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 6, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 7 to 70, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 71 to 80, inclusive, answered orally.

Public Private Partnerships.

John Deasy

Question:

81 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of public private partnership projects underway which are under the remit of his Department; the number that are at the planning stage; the impact the economic recession and the credit crunch is expected to have on the viability of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41263/08]

There are currently three public-private partnerships (PPPs) in train under the aegis of the Department, one of which is underway and the other two at various pre-contract stages. These projects are the redevelopment of the National Theatre, the redevelopment of the National Concert Hall and the development of a National Conference Centre.

National Theatre

The Government decided, in 2006, to proceed with the redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre by way of a ‘build, finance and maintain' PPP on a site at George's Dock.

The project is being progressed. In particular, Government approval has been secured to hold an international design competition for the new theatre, the specifications of which are being finalised by the Office of Public Works.

National Concert Hall

The Government also decided, in 2006, to redevelop the National Concert Hall by way of a ‘design, build, finance and maintain' PPP, to incorporate a main auditorium with a seating capacity for more than 2,000 patrons. The existing auditorium will be retained as a rehearsal hall and as a mid-scale public performance space, and there will be a third, smaller, flexible hall. It is also envisaged that the Earlsfort Terrace buildings will be re-united with the Iveagh Gardens, facilitating increased public access.

Following a process of competitive dialogue that commenced in September of this year, the short-listed consortia will be invited to submit tenders in July 2009. I remain committed to this redevelopment.

National Conference Centre

In respect of the National Conference Centre, under the PPP agreement already in place, Spencer Dock Convention Centre Dublin Ltd. is required to ‘design, build and finance' the Centre and to operate and maintain it for a period of 25 years, after which the facility will revert to the State. In return, once the construction of the Centre is complete and open for business, the State will pay the Company an annual charge, the maximum total cost of which over the 25 years will be just under €380 million in present-day values.

The development of a National Conference Centre will deliver significant numbers of international conference visitors to Ireland and will generate substantial foreign revenue earnings. It is, therefore, all the more important that this project proceed apace. I am pleased to report that the Centre remains on schedule to open on 1 September 2010.

In conclusion, I want to emphasise my commitment to these projects and I am satisfied that the current challenging national and international economic climate will have limited impact upon the PPP projects currently in train. In part, this is due to the beneficial nature of the PPP process itself, which spreads capital costs for the State over a longer period of time and involves the sharing of risk with the private sector.

Sports Facility Strategy.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

82 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the status of the promised sports facility strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41294/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

115 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he expects the National Audit of Sports Facilities to be completed; if he will publish this document as soon as it is completed; if he will undertake to act on this document for the purposes of developing a cogent national sports policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41127/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 115 together.

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

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

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department funding is allocated towards the provision of sports facilities at national, regional and local level. It is the primary vehicle for promoting the development of sports and recreational facilities in Ireland. Through the Sports Capital Programme the Government has allocated over €725 million in over 7,400 separate sports projects since 1998. The Programme has transformed the sporting landscape of Ireland with improved facilities in virtually every village, town and city. The facilities funded range from new equipment for the smallest clubs to regional multi-sport centres and national centres of sporting excellence.

The National Sports Facilities Strategy will address future sports facility funding and provision. When the strategy has been completed it will be published as will phase one of the audit of sports facilities.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Willie Penrose

Question:

83 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he envisages that the next phase of the local authority swimming pool programme will be initiated in 2009; if there is funding for a new round of this programme in Budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41128/08]

Because of the current budgetary constraints, it is not intended to launch a new round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme at this time. The matter will be reviewed again in 2009.

A total of 57 applications were received under the current round of the Programme, of which 39 projects have been completed and opened to the public. The priority now is to work with the relevant local authorities in completing the remaining 18 pool projects which are included in the current round.

Since 2000 total expenditure under the current round of the programme has been €126m and funding of €18m has been provided for 2009 to support existing projects.

A sum of €184m has been provided in the National Development Plan 2007 – 2013 to support existing projects in the current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme and for new projects to be selected following the launch of a new round of the Programme.

Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 76.

Film Industry Development.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

85 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the Irish Film Board Review; the steps being considered on foot of this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41258/08]

My Department has considered this review in detail, and in particular its recommendations and findings. There were two key recommendations: (1) the Irish Film Board should agree with the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism a set of measurable, quantifiable targets, including the timeframes for their delivery and the performance indicators by which progress will be measured, for the period 2006-2010. Performance indicators employed in this context should refer both to the outputs of the Board's activities and to outcomes for the industry. (2) The type of indicators now to be provided should include, inter alia, — number of films made, total budgets, employment generated in the State, total spend in the State, and number of personnel trained. I am pleased to say that both of these recommendations are being implemented and procedures are now in place to ensure that appropriate mechanisms exist to enable my Department to monitor these on an ongoing basis in the context of the determination of the Irish Film Board's annual funding.

With regard to the findings, a key finding of the Review was that the Irish Film Board has established a system of schemes and supports, designed to assist all levels of the industry and without which significantly fewer Irish films would be made, resulting in a dilution of Irish culture on screen.

In 2008 the film "ONCE" won the Oscar for Best Original Song, while "HUNGER" won the Camera D'Or award at Cannes in May. The award at Cannes was the third year running that Irish film had been honoured at the Festival Cannes following on from "THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY" and "GARAGE". These awards are testament to the fact that film, as part of the audiovisual medium, is an area in which Ireland continues to excel.

Film and filmmaking are of great value to Ireland, both financially and culturally. There is now more than ever greater global competition in securing film and television productions. Ireland continues to hold its own in this area thanks to the work of the Irish Film Board, our impressive talent pool of directors, writers, actors and technical crews and the various Government supports that are on offer, including Section 481 – which was extended until the end of 2012 in Budget 2008.

National Aquatic Centre.

Pat Breen

Question:

86 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the subsidy that is required for the National Aquatic Centre for the year 2008; the subsidy that was paid in 2007; and if any subsidy is envisaged for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41237/08]

The National Aquatic Centre is operated by NSCDA (Operations) Ltd., a subsidiary company of the National Sports Campus Development Authority. All day-to-day operations of the National Aquatic Centre are a matter for the Authority and the operations company. Following the restoration of possession of the National Aquatic Centre to the then Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Ltd. on 1 December 2006, an extensive capital programme was undertaken to restore the Centre to its original condition. Much effort has gone into rebuilding the reputation of the Centre and increasing its customer base. An initial subsidy of €1.8 million was required for the Centre in its first full year of operation under the National Sports Campus Development Authority. Following the first full year of operation under the new arrangements, a clearer picture of the operational needs of the Centre is emerging. I am encouraged by the significant increase in both visitor numbers and income which is being achieved to date.

The Authority has arranged for a financial assessment study, which will benchmark the National Aquatic Centre against other equivalent facilities, to be carried out. This work is now nearing completion. When the consultants' report comes to hand it will be evaluated by the Authority who will advise me on the issues involved. This exercise, together with the Centre's performance since it reverted to the direct control of the Authority, will inform my decisions on the funding requirements of the Centre both in the short and longer terms.

Arts Funding.

David Stanton

Question:

87 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has completed its active internal discussions on the position paper prepared by the Arts Council which deals with encouraging philanthropic supports of the arts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41214/08]

In the Arts and Culture Plan 2008 my Department indicated that it aims to undertake a programme to encourage philanthropic support of the arts. In response to that the Arts Council, which is funded by my Department, has completed a position paper on the subject. The paper is very thought provoking and provides many interesting ideas in which this much under utilised source of funding for the arts could be harnessed.

This paper is currently under consideration taking into account that the financial environment against which such proposals must now be considered is changed vastly since publication of my Department's Plan and receipt of the Arts Council's paper.

My Department will revert to the Arts Council in due course.

Sports Promotion.

David Stanton

Question:

88 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the ways in which his Department promotes or supports participation by people with a disability in sport and physical activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41194/08]

The Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, has a statutory role in encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of sport.

The Irish Sports Council Act, 1999 specifically states that the ISC has responsibility for developing "strategies for increasing participation in recreational sport and to coordinate their implementation by all bodies (including public authorities and publicly funded bodies) involved in promoting recreational sport and providing recreational facilities". According to the ISC's strategy "Building Sport for Life" the ISC's mission is "To plan, lead and coordinate the sustainable development of competitive and recreational sport in Ireland". In that context, the ISC runs many programmes to promote, and support participation in, sport for all.

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, grants are awarded towards the provision of sporting and recreational facilities throughout the country. It is a condition of the Programme that facilities grant aided under the Programme are accessible by persons with a disability.

Question No. 89 answered with Question No. 78.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

90 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on whether the guarantees for Arts and Sport provided in the Programme for Government will not all be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41132/08]

Sean Sherlock

Question:

93 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on his Department’s budgetary provision for 2009; if cutting funding to the Arts Council, Irish Sports Council, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland is the way to promote growth in these areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41118/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 93.

In a period of significant difficulties in major economies around the world and a challenging fiscal and economic climate at home, the Government introduced a fiscally responsible Budget in order to ensure stability in the public finances, to increase productivity and competitiveness and to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society. To have done otherwise would be to put at risk the gains we have secured as a country in the last fifteen years. The Government will continue to invest in public services but, in a time of scarcer resources, the value-for-money principle becomes all the more important. Within my remit, the Budget consolidated Government investment to date in the areas of arts, culture, sport and tourism, with significant funding of approximately €550 million allocated to the Department in 2009. The reduction in the Department's capital budget relates to the fact that the 2008 budget made provision for large once-off projects in the Sports and Arts areas, including the new Lansdowne Road stadium which received €93 million, the Gate Theatre, the new Opera House in Wexford, the new Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield, the Carlow Arts Centre and the Everyman Theatre. When these once-off projects are taken into account, the underlying upward trend in the capital available to the Department of €146 million is maintained.

In the arts, culture and film sector, the total allocation of €185 million in 2009 constitutes a doubling in the budget for this sector over the past five years. With specific regard to the Arts Council, the 2009 funding is just under €76 million. While this represents an overall reduction of 8% over 2008 the actual reduction in monies available to the Arts Council for grants in 2009 will be mitigated by a reduction in the administration costs of the body. Funding to Culture Ireland is broadly maintained and current funding for the National Cultural Institutions is higher than the 2007 levels. Cuts in the day-to-day allocations are marginal and a full programme of events and exhibitions is scheduled for 2009.

In the sports sector, a total allocation of €204 million – which is a significant investment – will enable the Department to meet its commitments in 2009. The allocation of €56 million to the Sports Capital Programme in 2009 brings to €780 million Government expenditure on sports facilities at local, regional and national level over the last 10 years. With specific regard to the Irish Sports Council (ISC), the 2009 funding is more than €53 million, compared to a 2008 allocation of €57.6 million. The 2009 allocation is, nevertheless, still significant and represents an increase of more than 300 per cent on the funding available in 2000. It will be sufficient to enable the ISC to maintain its existing programmes while building on recent progress.

In the tourism sector, the total allocation of just under €161 million in 2009 constitutes an increase of more than 50 per cent over the past five years. From this total allocation, there will be marginal reductions in the budgets of the principal tourism agencies — Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland — which should be largely absorbed by savings in pay, overheads, consultancy and non-programme advertising. There will be no reduction in the amount available for frontline international marketing activities, since there are some once-off expenditures this year on new advertising/ promotional materials for the Tourism Ireland brand.

Having regard to the foregoing, I am satisfied that the financial allocations available to me in 2009 will allow progress to be maintained in the development of the arts, culture, sport and tourism sectors, in accordance with the overall commitments in the Programme for Government.

Film Industry Development.

Tom Hayes

Question:

91 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a decision has been made on the future of Ardmore Studios; if he has had contacts since he became Minister with the owners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41281/08]

The availability of adequate, fully equipped studio resources that can cater for the needs of indigenous and incoming film/TV productions is essential to marketing Ireland as a film location and, as such, Ardmore plays an integral part in fulfilling this role.

Accordingly, in recent months discussions have taken place with representatives of all interested parties and I can confirm that the current arrangements between the Irish Film Board and Ardmore Studios are to continue.

Question No. 92 answered with Question No. 78.
Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 90.

Olympic Games.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

94 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if Ireland will have the facilities to attract top class athletes to these shores in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics; if there is funding for a new round of this programme in budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41129/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

100 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he intends or anticipates becoming actively involved in the provision of facilities or strategic funding likely to be complimentary or germane to preparation for the Olympics in 2012, having particular regard to his responsibilities in respect of sports and recreation and the likelihood that he could set out basic policy guidelines that may be beneficially followed by the Olympic Council of Ireland or other sporting bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41216/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 100 together.

The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Task Force was established in August 2006 to ensure Ireland can identify and maximise the complete range of opportunities arising from our proximity to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London 2012. The Task Force included experts from the sport, tourism, cultural and business sectors and was supported by staff within my Department.

The Task Force report makes a number of recommendations arising from an audit carried out of high quality sports facilities in Ireland and the findings of a report by Indecon International Economic Consultants on the economic evaluation of the benefit to the island of Ireland of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.

The report highlights the opportunities for Ireland from the London 2012 Games in the sport, tourism, cultural and business sectors. On the sporting side the report puts forward proposals for investment in sports facilities which would increase our attractiveness as a training destination for Olympic teams in the lead up and during the games. I understand that enquiries have already been made about the availability of sports facilities here for some Olympic teams.

I am considering the implementation of the recommendations of the London 2012 Task Force Report taking account of the current economic situation.

I have met with a number of the key stakeholders involved in the support of our elite athletes to discuss how we can best build on the success we have had in Beijing and to identify the supports required in terms of coaching, programmes, facilities and funding to ensure the optimum performance of Irish athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games. I also intend to work closely with the Irish Sports Council to ensure that our athletes are prepared to the highest standard for the London Games.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 78.

National Lottery Funding.

Liz McManus

Question:

96 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount of the funding for the Arts Council and the Irish Sports Council that is provided through National Lottery funding; the percentage of funding for 2008 and 2009 which has been provided for these organisations by the National Lottery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41122/08]

Since 2005, subheads that had previously been funded entirely by the proceeds of the National Lottery have been part-funded from Lottery revenues with the balance being provided by the Exchequer.

National Lottery funding as a percentage of total expenditure on all subheads that were part-funded by Lottery revenues, is as follows:

2005: 64%;

2006: 50%;

2007: 52%;

2008 (est.): 56%;

2009: Not available yet.

The amount of funding provided to the Arts Council – An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the Irish Sports Council for the years 2008 and 2009 is as follows:

Arts Council

2008: €81.6m

2009: €75.708m

Sports Council

2008: €57.182

2009: €53.026.

Horse and Greyhound Racing Industries.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

97 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has plans to advise the Department of Finance to reform the gambling legislation in order to ensure the Horse and Greyhound Fund is supported from betting duty and not central Exchequer funding; if the increase in the betting levy to 2% will cover the cost of the Horse and Greyhound Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41123/08]

Denis Naughten

Question:

105 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the plans he has for the future of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund; if it is intended to continue the fund post 2008; if so when the necessary legislation will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41299/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

109 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount it is estimated will be raised by the increase in the betting levy to 2%; if this will cover the cost of the Horse and Greyhound Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41113/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97, 105 and 109 together.

The Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund was established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001 for the purpose of giving support to both racing industries. Under the provisions of the Act, the Fund receives a guaranteed level of finance based on excise duty on off-course betting in the preceding year, subject to a minimum level based on the year 2000 amount adjusted for inflation, subject to the limit on the total aggregate amount of the Fund. Any shortfall in the amount generated by the excise duty is made up by direct Exchequer subvention. €69.719 million has been allocated to the Fund for 2009.

In accordance with the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001, 80% and 20% of the moneys paid into the Fund each year are distributed between Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and Bord na gCon respectively. Since 2001, income from the Fund has been used by both bodies towards increasing prize money levels, meeting administration and integrity costs alongside a programme of capital investment, which has underpinned a growth in both sectors.

Since the establishment of the Fund a major period of development of both industries has resulted. The funding has allowed Ireland to develop into a world centre of excellence for horseracing and greyhound racing.

To date the Fund has not only helped towards providing some top class racing venues and facilities, but it has also underpinned significant employment in the industries. Horse breeding is a significant net contributor to the Irish economy and has an important role to play in generating employment, particularly in the tourism and agri-economy sectors, making it a significant regional employer and an important contributor to rural communities. The Irish greyhound industry is also regarded as one of the most vibrant and successful in the world.

In 2004, the Government put in place regulations to increase the limit of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund from €254m to €550m to continue the Fund for a further four years to 2008.

A review of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund is currently underway. Any increase of the Fund limit will require the approval of the Government and the Oireachtas (the level of the Fund is increased by Regulations made by the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance).

Projections of revenue receipts through excise duties are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

Employment Rights.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

98 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received representations from within the hotel industry or from their representative bodies in respect of the Joint Labour Committee rates of pay outside of the Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41307/08]

I can confirm that I have received representations from individuals within the hotel industry in respect of the Joint Labour Committee Rates of Pay outside of the Dublin region. I have also received representations on the matter from the President of the Irish Hotels Federation.

I am well aware of the difficulties being experienced by hoteliers at present having met with the Council of the Irish Hotels Federation on 9 September last. Following that meeting I raised the issue directly with the Tánaiste. I am aware that Billy Kelleher T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with responsibility for Labour Affairs met the Irish Hotels Federation recently to discuss these matters.

National Library.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

99 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the tenders for the new repository and extension for the National Library will be sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41267/08]

The provision of a purpose built extension and storage facility for the National Library is among the cultural infrastructure projects included in National Development Plan 2007-2013. Planning permission has been obtained for the building. Currently my Department is working closely with the National Library to prepare a detailed economic assessment of the project, which is required under the ‘Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals in the Public Sector' as set down by the Department of Finance. Under these guidelines a considerable amount of analysis and approvals must be carried out at various stages to advance the project. In addition OPW will have to carry out more preliminary development work before the project reaches the tender stage.

Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 94.
Question No. 101 answered with Question No. 78.

National Conference Centre.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

102 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he expects the National Conference Centre to be completed; the estimated cost of this project; the way the centre is to be managed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41134/08]

The National Conference Centre, which is to be known as The Convention Centre Dublin, is scheduled to open on 1 September 2010.

On 5 April 2007 the contract for the provision of a National Conference Centre in Dublin was awarded to Spencer Dock Convention Centre Dublin Ltd. Under the public private partnership arrangement, Spencer Dock Convention Centre Dublin Ltd., is required to design, build and finance the National Conference Centre and to operate and maintain it for a period of 25 years, after which the facility will revert to the State. In return, once the construction of the Centre is complete and it is open for business, the State will pay the Company an annual charge, the maximum total cost of which over 25 years will be just under €380m in present day values.

Appointments to State Boards.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

103 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he will announce the appointments to the board of the Arts Council; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the delay may be having a damaging affect on the promotion of arts here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41126/08]

I am currently considering nominations for the vacancies on the board of the Arts Council and hope to make an announcement shortly.

The remaining members of the boards, whose terms expire in 2011, are sufficient to provide a quorum for the Council and under the Arts Act 2003 the Deputy Chair can take the place of the Chair until a new Chair is appointed.

Natural History Museum.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

104 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the contact he has had with the Office of Public Works to ensure the early refurbishment and repairs required at the Natural History Museum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41229/08]

My Department, the Office of Public Works and the National Museum are examining options for early commencement of the restoration works so that the Natural History Museum will be re-opened as soon as possible.

Since the National Museum of Ireland became an autonomous statutory body under the National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997 on 3rd May 2005, the Board of the National Museum is statutorily responsible for operational matters concerning its collection.

I understand that the National Museum of Ireland has commenced work on the documentation of exhibits in the Natural History Museum. The opportunity to address this work, which is provided by the closure of the Museum, will be fully utilised.

The National Museum also intends to display some of the Natural History collection in the Riding School, Collins Barracks from the end of January 2009. This will provide an alternative public display for a portion of the Natural History Museum exhibits, while the building remains closed for redevelopment.

Question No. 105 answered with Question No. 97.

Sports Capital Programme.

Mary Upton

Question:

106 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he is satisfied with the support given to amateur boxing clubs in view of the success achieved by our boxers at the Olympics over many years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41136/08]

Since 1998, under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, almost €7 million has been allocated to individual boxing clubs to provide facilities and equipment to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. Included in this figure is €2,800,660 towards the development of the National Stadium and €109,100 towards high performance equipment.

The Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, has a statutory role in encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive and recreational sport.

The Irish Sports Council Act, 1999 specifically states that one of the functions of the ISC shall be "to encourage the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive sport and the achievement of excellence in competitive sport" and that the Council has responsibility for developing "strategies for increasing participation in recreational sport and to coordinate their implementation by all bodies (including public authorities and publicly funded bodies) involved in promoting recreational sport and providing recreational facilities". According to the ISC's strategy "Building Sport for Life" the ISC's mission is "To plan, lead and coordinate the sustainable development of competitive and recreational sport in Ireland".

The provision of funding to National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of sport is the responsibility of the ISC and is based on ISC criteria. These NGBs then, in turn, provide funding to the relevant sports clubs.

In relation to the provision of capital funding I will continue to assist boxing among the many sports that receive funding under the Sports Capital Programme and I have indicated to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association my willingness to engage with it in identifying priorities for expenditure on facilities.

Sports Funding.

Joan Burton

Question:

107 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if it is appropriate that the Horse and Greyhound Fund, which supports two sports will get more funding than the Irish Sports Council, which funds almost every other organised sport here in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41114/08]

The Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund was established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001 for the purpose of giving support to both racing industries.

In accordance with the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001, 80% and 20% of the moneys paid into the Fund each year are distributed between Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and Bord na gCon respectively. Since 2001, income from the Fund has been used by both bodies towards increasing prize money levels, meeting administration and integrity costs alongside a programme of capital investment, which has underpinned a growth in both sectors.

Since the establishment of the Fund a major period of development of both industries has resulted. The funding has allowed Ireland to develop into a world centre of excellence for horseracing and greyhound racing.

To date the Fund has not only helped towards providing some top class racing venues and facilities, but it has also underpinned significant employment in the industries. Horse breeding is a significant net contributor to the Irish economy and has an important role to play in generating employment, particularly in the tourism and agri-economy sectors, making it a significant regional employer and an important contributor to rural communities. The Irish greyhound industry is also regarded as one of the most vibrant and successful in the world. €69.719 million has been allocated to the Fund for 2009.

The Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, has a statutory role in encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive and recreational sport. More than €53 million has been allocated to the ISC for 2009. This is an increase of more than 300% on the funding level of €13m in 2000, the ISC's first full year in operation.

Departmental Agencies.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

108 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the senior executives in the bodies under the aegis of his Department will be taking a 10% pay cut; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41121/08]

In the Budget speech the Minister for Finance informed the House that members of the Government and Ministers of State would surrender 10% of their current total pay and that officers at Secretary General level in Government Departments had volunteered to make a corresponding surrender in respect of their pay. The Minister for Finance also stated that other public servants in leadership and senior positions may wish to consider whether it is appropriate for them to make a similar move in current circumstances. The question of any salary surrender by senior executives of agencies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for the individuals themselves to consider.

Question No. 109 answered with Question No. 97.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

110 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the fact that the only area under his Department which has secured an increase in 2009 is the administration section; the way this equates with the stated target of a 3% cost reduction in his Department; if this money could have been better spent in other areas, such as front line arts and sports provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41117/08]

In the case of the Department, the payroll element of the Administrative Budget has been under funded in previous years with the shortfall being met by transferring savings within the overall Administrative Budget in line with the terms of the Administrative Budget Agreement with the Department of Finance, an option that will be restricted in 2009. As the payroll cost for 2008 is projected to be in excess of €10.7 million the pay provision for 2009 of €10.39 million represents a decrease of 3% on the actual cost for 2008.

Arts Funding.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

111 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the cuts in funding to the Arts Council will have a similar detrimental affect on the arts as those in 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41115/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply earlier today to Priority Question No. 71 in the name of Deputy Mitchell.

Animal Welfare.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

112 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress on the production of the Green Paper on Animal Welfare in Sport and Recreation as promised in the Programme for Government in 2007; if there is funding for a new round of this programme in Budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41130/08]

An Agreed Programme for Government makes a commitment to producing a Green Paper on Animal Welfare in Sport and Recreation. The most effective process for giving effect to this commitment will be considered in consultation with the relevant stakeholders. There is no spending Programme associated with this initiative.

Sports Capital Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

113 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the sports capital programme will proceed in 2009; if there is funding for a new round of this programme in Budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41125/08]

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

The Deputy will be aware that allocations under the 2008 Sports Capital Programme were announced in July last. No decision has yet been made about the timing of further rounds of the Programme. In the 2009 Estimates, €56m has been provided in my Department's vote to cover payments to be made from the C-1 sub-head, which is provided for grants for the provision of sports and recreation facilities.

Since 1998 grants to the value of over €725 million have been awarded to over 7,400 projects under the Sports Capital Programme. This investment has transformed the sporting landscape of Ireland and has allowed the development of sports facilities across the length and breadth of the country. These facilities have dramatically increased the opportunities for all people to engage in a wide variety of sports.

Arts Funding.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

114 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made on introducing multi-annual funding for the Arts Council; when this will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41116/08]

The funding of the Arts Council, as with all Government Departments and State agencies, is a matter for consideration under the annual budget and Estimates' process. In doing so, the Government must balance competing demands from every part of our economy and society.

I am aware of the Arts Council's desire to have multi-annual budgets. I can appreciate the need for stability in budgeting that such a measure would provide, but my Department, like other Government Departments, is provided with and must work within annual current expenditure budgets through the Estimates' process.

By any standards however, the Arts Council has seen dramatic increases in its funding allocation in recent years, increasing by over 71% from €47.67 million in 2002 to €81.6 million this year. These are significant amounts of taxpayers' money in any context and have effectively transformed the arts, by facilitating increased access to and participation in the full spectrum of art forms throughout the country. The Government's sustained commitment to the arts is evidenced by these substantial increases in funding, including supplementary funding of €3m to the Arts Council at the end of 2007.

Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 82.

Abbey Theatre.

Joe Costello

Question:

116 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if it is planned to progress the relocation of the Abbey Theatre to the docklands; the amount of money that is secured for this project; when this project will be initiated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41133/08]

In 2006 the Government decided to proceed with the redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre by way of a public private partnership on a site at George's Dock, on a build, finance and maintain basis. This site was chosen following an extensive search exercise conducted by the Office of Public Works that involved the examination of a number of options. This PPP project is now being progressed on the basis solely of the Georges Dock site.

The project is complex and there are a myriad of technical, procedural and legal factors to address in making progress on it and these continue to be progressed. The project remains a priority for the Department.

National Cultural Institutions

Liz McManus

Question:

117 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the extended opening hours of the National Museums during the summer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41135/08]

Extending the opening hours of national cultural institutions is an essential innovation in developing access and attracting wider audiences. More flexible opening hours reflect the changed lifestyles for those who wish to visit our National Cultural Institutions, and especially the national museums and galleries.

The extended and more flexible opening hours at our national cultural institutions during 2008 was highly successful and welcomed by visitors to these venues.

In 2008, funding was specifically provided for the introduction of extended opening hours. The tighter budgetary outlook in 2009 and the consequent allocations to the cultural institutions, in particular with regard to pay, is likely to have some impact on the general ability to deliver extended opening hours. My Department will, however, seek to consolidate the opening hours improvements of 2008.

Consumer Price Index.

Richard Bruton

Question:

118 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Taoiseach the weight used in compiling the consumer price index for biofuels; and the monthly movements in the retail price of this product over the past three years. [41792/08]

The exact information that the Deputy has requested is not available. The Central Statistics Office does not currently collect or use price information on biofuels in the calculation of the Consumer Price Index for motor fuels.

Tax Collection.

Enda Kenny

Question:

119 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of occasions in respect of which the Revenue Commissioners have acted in tax arrears cases with businesses here in respect of each of the past five years; the number of incidents in which the Revenue Commissioners decided to act by referral to sheriff and its consequences, by referral to solicitor for legal involvement and its consequences and cases of implementation of power of attachment and its consequences; the amount so recovered in each case; if the businesses involved were in a position to continue trading; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41694/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their primary goal is to ensure that all taxpayers meet their tax and customs obligations in a timely manner. A delay in collection of the revenues due impacts on the level and timeliness of financial resources available to the Government and facilitates those who, by withholding tax payments and using those monies to improve cash flow, gain unfair competitive advantage.

I am advised by Revenue that their approach to maintaining and extending high levels of timely compliance involves a twin track approach. Firstly there is a strong focus by Revenue on promoting and supporting voluntary compliance by facilitating taxpayers and businesses in meeting their obligations in as easy a way as possible through quality service provided by Revenue. Secondly there is a strong focus on addressing late or non-compliance through the deployment of appropriate collection recovery and enforcement measures.

I am advised by Revenue that the records it maintains do not enable it to provide figures on the number of occasions in respect of which it has acted in tax arrears cases with businesses in each of the past five years. However, the following table contains details of the number of enforcement actions involving referral to sheriffs or solicitors or putting in place of Attachment Orders by Revenue for each of the last five years. Other than providing details of the amount of monies collected as a result of these actions, Revenue is not in a position to comment on the individual case outcomes, even at an aggregate level. However, I am satisfied that the focused, risk based debt and compliance management programmes being implemented by Revenue has been a key element in delivering the very significant improvements in compliances rates that have been achieved in recent years.

Year

No. of referrals

Yield

No. of referrals

Yield

No. of Orders issued

Yield

€m

€m

€m

2003

34,677

119.8

8,079

67.5

512

7.8

2004

38,682

125.2

6,723

63.9

949

10.9

2005

42,239

139.6

6,485

59.6

2,253

27.2

2006

45,444

242.8

7,018

70.9

2,253

33.7

2007

43,157

249.2

6,143

75.2

2,307

28.0

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

120 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the position of an application for a tax rebate by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41696/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that tax rebates for 2005, 2006 and 2007 issued to this taxpayer on 23 May 2008. In relation to 2008, a revised tax credit certificate issued on 19 May 2008. The Revenue Commissioners have no outstanding claims from this taxpayer.

