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 No. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 9 to 37, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 38 to 47, inclusive, answered orally.

Appointments to State Boards.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

48 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria being used to select a new chief executive officer of the Equality Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7727/09]

The appointment of Chief Executive Officer is made on such terms as the Minister, after consultation with the Authority and with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may determine, and subject to the Civil Service Commissioners Act 1956 and the Civil Service Regulation Acts 1956 to 1996. The Authority have written to me requesting me to set terms in consultation with them for the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer and my Department is in consultation with the Department of Finance on this matter. The criteria to be used in the selection process are primarily a matter for the Authority and the Public Appointments Service. On 17 December 2008 the Equality Authority Board, as empowered by the Employment Equality Act 1998, appointed a member of its staff as Acting Chief Executive Officer.

Departmental Agencies.

Dan Neville

Question:

49 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if officials of his Department have identified the impact of funding cuts on the core functions of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7737/09]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

58 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is confident that Ireland is not in breach of the European race equality directive in view of the fact that Article 13 of that directive specifically outlines that equality authorities must be able to provide independent assistance to victims of discrimination, conduct independent surveys regarding discrimination and publish independent reports, functions which many former board members of the Equality Authority feel will not be possible in view of recent budget cuts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7734/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

85 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way Ireland is not in breach of the European race equality directive in view of the fact that Article 13 of that directive specifically outlines that equality authorities must be able provide independent assistance to victims of discrimination, conduct independent surveys concerning discrimination and publish independent reports, functions which former respected board members and the former chief executive officer have said are not possible because of the 43% cut in funding. [7578/09]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

86 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way the integration of corporate services between the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission is progressing in view of the fact that he regards it as vital to cost savings; the way he will save money by integrating the corporate services of the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission if one body is to be decentralised to Roscrea, County Tipperary and the other is to remain in Dublin; and the way, using accounting projections, decentralisation of the Equality Authority to Roscrea will save money in view of the fact that many experienced staff will have to be redeployed or replaced. [7577/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

87 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way he will save money by integrating the corporate services of the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission if one body is to be decentralised to Roscrea, County Tipperary and the other is to remain in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7664/09]

Shane McEntee

Question:

89 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date on integrating the corporate services of the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7731/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49, 58, 85, 86, 87 and 89 together.

Discussions are continuing in relation to the sharing of services between the two organisations. All payroll transactions are already carried out on behalf of the Equality Authority by my Department's Financial Shared Services Unit based in Killarney. My Department is currently looking to extend this service to the Irish Human Rights Commission. As a next step, the Equality Authority is now in the process of linking up with my Department's central IT operating system and this will result in substantial savings in respect of the provision of IT services in the years ahead. This system operates throughout the country, in all my Department's offices, from the central location in Dublin and will soon be functional in Roscrea as well.

In the context of the overall reduction of staff within the Authority, it will now be possible for their building in Dublin to be shared within the Justice and Equality group and accordingly, the rent payable by the Authority can now be halved. Finally, it should be noted that fifteen staff have been working in Roscrea for almost two years, they have been fully trained and are operating very effectively there. Discussions are ongoing with the agencies to identify further areas where economies of scale can be achieved such as library and information services, hosting of websites, licensing of software and shared procurement.

The Equality Authority is a designated equality body in Ireland for the promotion of equal treatment of all persons without discrimination on the grounds of gender and of racial or ethnic origin, for the purposes of the EU gender non-discrimination directives and the racial equality directive. The authority has informed me that it fully intends to carry out its core functions, including those exercised in its role as a designated equality body.

Proposed Legislation.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

50 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to publish legislation based on his justice for victims initiative; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns about some of his proposals expressed by a group (details supplied); his views on the concerns raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7598/09]

In June 2008, at the launch of the Justice for Victims Initiative, I announced that it would include an important legislative package of reforms. Last December the Government approved my proposals for this legislative package in the form of the Criminal Procedure Bill. This Bill draws on several of the major recommendations of the Balance in the Criminal Law Review Group. The General Scheme of the Bill is available from my Department's website.

The legislative proposals are groundbreaking and include:

Reform of the victim impact statement mechanism, in particular, to give a statutory right to make a statement to family members in homicide cases or in cases where the victim is incapacitated as a result of the crime or where the victim is a child or suffers from a mental disorder.

A new procedure where the DPP can apply for a court order to have cases re-tried following an acquittal (i) where compelling new evidence later emerges or (ii) where the acquittal occurred due to an error in law by a trial judge or (iii) where sufficient evidence exists of tampering with the trial process, including witness intimidation or perjury.

Reform of the law on character evidence to enable the prosecution to respond where, during the trial, unwarranted and vexatious imputations are made by or at the instigation of the accused against the character of deceased or incapacitated victims.

Provide for the advance disclosure to the prosecution of expert evidence which the defence proposes to introduce.

Establish a written procedure that will allow for the early return of property to victims, where that property may constitute evidence in criminal trials.

The Bill is currently being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. The work is progressing very satisfactorily.

The document to which the Deputy refers, A Better Deal: the Human Rights of Victims in the Criminal Justice System, was prepared by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL). It contains a very comprehensive and helpful analysis of the position of victims of crime. However, I would point out that most of the comments and recommendations made by the ICCL relate to practical and administrative measures which do not require legislative action. Nonetheless, the comments and recommendations are very pertinent and are being given due consideration. I would also add that one of the areas mentioned by the ICCL that requires legislation, namely the revision of the arrangements relating to victim impact statements, is being addressed in the Bill I am preparing.

I am aware that in a separate publication entitled "Taking Liberties: the human rights implications of the Balance in the Criminal Law Review Group Report the ICCL took issue with some of the recommendations of the Criminal Law Review Group including those relating to appeals against acquittals. The House will have an opportunity to fully debate these issues, including the level of safeguards being provided, when the Criminal Procedure Bill is published.

Departmental Agencies.

Tom Hayes

Question:

51 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the value for money audit on the Equality Authority commissioned by his Department in 2008 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7720/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

88 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the value for money audit on the Equality Authority carried out by consultants (details supplied), at the behest of his Department, will be published in view of the fact that its terms of reference were to analyse the achievements of public funding to the Equality Authority; if the Equality Authority is meeting his Department’s and Government current and future requirements in an economic and effective manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7663/09]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

113 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the value for money audit on the Equality Authority (details supplied) carried out at the behest of his Department in 2008, will be published in view of the fact that the consultants state that the review is to analyse the achievements of public funding to the Equality Authority; and if the Equality Authority is meeting his current and future requirements in an economic and effective manner. [7576/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51, 88 and 113 together.

As indicated in my reply to Question No. 249 of 5 November 2008 the Value for Money review of the Equality Authority is an analysis of past performance in achieving the tasks set out in its strategic plan to date. The review has not yet concluded. A decision on publication of the report will be taken in due course.

Organised Crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

52 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to combat the ongoing threat of drug related criminality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7768/09]

The Government attaches the highest priority to tackling organised crime including drug trafficking and bringing those involved in such activities to justice. One of the main priorities I have set for the Garda Síochána in 2009 is to target gun crime, organised crime and drug related crime through a range of measures, including the use of the Garda specialist units and targeted operations such as Operation Anvil.

I am assured by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána, in co-operation with the Revenue Commissioners, will ensure that all available resources will be deployed in targeting the major gangs involved in organised criminal activity, including drug trafficking and the following are some of the specific strategies put in place by An Garda Síochána, to date, to address the sale, supply, importation and distribution of illegal drugs:

the allocation of appropriate resources at the Garda National Drugs Unit and at district and divisional level;

the establishment, on a permanent basis, of the Organised Crime Unit with the specific objective of targeting those suspected of involvement in organised crime, including drug trafficking, importation, sale and supply.

the establishment of dedicated Divisional and District Drug Units and the allocation of additional personnel to those already established;

internationally, An Garda Síochána works closely with relevant law enforcement agencies including all EU agencies, the Drugs Enforcement Agency (US), Interpol and Europol. An Garda Síochána also has Liaison Officers based in the Hague, London, Paris, Madrid Europol and Interpol.

participation at the Maritime Analysis Operations Centre for Narcotics based in Lisbon

ongoing training programmes for personnel as Divisional Asset Profilers, who have the specific remit of targeting assets of persons who are suspected of being involved in the importation, sale and supply of drugs at local, divisional / district, level.

A number of other specific measures have been put in place to deal with serious crime. These include Operation Anvil and other intelligence-led operations which have been used to target specific individuals.

The Criminal Assets Bureau is also being actively utilised to identify and target funds accumulated by criminals, in order to seize such assets and to deprive them of the profits of their criminal activity. A dedicated unit within the Garda National Drugs Unit has been established to liaise with the Criminal Assets Bureau to particularly target those criminals and criminal groupings believed to be deriving profits and assets from drug-related criminal activity.

In addition and as the Deputy will know, I have secured a ringfenced allocation of €21million this year in the Garda budget to ensure ongoing operations of Anvil, which are augmented by other operations and initiatives, both locally and nationally, and continue to be undertaken by all units and sections of An Garda Síochána. Furthermore, the criminal law has also been considerably strengthened, for example, by making it more difficult to get bail in drug trafficking and firearms cases. The periods the Gardaí can question people suspected of involvement in serious crime have been extended, and the law on the right to silence has been updated.

The Government has also approved my proposals to introduce new legislation underpinning the use of covert surveillance methods principally by the Gardaí. Under the legislation, the State will be able to use collateral material obtained by means of covert surveillance as evidence to support or strengthen the case for the prosecution at a criminal trial. I am also moving ahead with my proposals for a DNA database. Finally I can assure the House that the Government will continue to give absolute priority to the frontline fight against crime. The Garda budget for 2009 of €1.589 billion, the ringfencing of €21m for the continued implementation of Operation Anvil this year and the ongoing increase in Garda numbers provides clear evidence of this commitment.

Proposed Legislation.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

53 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on introducing legislation to regulate debt collection here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7695/09]

The question of legislation to regulate debt collection as a financial activity is not one that comes within the area of responsibility of my Department. However, I am aware of recent media reports which alleged intimidation of persons owing money in various circumstances by "criminal" debt collectors. The alleged intimidation and threatening behaviour of debt collectors, no more than such behaviour by any person, would appear to come within the scope of the provisions of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. Any person who is threatened or intimidated by debt collectors should report the incident to the Gardaí who will take appropriate action.

Departmental Reports.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

54 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7605/09]

The Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case offered a thorough independent analysis of the facts surrounding the false confession made by Dean Lyons based on the evidence of all relevant witnesses. It concluded that there was no deliberate attempt to undermine the rights of Dean Lyons. At page 12 of his Report Mr Birmingham (now Judge Birmingham) makes it clear that the Commission had no role in making recommendations on future safeguards and procedures. Instead an Expert Group was established by the then Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform for that purpose.

The Group will be reporting on the adequacy of Garda training, protocols, regulations and procedures in assessing the fitness of persons to be interviewed and on the recording of any bona fide reservations of an individual member of a Garda investigation team as to the truthfulness or accuracy of self — incriminating statements. As has been indicated in this House previously the Group took time to allow it to comprehend the work associated with the Sixth report of the Morris Tribunal which, as Deputies will be aware, dealt extensively with the question of detention of vulnerable suspects. The Group is now considering that Report with a view to finalising its work.

Appointments to State Boards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

55 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether all public appointments for which he has ministerial responsibility should involve a transparent, open and merit based recruitment process and be subject to prior scrutiny by a panel that is independent of his Department. [7574/09]

I assume the Deputy is referring to appointments to Boards and other such like bodies which I am required to make from time to time. The Deputy will be aware that in making appointments of this nature, that in some instances the procedures to be followed are set down in statute. In other cases, the law often requires that an appointee be qualified in a certain profession or perhaps be a nominee of a representative body. For example, some appointments to the Legal Aid Board, the Equality Authority and the Property Registration Authority to mention a few, are required to be made in accordance with criteria of this nature.

Another category of appointment is that made by me to boards and/or bodies which may not be subject to any specific statutory provision. I, along with all my predecessors, have made appointments of this nature. I have no proposals to change this system and I would strongly reject an imputation that any such appointment made by me did not have regard to merit and the appointee's capacity to undertake the task required of him or her.

Departmental Expenditure.

Joan Burton

Question:

56 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in respect of the announcement of 3 February 2009, it is intended to effect the 8% reduction in professional fees in relation to services provided to or funded by his Department; the amount expected to be saved in his Department’s budget as a result of this process; if this decision will apply to all legal fees paid by the State; if it is intended to seek agreement on this process with professional bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7581/09]

Joan Burton

Question:

110 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way, in respect of the announcement of 3 February 2009, it is intended to achieve the general administrative reductions in regard to his Department; the amount expected to be saved in his Department’s budget as a result of this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7582/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 110 together.

I can confirm that in common with all other Departments, my Department is required to give effect to an 8% reduction in the rates for professional fees for services rendered to it from 1 March. Services provided by legal practitioners, including those provided by solicitors and barristers, will be subject to the reduced rates. By definition, the reduced rates of fees payable will yield a financial saving in my Department's Vote Group; while I cannot be precise about the amount at this stage, I anticipate it will be in the order of €3 million.

On the question of general administrative reductions, I can inform the Deputy that, in accordance with the Government's decisions on these matters, related budgetary savings will be achieved in my Department in 2009. Details of these reductions are still being finalised and will be published in the normal way in the Revised Estimates Volume next month. I cannot be precise about the amount to be saved in respect of these administrative reductions but I anticipate that it will be in the order of €10m.

Garda Deployment.

Michael Noonan

Question:

57 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to increase the number of community gardaí here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7739/09]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the number of Community Gardaí on 31 January 2009, the latest date for which figures are readily available was 706. All Gardaí have a role to play in addressing community policing issues as and when the need arises. In that sense, community policing involves far more than a single member or unit within the Garda Síochána, and I agree with the view expressed by the Garda Inspectorate in their third report entitled "Policing in Ireland—Looking Forward", that community policing is a fundamental policing philosophy and that there is a strong foundation for it in Ireland.

I was present at the recent opening of the new Ballymun Garda Station where the Commissioner launched a new National Model of Community Policing for An Garda Síochána. This new model will build on the success of existing good community policing practice and I look forward to the implementation of this plan. A national community policing office will be established within Garda Community Relations Section and every district officer throughout the country will take ownership of community policing within their area of responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. The issue of Community Gardaí will be kept under review within the overall context of policing requirements nationwide.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 49.

Proposed Legislation.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

59 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the Privacy Bill 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7716/09]

The Privacy Bill 2006, that is before the Seanad, having been restored to the Seanad Order Paper in late 2007 by the Leader of the Seanad, represents Government policy in the area of privacy. My Department continues to review the provisions in the Bill taking into account developments in the operation of the law of privacy in our courts and elsewhere, with a view to possible amendments of the Bill.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

60 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take arising from the seven reports of the Morris tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7600/09]

As I indicated in my reply to question number 68 of 18 December 2008 the Morris Tribunal has completed its work and has produced a total of eight reports. The Government has already taken strong action on foot of its recommendations. This action includes:

the passage of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the most significant piece of legislation relating to An Garda Síochána in the history of the State,

the establishment of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission with almost 100 staff — including its own investigative staff,

the establishment of the Garda Inspectorate with its international policing expertise, as a source of independent and expert advice for the Minister,

new more streamlined discipline regulations,

the imposition on members of a legal duty to account for their official actions,

the empowerment of the Garda Commissioner, with the consent of the Government, to dismiss a member of garda, sergeant or inspector rank where he has lost confidence in the capacity of the member to discharge his or her duty and where dismissal is necessary to maintain public confidence in the Force,

new promotion regulations and a competency based promotion system,

a whistleblowers' charter and the appointment of an eminent former senior civil servant as a Confidential Recipient.

Other areas of organisational development and modernisation arising from the Commissioner's consideration of the first five reports have been progressed within the terms of reference of the Garda Síochána's published Corporate Strategy 2007 to 2009. These include a number of specific change projects under the chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner, Strategy and Change Management.

In relation to the sixth report, which dealt with the detention and questionings of suspects, I understand that a working group established by the Commissioner has developed a model for investigative interviewing which incorporates all the elements of the PEACE model proposed by Judge Morris. A comprehensive training programme to support this model has been developed and is being rolled out to student Gardaí.

The findings and recommendations of the seventh and eight reports of the Tribunal are currently being considered. All of these changes are indicative of unprecedented reform and a new era in policing and will go a long way to ensuring, as far as possible, that the events in Donegal will not be repeated. Finally, it is my understanding that the Dail Committee on Procedures and Privileges has established a sub-Committee to consider Mr Justice Morris's recommendations as to how public representatives should deal with anonymous allegations.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

61 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if arising from his interview (details supplied) he will state when he will introduce legislation to provide for a major crackdown on the gambling sector to ensure that casinos are not involved in money laundering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7589/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to PQ Number 45 of today's date. Work on the drafting of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering) Bill, which forms part of the Government's legislative programme, is underway and publication is scheduled for later this year. The Bill, which seeks to transpose the Third Money Laundering Directive into Irish law, will contain provisions to ensure that places such as private members' clubs that offer casino type gaming will be subject to anti-money laundering safeguards.

Crime Levels.

Noel Coonan

Question:

62 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on offences committed by persons on bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7698/09]

A decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the court, which is, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of its judicial functions. There is a constitutional presumption in favour of bail, since, in the eyes of the law, a person is innocent until proven guilty. The bail referendum in 1996 allows for bail to be refused where a person is charged with a serious offence and where refusal is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by the person.

The independent DPP represents the State for the purpose of dealing with bail applications. The Gardaí can object to bail being granted. In addition, a Superintendent may give his opinion that he or she believes that refusal is necessary to prevent the commission by the person of a serious offence. The Criminal Justice Act 2007 amended the 1997 Act and other statutes governing the law on bail with the aim of facilitating a stronger challenge by the prosecution to applications for bail by persons charged with serious offences and of further improving decision-making by the courts.

The stringent provisions include a requirement that applicants for bail may have to provide a statement of their means, their previous criminal record and details of any offences committed while previously on bail. The Act also provides that a Garda Superintendent may give an opinion that bail should be refused on the grounds that the applicant is likely to commit a serious offence if granted bail. The prosecution authorities are also given the right to appeal against decisions to grant bail or, where it is granted, the conditions attaching to it.

The law already takes a serious view of offences committed by persons on bail. The commission of any offence while on bail carries the prospect of a harsher sentence than might otherwise be imposed had the offence not been committed while the offender was on bail. Section 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 provides that any sentence of imprisonment passed on a person for an offence committed while he or she was on bail shall be consecutive on any sentence passed on him for a previous offence. It further provides, following the Bail Act 1997, that where the consecutive provisions apply and the court is determining the appropriate sentence to impose for an offence committed while on bail, the fact that the offence was committed while on bail must be treated as an aggravating factor. Accordingly, the court must impose a sentence that is greater than that which it would have imposed in the absence of such an aggravating factor. The only exceptions are where the sentence for the previous offence is life imprisonment or where the court considers that there are exceptional circumstances to justify not doing so.

The people, in the bail referendum, and the Oireachtas have made clear their determination to tackle abuses of bail. My Department is keeping under review what is actually happening and whether anything more needs to be done. We will be looking in particular at whether the changes in the Criminal Justice Act 2007 Act are bringing about an improvement in the situation. The Government is determined to take any measures that are necessary and practical to deal with this situation. That would not ultimately exclude putting the matter before the people again, though there would have been a view that the 1996 amendment to the Constitution would be sufficient to address this problem; and we would have to be satisfied that no other options remained before we went down that road.

The Criminal Justice Act 2007 contains provisions in regard to electronic tagging, and there are complex issues surrounding bringing them into force, including cost effectiveness and developments in technology. I have established a Project Board, led by the Probation Service, to look at the implementation of electronic monitoring in this jurisdiction. However, there is a possibility that if tagging was available it could actually lead to an increase in the number of persons being granted bail by the courts, who might be persuaded that it would be safe to release certain persons on bail if they were tagged, and who they would otherwise detain in custody.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

63 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the opinion expressed by the Garda Commissioner (details supplied) that Ireland is becoming a more violent place; the steps he plans to take to counter this trend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7583/09]

The most recent crime statistics released by the CSO, in respect of 2008, show a number of encouraging trends. There was a decrease of 42.9% in the number of homicide offences, which includes a decrease of 36.4% in murder and of 57.1% in manslaughter. Aggravated sexual assault decreased by 33.3% and assault causing harm by 2.2%. Nevertheless the number of violent crimes committed remains a matter of concern.

The Garda Policing Plan for 2009, which reflects the priorities set for the Force by me as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, contains a series of measures aimed at reducing the impact of crime and criminal behaviour. These goals are backed up by strategic actions which include a commitment to continue and intensify intelligence-led operations against groups and individuals engaged in criminality. An Garda Síochána, in accordance with the priorities I have set out, is committed to targeting violent crime and those who engage or facilitate persons involved in such activity.

Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in 2005 to deal with serious crime, including murder and other violent crime, and was extended nationwide in 2006. The primary focus of the Operation is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting their criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling and static checkpoints by uniform, mobile and foot patrols, supported by armed plain clothes patrols.

Under Operation Anvil, up to 8 February, 2009, 1,239 firearms have been recovered in Dublin and 1,092 in the rest of the country. There have also been over 7,000 arrests for serious crimes such as murder, serious assault, robbery and burglary and 70,000 searches for weapons, drugs and stolen goods. In this way, the Gardaí will continue to address the issue of illegal guns relentlessly. Though legislation on the use of knives and similar weapons is already very strong and heavy penalties are already in place, I am moving to strengthen the law in this area. In that context, I sought and received proposals from the Garda Commissioner on strengthening the law on knife crime. These include:

increasing the penalties for possessing a knife in a public place;

creating an extended power of search without warrant in certain circumstances; and

the introduction of a prohibition in relation to swords.

I have accepted these proposals, and they will be included in the forthcoming Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Drafting of the Bill is now almost completed, and the Government have agreed to treat it as a priority measure for this Dáil session.

On 5 February, the Garda Commissioner and I launched a Knife Awareness Campaign by An Garda Síochána with the objective of informing and educating young people on the dangers of carrying knives and with the aim of reducing the number of incidents of knife crime. In addition to these measures, I have directed the drafting of a new Firearms and Offensive Weapons Order which will deal with the issue of swords. In particular I will be banning the sale of samurai swords.

