Residency Permits.

I appreciate the Minister of State taking this Adjournment matter. The issue that arises concerns residency and is little less than an outrage, language I rarely use, and I have been a Member of this House for a long time.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform grants permission to stay under section 3 of the basic legislation. I will give an example without naming the individual concerned as the person is named in the question for information. A letter written in October states:

I am directed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to refer to your application for temporary permission to remain in the State. As an exceptional measure, I am to inform you that the Minister has decided to grant you temporary permission to remain in the State for three years until 21 October 2011.

Many people receive these letters. The letter goes on to set out a number of conditions in regard to the person's right to remain in the State. One has an expectation of being able to remain in the State permanently if one obeys the law.

What happens in Galway is that individuals who receive this type of letter, and who have been staying in hostel accommodation, later receive another letter. The individual concerned received the other letter the following day stating:

Dear. . . . .

The Reception and Integration Agency has been informed that you have been granted leave to remain. You must now make arrangements to move into the community and begin your new life in Ireland. As the accommodation you currently occupy is for asylum applicants and noting that you were granted leave to remain on 21 October 2008 you are required to leave this accommodation as soon as possible but no later than 11 November 2008.

The letter goes on to make many helpful suggestions.

The individual presented to the GNIB in Liosbán, where he was asked for his passport. He responded that he had with him an old passport when he arrived in Ireland. We spent two weeks trying to find that passport at the level of the Department, only for him to be told when he found it that an up-to-date passport was needed. Without a stamp four, the individual, who is only allowed to stay in his hostel out of charity, cannot register for housing, social services or medical benefits. Effectively, the GNIB is operating its own immigration policy in complete frustration of the policies of the INIS.

Four such cases are currently outstanding in Galway and gardaí have looked for an up-to-date passport in each. The people concerned are from Zimbabwe, where matters are impossible, Somalia, where there is no state, Liberia and Eritrea. In the Eritrean case, from which I cannot receive satisfaction, it is suggested that the Garda will write a travel document to enable the individual to leave Ireland in order to apply to the Eritrean Embassy in London. This individual has fled from Eritrea after coming under Islamist pressure for being a Christian. He will have to present himself to the embassy, pay £500 sterling and sign an undertaking that anything he earns in Ireland for the rest of his life will go back to Eritrea. The gardaí in Liosbán see nothing wrong with that scenario. In the original letter sent by the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Conor Lenihan, the suggestion was made that the Garda had received a faxed copy. When my office raised the matter, it was told that Garda procedures do not recognise facsimiles because one would not know what "they" would be up to in terms of forgeries.

The original letter in one case is still missing. It was sent from the Minister's office to the Phoenix Park. In another case, there is not even the sight of a letter. The remark made in Liosbán when my copy was produced was to the effect that I am only a Deputy and not a garda, so the individual concerned will not get a stamp four.

In my 30 years of public life, I have never been required to speak this way. I am conscious that half of my family have gone abroad. If I go to America I travel with Irish status and I am conscious that people have basic rights to move all over the world. I do not believe in a State that has an unaccountable police force. If any Deputy wishes to visit Liosbán, it is open from 7.30 a.m. until 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. No information is made available in any language. People arrive with their sleeping bags and wait their turn and, when they are told they will not get their stamp, they leave and return the following morning at 6.30 a.m. It is a scandal and a disgrace. I have before me a stack of letters on the issue.

I spoke to a decent sergeant and a good inspector who informed me that they forwarded my correspondence to the superintendent of the section, who will send it to the divisional chief superintendent. However, I cannot arrange a meeting with the western region Assistant Commissioner. I want these cases to be resolved before I raise them again next week in the Dáil.

I hope my reply will satisfy the individual concerned and I will immediately bring to the attention of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the issues raised by Deputy Higgins regarding Liosbán and, if difficulties remain, can facilitate a meeting with a Garda representative.

The regional Assistant Commissioner.

I find it hard to accept that members of the Garda would refuse to meet a democratically elected Member of the Oireachtas and I urge those who are in a position to assist the Deputy to do so.

They did not refuse. They did not arrange a meeting. It was a waste of time.

I will urge them to arrange a meeting immediately and will bring the matter to the attention of the Minister.