Joan Burton

Question:

121 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance the benefit-in-kind regime for employees in receipt of a preferential rate of mortgage interest from their employer; the specified benchmark rate against which a preferential rate is compared to establish the liability for benefit-in-kind; if this specified benchmark rate varies in line with prevailing market interest rates; his views on whether persons benefiting from preferential mortgage rates could be liable for significant increases in their benefit-in-kind liability as a result of falling interest rates in the market if the specified benchmark rate remains static; if he intends to modify these arrangements, the specified benchmark rate or the method of calculating this rate in the upcoming Finance Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41697/08]

The legislation on preferential loans is contained in section 122 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

In the case of loans qualifying for mortgage interest relief (under the provisions of section 244 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997), the benefit-in-kind charge is based on the difference between the amount of interest that would be payable if the mortgage had been subject to an interest rate of 5.5% and the amount of interest paid on the preferential mortgage.

In the case of all other loans, the benefit-in-kind charge is based on the difference between amount of interest that would be payable if the mortgage had been subject to an interest rate of 13% (increased to 15% in the Budget) and the amount of interest paid on the preferential loan.

The rates are calculated based on figures supplied from the Central Bank of Ireland. These calculations take into account both the prevailing commercial loan rates and likely market trends.

Finance No. 2 Bill 2008 will be published tomorrow, 20 November, and will confirm the rates as specified in the Budget.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

122 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Finance the procedure in instances in which an employee has discovered on the sale of the business that the employer has not paid income tax on their behalf despite the money been taken out of their salary and are unable to obtain documentation from their former employer of moneys deducted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41713/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in the normal course of events, if an employee presents documentary evidence to their local Tax District indicating that tax has been deducted from his/her pay e.g. a payslip, P45, P60, etc., the employee's tax position will be reviewed in the normal way. This would identify the action to be taken in the particular circumstances of the individual taxpayer concerned, for example whether he/she might be due a tax refund or the allocation of additional credits or reliefs, etc.

When an employee has difficulty in obtaining documentation from an employer or former employer Revenue contacts the employer to obtain a cessation certificate P45 for the employee. Full credit is given to the employee for the tax deducted by the employer. In circumstances such as this Revenue will also take appropriate steps to secure outstanding returns and payments from the employer and to obtain the necessary outstanding documentation for the employee (P45, P60 etc.)

Tax Yield.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

123 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the yield to the Exchequer of the introduction of a new tax rate of 45% on incomes above €52,000 for a single person, above €61,000 for married couples with one income, and above €104,000 for a married couple with two incomes on the basis of applying maximum transferability of €45,000 between spouses as proposed in budget 2009. [41786/08]

It is assumed that the thresholds for the proposed new tax bands mentioned by the Deputy would not alter the existing standard rate band structure applying to single and widowed persons, to lone parents and married couples.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated full year yield to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2009 incomes, would be of the order of €750 million. Given the current band structures, there would be major issues to be resolved as to how in practice such a new rate could be integrated into the current system and how this would affect the relative position of different types of income earners.

This figure is provisional and subject to revision.

Departmental Properties.

Joe McHugh

Question:

124 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a list of all the disused, vacant, derelict, and unoccupied State buildings here; the amount each of these buildings cost the State in 2007 in terms of maintenance, heating, and security; if he will provide this information in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41799/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

125 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide the addresses of every disused, uninhabited, and derelict State building here; the amount the maintenance and security of these premises has cost the State in the past five years; and if he will present his answer in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41802/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 125 together.

The Commissioners of Public Works have advised that there are four buildings in the categories specified in County Donegal and the details are set out hereunder. They do not make public details of security particulars.

Former Garda Station, The Mall, Ballyshannon.

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

Maintenance Expenditure

Nil to date

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Heating Expenditure

Nil to date

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Former Customs & Excise, Lower Main St., Letterkenny.

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

Maintenance Expenditure

€197.49

€150.00

Not available

Nil

Nil

Heating Expenditure

Nil to date

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Education Office, Pearse Road, Letterkenny.

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

Maintenance Expenditure

Nil to date

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Heating Expenditure

Nil to date

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Former Garda Station, Buncrana.

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

Maintenance Expenditure

Nil to date

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Heating Expenditure

Nil to date

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Departmental Expenditure.

Joe McHugh

Question:

126 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance the amount the State has spent annually over the course of the past five years on the renting and leasing of property. [41813/08]

Over the course of the past five years, the following amounts have been spent in respect of property leased by the Commissioners of Public Works:

€m

2003

113,414,367

2004

117,033,364

2005

126,212,471

2006

129,319,144

2007

135,333,332

Motor Vehicle Registration.

Michael Creed

Question:

127 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance the costs of a specific vehicle registration number; and if in view of the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork he will make the required number available at the price applicable when the original request was made. [41822/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person applied for a cherished number on the 20th of October, after the Vehicle Registration Taxation (Amendment) Regulations 2008, made by the Revenue Commissioners on 7th October, 2008. Therefore the fee of €1,000 was properly charged and no refund is due.

Departmental Properties.

John Deasy

Question:

128 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the details of the sale of all State properties since 2004 to date in 2008; the locations of each property; and the price received by the State in each case. [41854/08]

Details of the sales realised for all State Properties since 2004 to date are included in the table below:

2004

Property

Date of Sale

Price

2 Church Street, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford

12 May 2004

337,000.00

Lad Lane, Dublin 2

05 May 2004

22,500,000.00

Blacklion Customs Frontier Post Site — Cavan

16 March 2004

21,586.23

72-76 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2

15 September 2004

52,300,000.00

Kilmacthomas G.S. Co. Waterford

13 August 2004

100,000.00

14/16 Lord Edward Street, Dublin 8

30 August 2004

8,780,140.48

Thomastown G.S, Co. Kilkenny

07 December 2004

450,000.00

Total

84,488,726.71

2005

Property

Date of Sale

Price

Dungloe Former SWO, Co. Donegal

5 May 2005

300,000.00

Leighlinbridge G.S, Co. Carlow — disposal of part of site

13 October 2005

165,000.00

Ashbourne GS., Co. Meath — disposal of part of site

25 October 2005

2,125,000.00

St. John’s Road site (Westgate), Dublin 8

10 August 2005

44,916,551.79

Ballinaskellig Old Garda Station, Co. Kerry

30 August 2005

409,693.03

Kilronan CGS, Galway. Sale of site to Udaras

14 July 2005

1,416.53

16 Eyre Square, Galway

18 August 2005

9,920.59

26-27 Eden Quay, Dublin 1

21 December 2005

4,205,000.00

Chantilly site, Rathmichael, Co. Dublin

14 December 2005

5,162,202.65

Total

57,294,784.59

2006

Property

Date of Sale

Price

Former Veterinary College, Shelbourne Rd, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

17 February 2006

171,558,110.36

Lynch’s Lodge Hotel, Macroom, Co. Cork

17 February 2006

2,300,036.08

Athboy G.S., Co. Meath — Sale of rear of property

08 March 2006

3,266.54

Tipperary former Military Barracks

20 March 2006

2,540.00

Tipperary former Military barracks

20 March 2006

4,444.00

Faculty Building, Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4

30 June 2006

35,891,460.19

Castleblayney Customs Post Site, Co. Monaghan (Muckno St)

13 July 2006

500.09

Parnell West Hotel, Accom. Centre, Parnell Sq. West, Dublin 1

August 2006

7,236,190.32

Beggars Bush (former) Bks, D4 — Encroachment on R.O.W. Off Shelbourne Road

21 July 2006

56,046.14

Mouth of the Boyne former Coastguard Station Cottages, Louth. Cottage 1

17 July 2006

10,685.44

Muff former Garda Station, Co. Donegal

26 October 2006

415,020.23

Gardiner Street former Social Welfare Office, Dublin 1

26 October 2006

2,500,299.18

Errigal Trough National School, Co. Monaghan

1 November 2006

114.30

Carrickcarnon Customs Post, Co. Louth -CPO of land

19 September 2006

138,802.28

Bridgend Customs Post & Road Station, Co. Donegal

10 November 2006

630,000.00

Total

220,747,515.15

2007

Property

Date of Sale

Price

Longford former G.S, Co. Longford — Disposal

26 January 2007

2,000,000.00

Greencastle Coastguard Station, Co. Donegal. Cottages that were disposed of not registered properly.

20 February 2007

4,445.00

Islandbridge, Co. Dublin

24 April 2007

320,922.00

Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal

14 March 2007

2,500.00

Goresbridge Garda House, Kilkenny

10 August 2007

12,680.18

Heath, Co. Laois

17 August 2007

1,900.41

Mouth of Boyne Coastguard Station Cottage 2. Louth

04 October 2007

9,523.00

Fermoy Former Military Hospital Site, Co. Cork

16 November 2007

1,465,000.00

Land adjacent to Royal Hospital Kilmainham,Dublin 8

7 December 2007

500,056.38

Total

4,317,026.97

2008

Property

Date of Sale

Price

Granard Garda Station, Co. Longford

2 April 2008

40,283.00

1-2 Patrick Street, Kilkenny

23 April 2008

800,313.86

22 Oakley Road, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

19 August 2008

75,013.40

Fenit Coastguard Station, Co. Kerry — Boathouse

26 June 2008

150,071.58

Total

1,065,681.84

Total Figure: 367,913,735.26.

A figure in excess of €20,000.00 not included above was agreed for Spruce House, but Contracts have not yet been executed.

This figure does not include the value of properties when they were transferred to the Affordable Housing Initiative, or the capitalised value of property transactions that have been negotiated in order to realise an income stream.

Health Service Allowances.

Thomas Byrne

Question:

129 Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of an appeal for domiciliary carer’s allowance by a person (details supplied) in County Meath. [41785/08]

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.

Assisted Human Reproduction.

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

130 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the proposed scheme to provide financial assistance for IVF treatments referred to by her in an article of 3 November 2008 (details supplied) will go ahead; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41681/08]

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

131 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the proposed scheme to provide financial assistance for IVF treatments referred to by her in an article of 3 November 2008 (details supplied) will cover treatments such as intrauterine insemination and the NAPRO method; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41682/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 131 together.

As I indicated in response to a Question on 29 October last, I am conscious of the financial burden that IVF treatment can place on the couples concerned and have asked my Department to consider policy in this regard as part of the process of developing an appropriate regulatory framework for this area. Any proposals that might emerge from that process will have to be considered in the context of the difficult economic situation that now prevails and other competing funding demands across the full range of health issues.

Hospital Services.

Dara Calleary

Question:

132 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health and Children when the recompression chamber at University College Hospital Galway will re-open; the staffing plans and hours of operation for this unit; and the advice her Department is giving to divers in the event of an emergency in view of the fact that there is currently no recompression chamber available. [41684/08]

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

Cancer Screening Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

133 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 179 of 12 March 2008, if she will report on the progress to date on the roll-out of the BreastCheck mobile digital service to County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41685/08]

Joe McHugh

Question:

147 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will commit to a date for the roll-out of the BreastCheck programme in County Donegal. [41809/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 147 together.

The Deputies specific questions in relation to the roll out of BreastCheck to Counties Clare and Donegal are the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputies in this regard.

Ambulance Service.

Pat Breen

Question:

134 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the strength of the ambulance service in County Clare as of 31 October 2008; if the National Spatial Analysis Study has been completed; if so, the implications of its proposals for County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41686/08]

Pat Breen

Question:

135 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 226 of 27 June 2007, her plans for a 24 hour ambulance service for Scarrif in east Clare; when she expects the ambulance station to operate on a 24/7 basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41687/08]

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

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

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

136 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the funding for admissions to organisations such as an organisation (details supplied) has not been increased in line with the increased cost of providing these courses. [41701/08]

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

Tom Hayes

Question:

137 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will increase the number of grants to an organisation (details supplied) in Cahir and Wexford from fifteen in line with the fact that at least double that number seek places every year. [41702/08]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

138 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are plans to provide beds for the long-term nursing care of older patients in any of the proposed co-located hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41715/08]

The aim of the acute hospital co-location initiative is to make available approximately 1,000 additional public acute hospital beds for public patients by transferring private activity, with some limited exceptions, from public acute hospitals to co-located private hospitals.

The policy direction on the acute hospital co location initiative which issued to the HSE in July 2005 did not encompass long term residential care beds.

The long-term residential care fast-track initiative, which commenced in 2007 and is continuing until 2010, 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 233 and 422 are to be provided in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The final 17 beds will be provided in 2010. Of the 860 beds, 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.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

139 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive have taken a course of action (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41731/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy.

My Department has requested that the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive investigate the matter and issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

140 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that a disability database for children is maintained by the Health Service Executive in order to plan for future services and that children wishing to be entered on this database are required to undergo an assessment; if she will further confirm that the HSE no longer provides staff to make that assessment and that consequently its ability to plan for the future is jeopardised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41739/08]

There are currently two national service-planning databases for people with disabilities, the National Intellectual Disability Database (NIDD), established in 1995, and the National Physical and Sensory Disability Database, established in 2002. These databases inform decision making in relation to the planning of specialised health and personal social services for people with intellectual, physical or sensory disabilities. Information for the databases is collected by the HSE and non-statutory service providers. The databases are managed nationally by the Health Research Board on behalf of the Department of Health and Children.

The NIDD provides a needs assessment of people with an intellectual disability. The categories of need are as follows: unmet need; service change required; persons with an intellectual disability who are accommodated in psychiatric hospitals and multidisciplinary support services required.

Information for the NPSDD is collected by means of interviews with individuals who meet the registration criteria. The primary focus of the NPSDD is to facilitate service planning and provision; it also aims to record the details of people availing of, or requiring, a specialised health and personal service. As not every individual in Ireland who has a physical or sensory disability is availing of or requiring a specialised health or personal social service, the NPSDD cannot provide any epidemiological statement on the number of people with a particular type of disability. Participation in the NPSDD is voluntary; the database may not therefore cover a proportion of people living in Ireland who have a physical or sensory disability.

In addition, in keeping with its statutory requirements under section 13(1) of the Disability Act 2005, the HSE is engaged in a process of collating and maintaining records collected under the Assessment of Need process for children aged under 5.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

141 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on changing the closing date for applications in respect of funding special needs assistants for pre-schools to allow the Health Service Executive to process applications in time for children to start pre-school in September of each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41788/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

142 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on altering the date for the issue of special needs assistance to permit parents and guardians of children allocated special needs assistant hours to appeal a decision made regarding the amount of hours allocated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41789/08]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

143 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties experienced by a representative group (details supplied) when it applied for funding from the Health Service Executive in respect of a special needs assistant to allow its children to commence pre-school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41790/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 to 143, inclusive, together.

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

Private Health Insurance.

James Reilly

Question:

144 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the specific measures she is considering to keep health insurance for older people affordable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41795/08]

A primary objective of Government policy in health insurance is that it should be affordable for the broadest possible cross section of the community including older people and those who suffer ill-health. This policy objective has been implemented through a substantial body of primary and secondary legislation providing for open enrolment, community rating and lifetime cover. Following the liberalisation of the market in 1994 every political party and successive governments have supported the maintenance of community rating. It is an inescapable fact, supported by international evidence, that community rating cannot be sustained without some scheme to support the higher claims costs of older or sicker people

Although the Supreme Court found the particular Risk Equalisation Scheme to be ultra vires, it did not strike down the principle of applying risk equalisation or any of the other important elements of the regulatory framework that supports private health insurance in Ireland. After the Supreme Court decision which struck down the Risk Equalisation Scheme on July 16th last, there was a real risk that older people would effectively face significantly higher premium costs than younger people.