Since my appointment as Minister, I have expressed concern at the number of handguns which have been licensed here in recent years. Some time ago, I directed my Department and An Garda Síochána to carry out an urgent and intensive review of the firearms law. Following that review, I have brought forward proposals which include no new licenses being issued for handguns, subject to limited exceptions in relation to Olympic sports. Existing licenses will not be renewed unless applicants fully meet the requirements of a radically tightened licensing procedure where the safety of the community will be paramount. While a de facto ban on new handgun licences is already in place, my proposals will also be given legislative form in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. That Bill will also tackle comprehensively the issue of airsoft guns, including making their possession in public a serious offence.

On 26 January, the Garda Commissioner and I launched a new National Model of Community Policing. The Model builds on the success of existing good community policing practice within Ireland and aims to foster collaborative partnerships between An Garda Síochána and community members. Alongside the specialist operations such as Operation Anvil, a comprehensive model of community policing ensures that enforcement will not only be employed to reduce crime but also to reduce the fear of crime and ensure a better quality of community life for all.

At a time when the public finances are under pressure, I am determined that top priority will continue to be given to frontline policing. Funding for Operation Anvil will increase in 2009 from €20 million to €21 million to enable it to continue with targeted disruption of serious and organised criminal activity. Other key operations will be maintained through 2009, and any savings that have to be made will not be allowed to diminish frontline policing.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Damien English

Question:

64 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that the Smithwick tribunal is progressing satisfactorily; the amount the tribunal has cost to date; when its proceedings are due to conclude; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7711/09]

The Smithwick Tribunal was established in May 2005. The cost of the Tribunal (to end-January 2009) is €4,869,390. The Tribunal is in an investigative phase at present. I met with the Chairman of the Tribunal last July and during that meeting I conveyed the Government's view that the legal costs of tribunals should be strictly managed. I also informed him that the Minister for Finance had requested that, in light of public expenditure constraints, tribunals and inquiries would conclude their business as early as possible. I have no doubt that the Tribunal's Chairman is fully cognisant of the position and that its mandate should be fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.

Crime Levels.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

65 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the increasing number of robberies, including kidnapping, that have occurred in County Donegal in February 2009; the steps being planned to prevent a continuation of these incidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7489/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management, through ongoing monitoring and analysis of crime trends in Donegal Garda Division, is aware of an increase in the incidents referred to by the Deputy. These incidents are under active Garda investigation. Additional patrols by uniform and plain clothes personnel have been put in place in the areas concerned and resources have been redeployed to assist in the identification of suspected offenders in respect of these offences. Senior Garda management will be meeting representatives of local communities to apprise them of ongoing efforts and initiatives to target this type of criminality, including appealing to the community to report any suspicious activity occurring in the area to An Garda Síochána. Crime prevention advice will also be given through local media.

There are significant levels of ongoing cross border cooperation with the Police Service of Northern Ireland to identify crime trends and suspected offenders. Border Superintendents, including from County Donegal, attend bi-monthly crime meetings, and, at local level, cross-border crime meetings are held monthly, with regular contact taking place regarding individual incidents and criminal activity generally. I am further informed that a Divisional Crime Manager has been appointed to assist in the monitoring and analysis of crime trends in order to prepare specific initiatives and operations to target these specific crime types.

The personnel strength of the Donegal Garda Division on 31 January, 2009, the latest date for which figures are available, was 485. This follows the allocation of significant numbers of additional personnel to the Donegal Garda Division recently, including the establishment of a rural community policing initiative for Inishowen. The situation will be kept under review and the needs of the county will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Garda Reserve.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

66 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda Reserve recruited to date; the stations to which they have been allocated; the number of applicants for the Reserve in training; if he is satisfied with the rate of recruitment; when he expects that the full complement of 1,500 will be in place; if restrictions have been placed on recruitment to the Reserve arising from budgetary restrictions; his views on the suggestion made by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors that the Reserve should be scrapped; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7609/09]

The strength of the Garda Reserve as of 31 of January 2009 was 327, allocated to the following stations:

Number

Number

Anglesea Street

11

Kilkenny

6

Arklow

1

Kilmainham

4

Ashbourne

1

Letterkenny

5

Athlone

1

Longford

1

Balbriggan

3

Lucan

7

Ballina

3

Macroom

1

Ballyfermot

3

Malahide

1

Baltinglass

1

Mayfield

3

Ballymun

6

Middleton

3

Bandon

1

Monaghan Town

4

Blackrock

5

Mullingar

6

Blanchardstown

11

Naas

3

Bray

3

Navan

2

Bridewell

6

Nenagh

1

Cahir

1

New Ross

1

Carlow

5

Newbridge

2

Carrick On Shannon

1

Pearse St

17

Carrick-On-Suir

1

Portlaoise

1

Castlebar

8

Raheny

4

Cavan Town

3

Rathfarnham

3

Celbridge

1

Rathmines

2

Clonakilty

1

Ronanstown

1

Clondalkin

3

Roscommon

3

Clonmel

2

Santry

4

Clontarf

4

Sligo

6

Coolock

6

Store St

6

Crumlin

3

Sundrive Rd

2

Donnybrook

4

Swords

4

Drogheda

7

Tallaght

2

Dun Laoghaire

4

Terenure

3

Dundalk

5

Thurles

1

Ennis

9

Tipperary Town

1

Enniscorthy

1

Togher

4

Fermoy

2

Tralee

2

Finglas

4

Tramore

2

Fitzgibbon Street

5

Trim

1

Galway

18

Tuam

2

Gorey

1

Tullamore

4

Gurranabraher

6

Watercourse Rd.

3

Henry Street

10

Waterford

9

Howth

3

Westport

3

Kells

1

Wexford

1

Kevin Street

5

Whitehall

2

Kildare

3

Wicklow

1

Currently, there are 111 persons in training to become members of the Garda Reserve. A total of 23 attested Reserve Gardaí have become full time members of An Garda Síochána. In addition, eight Garda Reserve trainees left the Garda Reserve prior to attestation to become full time members of An Garda Síochána. I am satisfied that significant progress has been made in terms of the recruitment and appointment of members of the Garda Reserve. In particular, it must be borne in mind that recruits for the Reserve are required to undergo an extensive programme of training which includes assignment to Garda stations.

The Government is strongly committed to the development of the Reserve. Recruitment to the Reserve is continuing and regular promotional campaigns to attract Reserve members are being undertaken. For my part, I am fully satisfied that the Reserve provides a valuable contribution to the Garda Síochána and to the many communities where it is operating. In particular, I would like to express my appreciation to the members of the Reserve who serve on a voluntary basis and give of their time very generously.

Garda Deployment.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

67 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has had discussions with officials of the Department of Finance or with the Garda Commissioner with a view to making additional resources available to the fraud squad in view of the many banking scandals that have recently come to light. [7573/09]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that resource levels at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation are constantly monitored by Garda Management, taking into account crime trends and competing demands. These are kept under review to ensure that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible service is provided to the public. In addition, there are currently one Detective Inspector, two Detective Sergeants, and five Detective Garda seconded from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement under the provisions of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001 to assist in investigations being conducted by the Director who has a statutory remit in the enforcement of the Companies Acts.

There are regular discussions between my Department and officials of the Department of Finance in relation to Garda resources generally and specifically in relation to the overall strength of the Force, and it is a matter for the Garda Commissioner to allocate these resources in the most optimum manner. While Garda management at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is satisfied with the service being provided by the Bureau, I am advised by the Garda Commissioner that a competition for the allocation of additional personnel to the Bureau is currently under way with personnel expected to be allocated in the near future.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

68 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the announcement of 3 February 2009 of expenditure savings of €2.1 billion will have an impact on Garda recruitment and Garda overtime in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7602/09]

In accordance with the Government Decisions on these matters, the related budgetary savings will fall to be achieved across the Justice Group of Votes, including on the Garda Vote in 2009. While the detail in relation to these and other budgetary matters is at an advanced stage, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on their composition at this point, pending the finalisation of the Revised Estimate Volume which will be published next month. However, I can say that priority will continue to be given to resources, including overtime, for front-line policing duties.

Taking into account the number of recruits due to be attested this year and the expected number of departures, the attested strength of the Force will increase from 14,411 at the end of 2008 to approximately 14,900 at the end of this year. This will represent a historic high, in terms of Garda numbers. To stress this achievement it should be pointed out that the Deputy's Party promised to reach the 15,000 Garda target in 2012. A total of 200 new recruits have been inducted into the Garda College in the past two quarterly intakes and calculations on the scale of future intakes will be made closer to the relevant time taking into account wider Government policy on the public service.

Garda Investigations.

Willie Penrose

Question:

69 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received communication from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission regarding a possible public interest inquiry into the circumstances in which serious drug charges against a person (details supplied) were dropped; if the internal Garda inquiry into the same affair has been concluded; if he has received a report from the gardaí on their inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7603/09]

I have previously informed the House that I received an interim report from the Garda Commissioner on this particular case. I am informed by the Garda authorities that an internal Garda inquiry into the matter is ongoing. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has indicated that it has opened a public interest investigation in relation to the withdrawing of charges against an individual. In the circumstances, I believe that it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment about the case at present. If action is required on my part then, of course, I will take it.

Proposed Legislation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

70 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to the establishment of a DNA database and the forensic science laboratory; and the legislation which has been promised in this regard. [7445/09]

The Criminal Justice (Forensic Sampling and Evidence) Bill is on the A list of the Government's Legislation Programme for this session. The main aim of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of a DNA database for the purposes of criminal investigations and the identification of missing and unknown persons.

While the drafting of the Bill is at an advanced stage, its finalisation has been affected somewhat by the very necessary examination of the implications of the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of S and Marper v the United Kingdom. In that case the Court held that the arrangements in the United Kingdom for the indefinite retention of DNA material and fingerprints taken from suspects who were not subsequently convicted were a disproportionate and unjustified interference with their right to privacy. The examination of this judgment may impact on the timetable for publication of the Bill but, in the event of a delay, I will ensure that it is kept to an absolute minimum.

As regards the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), it will have statutory responsibility for the establishment and operation of the DNA database. Professor Ingvar Kopp (former head of the Swedish Forensic Science Laboratory) was engaged by my Department to review the resource needs of the FSL. Professor Kopp's report was published in January 2008. On foot of its recommendations a rigorous staffing campaign for the FSL was undertaken in 2008 and resulted in 12 new Forensic Scientists Grade III and 14 new Laboratory Analysts being recruited. These recruits were used to fill professional posts in the 20 posts announced by my predecessor in January 2008 and to fill existing professional vacancies. In addition an Assistant Principal IT Manager was assigned to the FSL in December 2008.

The report also included a preliminary appraisal of the resources which would be required in order to bring the DNA database on line as well as the need for advance implementation planning for the database. An implementation team, led at Deputy Director level, has been established in the FSL to plan for the introduction of the database as recommended by the report. One of the team's tasks is to examine further the resource implications which will arise as the database is established and built up to its optimal capacity. In relation to the accommodation needs of the FSL, my Department is actively pursuing this matter in consultation with the Office of Public Works.

Social Welfare Payments.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

71 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he co-operates with the Department of Social and Family Affairs when the latter is processing social welfare applications for State benefits by persons who are known to be engaged in criminal activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7689/09]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that pursuant to the statutory remit of the Criminal Assets Bureau, personnel from the Department of Social and Family Affairs, who are Bureau Officers attached to the Criminal Assets Bureau, investigate and determine social welfare entitlements of persons who are suspected of acquiring assets which are believed to be the proceeds of crime.

Crime Prevention.

Joe Costello

Question:

72 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the main provisions of the policing priorities for the Garda published by him on 2 December 2008; the way it is intended that the gardaí will target serious crime and in particular, organised crime; if he is satisfied that cuts in Garda overtime will not impede effective policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7586/09]

I determined the following matters as priorities for the Garda Síochána for 2009, in accordance with Section 20 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

National and International Security — To protect the security of the State and the people against domestic and international terrorism.

Crime — To target serious crime, in particular organised, gun and drug related crime.

Traffic — To improve road safety by taking appropriate measures to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on the roads.

Public Order — To preserve peace and public order in co-operation with local communities, in particular by targeting disorder arising from binge drinking.

Customer Service — To complete and implement a Garda Charter which will improve the Garda response to calls for service and which will contain commitments on the level of community policing service which the public can expect from gardaí.

Illegal immigration and human trafficking — To protect national sovereignty, the frontiers of the State and the integrity of the State's immigration systems and to prevent and target human trafficking and people smuggling through the effective enforcement of national and international immigration law.

In relation to serious and organised crime, the Garda Commissioner, in the Policing Plan for 2009, has set the increased targeting of organised and serious crime networks as a key action for the force. This will involve confronting organised crime, drug trafficking, gangland crime and related killings by the greater use of intelligence, legislation and the co-ordination of targeted operations. Special operations, such as Oak and Anvil are targeting organised drug and gun crime. Under Operation Anvil approximately 1,240 firearms have been recovered in Dublin and 1,090 in the rest of the country. There have also been over 7,300 arrests for serious crimes such as murder, robbery and burglary and over 70,000 searches for weapons, drugs and stolen goods.

At a time when public finances are under pressure I have ensured that within the Justice, Equality and Law Reform area top priority is given to frontline policing. Funding for Operation Anvil and other key operations will be maintained through 2009 and any savings that have to be made will not be allowed to diminish frontline policing. Over the past few years the expansion in the size of An Garda Síochána has been unprecedented. From the start of 2008 to the end of 2009, the attested strength of the Force will have grown by over 1,100 to almost 14,900. This will represent an 8% increase. The additional rostered hours available this year arising from the increase in the strength of the Force will amount to over one million hours. This will more than offset any reduction in overtime hours.

Fingerprints Records.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

73 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the reports that the decision to outsource to the United States the transposition of all existing fingerprints on the automated fingerprint identification system may jeopardise the integrity of the chain of evidence in future cases; if he has discussed the matter with the Garda Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7571/09]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that the transposition of fingerprints records onto the upgraded Garda Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) was achieved by back record conversion, an internationally accepted method for such a task. The process was carried out at a location in the United States of America as part of the contract for the delivery of the new system and personnel from the Garda Technical Bureau, working with strategic partners, secured the highest security transport method and travelled with fingerprint records to and from the US.

The Garda authorities also advise that all processes were fully documented to ensure the integrity of the conversion and that there are no issues concerning the integrity or robustness of the AFIS system. All electronic identification of fingerprints in criminal cases are compared with the original hard copy and I am assured that the processes and procedures of fingerprint identification operated by Fingerprint Section of the Garda Technical Bureau are to the highest professional standards.

EU Directives.

Liz McManus

Question:

74 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the failure to implement the 2005 EU directive on money laundering by the deadline of December 2007; when the required legislation will be published; if he will confirm that there are enforcement proceedings imminent against Ireland for its failure to implement the directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7596/09]

The legislation which will give effect to the third EU Money Laundering Directive (and the related Implementing Directive) is being drafted at present. This legislation will also take into account relevant recommendations arising from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) third mutual evaluation report (2006) on Ireland's measures to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

As the Deputy correctly states the transposition timescale for these directives was December, 2007. This is a complex and important piece of legislation and it is essential that it meets all the requirements involved. I can assure the Deputy that the highest priority is being given to the drafting and publication of this Bill. I am also taking the opportunity through this Bill to repeal and consolidate the existing anti-money laundering provisions. This is an approach, which I believe will facilitate all sectors and groups involved in using and applying the money laundering provisions. For this reason, when Government approval was given to the drafting of this Bill, approval was also received for the publication of the proposals on my Department's website. Following this, my Department and the Department of Finance conducted an extensive consultation process involving interested parties, which included both the provision of written submissions and meetings with those involved. I understand from my officials that this was an extremely useful and important exercise for all concerned.

The Commission has brought proceedings against Ireland in relation to the transposition of these directives. I understand that it has also taken similar action against some other Member States. As the matter is currently with the European Court of Justice, I think it would be inappropriate to comment any further on the matter. However, what is relevant in this regard is that I expect to be in a position to publish the legislation in the first half of this year and my intention is that it will be considered by both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible after that date.

Detention Centres.

Richard Bruton

Question:

75 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position with regard to the development of the new national child detention facility for young offenders at Lusk, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7680/09]

In March 2008, the Government approved the development of new national children detention facilities on the Oberstown campus near Lusk, Co. Dublin. The Government decision was informed by the report of the Expert Group on Children Detention Schools, which is available on www.iyjs.ie.

The project will be delivered by the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS), an executive office in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has responsibility for a wide range of youth justice matters including the children detention schools. In preparing for the development, in line with Department of Finance guidelines for capital projects and with good practice, the IYJS has established a Project Board to ensure robust governance and accountability are in place. Advice and supports for this project are being provided to the Irish Youth Justice Service from a number of sources, including the Chief State's Solicitors Office and the National Development Finance Agency.

The Office of Public Works has been charged with designing the new facilities and that office is currently liaising with the IYJS and with management and staff of the children detention schools with regard to concept drawings which will be further developed in order to tender for the construction element of the project. Construction will take place over two phases in order to ensure that the existing detention schools can continue to operate and provide places to the Courts until such time as the new facilities are available. Phase 1 of the project is expected to be completed in 2012 and Phase 2 in 2014. The cost involved for the project will be met from National Development Plan/Exchequer sources. I am happy to say that the Government has made adequate capital provision in the 2009 Estimates to progress this project.

Crime Levels.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

76 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take to address the increase in knife crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7742/09]

While the number of murders committed involving knives showed a welcome decrease last year from 32 in 2007 to 11, the overall number of crimes committed using knives is a matter of concern. Though legislation on the use of knives and similar weapons is already very strong and heavy penalties are already in place, I am moving to strengthen the law in this area. In that context, I sought and received proposals from the Garda Commissioner on strengthening the law on knife crime. These include: increasing the penalties for possessing a knife in a public place; creating an extended power of search without warrant in certain circumstances; and the introduction of a prohibition in relation to swords.

I have accepted these proposals and they will be included in the forthcoming Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Drafting of the Bill is now almost completed, and the Government have agreed to treat it as a priority measure for this Dáil session. In addition to these measures, I have directed the drafting of a new Firearms and Offensive Weapons Order which will deal with the issue of swords. In particular I will be banning the sale of samurai swords. On 5 February, the Garda Commissioner and I launched a Knife Awareness Campaign by An Garda Síochána with the objective of informing and educating young people on the dangers of carrying knives and with the aim of reducing the number of incidents of knife crime.

Ministerial Appointments.

Enda Kenny

Question:

77 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria he is using when considering appointments to the Equality Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7725/09]

The criteria for appointments to the Board of the Equality Authority are set out in Section 44(1) of the Employment Equality Act 1998, which state:

"Of the ordinary members of the Authority—

(a) two, one male and one female, shall be persons appointed on the nomination by such organisations representative of employees as the Minister considers appropriate,

(b) two, one male and one female, shall be persons appointed on the nomination by such organisations representative of employers as the Minister considers appropriate, and

(c) the remaining number shall be such persons as appear to the Minister to be persons who have knowledge of, or experience in—

(i) consumer, social affairs or equality issues, including issues related to the experience and circumstances of groups who are disadvantaged by reference to gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin or membership of the Traveller community,

(ii) issues related to the provision of goods or services, or

(iii) such other subject-matter (including law, finance, management or administration) as appears to the Minister to be relevant to the issues to which the functions of the Authority relate."

Section 41(1) of the Act of 1998, as amended requires that, of the number of persons appointed to the Board at any one time, the difference between the number of males appointed and the number of females appointed shall be not more than two.

Crime Levels.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

78 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2009, of cases of murder in which firearms were used; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases in which convictions were secured; if he is satisfied with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7592/09]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

112 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gun murders that have taken place since the beginning of 2009; his views on the spate of gun murders in the Dublin area and the extent to which this reflects the continued operation of criminal gangs; the steps being taken to deal with such murders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7579/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 112 together.

The following table contains the number of cases of murder recorded in which firearms were used, the number of prosecutions initiated and the number of convictions secured in each year from 1998 to 2008 and to date in 2009. Figures provided for 2009 are provisional, operational and liable to change.

The detection rate for murders by its nature increases over time as Garda investigations progress. It is expected that in respect of each year the number of convictions obtained will increase as Garda investigations are concluded and the number of proceedings commenced are finalised by the courts. This applies particularly to murders committed in the most recent years. In addition, directions may be received from the Law Officers to charge persons arrested in connection with such incidents with offences other than murder. Furthermore such persons charged and brought before the courts may be convicted of offences other than murder.

One of the main priorities I have set for An Garda Síochána in 2009 is to target gun crime, organised crime and drug related crime through a range of measures, including the use of the Garda specialist units and targeted operations such as Operation Anvil. An Garda Síochána meet this task by strategic actions, including in particular continuous and intensive intelligence led operations against groups and individuals engaged in such illegal activity. Available intelligence is fully analysed and used in the strategic deployment of both local and specialised operational Garda units in targeting persons and groups. It is used in carrying out searches and arrests aimed at both preventing attacks and apprehending persons suspected of being involved in such attacks. Profiles regarding the personnel of organised criminal gangs are continually updated.

The Garda Commissioner has established, on a permanent basis, the Organised Crime Unit, with the specific objective of targeting those suspected of involvement in organised crime, including drug trafficking, importation, sale and supply. Similar operations are undertaken by Garda specialist units, including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in 2005 to deal with this type of serious crime and was extended nationwide in 2006. The primary focus of the Operation is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting their criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling and static checkpoints by uniform, mobile and foot patrols, supported by armed plain clothes patrols. Under Operation Anvil up to 8 February, 2009, 1,239 firearms have been recovered in Dublin and 1,092 in the rest of the country.

At a time when the public finances are under pressure, I will ensure that top priority will continue to be given to frontline policing. Funding for Operation Anvil will increase in 2009 from €20 million to €21 million to enable it to continue with targeted disruption of serious and organised criminal activity. Other key operations will be maintained through 2009, and any savings that have to be made will not be allowed to diminish frontline policing. There will also be a 20% (€1.5 million) increase next year in funding for the Criminal Assets Bureau. Overall, the Garda budget next year will be €1.589 million.

There can be considerable difficulties for the Garda in obtaining evidence in shootings which are the result of gangland activities. This arises not least because many such victims (where they survive the attack) and their associates will not co-operate with the Garda investigation. Witnesses may also be subject to high levels of intimidation not to come forward, and it is to assist such witnesses that the Witness Protection Programme is in place. Nevertheless, the Garda are determined to pursue rigorously all killings, whatever their background.