I would like to clarify the procedures in place for the registration of non-EEA national persons who are granted residency in the State. Where a decision is made to approve a residency application following consideration by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, this decision is conveyed in writing to the applicant and, if known, his or her legal representative. The decision letter will advise the successful applicant of the period of residency that has been granted, the conditions attaching to this residency permission, the grounds under which permission can be revoked and the registration process involved.

The registration process requires the successful applicant to attend at his or her local Garda district headquarters station or at the offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau in Dublin City Centre with the original copy of the decision letter of the Department and his or her national passport or some other form of photographic identification document.

The original letter is demanded. Copies or faxes will notsuffice.

Upon payment of the appropriate registration fee, the process is completed and results in the successful applicant being issued with a stamp four on his or her passport.

Other forms of photographic identification are not accepted. They are insisting in a thick way on one particular form of identity. It is as thick as it could be, and proud to be thick.

I am sure that the passionate manner in which the Deputy raised the issue will cause those who are listening to take account of what he has said. I will raise the matter with the Minister and the Garda authorities.

The Minister strongly refutes the Deputy's contention that the procedures are in some way unreasonable. The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be at all appropriate to have a person conferred with an entitlement to reside in the State on an ongoing basis withoutbeing required to produce definitive documentary evidence as to his or her identity and nationality.

I never suggested that.

The Minister would regard such a condition as being entirely reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.

In regard to the individual to whom the Deputy referred, I understand he arrived in the State on 8 November 2004 and claimed asylum the following day. His asylum application was investigated by the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Both investigations concluded that the person concerned did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee.

Arising from the rejection of his asylum application and in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, the person concerned was notified by letter dated 16 June 2008 of the Minister's proposal to issue a deportation order in respect of him. This communication also notified the person concerned of the options open to him at that point in time, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to deportation or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned at that time.

Following consideration of the person's case under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 on the prohibition of refoulement, the Minister decided, as an exceptional measure and subject to certain stated conditions, to grant temporary leave to remain in the State for a three year period until 21 October 2011. This decision was conveyed in writing by a letter dated 21 October 2008 which explained in detail the means by which registration in the State could be effected.

He has to go to London.

I understand from the Garda Siochána that the registration process has not yet been completed. Accordingly, it is recommended that the individual should proceed to procure any outstanding documentation required of him in the context of his registration in the State so that he can clearly show that he is making every effort to become economically viable in the State, which is one of the stated conditions under which he was granted residency.

Excellence in Architecture.

It is appropriate that the Minister of State, Deputy Kelleher, is taking this matter because some of my remarks pertain to his Department.

The world building of the year award, which was given for the first time this year, represents a major achievement. It is the equivalent of the Nobel prize. This is the first year in which it was awarded and it was won by a middle sized Irish architectural practice, Grafton Architects, of which Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell are the two principals. Eight major architectural awards are awarded at present, six of which are given to individuals for lifetime achievements by institutes such as the RIBA in London. The remaining two awards are for specific buildings. The world building of the year award has the most rigorous and demanding criteria and adjudication process. Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara are like Olympic gold medallists. That is the status and standing of their achievement. This should be publicly celebrated and recognised by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism. In response to a parliamentary question I tabled, he advised that he had sent a private letter congratulating them, which is simply not sufficient.

We should use this achievement to promote Irish art and culture abroad and I will make some suggestions for consideration. Every Irish Embassy abroad should showcase it in collaboration with the various State agencies and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland. It would be a golden opportunity to showcase an achievement of excellence on a global scale by Irish architects. IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland should also promote it. Ireland has 4% of the global market for services, which is an incredible achievement. At present, those involved in the Irish construction industry must be encouraged to find work abroad owing to the downturn in our economy. For example, 30% of people employed in architectural practices have been given notice or made redundant in recent months and more will follow.

We need joined up thinking in Departments in this regard. The Departments involved are the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Arts, Sport and Tourism, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. A co-ordinated promotion and sales drive with the Construction Industry Federation and all of the building professions is now required. They should unashamedly use the excuse of the achievement of the award of world building of the year. They won in two categories. There are approximately five categories relating to building type and there is an overall award. In both cases they won that award. What has happened is well known across the world of architectural services and design.