Accordingly, on the joint proposal of the Ministers for Finance and Health and Children, the Government has decided to put forward two major steps as interim, three-year measure to stabilise the health insurance market.

There will be additional tax relief for health insurance starting for people aged 50 and over and increasing for higher age groups as follows:

50-59: €200;

60-69: €500;

70-79: €950;

80+: €1,175.

Given this, existing legislation will be amended to allow for community rating to be applied on net premia, with regard to this scheme.

Legislation will also be introduced to provide for the introduction of a Community Rating levy on health insurance companies in respect of all individuals covered by the health insurance policies issued by them, priced as follows:

€160 for each adult;

€53 for each child (under 18).

The levy will apply to all policies from 1 January 2009 and subsequent years. The obligation to pay the charge will be imposed on the health insurance companies. It will be a matter for the companies (based on their individual commercial considerations) as to whether, and to what extent, they pass the cost of the charge on to their customers.

The implementation of these measures is subject to approval by the European Commission. A formal submission has been made to the Commission.

Older people will benefit by the price of their policies not rising massively based on their age. But it is not just older people who will benefit. Those under 50 who look forward to continuing their health insurance as they get older need to know it will continue to be affordable, and will not rise in price just because they get older.

By supporting the principle of intergenerational solidarity, younger subscribers will benefit from affordable health insurance as they in turn become older. Our society benefits from having clear, explicit measures to support solidarity between the generations in health insurance.

The Government hopes and expects that the health insurance industry will respond to this initiative by continuing to market community rated products which meet the health needs of all segments of the population.

State Property.

Joe McHugh

Question:

145 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will enumerate the Health Service Executive’s annual rental expenditure on leased and rented property since 2003 to date in 2008 on a county basis in tabular form. [41803/08]

Information on the annual rental expenditure on leased and rented property for 2003 and 2004 was held by the former Health Boards and the Eastern Regional Authority. Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy.

My Department has requested that the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive investigate the matter and issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme.

Joe McHugh

Question:

146 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money that was spent on the advertisement of the cervical cancer vaccination programme; the number of civil servants who worked on the creation and formulation of the cervical vaccination programme during 2008; the grades of these civil servants; her views on whether the cervical vaccination programme would have saved lives in the future; and if she will provide an “I agree” or an “I disagree” answer to the fourth section of this question. [41807/08]

As I have already indicated, I accept fully the expert advice provided to me in support of the introduction of such a programme. However, I also have a responsibility as Minister to consider this and many other competing priorities within the overall resources available to the health services. Some initial planning and preparatory work on the introduction of such a programme was carried out this year by the Health Service Executive and was considered by my officials but the Government spent no money on the advertisement of the proposed programme.

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 133.

Health Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

148 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a national diabetic retinopathy detection programme; her views on whether there is a need for a national diabetic retinopathy programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41812/08]

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

Illegal Substances.

Finian McGrath

Question:

149 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a matter (details supplied). [41829/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the sale of products associated with the consumption of illegal drugs and whether current legislation is deficient in this regard. I am aware that a range of substances often referred to by the generic term ‘legal highs', which mimic or cause effects similar to illicit substances, are available in so-called ‘head shops' and are currently not scheduled under Misuse of Drugs legislation.

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

The list of scheduled substances is kept under review on an ongoing basis. In particular my Department reviews any evidence that substances are being abused and are causing significant harm to public health. For example, in 2006 psychotropic — magic — mushrooms were brought under control and their possession and sale is now an offence. Furthermore, following the European Council of Ministers' decision in March 2008 to bring Benzylpiperazine (BZP) under control, which was deemed to pose an excessive risk as a party pill, my Department will be introducing regulations to make the possession and sale of BZP illegal.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Willie Penrose

Question:

150 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concern being expressed by various organisations in relation to the funding situation for disability services provided in 2009, and the possible loss of 6% in the mental health budget in 2009 and the impact this will have upon the ability to provide services; and if her attention has further been drawn to the funding shortfalls that existed in relation to the provision of personal assistants and resources and outreach services; if, in this context this matter will be reviewed and reassessed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41835/08]

In Budget 2009, an additional €10 million was allocated to the HSE for services in the area of disability and mental health. The funding for 2009 will provide for 125 additional therapy posts in the disability and mental health services area, targeted at children of school going age. In addition, once-off funding of €1.75m is being provided for suicide prevention initiatives and for mental health projects supporting service users and carers.

Almost €1 billion is provided each year to non-statutory providers of disability services. In line with the efficiency measures being taken elsewhere in the health system, an efficiency reduction of 1% will be applied by the HSE to the allocations of non-statutory disability agencies for 2009. It is envisaged that efficiencies will be achieved in non-frontline areas such as advertising, PR, travel and subsistence and management/administrative payroll costs.

Mental health services currently spend an estimated €1 billion. It is also important to bear in mind that some 90% of mental health problems are dealt with in primary care.

The estimated additional cost of the implementation of ‘A Vision for Change' the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy is €150m over 7-10 years. A total of €51.2 million has been allocated since 2006 which represents over a third of the overall requirement. Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive is obliged to operate within its overall vote. In this regard, it took steps to ensure that it met this objective in 2007 by delaying some of its planned developments, including developments in mental health. I am advised that of the €51 million provided in 2006 and 2007 for the implementation of ‘A Vision for Change', about €30 million has now been invested.

In 2008 the HSE prioritised the development of child and adolescent mental health services. The recruitment of 8 additional child and adolescent mental health teams and the commissioning of 14 additional beds for children and adolescents are underway. Construction of two 20 bed units for children and adolescents and Cork and Galway is scheduled to commence in 2009.

As the matters raised by the Deputy, including the provision of personal assistants and resources and outreach services are a matter for the HSE under the Health Act 2004, I have requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Job Protection.

Joe McHugh

Question:

151 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if he will facilitate a compromise between the HMRC and a transport company (details supplied) in County Donegal in respect of that company’s historic PAYE and NIC debts in view of the fact that the company is unable to pay these debts and in view of the fact that the company will fold if a compromise is not reached, which will result in the loss of 100 jobs in the north-west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41811/08]

The Company in question is a private company licensed to provide passenger bus services in County Donegal under the Road Transport Act, 1932 and cross border bus passenger services under Council Regulation (EEC) No 684/92. It is unfortunate that a long established transport company is facing financial difficulties. However, it would be inappropriate for me as Minister for Transport to get involved in the financial affairs of any private company.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

152 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the alternative support mechanisms that will be given following the termination of the excise duty refund for public transport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41919/08]

As already stated in my answer to Question numbers 28 and 33 on 1 October last and in further question answered on 4 November, the Finance Act 2008 provides for the removal of excise duty reliefs in the bus sector with effect from 1 November 2008. Since this is in line with our EU obligations, there is no power to restore the scheme.

Fuel Duty.

Michael Ring

Question:

153 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Transport the action taken by his Department on a submission from a council (details supplied). [41920/08]

The Coach Tourism and Transport Council submitted to my Department proposals for an alternative to the fuel duty scheme. The Finance Act 2008 provided for the removal of excise duty reliefs in the bus sector with effect from 1 November 2008. Since this is in line with our EU obligations, there is no power to restore the scheme or a scheme along similar lines.

Garda Operations.

Dan Neville

Question:

154 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [41698/08]

I have sought a report on the matter raised by the Deputy from the Garda authorities. When I receive the report, I will write to the Deputy.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard Allen

Question:

155 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [41719/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in April 2007. Officials in that Section inform me that the application is at an advanced stage of processing and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the near future.

Registration of Title.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

156 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the name given on a folio (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41730/08]

Under the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority (PRA) was established as and from 4 November, 2006. The PRA replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

The Deputy will be aware of the service to T.D.s and Senators which provides information on the current status of applications and which was introduced in May 2006. The service provides a speedier, more efficient and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions. It is operated by the PRA and is available all year round. I understand that the PRA has now provided the Deputy with the information requested.

Citizenship Applications.

Enda Kenny

Question:

157 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application for naturalisation will be concluded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41734/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of this Department in August 2008. Officials in that Section inform me that a letter requesting further documentation was issued to the person in question on 4 November, 2008. To date, no reply has been received. Further processing of the application will commence once the requested documentation has been received.

Asylum Support Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

158 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the payments made under all headings to all companies involved in providing accommodation to asylum seekers and refugees for each of the past five years; the location of each premises involved; the cost of purchase of each of such premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41735/08]

I can inform the Deputy that I have recently written to him providing the requested information which was also sought in an earlier Dáil Question from the Deputy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

159 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent of accommodation purchased with the intent of providing accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers in each of the past five years which has not been used for the purpose for which it was intended; if any such accommodation was in the ownership of his Department or an associated agency of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41736/08]

No accommodation has been purchased by my Department, or by the Office of Public Works on behalf of my Department, for the accommodation of asylum seekers in any of the last five years.

Crime Prevention.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

160 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of licensed firearms being held in each garda district in County Donegal. [41743/08]

I have requested the figures from the Garda authorities and will forward them to the Deputy as soon as they are available.

Garda Deployment.

Tony Gregory

Question:

161 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will request a detailed report from the Garda authorities regarding the level of policing in the East Wall area of Dublin 3 specifying the number of foot patrols in East Wall and their approximate times so involved; if the report will respond to complaints from an association (details supplied) that Garda visibility in East Wall is minimalist at best; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41819/08]

The area referred to by the Deputy falls into the Dublin North Central Garda Division. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of the Dublin North Central Garda Division as at 30 September 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 712.

For operational and security reasons it is not Garda policy to disclose the number of Gardaí detailed for specific duties over any specific period of time. Notwithstanding this, I have been informed by the Commissioner that four members of the local Community Policing Unit are allocated specifically to the area and these members attend meetings with various Residents' Groups attended also by Local Authority and public representatives. These meetings are also regularly attended by local Senior Garda management and the Assistant Commissioner with responsibility for the Region.

Additional patrols by uniformed and plain clothes personnel, supplemented by Divisional and District Detective and Drug Units, Community Policing and Garda Mountain Bike Units, Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel have also been directed to the area.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force. In doing this he takes into account all relevant factors, including factors such as population, crime rates and trends as well as operational priorities. The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of the area referred to by the Deputy will be fully considered by the Commissioner with the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Property Services Regulation.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

162 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the need for legislative powers to be given to the National Property Services Regulatory Authority to regulate apartment management agents and to mediate between agents and apartment owners. [41821/08]

The Government Legislation Programme published on 23 September 2008 provides for publication of the Property Services (Regulation) Bill during the current Dail session.

This Bill will establish the Property Services Regulatory Authority on a statutory basis. Its primary task will be to operate a licensing system for auctioneers, estate agents and property management agents and to improve standards in the provision of property services by licensees. The Authority will specify and enforce qualification requirements for licences, including levels of education, training and experience and other requirements such as minimum levels of professional indemnity insurance. The Authority will also establish and operate a system for investigating and adjudicating on complaints against property service providers. In this context, the legislation will refer to the possibility of resolving disputes by mediation between the parties concerned.

With a view to improving client protection and ensuring clarity with regard to the services being provided by a licensee, the legislation will also require that property services agreements be entered into between service providers and their clients. Such agreements will specify the services to be provided, fees payable by the client, details of redress procedures etc.

Illegal Substances.

Finian McGrath

Question:

163 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support a matter (details supplied). [41828/08]

The Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977/1984 are a matter which fall under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the activities of outlets commonly known as ‘Headshops' are monitored by An Garda Síochána to ensure compliance with law including, in particular, the above legislation.

A number of these types of premises have already been subject of a Garda investigation for suspected breaches of the law, resulting in the submission of investigation files to the Law Officers. A joint policing operation recently took place whereby searches were conducted in 25 outlets nationwide and products seized during these searches have been submitted to the Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis. Pending the outcome of same, investigation files will be submitted to the Law Officers in course for directions as what charges, if any, should be preferred. I am assured by the Garda authorities that these kinds of outlets including the one referred to by the Deputy will continue to be monitored for compliance with the law.

Departmental Expenditure.

Denis Naughten

Question:

164 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of funding given to the Minister for Integration’s Office directly as a proportion of the annual budget given to the Minister for Integration for 2007, 2008 and for 2009. [41914/08]

The meaning of this question is unclear but, from clarification given on the Deputy's behalf yesterday, I understand that the information being sought is the cost of my private (including constituency) office in relation to the overall cost of the Office of the Minister for Integration.

The costs of my private (including constituency) office are not accounted for separately. However, I can inform the Deputy that, in this office, there are 1 higher executive officer (HEO), 2 executive officers (EO) and 5 clerical officers (CO) as well as 2 personal staff, 1 at HEO and 1 at EO level. I do not envisage any increase in these numbers in 2009. The salary scales for these grades are: HEO — €46,558 to €61,082; EO — €30,566 to €50,410; and CO — €23,174 to €38,397.

The overall amounts in the subhead for the Office of the Minister for Integration for the years referred to are: 2007 — €1.586 million; 2008 — €9.293 million; and 2009 — €6.889 million.

Official Engagements.

Denis Naughten

Question:

165 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of launches and openings the Minister for Integration attended in 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41915/08]

I attended in the region of 24 events of the kind referred to in the Question last year and 38 so far this year.

Integration Plans.

Denis Naughten

Question:

166 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the Taskforce for Integration including its role and membership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41916/08]

I do not now propose to establish a task force but I intend to establish a Ministerial Council on Integration. This will (i) advise me on issues facing immigrants, (ii) examine and report on the issues and challenges arising from integration, and (iii) review on a regular basis progress in the field. I shall place the names of those appointed in the Oireachtas Library when the Council has been established.

Denis Naughten

Question:

167 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of funding that will be made available to political parties to implement integration plans; when this will proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41917/08]

In view of the current difficult fiscal position, I do not propose to proceed with this funding for the present but will consider it further at a later stage.

International Agreements.

Billy Timmins

Question:

168 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation with respect to Belarusian children visiting here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41733/08]

As the Deputy may be aware, this is an issue of great importance to me personally and I am determined to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. Every effort is being made to ensure that Belarusian children can continue to visit Ireland for the purposes of rest and recuperation. I have replied to a number of questions on this matter, most recently on 11th and 12th of November and I spoke on this matter during an adjournment debate yesterday evening.

Late on 14 November, a Belarusian response to a draft Agreement between Ireland and Belarus on the matter which my Department had sent to Minsk was received through our Embassy in Moscow. The text of the revised Agreement is being examined closely by officials in my Department and in the Office of the Minister for Children, and it is intended to forward our response to Minsk shortly with a view to the very early conclusions of negotiations.