The number of murders recorded in which a firearm was used, proceedings commenced and convictions

Year

Recorded

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

2009*

6

0

0

2008

21

6

0

2007

18

2

0

2006

26

6

2

2005

22

3

2

2004

8

4

3

2003

19

3

1

2002

10

4

3

2001

9

2

1

2000

12

4

1

1999

12

7

5

1998

4

2

1

*Figures provided for 2009 are to 20 February.

All figures are operation and liable to change.

Juvenile Offenders.

David Stanton

Question:

79 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 326, 327 and 328 of 16 December 2008, if he has reached a decision on which of the 38 applications received in 2008 are to be included in the Garda youth diversion projects; the number of young people referred to the programme in 2008; if a review had been carried out on the effectiveness of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7666/09]

Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) are funded by the Irish Youth Justice Service, through An Garda Síochána. These projects are community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, and promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda/community relations. At present, there are 100 GYDPs in operation throughout the country and these projects serve up to 3,800 young people at any one time.

The planned expansion in the number of projects beyond the existing 100 is currently being assessed in the light of the changed economic climate and, in this context, the primary focus will be on ensuring the quality and effectiveness of the services provided. The Irish Youth Justice Service and the Garda Síochána are reviewing the effectiveness of the diversionary measures as set out under the National Youth Justice Strategy 2008-2010. In view of these changed circumstances, I do not, at this stage, expect to announce any new projects in 2009.

The first stage in reviewing the effectiveness of the existing diversion projects has been completed. An initial baseline analysis of the projects was completed in 2008 and the report on this analysis is nearing completion and will be published shortly. The work of IYJS and An Garda Síochána in improving the effectiveness of the diversion projects will be monitored by the National Youth Justice Strategy Oversight Group throughout the life of the strategy.

Criminal Legal Aid.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

80 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether it is satisfactory that suspects, whose assets have been designated proceeds of crime by the courts are granted criminal legal aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7691/09]

The matters which are of importance to note in relation to the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme and the Criminal Assets Bureau Ad-Hoc Legal Aid Scheme are the following:- (a) that the grant of legal aid, including the level of legal representation, is a matter for the court; (b) the court considering the application must be satisfied that the means of the applicant are insufficient to enable the person to obtain legal representation on his or her own behalf; (c) by reason of the exceptional circumstances it is essential, in the interests of justice, that the applicant should have legal aid in the preparation or conduct of his or her case; (d) steps may be taken to dispute the applicant's assertion as to his or her inability to discharge the legal costs. I can assure the Deputy that operation of the Schemes is being kept under review in my Department.

Proposed Legislation.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

81 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will bring the promised legislative reforms before Dáil Éireann to deal with the increase in knife crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7587/09]

Though legislation on the use of knives and similar weapons is already very strong and heavy penalties are already in place, I am moving to strengthen the law in this area. In that context, I sought and received proposals from the Garda Commissioner to assist his force in tackling knife-crime. These include: increasing the penalties for possessing a knife in a public place; creating an extended power of search without warrant in certain circumstances, and the introduction of a prohibition in relation to swords. I have accepted these proposals and at the launch of the knife crime awareness campaign on 5 February 2009 I announced that the proposals will be included in the forthcoming Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

Amongst the provisions are: increasing the maximum prison sentence for possessing a knife in a public place from one year to five years and an extended power of search without warrant in circumstances where a member of An Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds to suspect a person is carrying any article for unlawful purposes. Drafting of the Bill is now almost complete, and the Government have agreed to treat it as a priority measure for this Dáil session. In addition to these measures, I have directed the drafting of a new Firearms and Offensive Weapons Order which will deal with the issue of swords.

International Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

82 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in the ratification of the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities; if, further to a previous question on the matter, it has been indicated to him when such ratification will be possible; and when this will take place. [5210/09]

The position remains that it is the Government's intention to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure that all necessary requirements under the Convention are being met.

The Inter-Departmental Committee established in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to advise on and monitor the legislative and administrative actions required to enable the State to ratify the Convention, has developed a work programme that is being actively addressed by Government Departments. The Mental Capacity Bill — the responsibility of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform — is at present being drafted by Parliamentary Counsel and forms an important part of what is required to ratify the Convention. Ireland was in the first group of countries to sign, subject to ratification, the Convention. There will be no undue delay in the State's ratification of the Convention.

Garda Recruitment.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

83 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if An Garda Síochána recruits are serving members of the police force in the UK; the way an interested applicant and serving policeman in the UK can make an application to join An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7446/09]

Section 122(1)(d) of the Garda Síochána Acts, 2005-2007 provides for the making of regulations on the admission, appointment, and enrolment of members including members who have served with other Police Services and members with different ethnic or national origins or different religious beliefs or backgrounds. The Act also provides for the continuation in law of the Garda Síochána Admissions and Appointments Regulations 1988 (as amended) which in turn set out the specific recruitment criteria for appointment as a member of An Garda Síochána. Recruitment is open to citizens of the EEA and there is no prohibition on serving police officers applying, provided they meet the requirements. The case for specific regulations on the recruitment of serving police officers will be kept under review.

Organised Crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

84 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to combat organised crime in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7767/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that tackling organised crime remains one of my highest priorities. The Commissioner's Policing Plan 2009 sets out strategic goals inter alia a commitment to reduce the impact of crime and criminal behaviour. An Garda Síochána, in accordance with the priorities determined by me pursuant to Section 20 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005/2007 is committed to targeting violent crime and those who engage in or facilitate such activity.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that there are two categories of organised crime groups operating in this jurisdiction. The first category consists of groups that are well established and tightly structured and are involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures and whose criminal activities are mainly confined to Ireland. The membership of organised crime gangs tends to be fluid and the nature of criminal activity is such that offences committed by members of gangs may or may not be connected with the individual's membership of such gangs.

An Garda Síochána undertakes a number of multi-agency activities designed to target and disrupt the operations of criminal organisations. Intelligence-led operations are used by Gardai to target organised crime groups on an ongoing basis. A significant element of the fight against organised crime by An Garda Síochána employs the use of specialist units. Units with expertise in specific areas operate under the direction of the Assistant Commissioner in charge of the National Support Services and this senior Garda officer has overall responsibility for the co-ordination of measures designed to address organised crime throughout the State. Specialist units include:

The Criminal Assets Bureau which identifies and targets funds accumulated by criminals in order to seize such assets and deprive them of the profits of their criminal activity.

The Organised Crime Unit which has a specific remit of targeting those suspected of involvement in organised crime, including the trafficking, importation, sale and supply of drugs.

The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation which is responsible for the investigation of individuals and organisations involved in Money Laundering.

The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation which is responsible for investigating the activities of organised criminal networks.

These units are also supported by the Security and Intelligence Section which assists with the provision of intelligence briefings and timely information.

Other measures put in place to tackle serious crime include Operation Anvil which commenced in May 2005 in the Dublin Metropolitan Region, and was extended nationwide in 2006. The primary focus of this operation is the disruption of serious and organised criminal activity. This has resulted in approximately 1,240 firearms being recovered in Dublin and 1,090 in the rest of the country (to 11 February 2009). In addition, the value of property recovered under this Operation to date is approximately €31 million. Funding for Operation Anvil will increase in 2009 from €20 million to €21 million to enable it to continue with the targeted disruption of serious and organised criminal activity.

In addition to the above, An Garda Síochána maintains close liaison with other law enforcement agencies throughout Europe, and elsewhere, exchanging information and intelligence. An Garda Síochána currently has a number of liaison officers on secondment to other jurisdictions and to international bodies such as Interpol and Europol. These officers act as a conduit for information to pass between law enforcement agencies to ensure that national borders are not, and cannot, be used by criminals as a means of frustrating the efforts of law enforcement agencies. Senior management in An Garda Síochána are keeping the situation under review to ensure an effective law enforcement response remains in place to tackle organised crime.

Questions Nos. 85 to 87, inclusive, answered with Question No. 49.
Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 51.
Question No. 89 answered with Question No. 49.

Departmental Reports.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

90 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he has taken or plans to take arising from the report of the Hartnett inquiry into the death of Brian Rossiter, who died in Garda custody in Clonmel in 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7606/09]

As indicated in my response to Parliamentary Question Number 62 of 18 December 2008, the findings of the Hartnett Report have been accepted. The Inquest into the death of the person in question has been concluded and civil proceedings instituted by the person's family have been settled. A Chief Superintendent was appointed under the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 2007 to deal with disciplinary matters arising from the Report. The question of discipline for members is, in the first instance, a matter for the Commissioner and I understand that one member has been dealt with under that process and the process is ongoing in respect of two others.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

91 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a full update on the roll-out of the national speed camera programme; when the first cameras will be in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5829/09]

In accordance with EU Directives, national public procurement procedures and relevant legislation, An Garda Síochána engaged in a procurement process for the provision and operation of safety cameras. As a result, a preferred supplier has been selected, and the contract discussion phase of the procurement process has commenced, with the aim of entering into a contract with the preferred supplier at the earliest opportunity. Every effort is being made to proceed with this project as speedily as possible. Until the contract discussions are concluded, it is not possible to indicate a specific timescale for the project, but it is expected that roll-out will commence in the course of 2009.

National Disability Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

92 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 17 of 18 December 2008, if the strategic document outlining the vision, mission and objectives of the national disability strategy as detailed in Towards 2016 has been finalised since the beginning of 2009; if not, when he expects it to be finalised and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7665/09]

Following necessary consultation, work on the Strategic Document outlining the vision, mission and objectives of the National Disability Strategy is in the process of being finalised. The document will, in line with the commitment in T2016, be published as soon as possible.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

93 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps that have been taken in respect of the report of the Garda Ombudsman Commission following the death of a person (details supplied) and in particular the recommendations in the report that require action by An Garda Síochána or the Garda Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7599/09]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 64 of 18 December 2008. I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the recommendations are being actively pursued.

Garda Recruitment.

Jack Wall

Question:

94 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to facilitate the transfer of, or otherwise recruit serving police officers from the London Metropolitan Police to An Garda Síochána; if he has plans to encourage members of the Garda Reserve to join the full-time force; if he will raise the upper age limit for recruitment to An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7613/09]

Section 122(1)(d) of the Garda Síochána Acts, 2005-2007 provides for the making of regulations on the admission, appointment, and enrolment of members including members who have served with other Police Services and members with different ethnic or national origins or different religious beliefs or backgrounds. The Act also provides for the continuation in law of the Garda Síochána Admissions and Appointments Regulations 1988 (as amended) which in turn set out the specific recruitment criteria for appointment as a member of An Garda Síochána. Recruitment is open to citizens of the EEA and there is no prohibition on serving police officers applying, provided they meet the requirements. The case for specific regulations on the recruitment of serving police officers will be kept under review.

It is open to members of the Garda Reserve to apply to join An Garda Síochána on a full time basis. To date, a total of 31 attested and/or trainee Reserve Gardaí have left the Garda Reserve to become full time members of An Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 provide that in a competition for full-time membership of An Garda Síochána, the assessment shall take into account any service by the candidate as a Reserve member of the Garda Síochána, and shall give due recognition to evidence of satisfactory service as such a member.

Admission as a trainee Garda is contingent on the prospective applicant being under 35 years of age. This upper age limit was set in 2004 following consultation with the Commissioner and there are no plans to amend it.

Garda Investigations.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

95 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to the murder of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7593/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the murder of the person concerned is under intensive Garda investigation. The Deputy will appreciate that as the investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Willie Penrose

Question:

96 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions in 2007, 2008 and to date in 2009 in which grenades, bombs or improvised explosive devices have been used; the number of occasions in each year when the Garda called on the assistance of the Army ordinance unit to deal with such devices; the number of prosecutions initiated as a result of the discovery of such devices; his views on the increased use of such devices by criminal elements; the steps being taken to curb the use of such devices, particularly having regard to the danger they pose to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7604/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that to date in 2009 there have been 11 incidents involving grenade, pipe bomb or other improvised devices in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. A Defence Forces Explosives Ordnance Device (EOD) team attended nine of these. In 2008 there were 106 incidents and an EOD team attended 93. In 2007 there were 24 such incidents and an EOD team attended at 17.

Proceedings have been commenced against nine persons for offences in 2008 and investigations by An Garda Síochána into other such incidents are continuing. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that Garda strategies in responding to incidents involving pipe bomb attacks are firmly focused on disrupting these activities. Where sufficient evidence is available to warrant the bringing of criminal prosecutions this will be done.

Data Protection.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

97 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, arising from the recent judgment of the European Court of Justice, he will introduce the legislation required to bring Irish law regarding the retention of data on telephone calls into line with European law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7590/09]

Martin Ferris

Question:

99 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the implications of the European Court of Justice’s recent ruling against Ireland, in which it held that the internal market decision mechanism employed in the making of the data retention directive which involves no Irish veto was the correct one as opposed to the justice and home affairs mechanism which he contended was the correct one and which does involve a veto, for future decision making in areas deemed by Irish elected representatives to be matter of justice rather than services. [7575/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 99 together.

Irish law on data retention is mainly at Part 7 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005. It obliges service providers to retain telephony data for three years and to disclose it to the gardaí on request for the purpose of the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of crime or for safeguarding the security of the State. The providers are also obliged to disclose telephony data on request to the Permanent Defence Force for the purpose of safeguarding the security of the State. The 2005 Act provisions largely comply with the telephony requirements of Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and Council on the retention of data. I will shortly be seeking Government approval to publish a Bill that will consolidate the existing legislation in the 2005 Act and the requirements of the directive in relation to the retention of internet data.

Ireland sought the annulment of Directive 2006/24/EC before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) based on the argument that the legal basis used for the Directive, which is contained in the internal market provisions of the EU Treaties, does not apply to measures that are designed to combat crime. The ECJ has ruled that as the Directive relates predominantly to the functioning of the internal market, it is founded on an appropriate legal basis. The implications of the judgment are being examined in my Department.

Programme for Government.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

98 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of those sections of the programme for Government under the headings community payback, parental responsibility and anti-social behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7591/09]

The information on the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of those sections of the Programme for Government referred to by the Deputy is published on the website of the Department of the Taoiseach. It can be accessed at www.taoiseach.gov.ie under Publications (archive 2008). The information will be updated later this year.

Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 97.

Garda Strength.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

100 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of An Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available broken down by full members, those who have attested but not yet concluded their training, those in training, the expected number that will be recruited in 2009, the anticipated numbers at each above category at the end of 2009 and the number of members of the force who are expected to retire during 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7601/09]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of attested members of An Garda Síochána on 31 January 2009, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 14,391. The number of recruits in training (Phases 1 to 3) at that date was 1,045. The number of probationer gardaí who have been attested but have not yet graduated (ie not yet completed Phases 4 and 5) at that date was 825 and it is anticipated the majority of these probationers will complete their training in 2009. This figure is included in the overall strength of the force as at 31 January 2009. It is further anticipated that approximately 944 Student gardaí will be attested during 2009.

In relation to retirements, it is anticipated that approximately 400 members of An Garda Síochána (all ranks) will retire in 2009 which, coupled with the existing strength and future attestations, will result in an estimated attested strength in An Garda Síochána of over 14,900 on 31 December 2009. Future recruitment to An Garda Síochána will take place in line with overall Government policy.

Crime Prevention.

Jack Wall

Question:

101 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the statement made by the head of the Garda Inspectorate, Kathleen O’Toole, that the Garda could identify newly emerging crime trends earlier and respond faster if better technology was made available to it; if he has discussed with Ms O’Toole the needs of the Garda in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7584/09]

The Garda Inspectorate is currently examining resource deployment in the Garda Síochána. In this general context I have received a proposal from the Inspectorate to undertake a study in this regard. I envisage that the terms of reference for the study will be finalised shortly.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

102 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures he has taken to monitor known serious criminals living in communities; the checks and protections in place to protect residents and public safety in estates in which criminals are known to reside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7686/09]

As the Deputy is aware the monitoring of serious criminals is an operational matter for An Garda Síochána, independent of political interference or direction. Persons involved in organised criminal activities, including persons suspected of involvement in drug-trafficking, importation, sale and supply, including the illegal importation of firearms, are being targeted by An Garda Síochána on a number of fronts, involving uniform and plain-clothes personnel overtly and covertly disrupting known criminals in the course of criminal activities. Such criminals, their operating methods, criminal interests and financial assets are likewise proactively targeted and intelligence-led operations, particularly under Operation Anvil, which commenced in May 2005 in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and was extended countrywide in 2006. The primary focus of Operation Anvil is the disruption of serious and organised criminal activity through such operations, in conjunction with an increased overt visible Garda presence.

Multi-agency approaches have been and continue to be used where all of the national units from National Support Services — the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Criminal Assets Bureau, Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and Garda Technical Bureau — are used to combat serious crime. These Units are also supported by the Garda Security and Intelligence Section who assist with intelligence briefings and timely information. The Criminal Assets Bureau is being actively utilised to identify and target funds accumulated by criminals, in order to seize such assets and to deprive them of the profits of their criminal activity. A dedicated unit within the Garda National Drugs Unit has been established to liaise with the Criminal Assets Bureau to target in particular those criminals and criminal groupings believed to be deriving profits and assets from drug-related criminal activity.

This integrated approach adopts best practice in implementing a co-ordinated use of Garda resources and using available criminal legislation to its fullest extent. Operations are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure their effectiveness. In addition to these specific initiatives, all members of An Garda Síochána have the responsibility to enforce the criminal law, including relevant drug trafficking legislation. The situation is being closely monitored and kept under constant review by senior Garda management in conjunction with Regional Assistant Commissioners and Heads of Units.

The Criminal Justice Act 2007 provides that the courts may impose orders on persons convicted of serious offences, following their release from prison. These orders are intended to monitor the offender in question or to provide protection for the victim of the offence concerned. A monitoring order may require the offender to notify the Garda Síochána of their address and to further notify the Gardaí of any change of address. The court may also provide for a protection of persons order which prohibits the offender from engaging in behaviour which would cause fear or distress to the victim or any other person named in the order.

On 26 January, the Garda Commissioner and I launched a new Garda National Model of Community Policing. The Model builds on the success of existing good community policing practice within Ireland and aims to foster collaborative partnerships between An Garda Síochána and members of the community. Alongside the specialist operations already referred to, a comprehensive model of community policing ensures that enforcement will be employed not only to reduce crime but also to reduce the fear of crime and ensure a better quality of community life for all.

EU Directives.

Liz McManus

Question:

103 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in respect of EU directives for which his Department has responsibility, the number of directives remaining to be implemented; the directives that are overdue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7595/09]

My Department has responsibility for eight EU Directives which have to be implemented. Four of these Directives are overdue. They are:

Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status. Irish law and practice in this area is already substantially in compliance with the terms of this Directive. The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 contain provisions to restate the law on refugee and other protection procedures with some amendments. These restatements are in compliance with Ireland's obligations under the Directive.

Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC. Part of the Directive is covered by Part 7 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005. The remainder is to be transposed by means of primary legislation. The necessary legislation is being prepared as a matter of urgency.

Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing; and

Commission Directive 2006/70/EC of 1 August 2006 laying down implementing measures for Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the definition of politically exposed person and the technical criteria for simplified customer due diligence procedures and for exemption on grounds of a financial activity conducted on an occasional or very limited basis. The necessary legislation to implement these two Directives is currently being drafted. I expect to be in a position to publish the legislation in the first half of this year.

Four recent Directives remain to be implemented. They are not overdue. They are: Commission Directive 2008/43/EC of 4 April 2008 setting up, pursuant to Council Directive 93/15/EEC, a system for the identification and traceability of explosives for civil uses; Directive 2008/51/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 amending Council Directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons; Directive 2007/23/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 May 2007 on the placing on the market of pyrotechnic articles; Directive 2008/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters.

Proposed Legislation.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

104 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if arising from his interview (details supplied) he will state when he will introduce legislation to end prison terms for non-payment of fines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7588/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

105 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the concept of developing alternatives other than imprisonment for the non-payment of fines and civil debt bearing in mind that upwards of 2,000 people are imprisoned annually for such non-payment; the details of such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7444/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 105 together.

My predecessor published a Fines Bill in 2007. The primary purpose of the Bill was to provide for the indexation of fines. It also introduced the concept of equality of impact and the payment of fines by instalments. Those provisions are currently being redrafted in a new Bill I am preparing, and I am also examining the possibility for inclusion in the Bill of giving the courts power to impose alternative penalties to that of imprisonment in cases of default on payment of a fine.

I can advise the Deputy that the number of persons imprisoned for the non-payment of a fine by the due date for payment comprises a tiny fraction of the overall prison population. Nonetheless, I believe that my proposals will make a significant contribution towards reducing that number while at the same time preserving the integrity of the fines system. I intend to seek Government approval for the publication of the Bill in the near future.

Imprisonment for non-payment of debt was abolished by the Debtors (Ireland) Act 1872. However, refusal to pay a contractual debt may amount to civil contempt of court, for which imprisonment may be imposed. This is a civil law matter and the primary remedies available to a complainant, through the courts, would be enforced performance of the contract or damages. Where a person refuses to obey a court order relating to providing a remedy for contractual default to another person or organisation, imprisonment may be one of a number of remedies ultimately for non-compliance. The imprisonment of such defaulters is very much a last resort. The person will generally have been given every opportunity to fulfil the contract or to discharge the debt. There are no proposals in the current Government Legislative Programme to reform the law in regard to civil contempt and how it might be applied to default of contractual obligations or failure to pay a civil debt.

Gun Control.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

106 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number in respect of each year from 2002 to date in 2009 of licensed handguns; the number of licensed handguns that were reported as stolen; the number of such stolen guns that were subsequently used in crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7597/09]

The Deputy will be aware that prior to 2004 there was a de facto ban on handguns in this jurisdiction. However, I understand from the Garda Authorities that records indicate approximately 1,800 handguns have been licensed since the beginning of 2004. The most recent figures on stolen firearms were received on 16 December 2008 and indicate that 31 handguns were recorded as stolen since 2004. I am further advised that stolen firearms are used in the course of the commission of other criminal offences but, because not all stolen firearms or firearms used in the commission of offences are recovered, it is not possible to say precisely how many formerly legally held handguns have been used in criminal offences.

As I have stated on a number of occasions I am concerned with the situation we now find ourselves in following the growth in the licensing of hand guns over the past few years. We now have these 1,800 handguns licensed, and not as a result of a considered or deliberate public policy decision. As Mr. Justice Charleton said in a recent judgement the public is entitled to feel alarmed at the proliferation of handguns. I am not going to permit the growth of a ‘handgun' culture. It was against this background that I announced my proposals for reform in this area, which include a ban on issuing new licenses for handguns and a strict regime for renewal of existing licenses, with limited exceptions made in relation to Olympic sports.

