiations are conducted according to the premise that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

As one of the most open economies in the world, Ireland wanted a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced trade deal. This remains the case. We were strongly committed to supporting trade in the least developed countries and have already given them duty and quota free access to EU markets under the "everything but arms" measure. This also remains the case.

In the negotiations we firmly defended our agriculture interests and also sought the best advantage for our industry and services; the other 150+ countries equally had their ambitions.

I and my colleagues in Government, up to and including the Taoiseach, took every opportunity to outline Ireland's dissatisfaction at the direction of the negotiations and the serious difficulties that could emerge for Irish agriculture from some of the proposals on the table. We used our position in the negotiations to influence matters and to mitigate the more damaging aspects of the proposals.

The fact that no deal was agreed on this occasion does not cause any immediate disruption in the international trading environment. It simply means that we continue with the current international WTO arrangements. In that respect, we must continue to focus strongly on ensuring that we produce high quality and innovative food products for our valuable export markets in the EU and in other parts of the world. Competitiveness, quality and innovation will continue to be the key elements in our agri-food export success, irrespective of any changes in the regulatory trading environment.

Fishing Industry Development.

Michael Creed

Question:

195 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the outcome of the recent Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting; the discussions held regarding the operation and review of the Common Fisheries Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34256/08]

I attended the recent Agriculture and Fisheries Council of Ministers Meeting in Brussels on the 29 September 2008. The main item of interest to Ireland at this Council Meeting was a discussion on a proposal for cod recovery in Community waters. This proposal is one of key importance to Ireland and would involve the introduction of a strict days at sea limitations for fishing vessels operating off the south and west coast of Ireland. I strongly argued that restrictive days at sea were not necessary for the Celtic Sea south and west coast fisheries. I stressed that alternative measures such as closed areas to protect spawning stock could be just as effective. This matter is critical for the Irish whitefish fleet generally and I will be working closely with the Federation of Irish Fishermen over the coming weeks to develop the best possible solution for our fishing industry in the context of the tough measures being proposed by the EU Commission.

An informal discussion to mark the start of the debate on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy was held with Fisheries Ministers on the margins of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. The Common Fisheries Policy was formally established in 1983, and has since then been subject to revision every ten years. The latest Reform was agreed in 2002, and is up for review in 2012 at the latest.

Our aim is for a Common Fisheries Policy which results in a strong, sustainable and profitable seafood industry and, most importantly, which provides economic activity for our coastal communities, as set down for Ireland in the Cawley Strategy — Steering A New Course.

I am concerned that there is some pressure at this early stage in the debate for a change in the policy that would promote an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) regime at European level. l will not support such a policy which promotes the concentration of activity and benefits in the hands of a small number of large companies. Our aim is for a policy which maximises the development of all our coastal communities and for this reason it is vital that quotas and their management are retained under national competence and not moved to a market based mechanism.

This debate on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is at a very early stage. The Commission will bring forward a Green Paper for discussion next year.

I will continue to work closely with the FIF (Federation of Irish Fishermen) to progress all matters of importance to the Irish fishing industry and have our national priorities taken on board as far as possible in the discussion on the Reform of the CFP following the publication of the Green Paper.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

196 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will arrange a meeting between officials from his Department and a group (details supplied) in County Louth to discuss their concerns. [34261/08]

I am happy to arrange a meeting as requested which can be organised through the Fisheries Offices in Clonakilty (023 59500).

Departmental Agencies.

John O'Mahony

Question:

197 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he or his Department had discussions recently with the board of Teagasc in terms of the budget to be allocated to Teagasc in order to continue providing services to farmers in 2009; the financial allocation made to Teagasc in the years 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34262/08]

There is routine ongoing contact between my Department and Teagasc in relation to its annual financial allocation. In that context the Department informed Teagasc in July of a revision to its 2008 allocation in view of the Government Decision on required savings in Government Departments and State Agencies.

The financial allocations made to Teagasc by my Department for capital and non-capital purposes in the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 are as follows:

Year

Total € m

2006

134.028

2007

140.450

2008

141.964

The financial allocation to be made to Teagasc for 2009 will be announced in the Budget.

Grant Payments.

Willie Penrose

Question:

198 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a payment to a farmer (details supplied) in County Westmeath under the farm waste management grant scheme has not been awarded; if he will take steps to have same awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34268/08]

The claim for payment lodged by the person named is being processed by my Department. I would expect that payment will be made in the near future provided that the claim is in compliance with the terms and conditions of the Scheme.