My Department has also received positive indications at official level that visits by children from Belarus can continue while the negotiating process is ongoing. I hope that this can be confirmed with the Belarusian Government in the coming days. Close contact is being maintained with the charities dealing with Chernobyl children as the situation evolves.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Joe McHugh

Question:

169 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts made to encourage members of the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party to attend meetings of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41818/08]

The Joint Committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement was established by the Oireachtas for the purpose of considering issues relating to the functioning and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and other matters referred to it by Dáil Éireann.

In addition to members of the Oireachtas, participation in the work of the Committee is open to Northern Ireland members elected to the Westminster Parliament. I welcome the fact that a number of MPs have participated in the Committee, and made a significant contribution to its deliberations. I very much hope that in the near future members from all parties will feel in a position to do so. I know that their participation and insights would add greatly to the work of the Committee.

In line with the Government's commitment in this area, I and my officials avail of every appropriate opportunity to encourage greater understanding and cooperation between the main traditions on the island. I have consistently made clear my view of the benefits of closer dialogue, including through participation in the work of the Good Friday Agreement Committee. I recognise, of course, that ultimately this is a matter for decision by individual members and their parties.

In this regard I am encouraged by the example of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, where unionist representatives recently participated as members for the first time. I am also aware of the ongoing contacts on a range of issues between Committees of the Oireachtas and of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I believe that this type of engagement is to be welcomed and makes a real contribution to better relations between North and South.

Arts Plan.

Mary Upton

Question:

170 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made towards implementing the recommendation of the Arts and Education Committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41676/08]

The Special Committee on the Arts and Education report ‘Points of Alignment' published earlier this year marked the culmination of a comprehensive consultation process and serious consideration of all the issues by those charged with the production of this document. The Committee's remit was to advise the Arts Council on how best to align the Council's strategies for the promotion and encouragement of the arts with the priorities of the formal education system. Indeed the authors of, and contributors to, this report are to be commended for their openness and insightful deliberations in putting forward their final recommendations.

As I stated in my reply on 8th October last in response to Parliamentary Question No. 174, this report points out the advantages of structured communication and interaction between school and artistic communities at a local level and adds further vital information on this exciting and wide-ranging arts and education spectrum.

When the relevant parties have finalised their budgets for 2009, my Department intends to resume consultations with the Department of Education and Science and the Arts Council to see what elements, if any, of the recommendations of the report can be implemented. These consultations will however, have to be undertaken in the light of the ongoing economic challenges and the serious budgetary constraints now facing all areas of public expenditure.

Sports Funding.

Mary Upton

Question:

171 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on lowering the matching funding threshold for sports clubs and organisations in CLÁR and RAPID areas from the 10% requirement to 5% under the sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41677/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

Since 1998 the Government has allocated over €725m in sports capital funding to over 7,400 sports projects across the country. This investment has transformed the sporting landscape of Ireland and has allowed the development of sports facilities across the length and breath of the country. These facilities have dramatically increased the opportunities for all people to engage in a wide variety of sports.

One of the stated aims and objectives of the sports capital programme is to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of facilities. Since 2002, those areas that have been designated by Government for special support through the schemes administered by Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, i.e. RAPID, Local Drugs Task Force (LDTF) and CLÁR areas are treated as disadvantaged under the programme.

Projects identified as being located in areas designated as disadvantaged are targeted and prioritised in a number of ways during the assessment of applications. They are permitted to have a lower level of minimum own funding available towards their project and extra marks are also awarded to such projects during the assessment process by the application of socio-economic disadvantage criterion. Under the 2008 Sports Capital Programme, the level of own funding required by applicants from RAPID and Local Drugs Task Force areas was reduced to 10% from 20%. This is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. At this stage there are no plans to further reduce the level of own funding required.

Through the prioritisation of applications from disadvantaged areas, the Sports Capital Programme has invested over €146 million in designated disadvantaged areas. In turn, the arrangement where Sports Capital allocations in RAPID and CLÁR receive top-ups from the department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has allowed further allocations of more than €22 million to be made.

I believe that these measures taken together give priority to applications from RAPID, CLÁR and LDTF areas and that the large scale investment in sports facilities in these areas is evidence of the Government's commitment to meeting the needs of designated disadvantaged areas.

For the Deputy's information, under the 2008 programme grants totalling over €16.4 million were allocated to 264 projects in designated disadvantaged areas. My colleague the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has announced top-ups for qualifying grantees in RAPID areas of over €2m.

Tourism Industry.

John O'Mahony

Question:

172 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the uptake from the mid-Shannon tourism investment to date; if he will review the scheme in terms of the deadline set and the lack of funding available to entrepreneurs from the banking sector to make the scheme function properly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41823/08]

The Mid-Shannon Tourism Infrastructure Investment Scheme, which was introduced in section 29 of the Finance Act 2007 and launched in June 2008, provides tax incentives for investment in tourism attractions and facilities in the designated Mid-Shannon Corridor. Any review of the Scheme in terms of the deadlines set is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance in the first instance.

The Scheme commenced in June 2008 and no formal applications for approval or certification have been made to the Mid-Shannon Tourism Investment Board to date. I am advised by the agencies that a significant number of project promoters have contacted them and Fáilte Ireland and Shannon Development are actively working with promoters to bring projects to the application stage.

I am also advised that the two agencies have organised several information seminars with tax practitioners and tourism operators to outline the workings of the Scheme, as well as a recent workshop for Local Authorities to facilitate the Scheme in their areas.

Film Industry Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his plans to promote the film industry here in the next two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41837/08]

Primary responsibility for the support and promotion of film-making in Ireland in respect of both the indigenous sector and inward productions is a matter for the Irish Film Board (IFB). This agency is funded through my Department and is independent of the Department in its operations. For 2009 a budget of €20.416m has been provided for the IFB in the Estimates for my Department.

The task of attracting international production into Ireland is dependent on a number of elements, not all of which fall within the sphere of influence of my Department or that of the Irish Film Board. Decisions to site a film project in a particular territory involve complex funding, cultural, logistical and project-specific elements, all of which are crucial for a successful result.

My Department's primary operational role in supporting the film sector relates to the administration of elements of the Section 481 tax relief scheme. This scheme is kept under regular review in conjunction with the Irish Film Board and any enhancements necessary to retain or regain competitiveness are addressed and brought to the attention of the Minister for Finance as appropriate. The scheme was amended and enhanced in the Finance Acts of 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and most recently this year when the Minister for Finance, in his Budget 2008 speech, announced that he was extending the scheme for a further four years until the end of 2012, following a review of the scheme by Indecon International Economic Consultants. This extension of the scheme was welcome and also the proposal in the Finance Bill to increase the overall ceiling on qualifying expenditure from €35m to €50m.

An area that I considered needed examination was in relation to measuring and capturing the full scale, value and potential for growth of the audio-visual production sector in Ireland. In that regard I am pleased that the Irish Film Board has commissioned a major independent survey of the audio-visual production sector in Ireland. The survey should provide a complete and accurate description of the character, scale and value of the entire industry as it currently exists and provide an objective starting point from which to chart a plan for the future and act as a benchmark from which to accurately measure progress. The survey was recently completed and I look forward to receiving a copy of it from the Irish Film Board in due course.

Another important element of a successful film industry is the availability of adequate, fully equipped studio resources that can cater for the needs of indigenous and incoming film/TV productions and this is a key factor in the Irish Film Board's role of marketing Ireland as a film location. The studios at Ardmore play an integral part in fulfilling this role and following recent discussions that have taken place with representatives of all interested parties, I can confirm that the current arrangements between the Irish Film Board and Ardmore Studios are to continue.

I believe that the industry in Ireland has never been stronger in terms of international recognition and commercial success. This is evidenced by the Oscar success this year for the film "Once" and both the critical and financial successes of numerous films in recent times.

Arts Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has proposals to offer financial support to any of the arts groups, musical or dramatic societies throughout County Kildare which have sought assistance in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41838/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which he proposes to encourage participation in the arts in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41839/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his proposals for the development and promotion of the arts throughout County Kildare in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41840/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 to 176, inclusive, together. Government Policy on the Arts is set out in the Programme for Government and is elaborated further in my Department's Statement of Strategy. My policy on the arts is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, and make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life.

Responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country, including Kildare, 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.

The Arts Council supports many arts organisations in Co. Kildare. However, the Council is statutorily independent, under the Arts Act 2003, in their funding decisions and I have no role to play in their grant allocations.

My Department has taken a direct role in relation to the provision of capital grant-aid for arts and culture infrastructure and has allocated over €150m in funding for the capital development of facilities around the country in recent years. Funding for new arts facilities is primarily provided through the Arts Capital Programme (previously known as ACCESS — Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme). The Arts Capital Programme is a key element in the Government's regional arts strategy and has greatly improved participation in the arts for large numbers of people, of all ages, nationwide. The scheme has been widely acknowledged as a significant intervention in the provision of quality cultural spaces. Funding has been provided towards integrated community art centres, theatres and galleries as well as art studios and other art production, creative and performance spaces.

Two applications were received from Kildare under the current scheme (ACCESS II). These were assessed by an independent selection committee who made recommendations to the Minister. One of the two applicants in Kildare was successful under ACCESS II.

All of the available funds under the current Arts Capital Programme have been fully allocated. In the present economic climate there are no immediate plans to launch a new Arts Capital Programme. Applications for any new scheme would be invited by public advertisement and details would also be available on the Department's website.

Tourism Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his plans to ensure the future expansion of the tourism sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41841/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his plans for the development and growth of the tourism sector in the next four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41842/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his proposals to increase competitiveness in the tourism sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41843/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 to 179, inclusive, together.

We have in recent years enjoyed consistent growth in numbers of overseas visitors and associated revenue earnings. Last year alone we welcomed over 8 million visitors with associated revenue of €4.9 billion, including Irish carrier receipts. While the international tourism market is becoming increasingly competitive, Ireland has consistently outperformed our competitors in terms of growing the number of overseas visitors to our shores.

It is fully recognised that current global economic factors are likely to impact on the number of outward travellers from some of our most important overseas markets. Figures for the first half of this year were up on the corresponding period of 2007 but there has been a fall-off in numbers since then. I understand that this falloff mirrors trends across Europe, where the year started positively but saw a downturn in monthly figures from May onwards.

I believe that the strategic approach taken to tourism development in recent years, by both the public and private sectors, has given the industry the capacity to withstand the cyclical external challenges and to sustain its performance in coming years.

While I know that our businesses are responding positively to current challenges, it is just as important that the strategic framework for tourism development responds to the changing environment. I have therefore decided to take steps to renew our strategic framework for tourism development as set out in "New Horizons for Irish Tourism: an Agenda for Action 2003 – 2012". I will be putting in place the arrangements for this shortly and I will seek for it to be completed in the first half of next year. In the meantime, an extensive range of marketing, product development, training and business supports are being rolled out by the Tourism State Agencies under the Tourism Services budget of the Department. I am confident that the tourism sector here has the capacity to manage the current cyclical slowdown. Renewing our strategy will help the sector to manage the current challenges and to return to sustainable growth in the medium term.

In terms of our ability to compete in the international arena in the future, maintaining and enhancing competitiveness is a major issue for Irish tourism as it is for the economy as a whole. In addressing that issue, it is important to bear in mind that competitiveness is about more than price and costs. It is generally agreed that Ireland cannot and, indeed, should not attempt to compete on the basis of costs with mass tourism destinations.

The tourism agencies continue to monitor Ireland's competitiveness as a tourism destination and I am encouraging them to assist the industry in responding to changing conditions through a variety of programmes in marketing, human resource development, quality enhancement, product development and productivity.

Sports Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the expenditure in the development, support and promotion of active sporting activities in each of the past five years to date; his proposals for such expenditure for the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41844/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the long-term investment in competitive sporting activities with a view to encouraging greater participation in international competitive events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41845/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which he proposes to incentivise participation in competitive sporting activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41846/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his proposals to generate greater interest in sports here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41847/08]

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

The Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, has a statutory role in encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive and recreational sport. The Irish Sports Council Act, 1999 specifically states that one of the functions of the ISC shall be "to encourage the promotion, development and coordination of competitive sport and the achievement of excellence in competitive sport" and that the Council has responsibility for developing "strategies for increasing participation in recreational sport and to coordinate their implementation by all bodies (including public authorities and publicly funded bodies) involved in promoting recreational sport and providing recreational facilities". According to the ISC's strategy "Building Sport for Life" the ISC's mission is "To plan, lead and coordinate the sustainable development of competitive and recreational sport in Ireland". The ISC prepares an annual report which is available from the Council.

In that context, the ISC receives an annual Grant in Aid from my Department. The ISC determines the allocation of funding to the development, support and promotion of active sporting activities and funding to competitive and high performance sport.

In tandem with the programmes which are funded by the Irish Sports Council aimed at improving standards of performance and increasing participation in sport, the Department, through the Sports Capital Programme, allocates funding for the provision of sports facilities throughout the country.

Arts Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his plans to encourage the development of and interest in, the promotion of the arts at local and international level; the objectives to encourage local community participation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41848/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the expenditure by his Department in each of the past five years to date in the promotion of interest and participation in the arts; his intentions for investment and support in this area in the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41851/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 185 together.

Government Policy on the Arts is set out in the Programme for Government and is elaborated further in my Department's Statement of Strategy. My policy on the arts is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, and make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. 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.

The Arts Council is a statutorily independent body, funded by my Department and independent in its day-to-day operations, including in relation to its funding decisions. Funding for the Arts Council has increased by over 71% from €47.67 million in 2002 to €81.6 million this year. A table showing expenditure by the Arts Council for the past five years is set out below. These are significant amounts of money in any context and have transformed and increased access to the arts and allowed the Arts Council to support artists and arts organisations nationwide.

My Department has taken a direct role in relation to the provision of grant-aid for arts and culture infrastructure and has allocated over €150m in funding for the capital development of facilities around the country in recent years. A total of €113m of this is expected to be drawn down by the end of 2008. The table set out below outlines expenditure on capital arts projects since 2004.

The Arts Capital Programme (previously known as ACCESS – Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme) is designed to assist in the provision of high standard arts and culture infrastructural projects, thereby enhancing access to all aspects of the arts throughout the country. The programme has been widely acknowledged as a significant intervention in the provision of high quality arts and culture infrastructure around the country.

Facilities funded to date include integrated arts centres, theatres, galleries, studios, and creative and performance spaces. In this manner the Department provides the bulk of capital funding for building and refurbishing arts facilities around the country, mainly in the not for profit sector, while the Arts Council provides the ongoing revenue support for many of the facilities.

The promotion of Irish arts internationally is the responsibility of Culture Ireland, which operates under the aegis of my Department. Culture Ireland supports a wide range of projects and events across all art forms in order to increase the worldwide profile and presence of Irish artists and ensembles, and to develop new international audiences for Irish arts and culture. The agency also showcases outstanding Irish artists at key international events and festivals. Promoting Irish arts abroad represents in addition an investment in the growth of cultural tourism and Ireland's international profile and reputation. Culture Ireland's current funding for 2008 is €4.75 million.

Arts Council Funding 2004-2008.

Year

Funding

% Change

Supplementary Estimate

Total including Supplementary

% Change

€m

2004

52.500

19.0

2.00

54.50

23.6

2005

61.000

16.2

5.23

66.23

21.5

2006

72.310

18.5

10.00

82.31

24.3

2007

80.000

10.6

3.00

83.00

0.8

2008

82.102

2.6

81.60

-1.7

Capital Arts Expenditure

Year

Expenditure

€m

2004

6.1

2005

12.7

2006

20.0

2007

37.2

2008

37.1 (est.)