The House may note the endorsement of these proposals by the Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate who draws on her own considerable experience of policing in the United States. She has recently been quoted as saying that a lot of guns used in the commission of crime in the States are guns that have been stolen from their rightful owners. We must have controls in place to prevent the same thing happening here. My proposals will be reflected in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which I will be publishing very shortly.

It is important to say that my proposals in relation to handguns will not impinge directly on the activities of the vast majority of licensed firearms holders. I recognise that those firearms holders pursue their legitimate interests in a law abiding way and am anxious to have a well regulated sector in which those interests can be successfully pursued, in co-operation with the relevant authorities. But the reality is specific issues arise from the inherent nature of firearms.

Proposed Legislation.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

107 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will publish the Covert Surveillance Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7594/09]

The Government announced on 26 January, 2009 that the Covert Surveillance Bill would be among a number of Bills which would be published during the present session of the Dáil.

Crime Levels.

Joe Costello

Question:

108 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the Central Statistics Office crime figures for 2008; his views on the continued increase in the number of drug offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7585/09]

The 2008 crime statistics published by the Central Statistics office show a number of encouraging trends. The number of homicide offences decreased by almost half (42.9%) during the year, with murder down 36.4% and manslaughter down 57.1%. The number of sexual offences was stable (up 1.1%), with rape down 2.8% and aggravated sexual assault down 33.3%. The number of cases of discharging a firearm decreased by 31.3%. While the number of cases of possession of a firearm increased by 8.2%, this is due primarily to increased Garda activity in combating this.

Controlled drug offences show an overall increase of 25.4%, with increases of 24.1% in the category of importation of drugs and 36% in cases of cultivation and manufacture of drugs. It is important to emphasise that, of their nature, in the vast majority of cases drug offences are recorded as a result of enforcement activity. The statistics in question, therefore, are the result of increased levels of enforcement and should lead to commendation of the efforts of those involved.

Through ongoing specific initiatives and intelligence-led operations, An Garda Síochána continues to seize substantial quantities of illegal drugs and identify those involved in the importation, distribution, sale and supply of illegal drugs. At present there are 379 members of the Force attached to the Divisional Drug Units and 60 to the National Drugs Unit. They, in turn, are supported by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau. The Gardaí work closely with Customs and the Naval Service under the umbrella of the Joint Task Force on Drugs as well as with their international colleagues.

Among recent and ongoing initiatives are the establishment of the Organised Crime Unit on a permanent footing, our involvement in the establishment and operation of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre in Lisbon, strengthened provisions in the Criminal Justice Acts 2006 and 2007 and the ring-fencing of €21 million this year for Operation Anvil. I am confident that the legislation that I will be introducing shortly dealing with surveillance will be of particular value in tackling drugs gangs.

While the crime figures for 2008 are encouraging, there are no grounds for complacency. I recently stated my belief that the time has come for a strategic review of how we fight crime in the longer term and announced the development of the State's first White Paper on Crime. However, as that process develops, there will be no let up in the pace of reform already underway, which includes a ban on handguns, controls on knives, new surveillance powers to deal with organised crime and terrorism and the establishment of a DNA database.

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

109 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures used in selecting a new chairperson of the Garda Ombudsman Commission; the reason the post was not advertised and applications sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7580/09]

The appointment of members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is dealt with in section 65 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which provides they are to be appointed by the President on the nomination of the Government and the passage of resolutions by both Houses of the Oireachtas. In making the nomination of a person to be a member of the Ombudsman Commission, the Government is required by the 2005 Act to satisfy themselves that the person has the appropriate experience, qualifications, training or expertise for appointment to a body having the functions of the Ombudsman Commission.

On the 3rd February 2009, the Government nominated Mr Dermot Gallagher for appointment by the President to be the Chairperson of the Ombudsman Commission. In making the nomination, the Government was fully satisfied that Mr. Gallagher meets the statutory requirements for appointment as Chairperson of the Ombudsman Commission. The same process was undertaken by the Government in 2005 in relation to the appointment of the original members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Having satisfied itself that the nominees had the appropriate experience, qualifications, training and expertise for appointment to the Commission, Judge Kevin Haugh, Ms Carmel Foley and Mr. Conor Brady were appointed by the President on the nomination of the Government and the passage of resolutions by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 56.

Garda Stations.

Mary Upton

Question:

111 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if plans for an appropriate Garda headquarters to serve the Garda divisional area of Tallaght have been shelved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7612/09]

I refer the Deputy to the response to Parliamentary Question number 132 of 23 October, 2008 which outlines both the immediate and longer term plans for the station. I am advised that communications are ongoing between the Garda authorities and the Office of Public Works on the feasibility report prepared by the Board for the longer term development of the station. The immediate measures to provide additional office accommodation for fifty personnel adjacent to the existing station are at an advanced stage.

Question No. 112 answered with Question No. 78.
Question No. 113 answered with Question No. 51.

Prison Building Programme.

Mary Upton

Question:

114 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied in relation to the capacity of the preferred bidder to deliver the Thornton Hall prison project; the progress that has been made on the project since the enactment of the Prison Development (Confirmation of Regulations) Act 2008; the estimated date for the commencement and the completion of the project; the estimated cost of the project, including the cost of acquiring the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7611/09]

It is the responsibility of the commercial consortium, under the PPP process, to arrange the funding and other resources to deliver the project. Part of the PPP process includes various checks to ensure that the bidder has the capacity to deliver the project before any contract is signed. It is not appropriate, for commercial and procurement reasons, for me to comment on the specific financial funding aspects of the PPP contract negotiations which are currently in progress.

Since the enactment of the Prison Development (Confirmation of Resolutions) Act, 2008 the Irish Prison Service, along with its technical advisors and the National Development Finance Agency has focused on progressing the Negotiation Phase of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) process with Leargas, the preferred tenderer, across financial, technical and legal aspects of the project. This involved the continuation of the design development of the project and contract negotiations to enable the Irish Prison Service to contract with the PPP Co and commence construction of the new prison development.

While negotiations on the contract are at an advanced stage they have not yet been completed to the point that the Project Agreement can be signed. I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that it is anticipated that it will not be possible to have a contract signed until later this year. Construction will commence immediately after contract award and should take no more than 3 years. This timeframe is subject, of course, to the successful completion of the contract negotiations. I can say, however, that if the current contract negotiations are not successfully concluded there are other tenderers and other options which can still be considered.

The Thornton Hall project is a complex Public Private Partnership Project which involves the construction of more than 30 buildings, including 8 prison facilities on the site, a major internal road network, extensive perimeter security and a vast array of security systems both physical and electronic. Additional matters have had to be addressed following the extensive public consultation involving the publication of the Environmental Impact Assessment and consideration of the development by the Oireachtas.

Pressures on the international financial markets have the potential to impact on all major capital projects. The Irish Prison Service is being advised by the National Development Finance Agency in relation to trends and developments in this area. The cost of the acquisition of the site for the prison development was €29.9 million. An additional 8.7 acres has also been acquired to provide a dedicated access road to the main site. This was done following representations from the local community which reflected concern in relation to the effect of increased traffic generated by the prison project. The cost of this additional land was €1.3 million. A total of €10.4 million has been expended to date on preliminary site works including surveys, landscaping, security and maintenance of the property, studies such as archaeological, topographical, etc., and professional fees including legal and specialist technical advice.

It is not appropriate, for commercial and procurement reasons, to provide details as to the likely costs of the construction. In particular it would not be in the public interest to give an indication of expected costs before a bid is accepted and a contract finalised. The disclosure of such information is, in any event, not allowed under Department of Finance guidelines applicable to Public Private Partnership.

Redundancy Payments.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

115 Deputy M. J. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a person (details supplied) will have their application for a redundancy payment processed and granted. [7814/09]

The Redundancy Payments Section of my Department has received an application for a statutory lump sum payment in respect of the above person. The claim is at an advanced stage of processing and, subject to the criteria being fully met, payment of the claim can be expected to issue shortly.

Health and Safety Inspections.

Denis Naughten

Question:

116 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of meat plants inspected by the legal metrology service in the years 2006 to 2008; the date each plant was inspected; the breaches that were found; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7824/09]

The number of meat plants inspected over the three-year period is as follows:

2006: 8;

2007: 22; and

2008: 11.

The following table details the meat plants inspected and the dates of inspection. No breaches of the legislation requiring prosecution were found.

Following the resolution of an industrial relations issue relating to the hiring of private haulage for the conveyance and lifting of test equipment, about which the Deputy will be aware from previous replies, the Legal Metrology Service NSAI is currently inviting tenders for supply of haulage services. Provision of this support will enable the Service resume a full inspection regime in meat processing plants.

Meat Processing Plants Inspection Visits

Year

Number of Plants visited

Plant (s)

Date of Visit(s)

2006

1

AIBP , Clones

11-March, 22-May

1

Liffey Meats, Ballyjamesduff, Cavan

09-Mar

1

Kepak Ltd, Clonee

06-Jul

1

Newgrange Meats, Navan

10-Jul

1

Tullamore Meats, Tullamore

15-May

Kepak, Athleague

16-Feb

1

Kepak, Ballymahon

17-Jan, 14-Feb, 22-Mar,

20-April, 15-Jun, 18-Aug,

18-Oct, 1-Nov, 19-Dec

1

Dawn Meats, Ballyhaunis

15-Jan

1

Donegal Meat Processors

07-Dec

2006 Total

8

2007

1

AIBP, Clones

30-April, 17-Aug

1

Liffey Meats, Ballyjamesuff, Cavan

13-Dec

1

Dawn Meats, Midleton

26-Jun

1

AIBP Rathkeale

07-Nov

1

Kerry Foods Shilleagh Wicklow

30-Jan

1

Slaney Foods Bunclody

31- Jan, 16 & 17-Jul

1

Kepak Hacketstown

26-Jul, 1-Aug

1

QK coldstores Grannagh

04-Sep

1

QK coldstores Kilmacthomas

05-Sep

1

AIBP Meats Cahir

11-Sep

1

Callan Bacon Callan

11-Oct

1

Slaney Foods Bunclody

11-Dec

1

Rosderran Meats Roscrea

15-Aug

1

Ashbourne Meats Roscrea

15-Mar

1

AIBP Bandon

09-Aug

1

AIBP Athleague

25-Jan

1

Oliver Carty Athlone

24-Jan, 11-Jul

1

Duffy Meats Gort

26-Feb

1

Donegal Meat Processors

04-Oct

1

Kepak, Ballymahon

3-April, 31-May, 31-Jul,

27-Aug, 31-Oct

1

Galtee Meats Charleville

09-Mar, 17-May

1

AIBP Rathkeale

07-Nov

2007 Total

22

2008

1

AIBP, Clones

28-Apr

1

Irish Country Meats, Camolin

25-Jun

1

Dawn Meats Midleton

16-May

1

Dawn Pork and Bacon, Grannagh

17-Jan

1

Kepak Hacketstown

12-Mar, 20-Aug

1

Slaney Foods Bunclody

21-Jul

1

Galtee Meats

10-Apr

1

Kepak Ballymahon

11-Feb, 19-Mar, 20-Mar,

4-April, 8-April, 26-Jun,

27-Jun, 30 & 31-Jul, 18-Sept,

2 & 13-Oct, 23-Dec

1

Donegal Meat Processors

12-Dec

1

Kepak, Athleague

20-Feb, 20-Jul

1

Oliver Carty, Athlone

29-Apr

2008 Total

11

Job Losses.

Brian Hayes

Question:

117 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of her discussions with the unions that she met from a company (details supplied) on 19 February 2009, in connection with the potential loss of jobs in the company; the alternatives she is looking at in connection with this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7833/09]

I very much regret the announced closure of the SR Technics operation at Dublin Airport. My most recent meeting on the matter was on Thursday last, 19 February, with a delegation representing the Trade Union interests in the Dublin operation, who outlined their concerns. Similar concerns have been relayed to me in the many approaches I have had from public representatives.

The Government is anxious that as many jobs as possible are secured at Dublin Airport. We would like to see the SR Technics Group do what it can to facilitate this, such as helping to promote the capabilities and skills available at the Dublin facility, agreeing to an orderly wind down of the facility to give IDA Ireland an opportunity to promote the location to interested parties, and maintaining assets and equipment at the site for at least 6 months. There are a number of expressions of interest from different parties in possibly all or part of the business and time is needed to assess these proposals. The Government is anxious that the facility and the workers will maintain their IAA approval status while the alternative proposals are being progressed.

I am conveying these points, and the widespread concern in Ireland that every effort be made to maintain the maximum number of jobs at the facility at Dublin Airport, to SR Technics at Group level, as a follow-on to my meeting with the company on 11th February, when I was accompanied by my Secretary General and the Chief Executive of IDA.

I should add that a number of meetings had taken place between the State, its Agencies and the company in the past year. The company had explained that it had been exploring all options for its Dublin operations, including sale to another party, but had not found it possible to proceed with any of these options. The company outlined the deterioration that had taken place in its global business since mid 2008, with contracts moving to Eastern Europe, Jordan, Turkey and Malta. It confirmed that it was putting in place a 5 year restructuring plan and that it had already reduced its worldwide workforce by 500 in the last year. The company stated that the recent loss of major contracts, its current business and economic forecasts, as well as its high cost-base and over capacity at Dublin airport, had made it impossible to continue a sustainable business in Dublin.

SR Technics provides line maintenance for the Aer Lingus fleet at their Dublin base. This is a long-term contract awarded by Aer Lingus in 2008 following a competitive procurement process. The Company had indicated that it hoped to assign this and other smaller operations to another operator, offering the potential of saving up to 200 jobs. IDA Ireland has had an ongoing relationship with the company over many years and approved a significant Training Grant package for the company in 2006 to assist the company in maximising efficiencies and improving competitiveness. IDA also had discussions with the company in relation to its business plan and further opportunities to assist the company with additional financial incentives such as RD&I support with the emphasis on Innovation and Process Development.

In the light of the announced closure of the Dublin plant, FÁS has been at the forefront in providing intervention and support to employees facing redundancy. It is currently in contact with SR Technics Management to discuss the services available from FÁS and the potential needs of the employees. Each response will be tailored on a case-by-case basis. FÁS Services to Business Unit will also be involved in these consultations. It is important to establish how best FÁS can assist the workers. Following this initial contact, a judgement will be made in relation to the level of FÁS intervention required.

As regards efforts to save some or all of the jobs involved, actual involvement by IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland in providing financial or other supports will be dependent on a company or companies submitting proposals for consideration and seeking approval for State support for an undertaking in the normal way. In the meantime IDA Ireland are actively exploring options with interest parties.

Departmental Reports.

Denis Naughten

Question:

118 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Parliamentary Question No. 147 of 2 December 2008, the Departments which have responded to the Secretary General and the Departments which remain to furnish a full response; the result of the examination of the enterprise agenda recommendations in the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7887/09]

The report of the Services Strategy Group, "Catching the Wave: A Services Strategy for Ireland", published in September 2008, contains a range of recommendations across a wide area that concerns the policies and activities of a number of Government Departments and Agencies. All the relevant bodies have been contacted for their views on the pertinent recommendations in the report.

Officials of my Department are currently engaged in the process of analysing responses, both from divisions within my own Department and from other relevant Departments and Agencies. Some of the issues raised by these recommendations are complex and have policy implications for the Departments involved. For this reason it is important that we comprehensively analyse the issues raised and identify the most appropriate measures to address the difficulties involved. These issues are obviously compounded by the straitened economic circumstances and the severe constraints on public expenditure. Upon completion of this process I will be in a position to formulate a comprehensive approach to the implementation of the report.

Moreover a number of actions are already taking place. In November 2008 I launched Enterprise Ireland's "Strategy for Internationally Traded Services", which could, if fully realised, lead to a doubling of export sales by 2015. The Agency also initiated a new "Going Global Fund" which is aimed at locally traded companies that have successfully established businesses in Ireland and wish to explore opportunities to sell abroad. These plans and supports will give ambitious services firms, particularly those that have not looked beyond the Irish market yet, the confidence to offer their quality services in global markets, generating wealth and prosperity for the economy back home.

The Government has recently given a commitment to publishing a whole-of-Government response to recommendations contained within the reports of the Competition Authority. This, in conjunction with the merging of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency, should yield dividends for the economy as a whole, where both the individual and enterprises as consumers will benefit from increasing competition and a reduction in sheltered sectors of the economy.

In January of this year, my colleague Minister Eamon Ryan in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources announced details of a new scheme to deliver universal broadband across Ireland by September 2010. That department is also actively engaging with key stakeholders in the implementation and means of delivery of Next Generation Broadband.

I am confident that following due consideration, we can put the right structures in place to ensure the successful implementation of the recommendations of the Services Strategy Group. This will enable Irish service companies to exploit new and exciting opportunities, such as eLearning, business and financial services, professional and consultancy services and others. Given a relatively solid foundation to begin with, Ireland can be an ideal location for services to develop and prosper.

Industrial Development.

Jack Wall

Question:

119 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of offices the Industrial Development Authority has leased or operates from in the Kildare area; if there are none, the base from which Kildare is served; her plans to locate further or new offices in the Kildare area in view of the fact that the unemployment figures for Kildare are so high and are above the national average; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7942/09]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency. While I may give general policy directives to the Agency, I am precluded under the Industrial Development Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

IDA Ireland has informed me that it markets Kildare, as part of an integrated East Region, which comprises Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, from its East Regional Office based in the Agency's Head Office in Wilton Park House Dublin as well as through its network of overseas offices. The opening of a separate IDA office in Kildare is not envisaged at this stage.

Redundancy Payments.

Billy Timmins

Question:

120 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to staff at a company (details supplied) who have requested that she meet with them over their situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7952/09]

Further to my reply in response to a question put down on 5 February regarding the situation of staff at the company to which the Deputy refers, the Tánaiste has received a number of representations from staff at the company to which she has just very recently responded.

In the context of Redundancy entitlements, my Department is not in a position to pay out the statutory redundancy entitlements to staff until a determination of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) is available which should provide clarity as to whether a genuine redundancy situation at the company exists. The Tánaiste encouraged staff to pursue this issue through a determination before the Employment Appeals Tribunal and we both welcome the news that a number of staff have taken up this suggestion and would encourage all remaining eligible staff to do likewise. Upon receipt of the EAT decision, and on the assumption that this is positive, my Department will, subject to the eligibility criteria being met, be in a position to pay the employees their statutory redundancy entitlements. In that event, the Department will pursue the employer directly to recoup the monies paid.

As regards the pursuit of complaints to the Rights Commissioner Service under the Payment of Wages Act, 1991, to which I drew attention in my response of 5 February, I am pleased also to note that a number of employees have decided to request hearings before the Rights Commissioners and I understand that a number of cases have now progressed to the hearing stage.

Naturally, the Tánaiste and I are very concerned about the issues that have been raised in relation to this company. The National Employment Rights Authority, (NERA) were recently requested to undertake an inspection at the company's premises and although this did not yield a result in that there was no company presence in evidence, NERA is considering its further options in this regard. In line with the type of joint inspection activity and information sharing which NERA undertakes with both the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, NERA has taken the opportunity to share information on the company with these bodies.

The Deputy may also wish to be aware that separately, and in light of the powers vested on the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) under company law, the Tánaiste has also forwarded the matter to the ODCE for further consideration. I am satisfied that all relevant advice has been provided to staff in terms of the pursuit of all relevant avenues of redress to secure their employment rights entitlements. Equally, the Tánaiste has undertaken follow-up action in relation to the company as outlined.

Job Creation.

Tom Sheahan

Question:

121 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of people currently working in animation studios here; the steps being taken to create job opportunities for graduates here with animation qualifications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7960/09]

My Department has no function in this matter and accordingly does not have the statistics requested on employment numbers. However, Enterprise Ireland can provide support to companies that engage in one of the 21 eligible activities as set out in the Services Order 2003, and currently generate or intend to generate exports from the eligible activity in the near future. The twenty-one services include: Media, multimedia and recording services; and Entertainment and leisure services. Therefore, Enterprise Ireland can provide funding to any business proposal from a company in the animation sector that meets the agency criteria.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

122 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if a category of saving product (details supplied) is covered by the State guarantee. [7765/09]

The product in question is not covered by the Bank Guarantee Scheme. It is not a deposit product; returns are based on movements in the equity market and investors are not entitled to compensation for any losses incurred.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

123 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if a person selling their home (details supplied) is liable for capital gains tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7778/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in the circumstances outlined, a person's share of a gain arising on the sale of a jointly-owned house, including gardens and grounds up to one acre which he has occupied as his only or main residence throughout his period of ownership, is generally exempt from capital gains tax (this exemption is commonly referred to as "principal private residence relief"). Principal private residence relief may be restricted where the house is not so occupied throughout the period of ownership (excluding the final 12 months), is partially used for business purposes or is a sale of development land. The portion of the gain attributable to the siblings who do not live in the house is chargeable to capital gains tax on each in the normal manner unless the sibling who lives there is a "dependent relative". If the person who lives in the house is a "dependent relative" of the other siblings, then principal private residence relief may also be available to those other siblings.

Tax Collection.

Finian McGrath

Question:

124 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will support a matter (details supplied). [7781/09]

The day-to-day responsibility for collection of taxes and duties payable to the State rests with the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by the Revenue that they are determined to maintain the high levels of compliance achieved over the last several years notwithstanding the more difficult economic circumstances in which businesses are now operating. Revenue expects that businesses organise their financial affairs to be timely compliant in paying their taxes. I fully support Revenue's stance in this regard.

An approach that involves holding back or parking the payment of VAT payments due to the State is not an acceptable approach from business. Such an approach, involving the use of such monies for cash flow within a business calls into question the basic viability of such businesses and is not a sustainable approach even in the current economic climate.

Some businesses who have always had a disposition to meet their obligations on time and in more favourable economic circumstances did precisely that are, however, experiencing particular difficulties in meeting their tax payment obligations in a timely fashion in the current environment. Revenue is prepared to work with such businesses, provided they are fundamentally viable, in finding a solution acceptable to Revenue to enable the survival of the business and the speedy resolution of those payment difficulties. I am aware that Revenue has always encouraged and continues to encourage businesses in such difficulties to talk to them at the earliest opportunity.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

125 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance when a refund of DIRT will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [7798/09]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) at the rate of 23% for 2009 (20% for 2008) is deducted from interest earned on most deposits held in financial institutions such as banks, building societies, post office savings bank and credit unions. A person or his/her spouse can claim a repayment of DIRT if the following conditions are satisfied:

he/she is aged 65 or over, or

he/she is permanently incapacitated, and

his, her or their total income (including the gross DIRT income) is less than the relevant exemption limit.