Decentralisation Programme.

Michael Creed

Question:

199 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the operation to date of the decentralisation programme for both Department staff and agencies operating under the aegis of his Department; if he will quantify the number of staff who have relocated directly from his Department or agencies to regional locations; the savings in financial terms in respect of office accommodation previously required which is no longer occupied, due to the numbers of staff decentralised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34291/08]

The Government decision on the decentralisation of my Department is that some 600 headquarters staff will move to Portlaoise, the local offices in Cork city will move to Fermoy, involving some 100 staff; and the laboratories in Cork and Limerick will move to Macroom, involving up to 100 staff. The move of the Fisheries function of my Department to Clonakilty, involving over 80 staff, is now substantially complete. The decision regarding state agencies is that Bord Bia will move to Enniscorthy and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) will move to Clonakilty.

My Department's original Decentralisation Implementation Plan allowed for a phased movement to Portlaoise. The 2005, 2006 and 2007 advance phases of decentralisation to Portlaoise were completed on schedule. There has been an increase of some 300 full-time posts to bring the total number in Portlaoise to almost 500 since the programme began. To date, the Department has met its targets as set out in its original plan. The initial estimate for completion of the plan was 2008, to coincide with the availability of the permanent accommodation. The Office of Public Works (OPW) announced last December that a consortium, the Macquarie Partnership, has won the tender for the project to build the permanent offices in Portlaoise (as part of a public private partnership including offices in Mullingar and Carlow) and planning permission for the new building has now been granted. A revision to the Department's Decentralisation Implementation Plan is now being considered, to reflect the changes to the timetable and the progress so far, as well as the evolving operating environment. An additional advance phase has been agreed and planning and preparations for this phase are currently underway.

Separate implementation plans for Fermoy and Macroom are in place. The plans allow for a phasing of the recruitment of staff but no physical move until the permanent accommodation is in place. Bord Bia and BIM also have separate implementation plans; no advance moves have taken place.

In total there has been an increase of 297 full-time posts in Portlaoise and 84 in Clonakilty since the programme was announced. Of the 297 who transferred to Portlaoise, 204 were relocated from Dublin; of the 84 who transferred to Clonakilty, 35 were relocated from Dublin.

The acquisition of property is primarily a matter for OPW and they have supplied the following details of the site acquisition at the Department's four locations.

Location

Site Area

Status

Portlaoise

9.13 acres

Purchase completed in 2007

Clonakilty

3.1 acres

Purchase completed in 2005

Macroom

Site of 5 acres identified. Planning issue on appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Purchase agreed in principle subject to contract, outcome of planning appeal and Government approval

Fermoy

4.1 acres (at Teagasc, Moorepark)

Purchase agreed in principle subject to contract and Government approval.

The Clonakilty offices, which are also due to accommodate BIM, are due to be completed in Quarter 1 2009. The OPW have also identified a site in Enniscorthy for Bord Bia.

Since the commencement of the programme, my Department has vacated accommodation in Hume House, Dublin 4, the annual rent for which was €660,000. Parts of Agriculture House have also been vacated and my Department is liaising with OPW in this regard. The accommodation vacated by Fisheries was in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

All of the foregoing, however, needs to be considered against the background of the Government decision on 8 July last that no further expenditure on the acquisition of accommodation for decentralisation should be sanctioned pending detailed consideration by the Government of two reports: one from the Decentralisation Implementation Group on the feasibility of phased moves by the State Agencies; and one from the Implementation Group of Secretaries General on the governmental and cross-Departmental issues arising from the need to provide facilities for Minister, Ministers of State and officials while in Dublin on business.

Grant Payments.

Frank Feighan

Question:

200 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position in the case of a person (details supplied) regarding the sale of forestry. [34351/08]

The payment in question refers to an Afforestation grant for the establishment of a new forest by the individual in question, rather than the sale of forestry. I understand that there were a number of issues with this application. These have now been resolved and both grant and premium have been paid.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

201 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an oral hearing in respect of a REP scheme appeal. [34358/08]

This appeal was received at the Agriculture Appeals Office and was assigned to an Appeals Officer. On examination of the case, it was found necessary to obtain further information from Mayo County Council. On receipt of this new information, the file was forwarded to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to review the case. The necessity of holding an oral hearing will depend on the outcome of this review. When the file is returned to the Appeals Officer, the case will be concluded without undue delay.