Total

113.0

Youth Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the need to provide extra grant aid to fund community based and financially assisted local initiatives involving the provision of youth services such as community centres, drop in centres and indoor facilities with the objective of providing positive alternative outlets for teenagers here having particular regard to the growing number of negative influences and their impact on young people; if he will take a strategic decision to implement such a policy to a greater extent than has been the case heretofore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41852/08]

The Government and I continue to be acutely conscious of the specific needs of young people in the development of positive, healthy and pro-social attitudes and behaviours, as evidenced, inter alia, by the Department's provision of unprecedented sums in grants for a range of arts and sports facilities over the last number of years.

In the arts sector, the Arts Capital Programme has facilitated the allocation of more than €150 million in funding in recent years for the capital development of arts and culture infrastructure, much of which is community based and provides access to young people to participate in the arts.

In addition, in 2008, funding of more than €81 million was provided to the Arts Council, the principal agency through which State funding is channelled to the arts, to support artists and arts organisations nationwide. In this regard, over the period 2006-2008, the Arts Council has taken and continues to take initiatives to improve and extend opportunities in the arts for young people and children.

In the sports sector, in 2008, the Sports Capital Programme allocated more than €50 million to 685 sports and recreation projects nationwide, including young people's sporting organisations and/or those with a focus on the provision of sporting facilities for young people. More than €16 million of the 2008 funding was allocated to projects located in designated disadvantaged areas. Since 1998, the Sport Capital Programme has allocated more than €725 million to more than 7,400 separate projects.

Moreover, through the Irish Sports Council, considerable funding has been made available to the Local Sports Partnerships to promote participation in sport and physical activity, including by young people. In 2008, this funding amounts to more than €5.4 million, an increase on the approximately €4.1 million provided in 2007. In addition, in 2007, the Irish Sports Council administered more than €1.9 million from the Dormant Accounts Fund for sports for disadvantaged youths.

Having regard to all the foregoing, I remain satisfied that at both the policy and funding levels the specific developmental needs of our young people are being well catered for in the arts and sports sectors.

Departmental Expenditure.

Tom Hayes

Question:

187 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will increase the grant provided to an organisation (details supplied) from the Regional Drugs Task Force in view of the fact that the annual funding provided for 2008 for places under this scheme was used by August 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41703/08]

The project referred to by the Deputy is funded through the South Eastern Regional Drugs Task Force (SERDTF) and, in 2008, it was allocated funding of €182,282. The Task Force is responsible for the allocation of funding in line with its approved action plan and is charged with allocating funding in a manner, which it considers, will best address the needs in the region.

In this regard, it is a matter for the SERDTF to decide what projects are funded and the level of funding granted to projects from their overall budget. In this context, I am not in a position to provide any funding to the project outside of these processes.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

188 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position in relation to a disability allowance appeal for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [41683/08]

The claim for disability allowance by the person concerned was disallowed by a Deciding Officer of the Department on 20 October 2008 following an examination by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for the allowance.

An appeal was opened on 13 November 2008 and I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that, in accordance with statutory requirements, the Department was asked for the documentation in the case and the Deciding Officer's comments on the grounds of the appeal. In that context, an examination by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Insurance.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

189 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the procedure in instances where an employee has discovered on the sale of the business that the employer has not paid PRSI contributions on their behalf despite the money been taken out of their salary and are unable to obtain documentation’s from the former employer of their contribution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41712/08]

The Department's Inspectorate, appointed under Section 250 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 is responsible, inter alia, for ensuring that employers and self employed people comply with the Act in relation to Pay Related Social Insurance contributions. Employer compliance, in this regard, is monitored through inspections which include; detailed examinations of employers’ records to ensure that correct PRSI payments are being made in respect of all employees.

Where an employee notifies the Department that his/her employer has not been remitting PRSI on their behalf or where an irregularity in a customer's PRSI record is detected at claim processing stage, the case is referred to a Social Welfare Inspector for investigation.

Where PRSI undercharges are confirmed, the Inspector sets out PRSI arrears/underpayment in respect of each employee for each tax year and issues a demand to the employer for payment. Should the employer fail to respond satisfactorily, a statutory demand will issue by registered post and the employer given 14 days to respond. If the employer fails to respond the case is considered for prosecution.

Following confirmation of the employment, either by way of wage inspection or employee statement, the Department's Client Eligibility Services Section is advised to update the employee's PRSI record for the period of employment in question. Where a benefit claim is pending the relevant scheme area is similarly advised. This is to ensure that there is no loss of benefit to an employee caused by their employer's failure to make timely and proper returns on their behalf.

Unemployment Levels.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

190 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 217 of 6 November 2008, the number of people on the live register by nationality with a further breakdown of the nationality figure by occupation and by duration on the register. [41717/08]

The number of persons on the Live Register at 31 October 2008 was 251,951. The CSO publishes a breakdown by nationality grouping in the monthly live register release. The department collates nationality data on this basis also. The numbers on the live register from the main nationality groupings at 31 October 2008 were as follows:

Number

Ireland

207,351

UK

11,584

12 New EU Member States

22,285

Other 13 EU Member States

2,654

Non EU

8,077

Total

251,951

A breakdown of the live register by nationality grouping with a further breakdown of the nationality figure by occupation and by duration is presented in tabular format as follows. Tables 1-5 show the details for the individual groupings and table 6 gives the details for the total live register. Duration is broken down between those "Under 1 year "and those "One year or more" on the live register.

Table 1: Irish nationals on live register by occupation and duration at 31/10/08

Category

Under 1 Year

1 year or more

Total

Agriculture, Fishing and Related Industries

2,153

1,343

3,496

Beauty

2,014

384

2,398

Business and Financial

2,173

273

2,446

Construction, Woodwork and Metal and Related Industries

51,412

15,705

67,117

Domestic and Catering

10,905

4,035

14,940

Education

6,661

831

7,492

General Operatives

17,345

8,709

26,054

Health and Related Industries

5,820

1,386

7,206

Information Technology

1,143

489

1,632

Legal Profession

503

65

568

Management

7,281

1,311

8,592

Office Admin, Clerical, Secretarial

18,224

4,062

22,286

Printing, Press, Communications

1,079

323

1,402

Retail, Sales

17,174

4,404

21,578

Security, Military

2,412

1,217

3,629

Textiles

177

167

344

Travel, Tourism

707

316

1,023

Unknown

5,855

3,957

9,812

Vehicle Trade

4,106

1,230

5,336

157,144

50,207

207,351

Table 2: United Kingdom nationals (31/10/08)

Category

Under 1 Year

1 year or more

Total

Agriculture, Fishing and Related Industries

121

70

191

Beauty

67

17

84

Business and Financial

80

14

94

Construction, Woodwork and Metal and Related Industries

2927

954

3,881

Domestic and Catering

777

233

1,010

Education

296

46

342

General Operatives

745

338

1,083

Health and Related Industries

363

97

460

Information Technology

88

43

131

Legal Profession

22

0

22

Management

554

112

666

Office Admin, Clerical, Secretarial

965

231

1,196

Printing, Press, Communications

73

27

100

Retail, Sales

980

239

1,219

Security, Military

141

58

199

Textiles

9

12

21

Travel, Tourism

42

24

66

Unknown

311

158

469

Vehicle Trade

273

77

350

8,834

2,750

11,584

Table 3: Nationals of the 12 new EU Member States (31/10/08)

Category

Under 1 Year

1 year or more

Total

Agriculture, Fishing and Related Industries

367

16

383

Beauty

97

3

100

Business and Financial

76

5

81

Construction, Woodwork and Metal and Related Industries

8,415

361

8,776

Domestic and Catering

2,840

148

2,988

Education

171

6

177

General Operatives

4,067

181

4,248

Health and Related Industries

255

7

262

Information Technology

69

8

77

Legal Profession

2

2

4

Management

334

12

346

Office Admin, Clerical, Secretarial

880

32

912

Printing, Press, Communications

60

3

63

Retail, Sales

1,820

106

1,926

Security, Military

320

14

334

Textiles

31

1

32

Travel, Tourism

81

4

85

Unknown

593

84

677

Vehicle Trade

772

42

814

21,250

1,035

22,285

Table 4: Nationals of the 13 other EU Member States (31/10/08)

Category

Under 1 Year

1 year or more

Total

Agriculture, Fishing and Related Industries

25

6

31

Beauty

7

2

9

Business and Financial

92

3

95

Construction, Woodwork and Metal and Related Industries

359

46

405

Domestic and Catering

338

51

389

Education

142

14

156

General Operatives

222

37

259

Health and Related Industries

82

14

96

Information Technology

70

9

79

Legal Profession

1

0

1

Management

252

32

284

Office Admin, Clerical, Secretarial

301

38

339

Printing, Press, Communications

13

2

15

Retail, Sales

275

30

305

Security, Military

36

5

41

Textiles

1

0

1

Travel, Tourism

34

2

36

Unknown

75

8

83

Vehicle Trade

28

2

30

2,353

301

2,654

Table 5: Non-EU nationals (31/10/08)

Category

Under 1 Year

1 year or more

Total

Agriculture, Fishing and Related Industries

44

22

66

Beauty

37

25

62

Business and Financial

96

27

123

Construction, Woodwork and Metal and Related Industries

976

308

1,284

Domestic and Catering

701

189

890

Education

149

36

185

General Operatives

911

352

1,263

Health and Related Industries

382

121

503

Information Technology

93

41

134

Legal Profession

13

7

20

Management

216

67

283

Office Admin, Clerical, Secretarial

521

168

689

Printing, Press, Communications

32

7

39

Retail, Sales

680

233

913

Security, Military

295

71

366

Textiles

3

3

6

Travel, Tourism

28

11

39

Unknown

669

342

1,011

Vehicle Trade

134

67

201

5,980

2,097

8,077

Table 6: Total Live Register by Occupation Category and Duration

Category

Under 1 Year

1 year or more

Total

Category

Agriculture, Fishing and Related Industries

2,710

1,457

4,167

Beauty

2,222

431

2,653

Business and Financial

2,517

322

2,839

Construction, Woodwork and Metal and Related Industries

64089

17,374

81,463

Domestic and Catering

15,561

4,656

20,217

Education

7,419

933

8,352

General Operatives

23,290

9,617

32,907

Health and Related Industries

6,902

1,625

8,527

Information Technology

1,463

590

2,053

Legal Profession

541

74

615

Management

8,637

1,534

10,171

Office Admin, Clerical, Secretarial

20,891

4,531

25,422

Printing, Press, Communications

1257

362

1,619

Retail, Sales

20,929

5,012

25,941

Security, Military

3,204

1,365

4,569

Textiles

221

183

404

Travel, Tourism

892

357

1,249

Unknown

7,503

4,549

12,052

Vehicle Trade

5,313

1,418

6,731

Grand Total

195,561

56,390

251,951

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

191 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the upgrading of a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Donegal; if tender documents have been submitted and approved; when it is expected that work will commence on this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41721/08]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 405 of 4 November 2008. The position is unchanged.

Fire Stations.

Phil Hogan

Question:

192 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when finance will be sanctioned for the provision of a new fire station (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41732/08]

The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of premises is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981. My Department's role is one of supporting and assisting fire authorities in delivering fire services through the provision of funding under the fire service capital programme and through setting of general policy.

The Department recently initiated a review of the priorities of fire authorities in relation to the funding of the replacement or upgrading of fire stations. In that context, Waterford County Council has submitted a priority list of the following stations which are in need of replacement:— Kilmacthomas, Lismore, Portlaw and Tallow. The provision of exchequer funding to support further investment in the County Waterford fire service will be considered under future capital programmes. Such funding will have regard to the Council's priorities, existing facilities and the competing demands from other fire authorities for available funding.

Planning Issues.

Enda Kenny

Question:

193 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in respect of Parliamentary Question No. 507 of 11 March 2008, he will provide a copy of the defence presented by his Department to the European Commission in respect of current rural practice policies and practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41737/08]

Following discussions with the European Commission, my Department issued Circular Letter SP 5/08 to all County Managers on 30 September 2008, regarding local need policies in cases where there is an application to build a dwelling from which a full-time business will operate. Local authorities were asked to examine their development plans in light of the updated guidance provided in the circular to ensure their compatibility with Articles 43 and 56 of the EC Treaty which guarantee respectively the freedom of establishment (of business) and the free movement of capital. A copy of the Circular Letter is available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

When we have confirmed with all local authorities that their plans are compliant with the terms of the circular or, if necessary, that their plans are being varied to make them compliant, my Department will write again to the Commission to confirm that the issues have been resolved. In the meantime, as stated in the reply to Question No. 212 of 10 April 2008, I am precluded, on the basis of legal advice, from publishing or disseminating either the correspondence from the European Commission in relation to enquiries or investigations into possible infringements or the State's responses as these documents are regarded as part of possible legal proceedings.

However, once matters have been concluded to the satisfaction of the Commission and there is no longer any likelihood that possible proceedings could be undermined by the release of such documents, my Department will be pleased to make its papers available.

Joint Policing Committees.

Sean Fleming

Question:

194 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in relation to the joint policing committees in local authority areas, there will be duplication of the roles of these committees between the county committees and the committees covered by areas that were formerly town councils that operate within the local authority area; and if he will make a statement on the most practical way of ensuring that there is an effective policing committee in each area without unnecessary duplication. [41742/08]

Following a pilot programme, Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) are currently being established in all local authorities. Revised guidelines in relation to the operation of the JPCs were recently issued by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, under the Garda Síochána Act, 2005, following consultation with myself and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The pilot phase was very useful in identifying issues that needed to be addressed, including the importance of good linkages between town and county JPCs. Accordingly, the revised guidelines specifically highlight the need for good co-operation between town and county JPCs within a county to ensure complementarity, to avoid any negative impact on Garda and local authority resources and to facilitate the overall effective operation of the committees. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will continue to keep the operation of JPCs under review and make any necessary changes to the guidelines in the light of experience gained.

Local Authority Housing.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

195 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of local authority owned houses which are closed or boarded up for more than three months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41796/08]

The latest date for which figures are available is 31 December, 2007. Returns indicate that 2,414 dwellings within the local authority social housing stock were vacant for more than 3 months, not including those vacant because of planned refurbishment. When dwellings vacant due to planned refurbishment are included, the total figure is 5,046.

Local Authority Funding.

Joe McHugh

Question:

196 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount local Government funding will be reduced by on a county basis in tabular form. [41804/08]

I assume the question refers to general purpose grants from the Local Government Fund. General-Purpose Grants are the contribution that my Department makes to local authorities to meet the gap between the cost to them of providing a reasonable level of day-to-day services and the income they obtain from other sources. The Local Government Fund is also providing significant funding to local authorities for the improvement and maintenance of local and regional roads, and additional amounts are allocated for particular purposes including the operation of Water Services, and the administration of Group Water Schemes and the Vehicle Registration Unit. My Department also provides additional support for Local Authorities through specific grant programmes.

The information requested in respect of general purpose grant allocations is set out in the table following.