I invite the Minister of State and his colleagues to be active and celebrate this achievement and to communicate, promote, export and sell our expertise globally. This is a unique opportunity to do so. There should be a public reception or other event to celebrate the achievement here. It is simply not sufficiently well known. If it was a sports or a literary achievement, it would be acknowledged in a much more profound and celebratory way than simply sending a private letter of congratulations.

The Deputy is aware that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism has sent a letter offering his warmest congratulations to Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara of Grafton Architects on winning the first building of the year award at the inaugural World Architecture Festival. The new faculty building for the Luigi Bocconi University in Milan, which they designed, is both stunning and truly inspiring. If I am ever in northern Italy I intend to visit it. Northern Spain has that famous landmark building in Bilbao that one associates with the city itself.

I take on board the views the Deputy has expressed regarding showcasing to promote Irish architecture and construction. While I am unsure about the dates, I understand that within the next two weeks the Tánaiste will travel to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with some construction firms to promote Irish companies abroad in the context of the challenging times we have domestically in the construction sector. The Deputy is correct in highlighting the large numbers of lay-offs of engineers and architects. These are highly skilled, educated and, obviously, well motivated people. We now need to look beyond our shores to find employment opportunities for these people.

I will convey the Deputy's views in the context of the achievement of Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara. As he said, we should unashamedly use these awards not only to advance the nation, but also to give opportunities to young architects, engineers and others involved in the construction industry to break into the international market. However, this is a challenging time and unfortunately even though we are going abroad on trade missions, we are going to countries that are also suffering from the severe downturn internationally. If Ireland was alone in having internal challenges, it would be different. However, all countries have their own difficulties at this time. We need to continue to promote Ireland not only as a place for inward investment, but in challenging times we need to provide opportunities to Irish companies to go abroad and establish businesses there. We have recently built up considerable capacity and expertise in the construction sector which we could showcase abroad in the future.

Will the Minister of State raise the matter with IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, which are within his remit?

I will convey the Deputy's views to Enterprise Ireland which is the appropriate agency.

I thank the Minister of State.

Special Educational Needs.

The decision by the Department of Education and Science to cut funding for programmes providing for the development of targeted educational responses to children at risk is shameful and a prime example of cutbacks being directed at those who stand to suffer most. These cutbacks are swingeing and very shortsighted if one considers what those funds are achieving at local level. I am particularly familiar with the situation in the Fingal Centre for the Unemployed in Finglas, a facility in my constituency that provides support for potential early school leavers and young people who are struggling in some way. Recently it was informed by the Department of Education and Science that funding for its opt-in programme has been cancelled not just for next year, but for this year also.

Opt-in is designed to counter disadvantage by engaging with young people identified as being at risk through 12 second level schools in Finglas and surrounding areas and to provide focused interventions such as intensive summer programmes and ongoing one-to-one support with a view to assisting each young person meet his or her potential and engage in meaningful education. Each year, the programme supports more than 40 young people who are described as "highly at risk" and also works with 12 local schools in delivering vital preventive measures to these young people.

The programme has been running very successfully for the past 14 years and in that time has assisted almost 500 young people. I ask the Minister of State not to simply take my word for it, but to consider what has happened in the Finglas area and the testimonials from local schools that have availed of the programme. A representative of Beneavin De La Salle college has stated that the programme has proved beneficial for the target group of potential early school leavers. The school reported that only one of all the boys referred to it left school prior to completion of leaving certificate examinations, which is an excellent record. The representative said that of particular benefit are the summer months projects when these young people are deciding the path in life to follow. The summer holidays between two school years for secondary school boys is a critical time and the opt-in programme is that point of contact that keeps them engaged and motivated to stay on in school. It has been extremely successful in doing so.

A representative of another school in Finglas, Patrician College, said that every child has benefited from the programme and it has prevented several students from dropping out of school. A representative of another school St. Dominic's college in Cabra wrote:

May I take this opportunity to thank you and your colleagues for all the real and tangible support you have given to many of our most at-risk students over the years. Your professional work with them has changed their lives for the better and they have gone into the world as more responsible citizens which benefits all of us. The amount of work done is incalculable. I hope that in these difficult economic times you are allowed to continue the invaluable work you are doing. The consequences of your work not being allowed to go forward would be too much to contemplate.