A repayment of DIRT can be sought by submitting a written claim and certificates of interest subject to DIRT to their Revenue Office. Alternatively, an individual may claim a refund from Revenue by submitting a completed form 54D.

Finance Act 2007 introduced new arrangements that allows an individual to have any interest accrued on money on deposit credited to his/her account by the financial institution without deduction of DIRT, where he/she satisfies the above conditions. In order to claim such exemption, the individual should submit a completed declaration form, DE1 to the financial institution, stating that he/she or his/her spouse (if married) meet the required conditions. Full details are available on http://www.revenue.ie/en/tax/dirt/leaflets/de1.html

Revenue's records indicate that no claim for refund of DIRT has been received from the person in question. If the person in question would like to discuss his possible refund or seek assistance with completion of the forms, he should contact the Revenue Office in Cork, at telephone number 021 6027058.

Banking Sector Regulation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

126 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will amend the regulations on fixed interest rates whereby people are being penalised for breaking out of them in order to change to lowering variable rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7803/09]

The Minister has no function in setting interest rates. His function is to provide an appropriate and robust legislative framework for regulation of the financial services sector, with a particular focus on the consumer. The choice of mortgage product ultimately rests with the consumer in light of the terms and conditions that their lending institution offers. The decision of borrowers is influenced by factors such as their personal preferences and their own assessment of the relative merits of fixed and variable rate mortgages.

Generally mortgages are for long periods. To some consumers a fixed interest rate on a mortgage offers peace of mind in that the borrower benefits from certainty regarding the cost of their mortgage, does not need to be concerned with changes in mortgage interest rates and accordingly he or she can budget more confidently.

As the Deputy will be aware, interest rates charged by banks generally vary in line with the base rate fixed by the European Central Bank (ECB) from time to time. Where a bank offers a fixed rate over a certain period it incurs additional costs in obtaining fixed or other funding in respect of the loan over the period. The additional costs will reflect both the market view in relation to future trends in interest rates for the period and the fact that longer term deposits generally attract higher interest rates than short term. In addition, where a consumer changes from a fixed interest rate contract to a variable rate contract before the end of the term for which the interest rate was fixed, there is an associated cost to the lender. In circumstances that lenders were prohibited from passing on this cost to borrowers switching to variable rates, this cost could increase the price and reduce the availability of fixed rate mortgages.

Tax Code.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

127 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the number of office holders availing of the terms of section 836 of the Taxes Consolidated Act 1997 which allows tax deductions in regard to the cost of maintaining a second residence in respect of each year since 2002; the amount of tax foregone in each of these years as a result of the allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7813/09]

Section 836 of the Taxes Consolidation Act provides for a tax deduction under section 114 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 in respect of the cost of maintaining a second residence where, arising out of the performance of his or her duties, a Minister or a Minister of State holder is obliged to maintain that second residence in addition to his or her main residence.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated costs of such tax deductions in terms of tax foregone for the tax years 2002 to 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available, are set out as follows.

Year

Number of claimants

Cost

2002

18

95,051

2003

19

109,540

2004

13

63,448

2005

18

105,112

2006

15

91,750

2007

16

88,335

Richard Bruton

Question:

128 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the issuance of loans by banks receiving recapitalisation should be made conditional on evidence that building contractors used on the building works are tax compliant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7831/09]

There are already measures in place in the tax code in respect of contractors. The Tax Clearance Certificate scheme ensures that persons (residents and non-residents) who derive an economic benefit from a licence/permit to conduct certain activities in the State, and/or receive contracts or payments from the State are in compliance with their tax obligations. Relevant Contract Tax applies to both resident and non-resident contractors and is a tax deduction system whereby a principal contractor deducts tax at 35% from payments to subcontractors for whom the principal contractor does not hold a relevant payments card.

Prior to the introduction of Relevant Contracts Tax (RCT), there were significant difficulties with tax compliance in the construction sector. RCT was introduced in 1970 as a measure to tackle that non-compliance problem, and has been significantly enhanced since then. The construction industry continues to be a focus for Revenue attention, and 25% of its audit and compliance resources were assigned to this sector in 2006 and 2007. Resources are currently assigned based on the identified risks in individual Districts and Regions. It is clear that tax compliance in the construction sector is actively pursued by the Revenue Commissioners and I do not propose at this time to impose additional tax conditions on lending as suggested.

Financial Services Regulation.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

129 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance if he will amend section 35 of the Credit Union Act 1997 as it relates to existing lending restrictions on credit unions; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many credit union customers are experiencing difficulty in meeting loan repayments due to redundancies and reduced hours of work, that many of those members are requesting a reduction in their loan repayments and that should the credit union accede to these requests the consequences would be that the percentage of loans in excess of five years would increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7844/09]

Section 35 of the Credit Union Act, 1997, as amended, sets out the limits that credit unions must comply with in respect of the total amount of loans advanced for periods exceeding 5 years and 10 years. These limits were increased by Statutory Instrument in 2007, following consultation with credit union stakeholders. Section 35 was also amended in 2007 by way of Section 17 of the Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2007. This amendment changed the basis of calculation of the total amount of loans outstanding for the purposes of applying the limits.

These relatively recent amendments of the Credit Union Act were in line with the recommendations contained in the Report of the Review Group on Longer-term Lending Limits. This Group, chaired by the Department of Finance, included representatives from the Irish League of Credit Unions, the Credit Union Development Association and the Registrar of Credit Unions. It recommended that Section 35 lending limits should be increased for loans over five years from 20% to 40% and over ten years from 10% to 15%, for those credit unions approved by the Registrar as having the necessary controls and safeguards in place and satisfying financial criteria in relation to arrears and reserves. The Group agreed that the core objective of the legislative and regulatory framework is to ensure the safety and soundness of credit unions, which requires both prudent lending and protection of members' savings. This amendment struck an appropriate balance between the development needs of credit unions and the protection of members' savings from undue risk.

I fully appreciate that some credit union customers are experiencing difficulty in meeting loan repayments due to unfavourable changes in their financial circumstances on account of the deterioration in the overall economic climate and consequently are requesting a reduction in their loan repayments. I understand that the Registrar of Credit Unions has recommended to Credit Unions that where rescheduling needs to happen revised repayment instalments should be agreed with the borrower as is necessary but that the term of the loan should not be changed from the original agreement. This approach would satisfy the borrower's need to reduce repayments but would also ensure a transparent arrears position. The calculation of the provision for bad and doubtful debts would also be calculated in a realistic fashion. The Registrar has highlighted the need to ensure that rescheduling of loan repayments should be carried out in a fashion which is fully consistent with accurate reporting of the arrears and provisioning situation of credit unions.

In addition, my Department has been in contact with the Consumer Directorate in the Financial Regulator to request consideration of a guidance note for credit unions providing advice on dealing with members experiencing difficulties with loan repayments and building on general guidance on this issue already published on the Financial Regulator's website.

Tax Collection.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

130 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance if home carer’s tax credit will be applied to the income of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if so, the way this can be secured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7845/09]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a spouse is not a dependent person for the purpose of claiming the Home Carer's Tax Credit. Accordingly the person in question does not qualify for the relief.

Public Works Projects.

Sean Fleming

Question:

131 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Finance when the public walkway (details supplied) which had been closed for safety reasons by the Office of Public Works while they completed works in the area will be reopened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7868/09]

The walkway has now been re-opened to the public.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

132 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 18 February 2009, the reason a tenant’s tax credits are automatically restricted even in circumstances in which they are unaware of the withholding provision or the tax residency status of their landlord; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7900/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

133 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 18 February 2009, the amount of money which was restricted from tenants as a result of the non-resident tax status of their landlords; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7901/09]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

134 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 18 February 2009, if he will provide details of the year a PPSN was issued in each of the 373 cases in which tenants were penalised for the tax owing on the rental income of their overseas landlord; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7902/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 to 134, inclusive, together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the restriction of the rent credit of a taxpayer arising from the tax residency status of their landlord is applied only where the taxpayer indicates that the landlord is non-resident. I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that in 2008, tax credits were restricted in a total value of €438,930.93, for those taxpayers who had advised Revenue that their landlord resided outside the State. Finally, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their records do not contain the year a PPSN was issued. PPSNs are issued by the Dept. of Social and Family Affairs.

Denis Naughten

Question:

135 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if overseas allowance paid to gardaí and members of the Defence Forces is liable to the pension levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7939/09]

Section 196A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (inserted by section 12 of the Finance Act 2005), provides that where any allowance to, or emoluments of, an officer of the State are certified by the Minister for Finance, having consulted with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, or with such Minister of the Government as the Minister for Finance considers appropriate in the circumstances, to represent compensation for the extra cost of having to live outside the State in order to perform his or her duties, that allowance, or those emoluments, shall be disregarded as income for the purposes of the Income Tax Acts. Since the allowances paid to members of the Garda Síochána and of the Permanent Defence Force for overseas duty have been so certified by the Minister for Finance, they would therefore not be subject to the pension related deduction.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

136 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance the printed material from his Department which has been printed abroad (details supplied). [7951/09]

In the period in question my Department has not sent material abroad for printing. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their policy on handling printing work is as follows. Where feasible, printing is carried on in-house by the Revenue Printing Centre. If the Revenue Printing Centre cannot carry out a particular job an order will be placed through the Government Supplies Agency arrangements.

With regard to information requested by the Deputy, this is detailed in the following table. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the contracts were all awarded following competitive processes run on their behalf by the Government Supplies Agency of the Office of Public Works.

Years

Material Printed

Amount Spent

2004-2007

Various Tax and VAT Forms

71,100.00

2004-2007

Cheque stationery

66,083.53

2007

Security Overlay for C2 Cards

39,639.07

2004-2007

C2 Cards

496,697.53

2007-2008

File Covers

33,011.09

2008

PAYE Booklet

96,618.40

I have been informed by the Office of Public Works that they are currently examining records in relation to their own printing work and will forward directly to the Deputy any relevant information accruing from this process.

Departmental Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

137 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if principal officers in the Civil Service are to receive the 1.1% pay increase recommended under the second report of the Public Service Benchmarking Body; the effect this will have on other Civil Service pay grades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7953/09]

As the Deputy is aware a very limited number of increases were recommended by the last Benchmarking Body. The Principal Officer grade in the civil service was to receive a 1.1% increase. There are no plans to pay this increase.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

138 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide telephone translation services for community welfare officers to assist in dealing with clients with poor or non-existent English language skills; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7783/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Damien English

Question:

139 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Meath is awaiting allocation of funding requested by the physical and sensory team in Meath for full-time care in a nursing home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7760/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Denis Naughten

Question:

140 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an application by a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7761/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

141 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the age group of women who are screened for breast cancer here; the cost of operating this programme; if she will reduce the screening age in view of the high prevalence of breast cancer among women in their 20s, 30s and 40s; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7771/09]

BreastCheck — the National Breast Screening Programme provides free breast mammograms to women aged 50-64 on a two-yearly cycle. It is estimated that the BreastCheck programme will cost approximately €24m in 2009.

The expert advice from BreastCheck and from the National Cancer Forum, as contained in its National Strategy for Cancer Control, is that following the completion of national roll out of the programme for women aged 50 — 64, the upper age limit should be extended to women aged 69 years. The priority of BreastCheck is to screen women who have not yet been screened and accordingly it is fully focussed at present on the completion of the first round of screening in the West and South. BreastCheck will have reached all counties by the end of this year. There are no plans at present to screen women under the age of 50. Any woman, irrespective of her age, who has immediate concerns or symptoms, should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

142 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [7780/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. The National Treatment Purchase Fund arranges treatment for patients who have been on a surgical waiting list for more than three months. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Denis Naughten

Question:

143 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7782/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

144 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide interpretation services to enable persons with poor or non-existent English language skills to communicate with medical professionals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7784/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

145 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will seek an explanation from St. James’s Hospital, Dublin as to its inability to plan its appointments to take consideration of staff holidays and its inability to adequately communicate with its patients as to rescheduled appointments; and when it is proposed to schedule an appointment for a person (details supplied). [7789/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Denis Naughten

Question:

146 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when specialist beds (details supplied) in County Galway will be opened; the reason they have not been opened to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7791/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

147 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in having a hearing aid provided for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [7796/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Frank Feighan

Question:

148 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon is on a waiting list; and if she will intervene to ensure they are admitted to the National Rehabilitation Centre, Dún Laoghaire as quickly as possible due to the urgency of the case. [7810/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Mental Health Services.

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

149 Deputy Darragh O’Brien asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the heating system in St. Ita’s adult psychiatric assessment unit, Portrane, County Dublin is not working; and if she will ensure that this situation is rectified for the good of the mainly elderly patients and the staff of St. Ita’s. [7817/09]

As this is a service matter the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

150 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite an orthodontic appointment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has been waiting for some time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7897/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Care of the Elderly.

Finian McGrath

Question:

151 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [7945/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Public Transport.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

152 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the current and capital spending on public transport in each of the past five years; the proposed current and capital spending in 2009; if he will provide a breakdown for Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and other bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7777/09]

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to the agencies is set out as follows.

Funding Received by the CIÉ Group of Companies (2004- 2008)

BÁC

CIE TOTAL

€ millions

€ millions

€ millions

€ millions

Year

Current

Capital

Current

Capital

Current

Capital

Current

Capital

2004

171.42

145.60

61.81

7.30

24.00

3.20

257.23

156.20

2005

179.99

279.60

64.90

9.60

25.20

1.80

270.09

291.00

2006

188.72

257.40

69.85

27.30

26.46

1.90

285.02

286.60

2007

189.91

408.00

80.08

28.30

36.60

32.80

306.58

469.00

2008

191.15

532.60

80.63

18.44

36.85

39.90

308.63

590.94

Totals

921.19

1,623.20

357.26

90.94

149.10

79.60

1,427.55

1,793.74

Proposed 2009

494.00

6.00

0.00

*313.279

500.00

*Allocation of current funding as between the CIE companies is being currently finalised by CIE.

Funding Received By the RPA (2004-2008)

€ millions

Year

Current

Capital

2004

28.84

130.00

2005

7.44

82.00

2006

9.70

28.80

2007

10.28

121.60

2008

8.29

112.00

Totals

64.55

474.00

Proposed 2009

10.73

194.3

Funding Received By the RSC (2004- 2008)

millions

Year

Current

Capital

2004

0

2005

0

2006

2.27

2007

1.57

2008

2.07

Totals

5.91

0.00

Proposed 2009

2.03

0.00

Taxi Regulations.

Mary Upton

Question:

153 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Transport if he will meet with a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7788/09]

Officials from my Department met with taxi representatives on 17 December 2008 to discuss their concerns in relation to the taxi industry. Furthermore, I have been in correspondence with the person referred to by the Deputy, on 10 February 2009 and 20 February 2009, in response to issues raised by him and in that context I have indicated that the Commission of Taxi Regulation is due to publish the economic review into the small public service vehicles sector which it has commissioned. When the Commission's review is published I will consider any recommendations relevant to my statutory obligations and the need for further meetings with representatives of the taxi sector.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

154 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he will clarify the body which has the responsibility for giving out taxi licences and the body which has responsibility for ensuring that no cap is placed on their number. [7852/09]

The Commission for Taxi Regulation is the independent body responsible for the development and maintenance of the regulatory framework for the control and operation, including licensing, of taxis, hackneys, limousines and their drivers in accordance with the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act, 2003, which does not provide for quantitative restrictions on the issue of licences.

Registration of Title.

Frank Feighan

Question:

155 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application lodged with the Land Registry relating to title of property in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [7809/09]

I can inform the Deputy that 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 Deputies 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.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

156 Deputy Ciarán Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, further to a previous parliamentary question, he will identify the companies or bodies awarded each contract; the value of each contract; and the nature of the work in each contract. [7776/09]

The companies in question were Bridgestock Ltd, Mosney Holidays PLC, East Coast Catering, IBM Ireland and Accenture. The first three companies provide accommodation and related facilities for asylum seekers and the value of these contracts ranged from €10.3 million to €14.1 million. In the case of the latter two companies who provided IT and risk management services respectively, the value of these contracts was in the range of €5.8 million to €9.2 million. I should also add that due to a typographical error, the previous reply to the Deputy's Question referred to four companies providing services to asylum seekers when in fact that should have been stated as three. In line with normal commercial sensitivities, I do not propose to indicate the precise amount of each individual contract.

Crime Prevention.

Jack Wall

Question:

157 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community alert schemes in County Kildare; if the number has increased over the past number of years; the amount of support that is available from his Department to establish a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2594/09]

Jack Wall

Question:

158 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community alert schemes here; if the number has increased in recent years; the amount of support that is available from his Department to establish a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2593/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 158 together.

The Community Alert Programme is a community-based initiative in rural communities, set up in 1985 by Muintir na Tíre in association with the Garda authorities. The Programme is dedicated in particular to improving the quality of life of vulnerable people in rural communities, especially the elderly, by: crime prevention; neighbourliness and self-reliance; general community safety and well-being; accident prevention; promotion of personal safety; and awareness of social inclusion. I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are 1,341 Community Alert schemes in operation throughout the country, of which 67 were formed in the past five years. I am also informed that there are currently 54 schemes in operation in County Kildare, of which ten were established in the past five years.

I regard the work of Community Alert as very important. In recent years my Department has provided funding to Muintir na Tíre for the Community Alert Programme of €150,000 in 2004, €120,000 in 2005, €175,000 in 2006, €200,000 in 2007 and €200,000 in 2008. Funding is also provided by the Health Service Executive. The funding covered the costs associated with running the Programme, including salaries, travel and subsistence, staff training and administration. Funding is not provided directly by my Department to schemes, but resource material, including booklets, stickers and survey and related material, is provided by An Garda Síochána.

Grant Payments.

Jack Wall

Question:

159 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application for funding was received from Meath County Council under the community graffiti reduction programme 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2584/09]

The Community Graffiti Reduction Programme is managed for the Department by Pobal in such a way that it is divided into two distinct phases. In 2008 grants were made under Phase 1 of the scheme. It offered each RAPID area the opportunity to receive a ring-fenced budget allocation (of up to €30,000) for graffiti removal work, using a list of approved contractors.

Under this phase of the programme, 44 applications (from a total of 46 RAPID areas) were received. Each of these qualified for a maximum allocation of €30,000 and funds of €1.2 million were allocated to this Phase. Meath County Council and Navan Town Council submitted a joint application under Phase 1 of the scheme. The Navan RAPID area was allocated €30,000. Under Phase 1 the core responsibilities of beneficiaries were to identify graffiti; decide which items of graffiti they wanted to spend their budget on; ensure that graffiti removal companies can access the graffiti sites; check the completeness/thoroughness of removal work

Jack Wall

Question:

160 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amounts and recipients of grants under the community graffiti reduction programme 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2582/09]

The Community Graffiti Reduction Programme (CGRP) is sponsored by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Its aims are to: support an immediate reduction in the extent and impact of graffiti within the communities who participate in the programme; develop local mechanisms within these communities to support the long-term reduction of incidences of graffiti.

The scheme is managed and delivered by Pobal. Phase 1 of the programme applied to RAPID (Revitalising Areas through Planning, Investment and Development) areas only. It offered each RAPID area the opportunity to receive a ring-fenced budget allocation of up to €30,000 for graffiti removal work using a list of approved contractors. Under this phase of the programme, 44 applications (from a total of 46 RAPID areas) were received. Phase 1 of the scheme commenced in March 2008 and approx €1 million was spent. The core responsibilities of beneficiaries were to: identify graffiti; decide which items of graffiti they wanted to spend their budget on; ensure that graffiti removal companies were able to access the graffiti sites; check the completeness/thoroughness of removal work

Phase 2 of the scheme was launched in April 2008 which extended to all areas of the country. In addition to the graffiti removal element, it proposed to fund a wide range of activities to reduce the long-term impact of graffiti on communities by the provision of training and other preventative measures at local level. The Board of Pobal completed its assessment of the applications and made recommendations for allocation of funds to groups in respect of 28 projects. However, in light of current financial circumstances this phase of the scheme is now under review.

Garda Training.

Denis Naughten

Question:

161 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the training in operation to refresh procedures, law, and regulations to members of An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7848/09]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that staff at the Continuous Professional Development Training Centres in each Garda Division deliver a two (2) day training course each year — Core Programme — to members of Garda and Sergeant Rank. The Core Programme regularly includes modules on new legislation and policy, and the Core Programme for 2008 covered the following areas:

(1) Legislation & Headquarter Directives (certain sections from the Acts listed below) Criminal Justice Act 2007; Criminal Justice Act 2006; Garda Síochána Act 2005; Mental Health Act 2001; Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006; Anti Social Behavioural Orders (H.Q 37/07); Disclosure.

(2) Casualty Bureau Training; (Mass Casualties)

(3) Road Traffic Check Points.

(4) Family Liaison Officers.

(5) Professional Responsibilities.

(6) Policing Plan 2008 / Strategic Goals.

(7) First Responder Guidelines and Policy.

There are now twenty seven (27) Continuous Professional Development Training Centres nationally, one (1) in each Garda Division. There are sixty four (64) appointed Continuous Professional Development Trainers who are responsible for delivering training to both Garda and Sergeant ranks. In 2008 a total of 5,855 members attended Core Programme Training.

Garda Disciplinary Proceedings.

Denis Naughten

Question:

162 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps taken internally in An Garda Síochána when a member of An Garda Síochána is in clear breach of procedure to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7849/09]

Where an alleged breach of procedure by a member of An Garda Síochána occurs, the matter is one for the Garda Commissioner to investigate.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Denis Naughten

Question:

163 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the case of a person (details supplied) relating to the person’s unlawful detention as an Irish citizen; his further views on the error which took place; if his attention has been drawn to the fact an Irish citizen who wishes to make a complaint should not be directed to the Garda National Immigration Bureau; the reason for this direction; his views on whether he was mistaken in this direction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7850/09]

I am aware of the circumstances which the Deputy is referring to in his Question and I dealt with them in my reply to a Question tabled by the Deputy on the 2nd December 2008 (No. 301). As I indicated in that reply, a response to the letter referred to by the Deputy would be issued and this has been done.

Organised Crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to put organised criminal groups off the street; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7874/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to combat the growth in armed organised criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7882/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of known to the Gardaí criminals or alleged criminals who are known to be members of criminal gangs and who are free or recently released from prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7886/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164, 172 and 176 together.