General Purpose Grant allocations from the Local Government Fund

Local Authority Name

Local Authority Type

2008 Allocation

2009 Allocation

Decrease in 2009 over 2008

Carlow

County Council

13,171,854

12,306,154

-865,700

Carlow

Town Council

2,029,952

1,892,279

-137,673

Cavan

County Council

20,690,378

19,458,247

-1,232,131

Cavan

Town Council

959,443

896,669

-62,774

Clare

County Council

16,476,569

15,378,399

-1,098,169

Ennis

Town Council

2,730,208

2,543,446

-186,761

Kilrush

Town Council

714,415

669,258

-45,157

Cork

City Council

28,383,759

26,621,735

-1,762,025

Cork

County Council

57,368,547

53,426,741

-3,941,807

Fermoy

Town Council

966,051

903,071

-62,980

Macroom

Town Council

695,502

650,415

-45,087

Mallow

Town Council

1,249,965

1,169,962

-80,002

Kinsale

Town Council

465,860

433,576

-32,284

Midleton

Town Council

633,077

591,835

-41,242

Youghal

Town Council

1,290,216

1,202,187

-88,028

Clonakilty

Town Council

693,955

646,972

-46,983

Cobh

Town Council

1,391,067

1,296,453

-94,614

Skibbereen

Town Council

500,603

465,887

-34,716

Donegal

County Council

44,097,787

41,475,164

-2,622,622

Buncrana

Town Council

1,088,368

1,012,839

-75,529

Bundoran

Town Council

667,311

621,038

-46,273

Letterkenny

Town Council

1,306,455

1,215,860

-90,595

Dublin

City Council

105,039,762

97,858,944

-7,180,817

D.Laoire/Rathdown

County Council

41,261,666

38,400,825

-2,860,841

Fingal

County Council

33,756,001

31,415,713

-2,340,287

Sth Dublin

County Council

27,396,258

25,496,895

-1,899,363

Galway

City Council

9,795,964

9,124,005

-671,959

Galway

County Council

40,632,067

38,114,833

-2,517,234

Ballinasloe

Town Council

1,015,293

950,779

-64,514

Kerry

County Council

29,139,561

27,336,897

-1,802,665

Killarney

Town Council

2,055,205

1,927,436

-127,769

Listowel

Town Council

881,560

821,870

-59,690

Tralee

Town Council

3,642,477

3,389,945

-252,532

Kildare

County Council

28,176,862

26,610,812

-1,566,050

Athy

Town Council

842,149

793,148

-49,001

Naas

Town Council

1,626,320

1,533,822

-92,498

Kilkenny

County Council

22,021,918

20,685,770

-1,336,148

Kilkenny

Borough Council

2,097,952

1,956,052

-141,900

Laois

County Council

19,360,800

18,164,790

-1,196,009

Leitrim

County Council

16,332,646

15,313,468

-1,019,178

Limerick

City Council

12,258,639

11,418,303

-840,336

Limerick

County Council

27,483,240

25,691,248

-1,791,992

Longford

County Council

15,522,985

14,587,948

-935,038

Longford

Town Council

1,368,653

1,273,760

-94,893

Louth

County Council

14,070,960

13,148,521

-922,438

Drogheda

Borough Council

5,191,157

4,844,706

-346,451

Dundalk

Town Council

5,865,497

5,465,713

-399,784

Mayo

County Council

40,257,276

37,803,456

-2,453,820

Ballina

Town Council

1,793,779

1,686,959

-106,820

Castlebar

Town Council

1,151,720

1,071,870

-79,850

Westport

Town Council

953,737

887,610

-66,127

Meath

County Council

30,297,653

28,518,941

-1,778,712

Kells

Town Council

556,770

519,192

-37,578

Navan

Town Council

645,495

601,415

-44,079

Trim

Town Council

645,050

601,799

-43,251

Monaghan

County Council

16,610,930

15,596,332

-1,014,598

Carrickmacross

Town Council

667,511

625,814

-41,697

Castleblaney

Town Council

547,412

512,538

-34,874

Clones

Town Council

641,474

602,512

-38,962

Monaghan

Town Council

1,314,915

1,224,191

-90,724

North Tipperary

County Council

20,481,309

19,249,645

-1,231,664

Nenagh

Town Council

1,263,607

1,178,464

-85,143

Templemore

Town Council

726,943

680,615

-46,327

Thurles

Town Council

1,122,814

1,048,618

-74,196

Offaly

County Council

17,222,857

16,226,526

-996,330

Birr

Town Council

901,055

844,246

-56,809

Tullamore

Town Council

1,469,791

1,368,173

-101,618

Roscommon

County Council

23,308,308

21,765,459

-1,542,849

Sligo

County Council

18,731,673

17,563,001

-1,168,672

Sligo

Borough Council

3,488,704

3,246,772

-241,932

South Tipperary

County Council

25,062,115

23,546,512

-1,515,603

Carrick-on-suir

Town Council

1,280,842

1,203,148

-77,694

Cashel

Town Council

755,812

707,471

-48,341

Clonmel

Borough Council

3,640,466

3,405,515

-234,951

Tipperary

Town Council

963,818

900,467

-63,351

Waterford

City Council

8,941,951

8,332,207

-609,744

Waterford

County Council

24,259,293

22,792,535

-1,466,759

Dungarvan

Town Council

1,151,863

1,071,996

-79,866

Westmeath

County Council

22,711,775

21,311,238

-1,400,538

Athlone

Town Council

2,127,156

1,981,130

-146,026

Wexford

County Council

23,425,682

21,990,111

-1,435,570

Enniscorthy

Town Council

1,371,601

1,276,663

-94,938

New Ross

Town Council

1,089,176

1,020,414

-68,763

Wexford

Borough Council

2,605,561

2,427,102

-178,458

Wicklow

County Council

21,974,808

20,584,730

-1,390,078

Arklow

Town Council

1,800,934

1,689,157

-111,777

Bray

Town Council

5,016,875

4,681,851

-335,024

Wicklow

Town Council

1,825,214

1,703,090

-122,124

Total

999,212,657

935,253,881

-63,958,776

Social and Affordable Housing.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

197 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the next tendering process will take place to underwrite mortgages supplied under the shared ownership scheme; and the steps he will take to ensure that the mortgage protection premiums charged to homeowners under that scheme are competitive with those charged in the open market, which is not currently the case. [41918/08]

The local authority mortgage protection insurance scheme is overseen by the Mortgage Protection Committee which is a sub-committee of the County and City Managers association, CCMA and is representative of the CCMA, local authorities, the Housing Finance Agency and my Department.

The Committee recently held a tender competition with a view to putting a new scheme in place from 1 January 2009. A final decision on the winning tender is due shortly. It is also intended that the rental portion of shared ownership will be incorporated into the new scheme.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Richard Bruton

Question:

198 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost of production of biofuels; the way this has moved over the past three years; and the way it compares in price and in performance terms in motor vehicles with oil based fuels. [41793/08]

My Department does not have or maintain specific data on the cost of producing biofuels either domestically or globally. Production costs for biofuels are individual to each producer and feedstock and vary widely. Also, given that in many cases the biofuel feedstock is an agricultural commodity, the price paid can be dependent on factors at play in the commodities markets.

The very sharp spike in the price of certain agricultural commodities, particularly in late 2007 has substantially subsided. It is estimated however that volatility in agricultural commodities markets will continue to affect the price competitiveness of biofuels periodically.

In terms of comparative performance, biofuels vary significantly in terms of the energy output per unit volume in comparison with their mineral equivalent. Some have nearly identical energy outputs, while others, like bioethanol, have a lower energy content.

Telecommunications Services.

Joe McHugh

Question:

199 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action he is taking to hasten the provision of broadband to Bredagh Glen, Moville, County Donegal; his views on whether people living in that area are being put at a competitive disadvantage in terms of establishing or conducting business and that the youth of Moville are at an educational disadvantage relative to youths living in areas serviced by broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41805/08]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter for the private sector. Broadband service providers operate in a fully liberalised market, regulated, where appropriate, by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The role of the Government is to formulate regulatory and infrastructure policies to facilitate the provision of high quality telecommunications services, by competing private sector service providers.

It is important to note that in addition to fixed landline broadband, otherwise known as Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or broadband over telephone lines, broadband services are available from competing service providers over multiple platforms including cable, satellite, fixed wireless and increasingly mobile. I understand that Moville already has broadband on offer from a number of service providers.

Joe McHugh

Question:

200 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when tenders for the national roll-out of broadband will be decided. [41810/08]

Two bids from Eircom Ltd and Hutchison 3G Ireland have been received in response to the National Broadband Scheme Invitation to Tender. These bids are currently being evaluated and the evaluation process is scheduled for completion shortly. The preferred bidder is expected to be announced this month.

Electricity Generation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

201 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the pilot micro electricity programme by Sustainable Energy Ireland will be commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41922/08]

Billy Timmins

Question:

202 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when a scheme will be put in place to allow payment for micro electricity connected to the grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41924/08]

Billy Timmins

Question:

203 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the timeframe for the implementation of the REFIT tariff for photovoltaic and for micro wind generation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41925/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 to 203, inclusive, together.

Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) is implementing a Micro generation Pilot Programme, which will conduct research and field trials, including support for between 50 and 60 installations on a pilot basis. The field trials will address a range of issues including grid connection and technical standards to ensure the power security, safety and quality of installations.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER)/ESB Networks have recently amended the rules associated with small scale generators. It is now the case that generators of less than 6kW on single phase electricity and 11kW on three phase electricity supply cables can connect to the grid without prior authorisation. SEI will shortly publish a guide to connecting renewable and CHP electricity generators to the electricity network including advice for micro-generators. The development of micro generation will be progressively facilitated by the roll out of the national smart meter programme.

My Department is working closely with the Commission for Energy Regulation and other stakeholders to put in place in the short term an appropriately structured payment system for microgenerated electricity exported to the grid which will operate separately from the REFIT mechanism.

Foreshore Licences.

Dara Calleary

Question:

204 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress made within his Department on an application for a foreshore licence (details supplied); if all the prescribed bodies have contacted and replied on the application; and when it is anticipated that a decision will be made. [41699/08]

My Department is processing two foreshore applications in respect of the proposed Belmullet Sewerage Scheme.

The first application was received from Mayo County Council on 23 June 2008 for a foreshore licence to facilitate the discharge of treated effluent from a proposed wastewater treatment scheme at Belmullet. The application was circulated to my Department's consultees in the normal way. The second application, which is in respect of site investigation works in connection with the scheme, was received by my Department on 28 July 2008 and this has also been circulated to my Department's consultees.

Responses are awaited from a number of consultees in respect of both applications. Issues raised to date by consultees who have responded have been referred to the Council for comment.

Every effort is being made by my Department to expedite consideration of the applications.

Food Labelling.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

205 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the outcome of the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health on 13 October 2008 regarding food labelling and country of origin as referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 557 of 30 September 2008. [41707/08]

A draft decision notifying Ireland not to proceed with its draft legislation for country of origin labelling of pigmeat, poultrymeat and sheepmeat was one of the items on the agenda of the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health on 13 October 2008.

The Commission summarised the grounds advanced by Ireland for the draft legislation but pointed out that it had adopted a negative opinion. Its view was that the proposed regulations were not justified under the provisions of the current labelling directive.

The Irish delegation pointed out the basis for the draft legislation including the various misleading labelling practices and the legitimate expectation of consumers to know the origin of their food. It also indicated that the current provisions of the labelling directive were not sufficient to pursue effectively the variety of misleading cases and also referred to the fact that health marks and ill-defined "substantial transformation" could conceal the true origin of product.

The Commission took note of the observations but indicated that it was maintaining its position.

I will continue to argue for country of origin labelling of meat in the context of the Commission's proposal for a new regulation on food information. The Department of Health and Children is the lead Department for that proposal and my officials remain in contact with it on this issue.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

206 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of applications under the CFP grant scheme approved for payment in each of the past six months in the southern and northern areas of County Roscommon; the number awaiting approval for payment in each area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41709/08]

To date in 2008, my Department has made 532 payments totalling €15.55 million to applicants in County Roscommon under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. This compares to 265 payments totalling €6.27 million during the calendar year 2007.

My Department keeps its staffing arrangements in local offices under constant review in order to ensure that payments continue to flow in a timely manner to farmers under this and other Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

207 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the number of applications under REP scheme three approved for payment in each of the past six months in the southern and northern areas of County Roscommon; the number awaiting approval for payment in each area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41710/08]

The number of REPS 3 applications for annual payment approved in Roscommon and the number awaiting approval is set out in the following table.

Roscommon South

Roscommon North

May

77

82

June

43

49

July

101

59

August

51

93

September

82

76

October

83

18

Number awaiting approval

183

32

Animal Feedstuffs.

Andrew Doyle

Question:

208 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the action being taken to assist the poultry and pig industries in the sourcing and supply of non-genetically modified feed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41723/08]

The main source of protein feed for the pig and poultry industry is soya imported from South America. Over 90% of the imported soya comes from GM varieties. Soya from non GM varieties is currently used in some sectors of the poultry industry and this is being purchased at a price premium over the GM soya.

Sheep Sector.

Joe McHugh

Question:

209 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans for the roll-out of the €30 million maintenance grant for ewes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41798/08]

The report for the European Parliament by Mr. Liam Aylward MEP on the sheep sector in Europe has called for the introduction of an environmental maintenance scheme for ewes to arrest the decline in sheep production. This recommendation and others in the Aylward Report were considered in detail at a special conference on the sheep sector that was held in Limoges by the French Presidency at the beginning of September.

In the context of the current Health Check of the Common Agricultural Policy, I have continually emphasised the need to support the sheep sector and I will continue to do so in this week's discussions on that subject.

Farm Waste Management.

Joe McHugh

Question:

210 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the cost to the State of an extension of the farm waste management scheme to June 2008. [41808/08]

I presume the Deputy is referring to an extension of the Scheme concerned to June 2009.

It is not possible at this stage to provide an estimate of the additional cost which such an extension might involve.

Joe McHugh

Question:

211 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will re-visit his decision to refuse to extend the farm waste management scheme in view of the need to prolong existing employment levels in the construction sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41815/08]

The deadline of 31 December 2008 for completion of work by farmers under the revised Farm Waste Management Scheme introduced by my Department in March 2006 is a condition of the EU state aid approval for the Scheme. The EU Commission has repeatedly stated that the exceptional extension to end December 2008 has to be strictly adhered to.

Veterinary Inspection Service.

Finian McGrath

Question:

212 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will support a matter (details supplied). [41827/08]

As aspects relating to the AHCS1 form are of a technical matter, I believe that a meeting at official level would be more appropriate in the first instance. If the person concerned contacts my office, the necessary arrangements can be made for a meeting with my officials.

Schools Amalgamation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

213 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of a new school for a school (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41688/08]

The Department has approved the provision of a new 36-classroom school to cater for an amalgamation involving the school referred to by the Deputy.

The amalgamation of the schools will take place on completion of the new school building which is to be built on a site provided by the parish. The project to provide the new school is in architectural planning and is currently at stage 2b (detailed design) of the planning process.