Farm Waste Management.

Frank Feighan

Question:

202 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment will issue to farmer (details supplied) under the waste management scheme. [34360/08]

The claim for payment lodged by the person named is being processed by my Department. I would expect that payment will be made in the near future provided that the claim is in compliance with the terms and conditions of the Scheme.

School Transport.

Phil Hogan

Question:

203 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction concessionary school transport tickets for persons (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34249/08]

Under the terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme, a pupil is eligible for transport if s/he resides 4.8 kilometres or more from her/his local post primary education centre.

The scheme is not designed to facilitate parents who choose to send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside. However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside, may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their own catchment area — otherwise known as catchment boundary transport. These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to their local post-primary centre have been catered for. Such children have to make their own way to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area.

The Transport Liaison Officer for Co. Carlow and Bus Éireann have advised that the transport service in question is operating to capacity. The family referred to by the Deputy, in the details supplied, should continue to liaise with Bus Éireann regarding the availability of spare seats on the bus.

Departmental Expenditure.

Brian Hayes

Question:

204 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the expenditure by his Department on various design teams since the year 2000 on school building projects which have not, to date, gone for construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34257/08]

Design team fees are paid following the completion of stages as a project works it's way through architectural planning. Given the number of projects involved and the time it takes for each project to progress through the stages of architectural planning incurring fee payments at each stage along the way, the information sought by the Deputy is not readily available and would require an inordinate amount of staff time to assemble.

In general, more than 50% of design team fees on any single project are drawn down in stages before the project actually goes to construction stage. There are currently over 360 major projects progressing through the various stages of architectural planning. Most of these will have incurred fees to design teams in the normal course of that progression but most will not yet have gone on site.

School Transport.

Phil Hogan

Question:

205 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction concessionary bus tickets for persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34259/08]

Under the terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme, a pupil is eligible for transport if she/he resides 4.8 kilometres or more from her/his local post primary education centre.

The scheme is not designed to facilitate parents who choose to send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside. However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside, may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their own catchment area — otherwise known as catchment boundary transport.

These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to their local post-primary centre have been catered for. Such children have to make their own way to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area.

The Transport Liaison Officer for Co. Kilkenny and Bus Éireann have advised that the transport service in question is operating to capacity. The families referred to by the Deputy, in the details supplied, should continue to liaise with Bus Éireann regarding the availability of spare seats on the bus.

Schools Recognition.

Joan Burton

Question:

206 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to publish the review of procedures for recognising primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34270/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have recently announced a review of the procedures for the establishment of new primary schools under the Commission on School Accommodation.

I intend to establish a Technical Working Group under the Commission to undertake a full review of the criteria and procedures for the recognition of new primary schools. This working group will begin work in the coming weeks and it is expected that the review of procedures for recognising primary schools will be completed and revised arrangements in place within a two year timeframe.

Joan Burton

Question:

207 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason he refused an application by the founding committee of a school (details supplied) for the use of buildings located in Blanchardstown Hospital as temporary accommodation from September 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34271/08]

The Department was made aware of proposals to establish a new Gaelscoil to serve Tyrrellstown/Hollystown in August 2008. A formal ‘Notification of Intent' to establish this new school was received from the proposed Patron, An Foras Patrunachta in September 2008.

However, as the Deputy will be aware, I announced a review of the procedures for recognising primary schools on 14 September last. In the interim period, it is not planned to recognise any new primary schools except in areas where increases in pupil numbers that cannot be catered for in existing schools require the provision of new schools. This means that new schools will not be established for reasons not related to demographic growth in areas where there is already sufficient school accommodation or where the increases can be catered for by extending the existing school accommodation.

The application to establish a new Gaelscoil to serve Tyrellstown/Hollystown will be considered in this context. If the school receives provisional recognition the provision of suitable temporary accommodation is a matter for the Patron/Board of Management. In that context and on the basis that the school has not yet received recognition, the founding Committee's application for direct provision of accommodation by the Department was refused.

Third Level Grants.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

208 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34296/08]

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant assessing authority — i.e. the local authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is required.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to the relevant local authority or VEC.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the relevant local authority or VEC, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in his/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to my Department.

Alternatively, as already indicated, the local authority or VEC may, itself, in exceptional circumstances, seek clarification on issues from my Department.