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that organised criminal groups are being targeted on a number of fronts, including through the use of focused intelligence led operations by specialist units in An Garda Síochána. Specialist units within the Gardaí targeting organised crime operate under the remit of the Assistant Commissioner in charge of the National Support Services. These units include the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is the Garda specialist unit tasked with tackling organised crime. This unit carries out its role by conducting intelligence led operations and utilises the activities of a dedicated Organised Crime Unit. The Organised Crime Unit was established on a permanent basis in January 2008, with its primary function to identify organised crime groups that operate within the State through the use of increased profiling, intelligence gathering, overt and covert surveillance and threat assessments.

Measures put in place to combat the growth in armed organised criminal gangs include Operation Anvil which commenced in May 2005 in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and was extended nationwide in 2006. The primary focus of this operation is the disruption of serious and organised criminal activity and has resulted in approximately 1,240 firearms being recovered in Dublin and 1,090 in the rest of the country (to 11th February 2009). In addition, the value of property recovered under this Operation to date is approximately €31 million. The funding for Operation Anvil will increase in 2009 from €20 million to €21 million to enable it to continue with targeted disruption of serious and organised criminal activity

In addition, a wide range of measures were introduced under the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to enhance the powers of An Garda Síochána in tackling organised criminal gangs. The provisions of this Act provide for sentencing of up to seven years for the unlawful possession of a firearm and mandatory minimum sentencing of five to ten years for more serious firearm offences.

I have been informed that there are two categories of organised crime groups operating within this jurisdiction. The first category consists of individuals / groups that are well established and tightly structured and are involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures, and criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland.

Membership of organised crime gangs tends to be fluid and the nature of criminal activity is such that offences committed by members of gangs may or may not be connected with the individual's membership of such gangs. The identification of offenders as members of a criminal gang is not an essential criterion in the prosecution of offences. It is not therefore possible to ascertain the precise number of criminals who are also members of criminal gangs operating in this country. Senior management within An Garda Síochána continue to monitor developments as they occur to ensure that the resources at their disposal are deployed in the most effective manner so as to combat criminality.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to halt the rise in drug related crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7875/09]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 52 of today's date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to combat gun crime including murder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7876/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take to put armed gangs off the streets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7881/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 171 together.

The Garda Policing Plan for 2009, which reflects the priorities set for the Force by me as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, contains a series of measures aimed at reducing the impact of crime and criminal behaviour. These goals are backed up by strategic actions which include a commitment to continue and intensify intelligence-led operations against groups and individuals engaged in criminality. An Garda Síochána, in accordance with the priorities I have set out, is committed to targeting violent crime and those who engage or facilitate persons involved in such activity.

Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in 2005 to deal with serious crime, including murder and other violent crime, and was extended nationwide in 2006. The primary focus of the Operation is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting their criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling and static checkpoints by uniform, mobile and foot patrols, supported by armed plain clothes patrols. Under Operation Anvil, up to 8 February, 2009, 1,239 firearms have been recovered in Dublin and 1,092 in the rest of the country. There have also been over 7,000 arrests for serious crimes such as murder, serious assault, robbery and burglary and 70,000 searches for weapons, drugs and stolen goods. In this way, the Gardaí will continue to address the issue of illegal guns relentlessly.

Since my appointment as Minister, I have expressed concern at the number of handguns which have been licensed here in recent years. Some time ago, I directed my Department and An Garda Síochána to carry out an urgent and intensive review of the firearms law. Following that review, I have brought forward proposals which include no new licenses being issued for handguns, subject to limited exceptions in relation to Olympic sports. Existing licenses will not be renewed unless applicants fully meet the requirements of a radically tightened licensing procedure where the safety of the community will be paramount.

While a de facto ban on new handgun licences is already in place, my proposals will also be given legislative form in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. That Bill will also tackle comprehensively the issue of airsoft guns, including making their possession in public a serious offence.

A significant element of the fight against organised crime by An Garda Síochána is the use of specialist units. Units with expertise in specific areas operate under the direction of the Assistant Commissioner in charge of the National Support Services, and this senior Garda officer has overall responsibility for the coordination of measures designed to address organised crime throughout the State. Specialist units include: the Criminal Assets Bureau which identifies and targets funds accumulated by criminals in order to seize such assets and deprive them of the profits of their criminal activity; the Organised Crime Unit which has a specific remit of targeting those suspected of involvement in organised crime, including the trafficking, importation, sale and supply of drugs; the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation which is responsible for the investigation of individuals and organisations involved in Money Laundering; and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation which is responsible for investigating the activities of organised criminal networks. These units are also supported by the Garda Security and Intelligence Section which assists with the provision of intelligence briefings and timely information.

An Garda Síochána also maintains close liaison with other law enforcement agencies throughout Europe, and elsewhere, exchanging information and intelligence. An Garda Síochána currently has a number of liaison officers on secondment to other jurisdictions and to other international bodies such as Interpol and Europol. These officers act as a conduit for passing information between law enforcement agencies to ensure that national borders are not, and cannot, be used by criminals as a means of frustrating law enforcement agencies.

On 26 January, the Garda Commissioner and I launched a new Garda National Model of Community Policing. The Model builds on the success of existing good community policing practice within Ireland and aims to foster collaborative partnerships between An Garda Síochána and community members. Alongside the specialist operations already referred to, a comprehensive model of community policing ensures that enforcement will not only be employed to reduce crime but also to reduce the fear of crime and ensure a better quality of community life for all.

At a time when the public finances are under pressure, I am determined that top priority will continue to be given to frontline policing. Funding for Operation Anvil will increase in 2009 from €20 million to €21 million to enable it to continue with targeted disruption of serious and organised criminal activity. Other key operations will be maintained through 2009, and any savings that have to be made will not be allowed to diminish frontline policing.

Recidivism Rate.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take to combat recidivism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7877/09]

The Deputy will be aware of the findings of the major study on prisoner re-offending, undertaken by the Institute of Criminology at UCD, which was facilitated by the Irish Prison Service. Briefly the study found that 27.4% of released prisoners were serving a new prison sentence within one year; this rose to 39.2% after two years, 45.1% after three years and 49.2% after four years.

The Irish Prison Service provides a range of rehabilitative programmes which have the dual purpose of providing prisoners with purposeful activity while serving their sentences and encouraging and equipping them to lead productive lives on release. Prisoner rehabilitation involves significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prison Service and in-reach statutory and non-statutory services. Briefly these include: healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, educational, work and training, vocational, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These services are important in addressing offending behaviour, drug and alcohol addiction, missed educational and vocational opportunities, anger management, and self management in the interest of encouraging positive personal development in prisoners, and preparing them for re-integration and resettlement on release from custody.

The Irish Prison Service places a strong emphasis on access to educational services and on the provision of work and training activities for prisoners. Educational services are available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies in the community including the VECs, Public Library Services, Colleges and the Arts Council. Literacy, numeracy and general basic education provision is the priority of the Prison Education Service and broad programmes of education are made available which generally follow an adult education approach. A significant expansion and development of vocational training programmes has taken place in recent years and there are now over 90 workshops in place in our prisons capable of catering for in excess of 800 prisoners each day.

The Irish Prison Service is also delivering programmes aimed at reducing the demand for drugs within the prison system through enhanced security measures as well as education, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug-addicted prisoners. Significant progress is also being made in the development of programmes based on risk assessment and rehabilitation needs. The Irish Prison Service is developing and rolling-out a fully coordinated system of Integrated Sentence Management. This system is being piloted in two prisons at the present time. The phased roll-out of Integrated Sentence Management will be dependant on the lessons learned from the evaluation of the pilot phase.

In addition, the Probation Service has an active role during the course of the prisoner's sentence in helping maintain links with family and community agencies, encouraging prisoners to address their offending behaviour and engaging prisoners in individual counselling and group counselling programmes such as offending behaviour, addiction, violence and sex offending.

I also wish to advise the Deputy about a number of other relevant initiatives. For example: The Adult Cautioning Scheme: which was agreed with the DPP, was introduced in 2006 as an alternative to bringing before the District Court persons against whom there is evidence of the commission of offences of a less serious nature, and where that is not required by the public interest and a caution would be an effective response to the offender. Provisions of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 (Sections 4 and 5): these are now fixed charge offences following the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 and the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008. Joint Policing Committees ( as provided for in the Garda Síochána Act 2005): Their purpose is to provide a forum where An Garda Síochána and the local authority — the two organisations which make the most significant contribution to preventing and tackling crime in a specific area — can come together, with the participation of members of the Oireachtas and community and voluntary interests, on matters affecting the area.

On 24 September, 2008 I launched, with my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the roll out of the Committees from the initial pilot phase in 29 local authority areas to all 114 local authority areas. An Garda Síochána and the relevant local authorities have now commenced establishing the Committees in accordance with new Guidelines in local authority areas where there are not yet Committees.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take to prevent further serious crime including homicide by those on bail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7878/09]

The law takes a serious view of offences committed by persons on bail. The commission of any offence while on bail carries the prospect of a harsher sentence than might otherwise be imposed had the offence not been committed while the offender was on bail. Section 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 provides that any sentence of imprisonment passed on a person for an offence committed while he or she was on bail shall be consecutive on any sentence passed on him for a previous offence. It further provides, following the Bail Act 1997, that where the consecutive provisions apply and the court is determining the appropriate sentence to impose for an offence committed while on bail, the fact that the offence was committed while on bail must be treated as an aggravating factor. Accordingly, the court must impose a sentence that is greater than that which it would have imposed in the absence of such an aggravating factor. The only exceptions are where the sentence for the previous offence is life imprisonment or where the court considers that there are exceptional circumstances to justify not doing so.

My Department keeps the operation of the provisions relating to offences committed by persons while on bail under review and whether any changes are required. An Garda Síochána monitors the adherence of bailed persons to their bail conditions and does not hesitate to apply to the courts to revoke bail if the conditions are being breached.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent of criminal threat arising from legally held or illegally held hand guns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7879/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that approximately 1,800 handguns have been licensed since the beginning of 2004 and that 31 have been stolen in that period. I am further informed that stolen firearms are used in the course of the commission of other criminal offences but, because not all stolen firearms or firearms used in the commission of offences are recovered, it is not possible to say precisely how many formerly legally held handguns have been used in criminal offences.

Since my appointment as Minister I have expressed concern at the number of handguns which have been licensed here in recent years. One of my concerns is that legally held firearms may be stolen and used in the commission of criminal offences. Following an intensive review of firearms legislation by my Department and An Garda Síochána, I have brought forward proposals which include no new licenses being issued for handguns, subject to limited exceptions in relation to Olympic sports. Existing licenses will not be renewed unless applicants fully meet the requirements of a radically tightened licensing procedure where the safety of the community will be paramount. Together with the Garda Commissioner I will keep under annual review the outcome of the licensing procedure and, if the outcome leaves a situation which still poses an unacceptable risk to the community, I will use new powers to ban particular types of firearm.

While a de facto ban on new handgun licences is already in place, my proposals will be given legislative form in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which will be published shortly. There are already very severe penalties for firearms offences in place under the Criminal Justice Act 2006. For example, possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and using a firearm to resist arrest or aid escape carry a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. Possessing a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, possessing a firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances, carrying a firearm with criminal intent and altering a firearm carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

One of the main priorities I have set for An Garda Síochána in 2009 is to target gun crime through a range of measures, including the use of the Garda specialist units and targeted operations such as Operation Anvil. Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in 2005 to deal with serious crime and was extended nationwide in 2006. The primary focus of the Operation is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting their criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling and static checkpoints by uniform, mobile and foot patrols, supported by armed plain clothes patrols. Under Operation Anvil up to the 8 February, 2009, 1,239 firearms have been recovered in Dublin and 1,092 in the rest of the country.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes committed by persons using legally held hand guns and the number committed by those using illegally held hand guns in each of the past five years to date in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7880/09]

I understand from the Garda Authorities that records indicate approximately 1,800 handguns have been licensed since the beginning of 2004 and that 31 have been stolen in that period. I am further advised that stolen firearms are used in the course of the commission of other criminal offences but, because not all stolen firearms or firearms used in the commission of offences are recovered, it is not possible to say precisely how many formerly legally held handguns have been used in criminal offences.

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 166.

Question No. 172 answered with Question No. 164.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of break-ins reported by householders in north Kildare in each of the past five years to date in 2009; the extent of recovery of the stolen goods; the number of prosecutions taken; the number of convictions or case dismissals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7883/09]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of break-in robberies under investigation in the towns of Leixlip, Celbridge, Maynooth , Kilcock, Clane and Naas, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7884/09]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Public Order Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take to combat anti-social behaviour in each town in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7885/09]

The Garda Policing Plan for 2009, which reflects the priorities set for the Force by me as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, contains a series of measures aimed at reducing the impact of crime and criminal behaviour. One of the strategic goals identified in the Plan is to reduce significantly the incidence of public disorder and anti-social behaviour in communities.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, following a successful pilot phase in the Naas and Kildare Garda Districts, a new policing model to combat anti-social behaviour has been adopted throughout County Kildare. Under the model, members of An Garda Síochána meet key stakeholders such as local authority members, councillors and business representatives to discuss public order issues and offer advice.

The model is then devolved to a local level, whereby members of An Garda Síochána visit individual publicans, managers of fast food outlets and taxi drivers and offer appropriate advice, with the aim of preventing incidents of public disorder and anti-social behaviour taking place. In addition, where large groups of people gather, particularly at weekends, temporary taxi-ranks are set up to divert people away from potential flashpoints. All members of An Garda Síochána on patrol including mobile, foot, mountain bike and Traffic Corps personnel are aware of identified public disorder hotspots, and particular attention is paid at times when there is potential for public disorder and anti-social behaviour.

To facilitate this community policing/public disorder policing model, additional personnel has been allocated to all Districts within the Kildare Garda Division. Local Garda Management intend to increase the number of personnel allocated to Community Policing Units within the Division. The issue of Garda resources is kept under constant review, and when additional personnel next become available the needs of County Kildare will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Joint Policing Committees provide a forum where An Garda Síochána and the local authority — the two organisations which make the most significant contribution to preventing and tackling crime in a specific area — can come together, with the participation of members of the Oireachtas and community and voluntary interests, on matters affecting the area. A Committee has a range of functions and monitor two broad areas. The first is the levels and patterns of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour in its area, including patterns and levels of misuse of alcohol and drugs. The second is the broader issue of the factors underlying and contributing to crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour. Following on from this the Committee advises the local authority and An Garda Síochána on how they might best perform their functions, having regard to the need to do everything feasible to improve the safety and quality of life and to prevent crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour within the area.

I am of the view that the Committees have enormous potential for tackling the problems of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour. Following a pilot phase in 29 local authority areas, including Athy, the Committees are currently being rolled out to all other local authority areas in the country.

Question No. 176 answered with Question No. 164.

Departmental Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

177 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to his commitment to the Oireachtas committee on 4 June 2008, if he will furnish the staffing figures for each section of the immigration service and current vacancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7888/09]

I would refer the Deputy to my replies to his previous questions in this regard on 8 July 2008 and 18 December 2008.

Court Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

178 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding his comments to the Oireachtas committee on 4 June 2008 regarding the feasibility in law of assigning county registrars cases from colleagues with high case loads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7889/09]

On foot of an amendment made by the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008, section 9 of the Courts and Courts Officers Act 1945 now enables a County Registrar to act as County Registrar in another county and exercise powers concurrently with their being exercised by the other County Registrar. Since this provision was implemented on 1 August 2008, the Courts Service has authorised a number of County Registrars in the counties surrounding Dublin to assist the Dublin County Registrar with the additional workload involved in family law case progression.

Vetting of Personnel.

Jack Wall

Question:

179 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made in regard to an investigation of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that this person needs a decision due to employment position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7894/09]

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for a number of organisations in Ireland, registered with the Unit, which employ personnel to work in a full-time, part time, voluntary or student capacity with children and/or vulnerable adults. The procedure is also conducted for fostering and the Adoption Board. The Health Service Executive is a registered organisation for vetting. I am informed by the Garda authorities that a vetting application has not been received by them in respect of the person referred to.

Citizenship Applications.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

180 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will explain the way a minor traffic offence can be considered a criminal offence for the purposes of assessing the good character and suitability of a candidate for naturalisation as in the case of a person (details supplied); the rationale for determining that as a result of same, the person has a criminal record; if a minor litter fine would be similarly considered a criminal offence; if he will provide this Deputy with the guidelines that are issued to deciding officers in relation to the assessment of candidates when a traffic offence is recorded against them; and the way a decision may be appealed or reviewed when it is argued that these guidelines have not been followed. [7899/09]

The granting of Irish Citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour and not an entitlement. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. One such condition is that the applicant must be of good character. The particulars of each case are assessed and presented to the Minister for decision and factors including, but not restricted to, criminal or other offences are taken into account as part of that assessment in order for the Minister to be satisfied that the applicant is of good character.

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division in June 2005 and the Minister decided to refuse the application. The reason for the refusal was disclosed to the applicant in a letter issued on 27 June, 2008. There is no appeals process under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. It is open to the person concerned to lodge a new application for a certificate of naturalisation if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory requirements. However, in doing so she should bear in mind the reasons for refusal of her previous application.

Drug Treatment Programme.

John O'Mahony

Question:

181 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made on the reopening of Harristown House alcohol and drug treatment centre, County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7938/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question number 206, of 28th January, 2009. I await the proposal from the Probation Service relating to a new vision for Harristown House. When I receive that proposal I will be in a position to make informed decision(s) on what is the best and most viable option for the reopening of the House having particular regard to the client needs of the Probation Service. As I have already indicated I would hope to be in a position to make an announcement on this matter in the coming months.

Human Rights Issues.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

182 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts made to secure the release of persons (details supplied) and all other political prisoners in Zimbabwe including women activists, trade unionists, human rights workers and opposition supporters, and about whom both Houses of the Oireachtas have passed a resolution undertaking to defend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7766/09]

The situation in Zimbabwe remains very grave, as the humanitarian and economic crises continue, and the number of cholera victims continues to increase. The formation of a power-sharing government involving Zanu-PF and the MDC is a sign of some progress, and I hope that it will be able to address the significant problems now facing Zimbabwe. However, the continued detention of political and human rights activists remains a cause of serious concern. Since December, a number of prominent figures have been taken into state custody, and I am troubled by reports that some of them have been mistreated or tortured, or denied access to appropriate medical treatment.

It is a bad sign that, even after the installation of the power-sharing government, these prisoners have not been released and even more people have been detained. The arrest on 13 February of Roy Bennett, who had been designated by the MDC as deputy agriculture minister, sends a particularly worrying signal. His continued detention, despite having been granted bail, demonstrates clearly the enormous challenges facing those who aim to ensure that the state and its security forces respect democracy and human rights. The power-sharing government needs to deliver real progress, including in securing political freedoms for the people of Zimbabwe. The Government will carefully monitor developments in this area.

Ireland has made its views on the detention of political prisoners in Zimbabwe abundantly clear. The Embassy of Ireland in Pretoria, which is accredited to Zimbabwe, has repeatedly communicated to the Zimbabwean Ministry of Foreign Affairs the deep concern of the Government in relation to the disappearance of Ms. Jestina Mukoko, and urged the Zimbabwean Government to do everything possible to ensure her safety. As recently as 18 February, the Embassy conveyed to the Zimbabwean authorities the Government's deep concern regarding the continued detention of political prisoners, including Mr. Roy Bennett, and called for their immediate release.

Ireland has also worked with our colleagues in the European Union to press for the release of political prisoners in Zimbabwe. EU Ambassadors in Harare have communicated their strong views about the case of Ms. Mukoko to the Zimbabwean authorities. The European Council of 11-12 December issued a declaration demanding the immediate release of people held incommunicado in Zimbabwe. At the January meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, my EU colleagues and I expressly condemned the abduction and detention of those exercising a democratic right to express opposition to the regime, and of those defending human rights in Zimbabwe. In a public statement on the swearing-in of the new Prime Minister, Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai, on 11 February, EU Ambassadors in Harare expressed their deep concern that political prisoners detained on unsubstantiated charges remained in Zimbabwe's prisons, and called for their immediate release.

I sincerely hope that the new power-sharing government will bring economic stability and political freedom to Zimbabwe, including the release of these prisoners. Ireland will continue to make every effort to ensure that the position of political prisoners in Zimbabwe remains a priority for the EU, and to convey to the Zimbabwean authorities our strong views on the matter.

Alan Shatter

Question:

183 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that members of the Baha’i community in Iran, in a co-ordinating group known as the Friends of Iran, have been detained in prison for more that eight months and that the conditions under which they are being maintained constitute cruel and inhumane treatment; the action being taken by Ireland in its bilateral relationship with Iran and as a member of the European Union to address this issue and the recent report of the persons concerned being falsely charged with espionage for Israel and insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7816/09]

The situation of members of the minority Baha'i faith in Iran has long been a matter of serious concern to the Government and to members of the Oireachtas. There is in Iran no tolerance of the Baha'i faith, which is regarded as a heretical or apostate offshoot of Islam. Over the last four years, as conservative forces have again asserted control in Iran, there has been a serious and progressive increase in harassment of individual Baha'is, and worrying indications that these are part of a concerted effort by the Iranian authorities to destroy the Baha'i faith and community as a whole. I have replied in detail to Parliamentary Questions about these issues on a number of occasions.

Particular concern has now arisen in relation to the group of Baha'i the Deputy refers to, five men and seven women, who were detained in March and May 2008, and held in Evin Prison in Tehran, without any charge, for nine months. During this period their only outside contact was a family visit of ten minutes approximately once per month, and the five men are understood to be in a single cell with no bed. These seven people constitute an informal leadership group, attempting to maintain links among the Baha'i communities throughout Iran. Their arrest gives rise to particular concern because of the fate of the previous Baha'i leadership, who in 1980 in the early days of the Islamic Republic were arrested and never seen again. The successor leadership were also arrested in 1981 and executed.

These seven Baha'i have now been charged with a number of offences, including running an illegal organisation, anti-regime propaganda, insulting religious values, and espionage on behalf of Israel. These are obviously very serious charges, which could lead to the application of the death penalty, the basis of which must be seriously questioned. My concerns are heightenedby the fact that the lawyers for the accused have been unable to see them at all, havebeen denied access to the case files, and have themselves been subject to public criticism and harassment. There seems very little prospect of even a semblance of a fair trial in these circumstances.

I have directly raised my concerns regarding the treatment of the Baha'i with members of the Iranian Government, including with Foreign Minister Mottaki at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2008 and with Deputy Foreign Minister Safari in Dublin in June 2008. In December I wrote to Foreign Minister Mottaki on human rights concerns in general, and I raised the issue of the Baha'i and the case of these seven representatives in particular. As I said in that letter : "It is difficult in these circumstances to avoid the conclusion that the Government and authorities of Iran are actively trying to suppress a religious faith."