The programme only costs €82,000 per year. On an annual basis, a relatively small amount of money has enabled 40 young people to remain engaged in the education system up to leaving certificate level. It has been a very cost-effective and worthwhile project, as testified by all the local schools.

I ask the Minister of State to ask the Minister for Education and Science to revisit this decision, which strikes me as being penny wise but pound foolish. It is in nobody's interest that these young people would drop out of school before completion of the leaving certificate and end up dependent on welfare and probably finding it very difficult to find future employment. Goodness knows in what other undesirable activities they may get involved.

This is a very practical programme with proven results which can be seen and which have been praised, not only by local schools but by the Department itself. I ask the Minister of State to make representations to the Minister for Education and Science to reverse this cut, which is very short-sighted. I ask especially that steps be taken to ensure that the funding already committed to for the current year of 2008, and which has already been spent, will be reimbursed to the Fingal ICTU centre. The money has been spent as borrowings etc. were committed to. Serious consideration must be given to funding this initiative into the future as it has been so worthwhile.

The Minister for Education and Science sends his apologies and has asked me to clarify the issues raised by the Deputy, particularly the Department's position on the project in question and the fund for the development of targeted educational responses to certain children at risk.

The Department of Education and Science has funded projects under this fund since 1999 with a total of €1.269 million provided annually. The main objective of the fund was to develop preventative and supportive programmes, which are targeted at children and young people who are at risk of educational disadvantage and social exclusion. The funding of proposed projects was based on an annual application process and all successful applicants were informed that commitment to funding was not given beyond one year and that no liabilities should be entered into which assumed the continued availability of funding in future years.

Typically, homework support and after school projects, early school leaving projects, mentoring and alternative provision for out of school children have been supported where they could not be accommodated through mainstream funding and where it was demonstrated that there was a gap in provision. With the introduction and expansion of the school completion programme, SCP, many projects which were funded by this fund have been integrated and into SCP projects.

Given the current volatile and challenging economic climate, difficult decisions have had to be made in order to contain public sector spending. Tax revenues are down significantly and Government expenditure has to reflect this reality. One of these decisions involves the discontinuation of the fund for the development of targeted educational responses to certain children at risk. Only commitments entered into at this time will be met from the funds for 2008. These commitments will extend to seven projects which are due to be evaluated by the Departments inspectorate in the near future. Support for all other projects will be discontinued and no consideration will be given to new applications in future years.

The main focus of social inclusion measures will be to retain resources in schools participating in DEIS and the action plan for educational inclusion. The Department of Education and Science intends to continue to focus targeted resources on the schools serving the most disadvantaged communities 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 most in need.

DEIS, the action plan for educational inclusion, is being rolled out on a phased basis over the period 2005-10 and focuses on addressing the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities, from pre-school through second-level education, those aged three to 18 years. The action plan provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme. It brings together and builds upon a number of existing interventions in schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage. There are 876 schools in DEIS, which comprises 673 primary schools and 203 second-level schools, with 27 schools in the Finglas and Cabra areas -19 primary and eight post-primary are currently participating in DEIS and receive supports.

Such supports include reduced class sizes of 20:1 in junior and 24:1 in senior classes for band 1 primary schools, additional non-pay and capitation allocation based on their level of disadvantage, a financial allocation under the schools books grant scheme, access to numeracy and literacy supports and programmes at primary level, access to home school community liaison services; access to the school completion programme, enhanced guidance counselling provision at post-primary level, access to the junior certificate schools programme and the leaving certificate applied and provision for school library and librarian support for the post-primary schools with highest concentrations of disadvantage.

There are currently four school completion projects in Finglas and Cabra, which are in receipt of over €1 million in total annually, targeting approximately 900 young people. The objective of the school completion programme is to provide a range of interventions in areas of disadvantage that support the retention of young people in education and to develop local strategies to ensure maximum participation levels in the education process. This entails targeting individual young people of school-going age, both in and out of school, and arranging supports to address inequalities in education access, participation and outcomes.

There is considerable overlap between the aims, objectives and the services provided by the school completion programme and the project in question. In order to avoid duplication of effort and resources, it would be inappropriate for the Department of Education and Science to continue to provide funding to this project in the current economic climate.

That is not true. A commitment was given for this year.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.25 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 25 November 2008.