The Special Rate of Maintenance Grant referred to by the Deputy is available to students in receipt of the ordinary maintenance grant under each of my Department's four maintenance grant schemes. In order to qualify for the special rate of maintenance grant a candidate must meet a number of conditions, including the following:

1. An applicant must qualify for the ordinary maintenance grant.

2. Total reckonable income in the relevant tax year must not exceed the lower income limits as set out in the relevant Maintenance Grant Schemes and, where applicable, net of Child Dependent Increase payments paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

3. As at the prescribed date — i.e. 31 December each year — the source of income must include one of the eligible long-term Social Welfare payments.

The prescribed income limit for the special rate of maintenance grant for the academic year 2007/2008 is €20,147.

It is not proposed to depart from the existing arrangements for the determination of the eligibility threshold.

Schools Refurbishment.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

209 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has received an EWS application from a community school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will approve the application without further delay in view of the works which are needed to this school. [34297/08]

My Department has received an application for emergency funding from the school in question and additional information in relation to this application has recently been received. This information is currently under consideration by officials in my Department.

The Management Authority of the school in question will be informed of the outcome in due course.

Schools Building Projects.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

210 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary school building projects which have been banded 1.1 by his Department for priority in the new school building programme announced on a multi-annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34307/08]

All applications for capital funding are assessed against published prioritisation criteria to determine the extent and type of need presenting based on the demographics of an area, proposed housing developments, condition of buildings, site capacity etc. leading ultimately to an appropriate accommodation solution. Projects are then selected for inclusion in the School Building and Modernisation Programme on the basis of priority of need. This is reflected in the band rating assigned to a project.

Currently, there are 105 projects in architectural planning which have a band rating of 1.1.

Funding Applications.

Frank Feighan

Question:

211 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in the case of a school (details supplied) in County Leitrim which has applied for dormant account funding. [34338/08]

There is no record of an application for dormant accounts funding by the school referred to by the Deputy having been received in my Department.

Departmental Programmes.

David Stanton

Question:

212 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if the small schools initiative and permanent accommodation initiative are still in operation; if he will provide details of these initiatives including the expenditure under each initiative since their introduction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34357/08]

The two Devolved Schemes, the Small Schools Scheme and the Permanent Accommodation Scheme, were originally introduced on a pilot basis for 38 schools in 2003. Due to the positive feedback from schools, they were extended to cover 699 more schools between the years of 2004 and 2007. The purpose of these devolved schemes are to devolve funding to individual school authorities to undertake refurbishment of existing buildings and/or smaller extensions which will address the school's long term accommodation needs.

Under the terms of the Schemes, school authorities are empowered to manage these works with detailed guidance from, and minimal interaction with, the Department. Devolving funding to school management authorities allows them to have control of their projects, assists in moving projects more quickly to tender and construction and can also deliver better value for money. Nevertheless, schools are required to meet all design, consultancy and procurement procedures as laid out in my Departments guidelines.

The two schemes are still in operation with total expenditure under both schemes reaching €220 m to date.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael McGrath

Question:

213 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science when his Department will provide a new school building for a primary school (details supplied) in County Cork which has a band rating of 1.1 and is designated as a developing area by his Department’s developing areas unit. [34412/08]

The school to which the Deputy refers to has an application for a new school on a new site with the Department. A suitable site has been identified for the school in question. The site comprises three plots of land with three separate vendors. Officials from my Department are in contact with key stakeholders with a view to exploring the options open to advancing the proposed acquisition.

The progression of this project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally. In light of the many competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the acquisition of the site at this time followed by progression of the project.

In the meantime temporary accommodation for the school has been approved by my Department as an interim measure to facilitate increased enrolments for Sept 2008.

School Accommodation.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

214 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are 31 places available to children to commence their schooling at a school (details supplied) in 2009 and that there are 19 other children from the locality who have been denied a place at the school; his plans to ensure that these children can attend the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34416/08]

The school to which the Deputy refers to has an application for a new school on a new site with the Department. A suitable site has been identified for the school in question. The site comprises three plots of land with three separate vendors. Officials from my Department are in contact with key stakeholders with a view to exploring the options open to advancing the proposed acquisition.

The progression of this project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally. In light of the many competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the acquisition of the site at this time followed by progression of the project .

It is open to the Board of Management to apply for additional temporary accommodation for September 2009 to accommodate any increase in numbers, should they arise.