Progression on the project will be considered in the context of the Department's Multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. In light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this project at this time.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

214 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of a new school for a school (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41689/08]

The Department has approved the provision of a new 36-classroom school to cater for an amalgamation involving the school referred to by the Deputy.

The amalgamation of the schools will take place on completion of the new school building which is to be built on a site provided by the parish. The project to provide the new school is in architectural planning and is currently at stage 2b (detailed design) of the planning process.

Progression on the project will be considered in the context of the Department's Multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. In light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this project at this time.

Special Educational Needs.

Enda Kenny

Question:

215 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent of the visiting teacher service for children and young people with a hearing or visual impairment, VTHVI, provided by his Department with particular reference to the numbers of visiting teachers available for pre-school, primary, post primary and third level in each region allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41690/08]

Enda Kenny

Question:

216 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a teacher for visually impaired children (details supplied) was allocated a case load on a restricted basis in view of the impracticality of the circumstances in which the service could be provided as a consequence; the alternative ways that have been examined by his Department; the outcome of the alternative ways examined; the location of the nearest geographically adjacent VTVIs; the findings of the analysis of alternative ways of providing the service examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41691/08]

Enda Kenny

Question:

217 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on whether the visiting teaching service for children and young people with a hearing or visual impairment scheme provided by his Department was never intended to be by telephone consultation only; if his attention has been drawn to the situation in which this is the only visiting service allocated to pupils and that this fails the aims of the scheme and the aims of the service to be provided; if he will rectify this situation forthwith; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41692/08]

Enda Kenny

Question:

218 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the cost of the visiting teacher service for children and young people with a hearing or visual impairment for each of the past five calendar years; the allocation made in the budget for his Department for each such year for this purpose; if all the moneys allocated were spent; the number of new teachers capable of providing the specialist service involved employed in the past five years; the number employed as of 30 September 2008 in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41693/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 to 218, inclusive, together.

My Department currently has 42 posts for Visiting Teachers of the Hearing and Visually Impaired (VTHVIs) nationally, 29 of which are assigned to support the education of approximately 2000 hearing impaired children and 13 in the case of approximately 1000 visually impaired children. The posts are assigned to caseloads of between 60 and 100 children covering, in some cases, a limited geographic area and, in others, up to 5 counties. Each caseload contains a combination of children and young people with varying levels of sensory difficulties from pre-school through primary and second levels to third level education. Each of my Department's ten Regional Offices is a base for an average of 4 VTHVIs. All 42 posts in this service are currently filled.

The assignment of caseloads to individual VTHVIs and the location of VTHVIs is a factor of available resources and assessment of service needs at any given juncture. The assignment of a VTVI to continue a limited service to Co. Mayo from Dublin in 2007/2008 fell within these parameters. While it was necessary to review that service in September 2008, it was always intended that the needs of visually impaired children in Co. Mayo would be addressed locally and permanently in the longer term within the overall capacity of the VTHVI service. In order to ensure some continuity of support for families, schools and relevant referral agencies, a VTVI has been providing welcome advice and support on an interim basis since early September 2008 while options for a permanent solution to this matter have been explored.

My Department will correspond directly with the Deputy in relation to details regarding costs and staffing of the VTHVI service.

I wish to inform the Deputy that significant progress has been made in planning for a permanent VTVI service to Co. Mayo and, in that regard, my Department will shortly advertise the post in question.

School Staffing.

John Perry

Question:

219 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide assurances that the future of a school (details supplied) in County Sligo will be safeguarded, in the wake of the recent cuts in the education budget; if, in view of its unique status as the only boarding school in Connacht, he will ensure that this school will remain exempt from the cuts in services to ensure the future of the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41700/08]

The 2009 Budget required difficult choices to be made across all areas of public expenditure. Decisions were made in order to control expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long term. In this respect Education, while protected to a much greater extent than most other areas of public expenditure, could not be entirely spared, and I acknowledge the impact of funding restrictions in a number of areas, including at school level. However, these are the inevitable result of the challenging economic environment and the need to manage Exchequer resources prudently.

Specific information in relation to the detailed staffing allocations that individual schools will have for the commencement of the academic year 2009/10 cannot be determined until the allocation processes have fully concluded. There is nothing exceptional in this. The allocation processes include appellate mechanisms under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. This is particularly relevant at post-primary level where the appellate process considers in particular any specific curricular needs of the school concerned. At post-primary there is no effective system wide redeployment scheme at present and this can mean that schools retain teachers, though over quota, and in addition discrete allocations are made to post-primary schools for example to cater for pupils with Special Educational Needs and those with Language difficulties and these allocations can also alter the ultimate position of the school in relation to any over quota position.

Schools are currently returning data to my Department in relation to their enrolment as of 30 September. My Department has commenced processing this data although all schools have not yet made their returns. The allocation processes including notification to schools will commence early in the New Year.

Schools Building Projects.

Damien English

Question:

220 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a school building project at a school (details supplied) in County Meath; when he expects work to begin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41706/08]

My Department has received an application for major capital funding from the school to which the Deputy refers.

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

The school has also submitted an application for additional temporary accommodation which is currently being examined. A decision on this application will be conveyed to the School Authorities as soon as possible.

School Transport.

Denis Naughten

Question:

221 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will furnish a response to a representation made to his Department regarding school transport to a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41708/08]

My Department has requested Bus Éireann to furnish a report regarding the issues raised by the Deputy in his recent representations.

Disadvantaged Status.

Michael Ring

Question:

222 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the effects of the budget 2009 cutbacks on a school (details supplied) in County Mayo that is located in a disadvantaged area but is one of the very few schools there that is not included in DEIS. [41716/08]

The school to which the Deputy refers is the among the schools that were judged by an independent identification process in 2005 not to have a sufficient level of disadvantage among their pupils to warrant their inclusion in DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools), the Action Plan for educational inclusion. The next identification process is scheduled to be held at the end of the current DEIS programme which runs from 2005-2010. There will not be an opportunity before this to be included in the current DEIS programme of supports.

This school together with 72 other post primary schools retained resources, both teaching posts and financial, under pre-existing schemes and programmes for addressing educational disadvantage. When DEIS was introduced, a commitment was given as a concessionary measure to these schools that they would retain a level of support for the duration of the DEIS Initiative.

While it is appreciated that the discontinuation of these resources will impact on these schools, given the current volatile and challenging economic climate, difficult decisions had to be made in order to contain public sector spending. One of these decisions was to advance the withdrawal of such supports from non DEIS schools to the beginning of the next school year.

The main focus of Social Inclusion measures will be to retain resources in DEIS schools. There is a need to focus targeted resources on the schools in most need and this approach is in line with the broad thrust of the recommendations of the Comptroller and Auditor General which are set out in his report on Primary Disadvantage of 2006, which recommended that the Department should focus its educational disadvantage measures on those schools serving the most disadvantaged communities.

School Enrolments.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

223 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will reply to a query (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41725/08]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

225 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41727/08]

Finian McGrath

Question:

235 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support a matter (details supplied). [41826/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 223, 225 and 235 together.

The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and the Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. The Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard a Board of Management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a Board of Management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to either the relevant Vocational Educational Committee or to the Secretary General of my Department. In the case of the latter, only where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld can the Secretary General of my Department direct a school to enrol a pupil.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB will try to help parents to find an alternative school placement if their child is on a waiting list or has been unable to secure a school placement to date. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

The Forward Planning Section of my Department is currently in the process of identifying the areas where significant additional school accommodation will be required at primary and post-primary level. Factors under consideration include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and capacity of existing schools to meet demand for places. Having considered these factors decisions will be taken on the means by which emerging needs will be met within an area.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

224 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will reply to a query (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41726/08]

My Department is not involved in the allocation of school places. Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places.

The Deputy will appreciate the sensitivity attached to releasing this type of information for each school. The source of the data comes from the annual ‘October Returns' from each post-primary school to my Department. Amongst the data collected on each student is a "country of origin" designation. This designation defaults to "Ireland" unless otherwise indicated in each school's return.

In this context and based on this designation, I can inform the Deputy that the number of students whose "country of origin" was returned as other than Ireland for each of the post-primary schools in the Dublin area in 2006/2007 was 3,262. Total enrolment for that school year for these schools was 90,072.

The total enrolment for all post primary schools in the Dublin area for the school year 2007/2008 was 89,376. Of these 3,424 were students whose "country of origin" was returned as other than Ireland.

Question No. 225 answered with Question No. 223.

Schools Building Projects.

Mary Upton

Question:

226 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans for giving approval in respect of the building of new schools in 2009; when he will inform interested applicants about the status of their applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41738/08]

On 29th September this year I announced details of 25 major school building projects which are to proceed to tender and construction.

The school building projects which I announced will provide permanent primary school places for over 4,600 students in five new schools and 15 extended and modernised schools. A further 3,600 students at post-primary level will benefit from one new school and four major extension and refurbishment projects.

I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to my statement on 29th September that it is my intention to make a further announcement in the first quarter of 2009 on a further group of major primary and post-primary school projects to proceed to tender and construction.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Jack Wall

Question:

227 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the representations from a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41748/08]

Notwithstanding the increase of €302 million in the Education budget for 2009, which is a real achievement in the current economic climate, a number of tough and difficult decisions had to be taken.

When the country was able to afford it the Government reduced the basis on which primary teachers are allocated to schools from being based on an average number of pupils per teacher from 35 pupils down to the current level of 27 pupils. The change to a new average of 28 pupils per teacher has to be viewed in that context. Significant additional support went into schools particularly in the area of special education. The Government also reduced class sizes for the most disadvantaged in our DEIS schools to an average of 1 teacher for every 20 pupils in Junior classes and an average of 1 teacher for every 24 pupils in Senior classes and these will not be changing in 2009. When one adds up all the teachers in the system there is 1 teacher for every 16 pupils in our primary schools.

I am confident that as the global economy improves it will be possible to build again on the significant achievements of recent years and do so in a manner consistent with overall prudent management of the Irish economy.

School Accommodation.

John Deasy

Question:

228 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the cost per year of providing prefabricated buildings for the past ten years at a school (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41781/08]

Details relating to annual payments to the school referred to by the Deputy for the rental of temporary accommodation over the past 10 years are set out in the following tabular statement. The temporary accommodation is required on the site to accommodate increased enrolments in the school pending the completion of a major building project for the school.

The progression of this project will be considered in the context of the Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, due to the level of demand on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this project.

Holy Cross National School, Tramore, County Waterford 19629G — Rental Costs from 1999-2008

Summary Table (in €)

Year

Rental Cost Amount Paid

Once-off Cost* Amount Paid

1999

14,502.89

Nil

2000

19,589.43

15,844.33

2001

67,614.10

Nil

2002

72,432.78

Nil

2003

66,973.77

Nil

2004

61,818.02

Nil

2005

86,797.99

9,962.39

2006

124,125.26

10,782.50

2007

153,805.34

51,226.50

2008

210,619.33

52,369.75

Schools Building Projects.

John Deasy

Question:

229 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to an application for a new school building for a school (details supplied) in County Waterford in view of the current overcrowded conditions there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41783/08]

My Department has approved a new 24 classroom school and ancillary accommodation for the school to which the Deputy refers. This project is currently at Stage 2b of the architectural planning process (detailed design). Progression of the project will be considered in the context of the Department's Multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. In light of current competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this project at this time.

Special Educational Needs.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

230 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will address the anomaly whereby students with psychological reports advising the provision of resource teaching hours and special needs assistant facilities for such students cannot be implemented by the special education needs officer without a professional clinical diagnosis of the relevant condition and difficulty from an appropriate medical consultant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41784/08]

I wish to advise the Deputy that no anomaly exists. My Department sets out the criteria for allocating additional supports in schools which have enrolled children with special educational needs. The level of such support is determined by the assessed disability of the pupil(s) concerned in accordance with my Department's policy parameters. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

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

Olwyn Enright

Question:

231 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004; the timescale for its implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41787/08]

A significant number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004 have been commenced, principally those establishing the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and those promoting an inclusive approach to the education of children with special educational needs. Specifically, the following sections have been commenced — 1, 2, 14(1)(a), 14(1)(c), 14(2) to 14(4), 19 to 37, 40 to 53.

As required under the Act, the NCSE provided a report making recommendations regarding the implementation of EPSEN which suggested additional investment over a period of years of up to €235m per annum across the education and health sectors. Having considered the NCSE report, and consulted with the education partners, the Department of Health and Children and the HSE, my Department identified a range of options for the implementation of EPSEN. My Department's opinion is that the level of investment required would be greater than that envisaged in the NCSE report. In the light of the current financial circumstances, it is therefore not possible to proceed with full implementation in 2010 as originally envisaged. However, the Government will keep the matter under review and is committed to the full implementation of EPSEN at the earliest possible date.

I want to reiterate that children with special educational needs will continue to receive an education appropriate to their needs. The NCSE will continue to support schools, parents and children, and teachers and special needs assistants will continue to be deployed to schools to meet children's needs. As announced on Budget day, an additional €20m has been provided — €10m for education services and €10m for health services — to strengthen and enhance services, and continue the preparation for the full implementation of the Act at a later date.

An integrated approach is being adopted by the education and health sectors to target these additional resources to the areas of greatest need. Progress in both sectors will be kept under review by the Office for Disability & Mental Health and the Cross-Sectoral Team.

School Accommodation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

232 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science his Department’s specification in respect of classroom space per pupil, toilet facilities per pupil, ancillary rooms required, play areas an so on for schools in the range of 300 to 600 pupils; and if the detailed specifications are published. [41782/08]

These documents cover all aspects of the development of a building project for both internal and external works. The level of facilities to be provided in schools will vary depending on the brief of accommodation needed for the school.

The standard size of a classroom being delivered for primary schools, whether through the generic repeat design (GRD) concept or traditional design, at primary level is 80 sq metres, including wet area, w/c's, storage and cloakroom facilities. 80 sq. metres is considered to be the optimum size of classroom and was determined by studies carried out by my Department and in line with international best practice. The details are given in Technical Guidance Document 022. This has been the standard size for rooms constructed in recent years. It allowed plenty of space for the range of activities carried out under the modern school curriculum.

Special Educational Needs.

Joe McHugh

Question:

233 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will reassess the case of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41801/08]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility, through its network of Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for the establishment of special education facilities and for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. School transport for children with special needs is generally provided to the nearest recognised mainstream school, special class/special school or unit that is, or can be resourced to meet the child's special educational needs under my Department's criteria. My Department will request the NCSE to clarify the position regarding the allocation of resources.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joe McHugh

Question:

234 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the nature of the cutbacks in funding in respect of the school for gifted children at Dublin City University. [41816/08]

Notwithstanding the increase of €302 million in the Education budget for 2009, which is a real achievement in the current economic climate, a number of tough and difficult decisions had to be taken. These decisions included the decision to discontinue the annual funding of €97,000 that my Department made available to the Centre for Talented Youth (CTYI) at Dublin City University.

While it is appreciated that the discontinuation of this funding will impact on the Centre, given the current volatile and challenging economic climate, difficult choices had to be made in order to contain public sector spending. Tax revenues are down significantly and Government expenditure has to reflect this reality. The priority of this budget was to focus on measures to channel as much as was possible of the available resources to the direct funding of our schools.

Question No. 235 answered with Question No. 223.