The European Union has repeatedly drawn attention to the oppression perpetrated against the Baha'i faith and its members by the Islamic Republic of Iran. This has taken the form of communications to the Iranian authorities, public statements, and action in other forums such as the UN. I will continue to follow this case with great concern, and to bring our views to the notice of the Iranian authorities. I call on Iran unequivocally to drop these charges, release the imprisoned Baha'i, and cease the oppression of the Baha'i faith.

Official Engagements.

Finian McGrath

Question:

184 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding his visit to Cuba; and if he met the families of the Miami five. [7837/09]

I visited Cuba from the 17-19 February on what was the first working visit by an Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs. Cuba is undergoing a period of change, and its relations with the EU have entered a new phase. I availed of this new context to discuss a wide range of political, economic and social issues, including human rights. I held a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Cuba, Mr. Felipe Pérez Roque. Our discussions included an examination of ways and means to develop bilateral relations between Ireland and Cuba, as well as EU-Cuba relations.

During my visit to Cuba, I also met with the Cuban Minister of Foreign Investment and Economic Co-operation to discuss possible sectors for economic cooperation. In this connection, I visited the world-renowned Genetic Engineering and Biotech Institute. I reported on the visit to my EU colleagues at Monday's meeting of the External Affairs Council and urged that the Union continue its policy of engagement. I hope and expect that Irish and EU relations with Cuba will be further developed following my visit.

As I indicated to the Deputy on 29 January, the Government has no standing in the matter of the so-called Miami Five, which is a bilateral consular question between the US and the Cuban authorities, and I did not meet with the families of the Miami Five during my visit to Cuba. However, I did have an exchange on such matters with Minister Pérez Roque, during which he stressed to me the importance which the Cuban government attaches to the release of the so-called Miami Five.

Sports Funding.

Finian McGrath

Question:

185 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will support a matter (details supplied). [7779/09]

The funding of the Gaelic players grant schemes is a matter for the Irish Sports Council (ISC) in the context of the distribution of its budget for 2009. In light of the current economic constraints and the reduction in the ISC's allocation of funding in the 2009 Estimates, I am having discussions with the Council on optimum funding options, in order to maintain its existing programmes while building on recent progress. The future funding of the Gaelic players schemes is being considered in that context.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

186 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the printed material from his Department which has been printed abroad (details supplied). [7947/09]

In the calendar years from 2004 to 2008, inclusive, the Department did not produce printed material which was printed abroad. The award of printing contracts, like any other contract awards, is subject to the Department of Finance's public procurement guidelines, with which the Department complies.

Rural Transport Scheme.

Frank Feighan

Question:

187 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a review of the pilot evening rural transport scheme in County Roscommon has taken place; the funding decisions for 2009; and when the evening transport scheme for Loughglynn, County Roscommon, which was suspended in December 2008, will be operating again. [7807/09]

I would direct the Deputy to Questions 6 and 25 of the 29th January 2009 in relation to this matter. Furthermore, I wish to confirm that there has been no suspension of the Rural transport Night Scheme in the Loughglynn area, and that these services continue to operate. I have provided funding for the first quarter of 2009 for the continuation of the Rural Transport Night scheme, pending the consideration of a review recently carried out by my Department.

National Drugs Strategy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

188 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his Department funds for the operation of the dial-to-stop drug dealing phone line service; if he will confirm that the phone line will continue to receive calls from the public and pass on reports to the gardaí from June 2009 onwards after the funding for advertising runs out as confirmed by his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 303 of 3 February 2009. [7839/09]

As previously advised to the Deputy, the Dial-to-Stop Drug Dealing Campaign was officially launched on 30 September 2008. The first phase was rolled out across five Local and Regional Drugs Task Forces areas with funding being provided by my Department (€100,000) and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (€50,000). As highlighted during the launch, the confidential number used in the campaign is open for all to use regardless of the area they come from. The next phases of the campaign will be funded from the Dormant Accounts Fund and an indicative allocation of €300,000 has been approved for the campaign in 2009. I expect to have Government approval shortly on the specific Local and Regional Drugs Task Force proposals involved.

I understand that there is a fixed cost for every call answered so the campaign will run until the funding is exhausted. Accordingly, the Deputy will appreciate that the level of calls over the coming weeks and months will determine the lifetime of the funding.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

189 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the printed material from his Department which has been printed abroad (details supplied). [7949/09]

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

190 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the assessment which she carried out of a scheme that would provide mutual insurance among pension funds in order to cover the situation where pension deficits threatened those people without pension cover; the cost and benefit of such a scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7804/09]

The pension rights of scheme members are protected through trust law and by provision in the Pensions Act 1990 as amended. Defined benefit pension schemes are required to comply with the funding standard provision set out in the Pensions Act. This funding standard requires defined benefit pension schemes to maintain sufficient assets to enable them discharge accrued liabilities. Where schemes do not satisfy the Funding Standard, the sponsors/trustees must submit a funding proposal to the Pensions Board to restore full funding within three years. As the deputy is aware, in recognition of the current market difficulties and the challenges facing pension trustees, the Government has recently announced a number of short-term measures aimed at easing the pressures on defined benefit schemes.

In relation to the long-term context, Government is working with the Pensions Board, representative organisations and the social partners to find ways to ease the pressure on schemes by striking a balance between the long-term nature of pension savings and the need to ensure short-term security of accrued benefits. Any decision on the introduction of a fund such as that suggested by the Deputy will be considered in consultation with all relevant Departments and proposals thereafter will be reflected in the National Pensions Framework which the Government will announce shortly.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Brian Hayes

Question:

191 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number, in view of a newspaper report (details supplied), of schools that have made a complaint to her Department in connection with potential improper conduct and behaviour in terms of the school meals programme; the number of allegations of subsidy fraud that have been made to her Department by various schools throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7836/09]

The school meals programme gives funding towards the provision of food services for disadvantaged school children through two schemes. The first is the statutory urban school meals scheme, operated by local authorities and part-financed by the Department of Social & Family Affairs. The second is the school meals local projects scheme through which funding is provided directly by the Department to participating schools and local and voluntary community groups who are running their own school meals projects. The Department has received one allegation in relation to the operation of the School Meals programme and this allegation is currently being investigated. The Department does not comment on individual allegations of fraud or abuse until there has been a successful prosecution in the courts.

Social Welfare Code.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

192 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will implement a similar arrangement with Bord Gáis as her Department has with the ESB to allow social welfare recipients to avail of free units in the same manner as they do with the ESB; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7870/09]

Under the household benefits package, the electricity allowance covers standing charges and 2,400 units of electricity each year, which equates to €540 per annum. For the majority of customers, the electricity allowance is paid direct to the ESB each month on their behalf and offset against their bills. Payment of the electricity allowance in respect of some 4,000 customers is by cash payment through a nominated post office or financial institution.

Similarly, customers transferring their electricity allowance to Bord Gáis Energy will be paid a monthly cash payment of €45 (€540 per annum) through a nominated post office or financial institution as Bord Gáis Energy's technical system is not capable of processing a unit based electricity allowance at present. Payment of the electricity allowance to Bord Gáis Energy customers by way of cash ensures that these customers will continue to receive their electricity allowance.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Mary Upton

Question:

193 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Defence the military equipment Ireland purchases from Israel; the value of these contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7820/09]

In general, tender competitions are conducted by my Department in accordance with the EU procurement guidelines. For procurements of defensive equipment in excess of €1million, the European Defence Agency (EDA) Code of Conduct on Defence Procurement is observed and competitions are advertised on the EDA Electronic Bulletin Board. Tender competitions are held in accordance with the EU Code of Conduct on Export Controls. Accordingly, competitions are open to any individual or country in accordance with the terms of all UN, OSCE and EU arms embargoes or restrictions. To properly follow these guidelines and codes, the Department must deal impartially with all companies that are entitled to enter its procurement competitions and must evaluate tenders on the basis of objective criteria.

A number of Israeli companies have won orders for defensive equipment in recent years as a result of tender competitions. Since 2005, the Department has purchased small arms ammunition, X-Ray equipment, helmets, an Artillery Fire Control System and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, commonly referred to as UAVs from Israeli suppliers. The total value of defensive equipment acquired from Israeli companies since 2005 is in the region of €9.2m, inclusive of VAT. In each case, the contract was awarded by competition, conducted impartially in compliance with the codes and guidelines set out above, on the basis that the company concerned had submitted the best tender.

Health and Safety Issues.

Michael Ring

Question:

194 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to encourage and promote the introduction of a device (details supplied) into every household. [7763/09]

Michael Ring

Question:

195 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to warn people of the dangers of carbon monoxide. [7764/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 195 together.

Carbon monoxide gas, which arises when fuel fails to combust properly due to an inadequate supply of air, can cause health risks, illness or death to persons exposed to it for prolonged periods. The threat of carbon monoxide poisoning can arise in a variety of domestic, workplace and public settings and I understand that a number of Departments and agencies have arrangements in place for dealing with their responsibilities in relation to carbon monoxide. For instance, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Commission for Energy Regulation are both required under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act, 2002 to have regard to the need to promote safety and efficiency on the part of natural gas undertakings; the Health and Safety Authority promotes awareness and regulates the risks of carbon monoxide in the workplace; the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive have specific responsibilities in relation to health promotion and environmental health; the Environmental Protection Agency monitors the level of atmospheric pollutants, including carbon monoxide; and the Central Statistics Office publishes statistics relating to incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning.

I have recently asked my Department, as part of a review of Part J — Heat Producing Appliances — of the Building Regulations and the associated Technical Guidance Document (TGD J), to consider whether, and in what circumstances, mandatory provision for carbon monoxide alarms might be appropriately included in the building code. Part J of the Building Regulations sets out the minimum legal standards of safety and quality in relation to the installation of heat producing appliances in new buildings and in relation to the replacement of heat producing appliances in existing buildings; TGD J outlines the technical requirements that should be followed to fulfil this statutory obligation. The review of Part J will be the subject of a full public consultation process.

Proposed Legislation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

196 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will support proposals (details supplied) in the housing Bill. [7794/09]

The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008 contains a range of measures designed to provide local authorities with a framework for a more strategic approach to the delivery and management of housing services. That framework includes new provisions for the making of housing services plans and the implementation of those plans through housing action programmes. It provides for a more effective management and control regime covering rents, tenancy arrangements, the making of anti-social behaviour strategies and a more developed statutory basis for the Rental Accommodation Scheme. The Bill also provides for the introduction of a new incremental purchase scheme and a new, more objective and comprehensive basis for assessing need and allocating housing.

While the Bill addresses a wide range of issues, there are some other aspects still under development, which I hope to bring forward for consideration at Committee Stage in the Dail. In conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, work is continuing to resolve the outstanding complex issues in relation to the introduction of a viable sales scheme for local authority apartments. I am also working towards the introduction of an affordable homes purchase scheme which, in the longer term, will facilitate the purchase, through a single equity based mechanism, of property under the various affordable housing schemes. In addition, during the Bill's passage through the Seanad there was considerable debate on providing a statutory basis for the preparation and adoption of homelessness action plans and I am also determined to bring proposals on this matter before the Dail.

However, the Government has decided, in the context of the new Homeless Strategy, that the statutory definition of homelessness will not be changed. It is proposed to review how the definition is applied operationally, for example, to ensure consistency in practice across local authorities regarding its application. This has been made clear in the Homeless Strategy and also in the course of engagement with representatives of service providers in the MakeRoom alliance. In addition, work is currently being undertaken by the Homeless Agency, in partnership with the Centre for Housing Research, to develop a position paper regarding a common operational definition for the Dublin area.

A legal right to housing has not been included in the Constitution on the basis that the funding commitment to the various housing programmes has resulted in increased outputs and that decisions in relation to the allocation of financial resources is a matter for Government, rather than the Courts. This is in line with the 1996 report of the Constitutional Review Group, which concluded that the Constitution should not confer personal rights to freedom from poverty or to other economic or social entitlements. The Group regarded these as being essentially political matters, which should be the responsibility of the elected members to address and determine in a democracy.

The legislative code governing social housing in Ireland is contained in the Housing Acts 1966-2004 and while it does not confer any statutory right to housing, the range and extent of measures implemented demonstrate the State's long standing commitment to ensuring that housing needs, especially social housing needs, are adequately addressed. The Housing (Miscellaneous

Housing Grants.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

197 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the dissatisfaction of an organisation (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7795/09]

On 10 October, 2008, Cork County Council, who are responsible for the administration of the voluntary housing funding schemes, sought certain clarification from my Department on the procurement arrangements pertaining to this project. Following an examination of the procedures followed by the Approved Housing Body, my Department advised the Council on 10 December, 2008, that the procedures did not appear to comply with the requirements of the new Forms of Contract for publicly funded projects. Authorities had been advised of the change to the procurement procedures for all construction projects including those undertaken by Approved Housing Bodies in circulars issued by the Department on 20 October 2006 (IPPP10/2006), on 4 April 2007 (N7/07), and again on 10 August 2007 (IPPP4/2007). I understand the Council recently advised the approved body to seek all tenders in accordance with public procurement requirements.

Willie Penrose

Question:

198 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the mobility and disability grants for the elderly will be notified to the local authorities and particularly councils in Counties Westmeath and Longford; if the precise amount to be allocated is immediately notified in view of the fact that there are numerous applicants for such grants awaiting final approval from their local authority but they cannot be so notified whilst they have not been notified of their final allocations by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7827/09]

Local authorities will be notified of their capital allocations for 2009 in respect of the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability, following the publication, shortly, of the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2009. The Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability are funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department together with 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority. As in previous years, it will be a matter for each local authority to decide on the specific level of funding to be directed towards each of the schemes, from within the combined allocation notified to them by my Department, and to manage the operation of the schemes in their areas from within this allocation.

Fisheries Protection.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

199 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Cork under the hardship fund. [7799/09]

I have been informed by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, who administered the Salmon Hardship Scheme on behalf of the Department, that an application was received from the person referred to by the Deputy. The application was approved and payment was made in November 2007.

Telecommunications Services.

Frank Feighan

Question:

200 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the roll out of MANs broadband in Boyle and Castlerea, County Roscommon will be implemented and funding for same put in place as had been agreed. [7812/09]

Any future broadband investment decisions, including investment in further phases of the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) Programme, will be guided by (i) the final policy paper on Next Generation Broadband, which will be published shortly (ii) the Value for Money and Policy Review of Phase I of the MANs Programme, which was published last year, (iii) any other analysis as appropriate and (iv) the availability of resources.

Energy Conservation.

Liz McManus

Question:

201 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason window replacement is not a part of the home energy saving scheme; if this had been part of the pilot scheme; if so, the reason it is no longer part of the scheme; if a building energy rating is mandatory for inclusion in this scheme; the position regarding the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7819/09]

Together with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, I recently launched the National Insulation Programme for Economic Recovery. The Home Energy Saving scheme is the largest element of the Programme with a budget of €50 million in 2009, and has the potential to support the upgrade of in excess of 27,500 homes this year. Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) estimates that demand for this scheme could ultimately exceed 100,000 homes.

The scheme provides grant assistance to homeowners for attic and wall insulation, efficient boilers and heating controls. These measures were selected for inclusion in the scheme, with the assistance of SEI, which has built up a considerable expertise on residential energy efficiency matters as part of their statutory remit and in the course of their oversight of the pilot phase of the scheme in 2008. Following the pilot programme in 2008, in which windows were included, SEI recommended the current measures as the most likely to deliver significant energy savings to homeowners at the least cost. There are other measures not included in the scheme that also deliver energy savings. My Department and SEI will be keeping the scheme under review and if there is a strong case for adding other measures to the scheme, I will give this full consideration.

The scheme is open to anybody owning a house that was built prior to 2006. Homeowners and landlords will be able to apply under the scheme from next month. In the meantime, homeowners can register their interest with SEI on 1850 927000 or at hes@sei.ie. Homeowners may arrange to have a building energy rating carried out immediately, if they wish, but this is not a requirement for participation in the scheme. However, homeowners should not undertake any remedial work until they have received grant approval from SEI, as work underway or recently completed will not be considered for grant assistance.

Telecommunications Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

202 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if Kilmovee, County Mayo is part of the national broadband scheme; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no broadband provider apart from satellite broadband; his plans for Kilmovee and its ability to receive broadband, if it is not included in the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7823/09]

Broadband services are available from competing service providers over multiple platforms, including DSL (telephone lines), cable, fixed wireless, and mobile. I understand that broadband is available in the Kilmovee area from mobile, wireless and satellite service providers. The following list, from my Department's website www.broadband.gov.ie, details the availability of broadband services in the Kilmovee area.

Platform

Service Provider

Website

Phone

Mobile

O2 Ireland

http://www.o2.ie/broadband

1800 886 086

Wireless

Brisknet Ltd

http://www.brisknet.ie

09066 34319

Last Mile Broadband

http://www.lastmile.ie

090 6477701

WestNet

http://westnet.ie

1850 930 305

Satellite

Applied Solutions

http://www.ADSLnow.ie

1890 924 854

Avonline

http://www.avonlinebroadband.co.uk

0044 800 073 1102

Broadband Wherever

http://www.broadbandwherever.net

0044 800 068 3358

Cross Country Broadband Ltd

http://www.crosscountrybroadband.com

053 925 5428

Digiweb Satellite

http://broadband.digiweb.ie

042 939 3300

e3 Broadband

http://www.e3broadband.ie

1850 303 333

ehotspot

http://www.ehotspot.ie

0044 1262 409 109

Eircom Satellite

http://www.eircom.ie

1800 242 633

Fastnet Broadband Satellite

http://www.fastnetbroadband.com

01 2303 746

Media Satellite Ireland Ltd

http://www.mediasat.ie

1850 202 144

National Broadband Ltd

http://nbb.ie

045 982 130

Orblink

http://www.orblink.ie

01 860 1995

Pure Telecom Satellite

http://www.puretelecom.ie

01 289 5555

Satellite Broadband Ireland. Ltd

http://www.satellitebroadbandireland .ie

044 937 2514

Alternative Energy Projects.

Enda Kenny

Question:

203 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the details of the ocean energy prototype fund as referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 362 of 3 February 2009; the extent envisaged by him of the prototype fund; the purposes for which it will be set up; the proposed distribution method of funds involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7828/09]

The ocean energy prototype development fund is one element in the Ocean Energy strategy. It is designed to stimulate the development and deployment of ocean energy devices and systems. The fund provides grant support for industry-led projects developing and testing wave and tidal energy capture devices and systems, independent monitoring of projects/technologies, R&D aimed at the integration of ocean energy into the electricity market and the national electricity grid (and network), data monitoring, forecasting, communications and control of ocean energy systems and specific industry-led research projects carried out by research centres.

The prototype fund is being administered by the Ocean Energy Unit of Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI). The budget for this measure is €2.7 million. The detailed qualifying conditions and applicable terms and conditions have already been published by the Ocean Energy Development Unit of SEI. In response to the call for proposals in December, a number of applications from industry are currently being processed with a view to first awards being announced shortly.

Enda Kenny

Question:

204 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the details in respect of the state of the art national ocean energy facility in University College, Cork; the physical expenditure of money due in 2009; when he expects the project to be completed; the number who will work therein; the intended qualification level; the remit of the national ocean energy facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7829/09]

Sustainable Energy Ireland is engaged with UCC in the further development and enhancement of the existing wave-basin located at the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) at UCC and the development of a new National Ocean Test Facility (NOTF). The facility provides research and testing facilities for a variety of offshore purposes. The upgrade of the existing facility currently underway includes new wave generating equipment, new experimental test rigs, additions to the wave flume facilities and improved mechanical and electrical workshop facilities and advanced computer solutions for numerical analysis and modelling. Capital expenditure in 2009 is estimated at €1.2 million. The enhancement of the HMRC will be completed in 2009.

The HMRC facility requires further and more substantial enhancement and extension, to be able to service a more extensive range of modelling and testing requirements by device developers. It is currently envisaged that this capability will be provided in a new facility, the NOTF, which in turn will be part of a proposed Maritime and Energy Research Centre (MERC), to be located adjacent to the National Maritime College at Ringaskiddy. It is hoped that funding for MERC will be sourced within the current call for proposals for PRTLI 5. In this scenario, the NOTF would be commissioned in 2012. The facility, which performs a variety of additional functions and services beyond the ocean energy programme, is staffed by a Director, a Research Manager, 2 Principal Investigators and an additional 20 staff including Research Engineers, Post Doctorates, PhD students, MSc students and also includes 2 technicians.

Enda Kenny

Question:

205 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the details of the group connected wave energy test site off the west coast; the location and status of same; the extent of expenditure envisaged for 2009; when he expects the project to be completed; the projected test period for the facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7830/09]

The Marine Institute, in partnership with ESBI, conducted the extensive process of locating a suitable wave energy test site. The development partnership is between Sustainable Energy Ireland, the Marine Institute and ESBI to develop a grid connected site off Annagh Co. Mayo for testing fully operational pre-commercial wave energy converters supplying power directly to the electricity network. Interim Project Management is in place undertaking a detailed process of technical consultation with prospective industrial users of the facility, completing engineering specifications, processing the requirements for onshore and offshore lease applications, network connection and shore works requirements. Expenditure on the project is expected to exceed € 2 million in 2009, and project completion is expected by 2010 or 2011 depending on variable factors including offshore sea conditions in the development phase. The project is expected to remain viable for at least ten years.

Electricity Generation.

Liz McManus

Question:

206 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the Commission for Energy Regulation refused permission to the ESB to reduce prices; his views on whether the ESB is being refused permission to lower prices in order to allow competitors to be profitable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7832/09]

The regulation of ESB customer supply electricity tariffs is the statutory responsibility of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) under the Electricity Regulation Act 1999. The CER is required to ensure that regulated tariffs are cost reflective. The CER will shortly complete its review of options for a reduction in electricity and gas prices, taking account of all relevant factors and having consulted with all players including ESB. I have also engaged with IBEC and with the major suppliers of the Large Energy Users. The timing and nature of decisions in relation to energy prices will be informed by the outcome of the Energy Regulator's review and my own discussions with the enterprise and energy sectors.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael Ring

Question:

207 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the printed material from his Department which has been printed abroad (details supplied). [7948/09]

The identification of records prior to January 2007 cannot be facilitated without undue commitment of staff resources and administrative cost. However, if the Deputy has a question in relation to a specific item I will make appropriate enquiries. The following table contains details of material, which my Department had printed abroad from January 2007 to date.

Material

Cost

All-Island Grid Study

17,021.00

Printing of colour illustrations in Geo Marine Letters

1,330.75

MakeITsecure

72,054.61

Grant Payments.

Dara Calleary

Question:

208 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a REPS 4 grant will be awarded to persons (details supplied) in County Mayo; and the reason for difficulties with the applications. [7758/09]

REPS 4 is a measure under the current Rural Development Programme 2007-13 and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before the first payments issue. The first payments for 2008 REPS 4 applications issued in the last week of January to those whose applications required no correction following the administrative checks. Further payments continue to be made as applications are cleared. Queries have arisen during the administrative checks on the plans of both persons named and they are currently under further examination.

Dara Calleary

Question:

209 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the status of all outstanding grant applications for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and when the due amounts will be awarded. [7759/09]

The person named submitted applications for REPS 4 and for the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme. The latter application was received in my Department on 20 October 2008. Only fully completed applications made under the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme and received by my Department up to and including 14 October 2008 are being processed. I have no proposals to re-open the Scheme.

REPS 4 is a measure under the current Rural Development Programme 2007–13 and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before the first payments issue. The first payments for 2008 REPS 4 applications issued in the last week of January to those whose applications required no correction following the administrative checks. Further payments continue to be made as applications are cleared. Queries have arisen during the administrative checks on the plan of the person named and it is currently under further examination.

Michael Ring

Question:

210 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be awarded the farm waste management grant. [7793/09]

The arrangements for payment of grants under the Farm Waste Management Scheme on a phased basis have been confirmed with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. A further 40 per cent will be paid in early January 2010 and the remaining 20 per cent in January 2011. Payment of the initial 40 per cent to farmers will be made as expeditiously as possible.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

211 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be awarded their REPS 4 payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7806/09]

REPS 4 is a measure under the current Rural Development Programme 2007-13 and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before the first payments issue. The first payments for 2008 REPS 4 applications issued in the last week of January to those whose applications required no correction following the administrative checks. Further payments continue to be made as applications are cleared. Queries have arisen during the administrative checks on the plan of the person named and it is currently under further examination.

Frank Feighan

Question:

212 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when is it envisaged a REPS application in respect of a person (details supplied) will be processed for payment. [7808/09]

REPS 4 is a measure under the current Rural Development Programme 2007-13 and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before the first payments issue. The first payments for 2008 REPS 4 applications issued in the last week of January to those whose applications required no correction following the administrative checks. Further payments continue to be made as applications are cleared. Queries have arisen during the administrative checks on the plan of the person named and it is currently under further examination.

Farm Waste Management.

Willie Penrose

Question:

213 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in the context of the significant number of farmers who have the farm waste management grants which are duly payable to them, it is proposed to be granted over three years on a 40:40:20 basis, if they will be paid on a 50:50 basis; if the interest accruing on the outstanding loans which farmers negotiated with the banks, which were €100,000 and over in many instances, will be defrayed by his Department, as farmers are paying up to €750 or €800 monthly interest on the outstanding amounts which would not have arisen if the grants were paid out as they were due, and which outstanding bank balances for the capital loan, are making it more difficult for farmers to negotiate their usual seasonal loans; if steps along the forgoing proposals will be taken to help alleviate the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7825/09]

The arrangements for payment of grants under the Farm Waste Management Scheme on a phased basis have been confirmed with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. A further 40 per cent will be paid in early January 2010 and the remaining 20 per cent in January 2011. Payment of the initial 40 per cent to farmers will be made as expeditiously as possible. The arrangements in regard to interest are currently being discussed with representatives of the Irish banking sector.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

214 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the status of the application under the farm waste management scheme for a person (details supplied); when payment will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7841/09]

The arrangements for payment of grants under the Farm Waste Management Scheme on a phased basis have been confirmed with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. A further 40 per cent will be paid in early January 2010 and the remaining 20 per cent in January 2011. Payment of the initial 40 per cent to farmers will be made as expeditiously as possible.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

215 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Cork under the farm improvement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7843/09]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Applications under this Scheme are being processed by my Department up to the level of funding provided for the Scheme in the 2006 Partnership agreement, Towards 2016.

Denis Naughten

Question:

216 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will approve funding for a farm waste grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7846/09]

The arrangements for payment of grants under the Farm Waste Management Scheme on a phased basis have been confirmed with 40 per cent being paid this year as claims are approved. A further 40 per cent will be paid in early January 2010 and the remaining 20 per cent in January 2011. Payment of the initial 40 per cent to farmers will be made as expeditiously as possible.

Fertiliser Prices.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

217 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason fertiliser prices are so expensive in 2009 in view of the fact that the price of crude oil is much lower than the same time in 2008; the other factors that influence the present cost of fertiliser; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7851/09]

Changes in fertiliser costs, in common with all elements of intermediate consumption for farmers, are principally a function of market forces, primarily operating at international level in this instance. CSO preliminary estimate for 2008 shows that the price of fertiliser increased by 61.4% compared to 2007, which was an unprecedented increase. This extraordinary price increase in 2008 resulted from:

The high cost of oil in 2008 to manufacture fertiliser, upon which it is is heavily dependent

High shipping cost in 2008 resulting from increased global economic activity

Increased global demand for fertiliser for the production of biofuel crops, to replace high priced fossil fuels.

Increased demand for fertiliser by emerging economies, such as India and China, to increase food output and

Increased demand for fertiliser to increase animal feedstocks, which were low globally.

The recent down turn in global economic activity and especially much reduced oil price have reduced transport and manufacturing costs of fertiliser. Nevertheless, fertiliser prices have not fallen as quickly as expected, due mainly to the carryover of expensive stocks from 2008. Furthermore, since the closure of IFI in 2002, Ireland has no indigenous inorganic fertiliser production and as such is a "price taker", being as we are, totally dependent on imports. Furthermore, Ireland's location on the fringe of Europe implies increased shipping costs and a lack of economies of scale as regards shipping.

It should be remembered that it is still early in the season for fertiliser application onto crops and grassland, and farmers are holding back making purchases in anticipation of price falls, which is why it is difficult to predict prices for 2009 at this early stage of the cropping year, as very little fertiliser has traded.

School Curriculum.

Denis Naughten

Question:

218 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to provide an updated mathematics syllabus for the second level senior cycle; the timetable for its implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7785/09]

On foot of advice received from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), work is now underway for reform of Junior and Senior Cycle mathematics which is designed to provide for the phased implementation of syllabus change in maths. The Project Maths initiative is designed to encourage better understanding of maths, to reinforce the practical relevance of maths to everyday life, and to ensure better continuity between primary and second level, and junior and senior cycle. The initiative started in 2008 and is being piloted in 24 schools. The curriculum changes will be phased in over three years and mainstreaming will begin in 2010, prefaced by a national programme of professional development for teachers beginning in 2009.

Starting in the Project schools allows the opportunmity to trial the changes and to develop lesson plans and exemplars for teachers at the same time. It will help to ensure that the optimum level of resources are available in advance, when the changes are introduced in the mainstream system, beginning in September 2010. It will enable the student experience, which is central to effective learning, to feed into the final syllabus development so that we can ensure the best possible approach to ensuring relevance and quality in the new reforms. The NCCA website www.ncca.ie. sets out the draft syllabus for Strands 1 and 2 at junior and senior cycle, a draft common Mathematics course for the first year in junior cycle, and a Geometry course. The website www.ProjectMaths.ie sets out additional supports in the form of teaching and learning plans, a forum for teachers, and additional resources. These resources will expand over time.

Project Maths is being implemented on a phased basis covering the following five strands of mathematics:

Phase 1 — Strand 1 statistics and probability; Strand 2 geometry and trigonometry

Phase 2 — Strand 3 number; Strand 4 algebra

Phase 3 — functions

Phase 3 will have begun in all schools in 2012, and will be fully implemented in all class groups by 2015.

Special Educational Needs.

Frank Feighan

Question:

219 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will investigate the cut back in special needs support in respect of a person (details supplied) from 27 hours to 12.5; if he will report on the circumstances; and if the service will be reinstated. [7811/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special needs. SNAs are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities in an educational context. Applications for an SNA may be considered where a pupil has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or to other pupils. A pupil's level of care may diminish over time as the child matures. Pupils may move to a different school or on to post-primary school. In such situations, the NCSE will review and adjust the SNA support required in the school.

The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. I have arranged for the details supplied by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply. 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.

Schools Building Projects.

John Deasy

Question:

220 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of plans for a permanent building for a school (details supplied) in County Waterford; when it is planned to have a technical examination of the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7821/09]

It is my Department's intention to provide the school to which the Deputy refers with a new building. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Willie Penrose

Question:

221 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the provision of a new school (details supplied) in County Westmeath, which is much needed and has been approved at all stages, and which is required to accommodate up to 1,000 pupils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7826/09]

The new building for the school to which the Deputy refers is one of seven projects which I have approved for inclusion in the 3rd Bundle of schools to be procured under the public private partnership process. This Bundle is in the pre-procurement stage which involves the preparation of a detailed output specification and Public Sector Benchmark and the submission of an outline planning permission for each site. On successful completion of this process, the Bundle will be handed over to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) for procurement. The indicative timeframe for the delivery of a PPP school currently stands at approximately 4 years from the date the Bundle is formally announced.

School Accommodation.

Brian Hayes

Question:

222 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount spent within his Department for 2006, 2007 and 2008 in respect of the rental costs of temporary accommodation for schools; if he will estimate the expected amount for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7834/09]

The amount spent on renting temporary accommodation for schools, including — but not limited to — prefabricated accommodation for each of the years 2006 to 2008 is as follows:

2006: €24.5m

2007: €35.5m

2008: €52.86m.

The Deputy will be aware that demand for additional accommodation in schools has risen significantly over the last number of years, with the appointment of 6,000 extra teachers in the primary sector alone since 2002. In considering the need to provide extra resource and other teachers to schools in recent years, the Government could have decided to make children wait until permanent accommodation could be provided. However, we prioritised putting the extra teachers into schools as soon as possible.

It will continue to be necessary for prefabricated accommodation to be provided because competing priorities mean that it will not always be possible to have a permanent accommodation solution in place in a short timeframe. Following the delivery of just on 500 additional classrooms at primary level alone in 2008, I anticipate that the overall spend on temporary accommodation for 2009 will be reduced to around €48m.

Departmental Staff.

Brian Hayes

Question:

223 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will confirm that the teacher education section of his Department has recently decided to amalgamate all science subject national co-ordinators, currently eight, into one national co-ordinator to assist teachers in schools in the development of science related subjects; the way this amalgamation from eight to one post will help secondary schools to develop and encourage science related subjects in view of his objectives under a strategy for science, technology and innovation 2006 to 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7835/09]

Individual support services were established between 1999 and 2001 to support teachers following the implementation of changes to the syllabus in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Home Economics. In 2003 an additional support service was put in place to support teachers of Junior Cycle Science. The Physics and Chemistry support services were then integrated into Second Level Support Service. It is the natural life cycle for a post primary syllabus based support service that, following an intensive phase of support, it would move to a maintenance phase within the existing structure in the Second Level Support Service. This has happened previously for other similar services in the period 2006-2008. In a maintenance phase support remains within the system for teachers where necessary.

My Department is currently reviewing the various supports offered to teachers in the context of the resources that are available to me. As part of this exercise, the SLSS is being restructured and other services are folding into its remit. In relation to the sciences specifically, I am mindful of the need to ensure that we continue to make support available. To this end, my Department is examining the ways in which this might be done by leveraging the capacity which currently exists within the sector, thus ensuring that a wide range of support for Science teachers will remain from September 2009.

Schools Funding.

Finian McGrath

Question:

224 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will support a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5 in 2009. [7838/09]

The school referred to by the Deputy is a recognised primary school and attracts funding in the same way as all recognised primary schools. The Deputy will be aware that schools' running costs are met by my Department's scheme of capitation grants. These grants have been increased substantially in recent years. The primary school capitation grant has increased from €81.26 per pupil in 2000 to its current rate of €200, which was an increase of €21 on last year. This represents an increase of 146% in the standard rate of capitation grant since 2000.

Special Educational Needs.

Mary Upton

Question:

225 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has proposals to restore classes for those mild general learning disability students who would be affected by his recent announcement to remove some of those classes; if he has plans to meet with teachers from those schools affected by his recent decision to consider options to restore such classes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7840/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that all primary schools have been allocated additional teaching resources to enable them support pupils with high incidence special educational needs including mild general learning disability (MGLD). All primary schools were given these additional teaching resources under the General Allocation Model of learning support/resource teaching introduced in 2005. Schools can decide how best to use this allocation based on the needs of the pupils. Most pupils with a MGLD are included in ordinary classes with their peers and are supported by their class teacher. The curriculum is flexible so that teachers can cater for the needs of children of different abilities.

The Deputy will be aware that allocations to schools typically increase or decrease depending on pupil enrolment. In the case of classes for MGLD the normal pupil teacher ratio that applies is 11:1. My Department however allows for a small reduction in this number and permits schools to retain a teaching post where it has a minimum of 9 pupils in the class. In the schools in question, the number of pupils dropped below this minimum. These schools therefore are no longer entitled to the teaching posts in these classes.

In 2005 when the General Allocation Model was introduced, schools with additional teachers in classes for MGLD were allowed to retain the teachers for these classes. Effectively, these schools received a double allocation. The number of these special classes has decreased over the years and schools have integrated the children into age-appropriate mainstream classes. All of the other primary schools in the country who do not have classes for children with MGLD cater for these pupils from within the General Allocation Model.

Schools Building Projects.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

226 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science the consideration given to the condition of a school (details supplied) in County Galway; his plans for a new building for this school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7842/09]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of a new school building was received in April of last year from the school referred to by the Deputy. This was the first such application from the school. The school, which has a current enrolment of 49 pupils, is situated in a rural area. On foot of this application and information supplied by the school regarding its condition, officials from the Planning and Building Unit of my Department visited the school in June of last year. As a result of the visit, an amount of €26,862 was sanctioned to carry out remedial works to the school.

A member of the Inspectorate and officials from my Department's Building Unit visited the school on 11 December last. Since then my Department has been in ongoing contact with the school regarding its needs with a view to carrying out some urgently required works as soon as possible. In light of the many competing demands on the capital budget of my Department, it is not possible to give any commitment relating to the provision of a new building for this school at this time.

Post-Leaving Certificate Courses.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

227 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the cap on post-leaving certificate places in colleges of further education; his plans in view of the need for retraining of the workforce to expand the quota each college can enrol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7861/09]

The number of approved PLC places is set at its current level of 30,188 because there is a continuing requirement to plan and control numbers and to manage expenditure within the context of overall educational policy and provision. Due to the difficult budgetary position it is not possible to increase the number of places. Any possible future increase would have to take account of the present and prospective economic and budgetary context and related financial constraints.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

228 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the colleges of further education and the numbers of post-leaving certificate places allocated to each one. [7862/09]

The number of places available under the Post Leaving Certificate programme currently stands at 30,188. For the current academic year 2008/2009, 28,066 of these places were allocated to Vocational Education Committees (VECs). Further distribution of those places internally is a matter for each individual VEC. The balance of places were allocated to a number of secondary and community and comprehensive schools. A breakdown of the places allocated to VECs is available in the attached table.

VEC

2008/09 Places Approved

Co. Cavan

1,150

Co. Carlow

800

Co. Clare

100

City of Cork

3,870

Co. Cork

1,244

City of Dublin

7,538

Co. Dublin

896

Boro of Dun Laoghaire

2,048

Co. Donegal

213

City of Galway

1,080

Co. Galway

160

Co. Kerry

460

Co. Kildare

317

Co. Kilkenny

460

Co. Laois

350

Co. Leitrim

82

City of Limerick

750

Co. Limerick

310

Co. Longford

330

Co. Louth

1,000

Co. Mayo

387

Co. Meath

270

Co. Monaghan

248

Co. Offaly

50

Co. Roscommon

63

Co. Sligo

350

Co. Tipperary N.R.

570

Co. Tipperary S.R.

270

City of Waterford

700

Co. Waterford

205

Co. Wexford

730

Co. Westmeath

115

Co. Wicklow

950

Total VEC

28,066

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

229 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Ballyfermot College of Further Education, Dublin, is located in a RAPID and local drugs task force area and that the number seeking to enrol from Ballyfermot, which has a low educational attainment level, has increased in recent years and as a result of the cap on places the college may not be able to accommodate the increase; and his plans to increase the number allowed for this college, which has a large intake from neighbouring disadvantaged areas such as Tallaght and Clondalkin. [7863/09]

The Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) programme provides an integrated general education, vocational training and work experience programme for young people who have completed their Leaving Certificate and adults returning to education. Its purpose is to enhance their prospects of gaining employment or progressing to Further Education. The number of places available nationwide under the PLC programme currently stands at 30,188. Places are allocated to VECs an on annual basis following an application process. Further distribution of those places internally is a matter for each individual VEC. The application process for the 2009/2010 academic year has not yet been completed and each application is dealt with on its own merits having regard to all the relevant circumstances.

Ballyfermot College of Further Education is part of City Of Dublin VEC. For the academic year 2008/09, the City of Dublin VEC was allocated 7,538 PLC places. Tallaght and Clondalkin are part of County Dublin VEC. For the academic year 2008/09, County Dublin VEC was allocated 896 PLC places.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

230 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the large number of people being made unemployed, consideration will be given to increasing the number of places on vocational training opportunities schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7864/09]

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) provides full-time second-chance education and training opportunities for unemployed adults who are over the age of 21 and in receipt of specified social welfare payments for at least six months. VTOS is funded by my Department and operated through the 33 Vocational Education Committees (VECs). Its primary target groups are the longer-term unemployed, the low-skilled and disadvantaged. There are currently 5,000 approved places on VTOS nationwide. Due to the difficult budgetary position it was not possible to allocate further funding to increase the number of places this year. Any possible future expansion of VTOS would have to take account of the present and prospective economic and budgetary context and related financial constraints.

Post-Leaving Certificate Courses.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

231 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason courses in animation at Ballyfermot College of Further Education, Dublin have not been validated, despite being done under the Dundee University programme for many years, and therefore the almost 90 students involved cannot obtain grants to pursue these courses. [7865/09]

There are currently approximately 30 students pursuing the two-year Level 8 BA in Animation degree programme validated by Dundee University in Ballyfermot College of Further Education. Ballyfermot College is an approved PLC centre. My Department funds four maintenance grant schemes. Three are at third level: the Higher Education Grants (HEG) Scheme, the Vocational Education Committees' (VEC) Scholarships Scheme and the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees (TLT). The fourth, the Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) Courses, is for students attending approved courses in approved PLC centres.

Students who are entering approved courses in approved PLC centres for the first time may be eligible for grants under the scheme, where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to age, residence, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. However, under the terms and conditions of the scheme, students pursuing degree programmes or who already hold a Level 5 or 6 qualification are ineligible. I understand from the VEC concerned that prospective students are informed of the absence of grant support for the degree courses before they apply for places.

School Transport.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

232 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will investigate a situation whereby a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been denied access to school transport mid-term despite having availed of the service for the past six weeks and paid for the service as far back as September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7869/09]

Under the terms of the Primary School Transport Scheme, pupils are eligible for free school transport if they reside 3.2 kilometres or more from and are attending their nearest national school. Pupils who reside less than 3.2 kilometres from their nearest national school may avail of fare-paying concessionary transport to that school, provided there are spare seats available on the bus. Spare seating is allocated on a ‘first come first served basis'. In that regard, Bus Éireann has informed my Department that it was not possible to accommodate the pupil referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied.

Scéimeanna Tógála Scoile.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

233 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta cad é an dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le bunscoil úr a chur ar fáil i nGort an Choirce; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [7205/09]

Iarradh ar Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí, a fheidhmíonn thar ceann mo Roinnse i dtaca le sealbhú suíomh i gcoitinne, suíomh a lorg don scoil atá i gceist. Tá suíomh oiriúnach sainaitheanta agus tá fáil an tsuímh sin dulta ar aghaidh go dtí ardchéim. De bharr na n-íogaireachtaí tráchtála atá ag baint leis, níl fúm tuilleadh a rá maidir leis an suíomh féin. Machnófar cur i gcrích phróiseas fála an tsuímh agus seachadadh an tionscadal tógála don scoil i gcomhthéacs an bhuiséid chaipitil atá ar fáil do mo Roinnse i gcomhair foirgneamh scoile i gcoitinne. I bhfianaise líon na n-éileamh iomaíocha atá á ndéanamh ar bhuiséad caipitil mo Roinne faoi láthair ní féidir fráma ama táscach a lua d'fháil shuíomh na scoile ná do sheachadadh an tionscadal tógála don scoil ag an am seo.

Comhairle Múinteoireachta.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

234 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta cén socrú atá ann maidir le ball amháin ar a laghad a bhfuil saineolas aige/aici ar riachtanais na Gaelscolaíochta a cheapadh ar an gComhairle Múinteoireachta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [7893/09]

Mar is eol don Teachta, déanaim an 37 ball den Chomhairle Múinteoireachta a cheapadh i láthair na gcritéar a leagadh síos in Alt 8 d'Acht na Comhairle Múinteoireachta. I láthair Ailt 8 den Acht sin, ní mór a bheith sa Chomhairle

11 oide cláraithe atá fostaithe i mbunscoileanna aitheanta nó a bhfuil cáilithe chun teagasc iontu

11 oide cláraithe atá fostaithe in iarbhunscoileanna aitheanta nó a bhfuil cáilithe chun teagasc iontu

2 dhuine ainmnithe ag na Coláistí Oideachais um Bhunteagasc

2 dhuine ainmnithe ag na hinstitiúidí 3ú leibhéal atá liostaithe faoi Alt 8(2)(c) den Acht

4 duine ainmnithe ag eagraíochtaí bainistíochta aitheanta scoile. Dhá eagraíocht aitheanta san aicme sin is ea Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge Teo and Gaelscoileanna Teo.

2 dhuine ainmnithe ag cumainn náisiúnta tuismitheoiri.

Tá cúigear ball eile sa bhreis a bhfuil taithí acu sa ghnó, sa tionscal nó sna gairmeacha a dhéanaim a cheapadh go díreach. Mar atá leagtha amach in Alt 8 den Acht, caithfidh ceann amháin de na ceapaithe díreacha sin a bheith ainmnithe ag ICTU agus ceann eile a bheith ainmnithe ag IBEC.

Departmental Procurement.

Michael Ring

Question:

235 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the printed material from his Department which has been printed abroad (details supplied). [7950/09]

My Department is checking relevant records and I will be in further contact with you in this regard.